It’s a Wonderful Life: 40 Years of My Story

With once-in-a-lifetime friend, in Prague

“Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! How could it be anything else?” – the movie It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life has always been one of my favorite movies. I love Jimmy Stuart and his story of enthusiastic youth turned to despair, and being lifted back out again by taking stock of his life with the help of the angel Clarence. The story has many truths, about family and friends being the best parts of life, and about how as we use our gifts we take part in some form of a divine dance. Without our parts in that dance, there are holes in the stories of others, and life is not the same. In essence, we are here for a reason.

Tomorrow is my 40th birthday, and as I take stock of my life, I can only do so with wonder. It has been amazing, this story I’ve gotten to live out. My 40th wouldn’t be complete without a photojournal …

It’s a Wonderful Life: 40 Years of My Story

 

Growing Up
Growing Up

This photo was taken in the backyard of the house where I lived in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. (Proof that my hair has always been wild!)

At the Olympic Trials with my synchronized swimming team
At the Olympic Trials with my synchronized swimming team

In Pennsylvania in middle school, I had the privilege of swimming with these lovely ladies under the direction of legendary synchronized swimming coach, Ms. Betty Hess. This photo was taken in Indianapolis at that year’s Olympic Trials. I was in 8th grade (I’m the last one in the photo).

Swimming in the Olympic Trial
Swimming in the Olympic Trials

We came in 13th place for the nation. It was one of those WOW moments in my life.

Soon after the Olympic Trials, my family moved again to a small town in Ohio, where events came about that I began modeling with Elite Model Management out of New York City and traveled to Paris and lived in Tokyo, Japan, for three months during high school. This photo is with my roommate for those three months in Tokyo, Leslie Bibb, of Iron Man fame.

During My Modeling Years, in Tokyo, with my roommate, Leslie Bibb
During My Modeling Years, in Tokyo, with my roommate, Leslie Bibb

We had a blast in Tokyo.

In Tokyo, touring with Leslie on a break between work
In Tokyo, touring with Leslie on a break between work

These years were another of those WOW moments.

On the runway in Paris
On the runway in Paris

I met my husband during my stint in engineering school at Purdue. Obviously, he was and continues to be one of the biggest WOW moments of my life.

At College, with my soon-to-be husband (middle) and brother
At college, with my soon-to-be husband (middle) and my brother

My grandmothers influenced me in many ways. My maternal grandmother, pictured below, infused a spirit of adventure. She was a pilot with the Women’s Air Service Patrol in World War II.

At Purdue with my Grandmother
At Purdue with my Grandmother T

My other grandmother instilled tenacity and faith and boundless love for family and friends (pictured below). Her father immigrated to the US from Sweden and settled in Western Kansas, where they began their lives in a creek bed and later a sod house.

On the Western Kansas prairie with my Grandmother W
On the Western Kansas prairie with my Grandmother W (head tipped back from the wind?)

Another grand woman has had a powerful impact on my life for over twenty years, Dr. Emy Wadsworth, pictured in the center, below. Her friendship has helped me to learn to look for serendipity, to realize the importance of friendships, for nurturing healthy relationships, and is the one who encouraged me to do what I love: write.

Emy’s words are similar to Pa Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful LifeAll you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.

I was a contributor, along with the other three friends in the photo, as well as others, in Emy’s book GIVING MUCH, GAINING MORE, published in 2002 on the power of mentoring as a positive force for building meaningful lives.  It was my first publishing credit.

 My closest Purdue friends
Dr. Emy Wadsworth, Marlee, Bonnie, CeCe, and me : My closest Purdue friends

From It’s a Wonderful Life:

“Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.”

My family. They love me, good and bad, day in and day out. I love them more than words can express. This photograph was taken on my 30th birthday, my 3 boys (my husband Brian is taking the photo). My hands and my heart are full.

My three boys and me on my 30th birthday
My three boys with me on my 30th birthday

Getting to live in Prague for 4 years was another of those WOW times. Truly, it was a dream come true. In the photo below, we are in our first year abroad, in Paris, 2010.

A dream come true, living in and traveling Europe with the family
A dream come true, living in and traveling Europe with the family

Below, I’m with my friend from Holland, another once-in-a-lifetime friend.

With once-in-a-lifetime friend, in Prague
Friends and fun in Prague

 

This photo (below) was taken by our middle son a couple of weeks ago, as we’re on our way to the symphony. We’ve been married almost 17 years. Brian has always been my biggest supporter, my closest friend, and my favorite person in the world. I am deeply grateful for him.

Married and grateful for these wonderful 17 years
Married and grateful for these wonderful 17 years together

 

The travel has been amazing, the experiences priceless, but what really matters and means something is found in the people I’ve gotten to spend my days alongside.

I wouldn’t trade any of these days or years to be younger. Thank you to all the friends and family who are gifts to me. I wouldn’t be a fraction of who I am today without your part in my life.

Taken in September '13, on a writing retreat
September ’13

 

You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. -Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life

Yes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

16 thoughts on “It’s a Wonderful Life: 40 Years of My Story

  1. Happy birthday Jennifer! So fun to travel back in time with you and get a glimpse of your wonderful life. Enjoy the day!

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  2. Happy Birthday ! I hope you’ve had a fabulous day. You have had an amazing life–full of so many experiences most people never get to have. Hope your next 40 years are just as amazing 🙂

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  3. You’ve led an amazing and interesting life filled with incredible people. Just imagine the possibilities in the next forty years. Thank you for sharing and happy birthday.

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  4. What a sensational post by a beautiful woman and treasured friend! Your first 40 years have been amazing, and I believe the next forty will be, too! Happy birthday, Jennifer. I hope tomorrow is a grand day! xo

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  5. We loved reading your 40th birthday message, Jennifer! Emy forwarded it to us.
    So many blessings, beautifully expressed.
    May God continue to bless you and yours.
    Love from Emy’s sisters,
    Helen Oliver and Ruth Marion

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    1. Dear Helen and Ruth, Thank you for taking the time to write a note here. It is such a pleasure! I don’t know if Emy told you, but she had called me at the time that I was uploading the photograph with her in it. It always seems to be the case with Emy, this mischievousness that makes me laugh. She talks about you two often. 🙂 I love the power of your sisterhood, and in turn how you have blessed me through Emy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I cannot express it enough. And, may God continue to bless you and your families. Thank you! Jennifer

      Like

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