This big beautiful machine… my only high

07CF82BE-A145-4B2C-964D-3DE8F34C5AEE.jpeg“It’s like I’ve never seen the sky before,
It’s like I never knew that we could fly.
Now all I want to do is spread my wings and soar,
This big, beautiful machine… my only high.”

Those are words I wrote some time ago as a sort of love letter to my so-called “flying friends” and the magic that they’re made of.

Right now I’m writing this from 37,000 feet, just south of Spokane, Wash. Merely two months into my new job with Boeing, I was fortunate enough to travel to Seattle to support the all-manager and executive webcast that our CEO hosted.

To say that a lot of work went into that event is an understatement, but the experience in its entirety was a great one. Watching my team’s hard work come to fruition this morning was so satisfying, and the trip as a whole was so much fun.

Yesterday afternoon I was extremely lucky to have the chance to visit our Everett factory with one of my teammates, Brittany. To be completely frank, I can’t find the words to describe how awe-inspiring that building is and how remarkable the facility’s operations truly are. We’re talking the world’s largest building by volume—it’s absolutely monstrous.

Upon our arrival, I nearly lost it as the huge building came into view and I saw the artwork that adorned the exterior, depicting different aircraft in vibrant colors. I had seen that wall hundreds of times in photos… I just couldn’t believe I was actually there.

When we first entered the building, the door shut behind us, I looked up and my eyes immediately glued themselves to a nearly-complete 747-800F being built for UPS. I was overcome with a feeling unlike any other… I felt like I was home. My eyes and my mouth were in a viscious battle with one another… would I burst out crying? Or would I smile big enough to cause stretch marks on my cheeks? Lucky for me, it was the latter.

Throughout our time there we saw a number of 747s—my favorite—and a slew of 767s, 777s and, of course, the ever-beautiful 787 Dreamliners all lined up and ready to go.

I touched landing gear that was ready to begin its life inside the belly of a 747-8—the gear standing nearly as tall as me. I saw the very first 777X wing and it’s folding wingtip… innovation at its finest. I saw an incredibly intricate “saddle” laying atop a 777-300ER, a mind-boggling structure that allows those who work atop the plane to do so much more easily.

We drove down the indoor streets aboard our little cart—the longest uninterrupted stretch of “road” spanning nearly a mile. We’d cruise past the lined up aircraft as I proudly named the airline each plane was being built for by looking at the paint on its tail—sometimes with only a slight sliver of paint down the middle. I was having the time of my life. I was in MY heaven.

The best way to describe the atmosphere inside Everett is that it’s essentially a city… an indoor city. Folks ride bicycles to get from one place to another, there are multiple cafeterias and it’s always bustling… much like New York City, it’s a “city” that truly never sleeps.

As I imagined it would be, leaving was hard. Just in the way I had always dreamed of working for Boeing, I had always dreamed of visiting Everett. It was a shame that it had to end.

When we pulled out of the parking lot, I heard a rumbling… I knew something was taking off from Paine Field next door, but I didn’t see anything. I quickly whipped out my phone and opened my flight radar app. I clicked on the nearest yellow airplane icon, its four engines let me know it was her royalty—the Queen of the Skies. However, once the aircraft information displayed, I realized that it wasn’t just the Queen… I shouted, “OH MY GOSH IT’S A DREAMLIFTER!”

I literally screamed, my heart rate skyrocketed and at the same time, Brittany shouted, “Oh my gosh there it is!” I looked up ahead just in time to see it soar off into the low clouds. The Dreamlifters are so magical… they’re specially modified 747-400s used to transport parts of the Dreamliner—only four of the massive, somewhat odd looking planes even exist.

And now I sit here at 37,000 feet, cruising above only-God-knows-where, Montana, reminiscing on these amazing memories so fresh in my mind. The air is smooth and the ground beneath looks grey, mountainous and snowy. On the northern horizon I see a sliver of soft yellow sky fading into blue. I see night ahead of us, and daytime behind us. I am tired, but so, so happy. My heart is full.

I really can’t explain it, but these airborne metal tubes mean the world to me, and that’s an understatement. I feel something huge going on inside my heart when I look up at an airplane, and that feeling is amplified when I’m actually in the sky.

Flight is magic in its purest form, and I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to work for a company that makes this magic happen, one that embraces new ideas and helps dreamers become doers. I am so incredibly humbled and honored to work for Boeing, and I just can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me… both physically and emotionally.

I truly appreciate the love and support of my family and friends who embrace and respect my childlike wonder. Now I’m positive that anything—and I mean ANYTHING—is possible.

