Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jennifer James. My husband and I have two amazing children, Vivian and Stone. I have an engineering degree, but never really enjoyed the practice of engineering itself, so much as working in and around the profession. Instead of running calculations and drafting designs, I do government affairs work for the engineers and architects in Montana and I love working in the industry in that capacity. I come from a ranching family in Central Montana, and similar to my dislike for the daily grind of engineering, I also recognized early on that I would be a horrible rancher! It’s good to know your strengths/weaknesses – right?!?! But I have an amazing family still on the ranch and we love going to visit!
Besides your government affairs work, what else keeps your creative juices flowing?
It is important for me to find beauty in the crazy everyday of life. Finding beauty in people, design and nature is therapy for me. I may have found an opportunity to experience beauty in a mix of all three. I have recently partnered with an amazing friend to help her expand her custom leather handbag business into the United States. I am having so much fun with this new venture of creating beautifully hand-crafted bags and sharing these wonderful and unique designs!
Your picture here is taken on the grounds of a historic Helena, Montana home. Explain the personal significance of this area to you.
After we were first married, my husband and I looked for a house in Helena’s historic neighborhood for over a year. We were close to giving up, when our dear friend and realtor urged us to take a look at one last house. We were both tired and reluctant, but one step in and I was ready for us to write the check. We have lived in our beautiful bungalow for almost 10 years now. I have to say, we may live in one of the most amazing neighborhoods left. I always say Norman Rockwell has nothing on us! We ice skate at a park down the street almost every week in the winter, the kids ride bikes and roam the neighborhood all summer, and we truly know and love our neighbors – we are interested and invested in each other lives – it’s amazing.
What is one of your favorite quotes?
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
My husband and I have always loved to travel together and experience other cultures. We vowed that we would do the same with our children, and we’ve done pretty well with that. It’s more involved (and more expensive) to travel with them, but there is nothing like experiencing a new place through their eyes and with their excitement. I often hear people say that young children will not remember where you have taken them and I understand that, but I would argue that these experiences help shape who they become. And, it’s so much fun to travel with them! I am anxious to go to Cuba, before it becomes too Americanized and loses its cultural history and character. I had a chance to travel to Africa when I was single and became captivated by the people and the culture. It was inspiring to me to see such love and hope amongst a people who face devastatingly harsh realities on a daily basis. It is a place that is very close to my heart and something I want to share with the people I love.
What is one of your favorite books?
I love to read. My favorite book from the last few years was The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. A friend recommended it and it was one of those books that made me look at the world differently. It helped me explore how different people in your life affect who you are and how you deal with life’s challenges. It also makes you stop to think about love – like that of a child – to the point that you can almost always hear their heartbeats.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee – lots.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee!
Introvert or extrovert?
Rural or urban?
A little of both.
Dress up or dress down?
Cats or dogs?
Sunrise or sunset?
Both (with a nap in between).
Detailed or abstract?
Classic or modern?
I can appreciate both.
Call or text?
Fiction or non-fiction?
Salty or Sweet?
Sugar, sugar, and more sugar.
Who from your past has most influenced who you are today and how?
It’s hard to say who influenced me most, but several people have influenced different aspects at different times of my life. I admire my parents for who they are and the dreams they have chased. They have taught me how to live confidently and to chase my own dreams. My husband has taught me to be patient and trust God’s plan. I had a science teacher that taught me to work hard and strive for what I wanted. Then there are my children. Our son teaches me to laugh and love – he makes my heart sing! Our daughter may be my hero – sounds strange right? She is brave and kind and truly exhibits the heart of Jesus.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
At one point in life, I would have told you EM 253 Mechanics of Materials was the hardest thing I had ever done. I hated every minute of that class. But in 2013, at age five, our daughter was diagnosed with CANCER. I am still understanding how this major life event changed me and my family – forever. She completed treatment two years ago and is doing great. There is nothing comparable (that I have witnessed) to watching your child suffer and not be able to fix it. With this new perspective, I am stricken as I watch the videos of the Syrian refugees, particularly the suffering of children.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
So I guess we woke up from the nightmare of childhood cancer treatment with a new ability…. to be grateful. Grateful for a normal routine, snuggles on the couch, beautiful snowy days, family adventures, messy bedrooms, torn up knees in jeans, craft projects, love…