Working at the world’s most admired aerospace company is pretty rad

I’m back!

As you all know, at least in terms of this blog, I’ve been MIA for the last two months. And… I’m pretty sure most of you know why.

I’m weird in that I’m equally as terrified as I am thrilled by change. These days, however, change is really all I’m about. And picking up and leaving your entire life behind to move to a new city all by yourself… that’s one heck of a change.

I’ve worked for the greatest aerospace company in the world for seven weeks tomorrow. I’ve been a Chicagoan… an Illini for a solid two months.

My two cats and I live in a sweet little loft in the South Loop neighborhood of downtown Chicago. I don’t have a car. I walk one mile to work each morning, and reverse that same mile home each night.

Sometimes I feel lonely, but somehow this all feels right. I knew this would be hard… but without the love and support of my family and friends — especially my amazing husband Scott — none of this would have been possible.

Honestly, I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting it is to work for a company that lives and breathes innovation, and one that is so loved… so respected. Just last week, Boeing was named the 25th most admired company on the planet by FORTUNE. Moreover, is it any surprise it was named THE most admired aerospace company?

I WORK for this company, and I support these dreamers, these creators and these passionate, imaginative people. I am so, so proud to be able to help tell the stories of the awesome things we are up to… here on the ground, up in the air, underwater and in the depths of outerspace.

You may be wondering exactly what I do for Boeing… Well, simply put, I’m on a team of four people (including my boss) who provide communications support to Boeing’s Chairman, President and CEO. Whether it’s producing web content, writing and editing letters, or drafting talking points in preparation for a meeting or a presentation… I’ve done it all and I’ve loved it all.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting our leader, Dennis Muilenburg, and talk about an amazing story and an inspiring person. He started at Boeing as an intern in aerospace engineering in the 80s and worked his way up to the top spot. He is incredibly kind, employee-focused, and I am honored and humbled to work for him.

Next week, I’ll take my first business trip out to Seattle. And… ready for this? I’m taking a VIP Tour of the Everett Factory. That’s the world’s largest building. It’s where the 747, 767, 777 and 787 are built. I’m getting all tingly inside just thinking about it.

Anyways, I’m glad to be back here in the blogosphere… and I’ll leave you by explaining why I was out of the mix for so long.

Of course, coming into this job, Boeing knew about my personal interest in the aerospace industry… from my work for Airways Magazine to my social media accounts where I showcase my photography and, of course, this very blog.

I wanted to be 110 percent sure that I was not doing anything that could affect my job, so I was in the midst of a “Conflict of Interest” case through our Ethics Department. Yesterday I received the verdict, and lo and behold, they determined that because what I write about is public information, I’m in the clear. No COI.

So there you have it folks, I’m back and that makes me incredibly happy. I sure miss MSP, but let me tell you… a HECK of a lot of heavies fly into ORD. And as someone who is unhealthily obsessed with the Queen of the Skies, it’s HEAVEN.

Thanks for taking part in this journey with me and look for more updates soon!

 

Lights will guide you home…

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Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

I have always loved the song “Fix You” by Coldplay. It’s one of those songs that speaks to me, but I never really knew why – am I trying to fix someone? Is someone trying to fix me? I didn’t know, but it’s becoming a lot clearer these days.

I started singing the song in my head while my dad and I were sitting in a plane out on the tarmac at Chicago O’Hare Airport, getting ready to fly back to Minneapolis after a 10-day trip through Europe.

It was dark out, and the bright runway lights enticed me as they always do. And in that moment, just as the song popped into my head, I realized I was home. And I wasn’t just “home” as in back in the states, I was home in Chicago.

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

My life, just like everyone else’s, has been filled with ups and downs. There have been tough times and feelings of hopelessness; there have been good times and lights at the ends of many tunnels.

During college, living with a toxic combination of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and disordered eating took its toll on me. My body and my mind were always tired, but I pressed on and did my best to power through class, homework and exams. I was working hard, but I didn’t know what exactly it was I was working toward.

After graduation, the future of my career always felt uncertain. I had met the love of my life, which brought so much needed happiness into my world, but I still didn’t know what I was doing – I didn’t know what my purpose was here on planet Earth.

I worked in newsrooms, I did communications for a nonprofit, I did website work at an energy company and most recently I found myself writing for the Minnesota Department of Health – where I currently still work. All these jobs had profound impacts on me and helped shape me into a better person, but I had no idea what my end goal was, and I didn’t know what these experiences were preparing me for.

High up above or down below
When you’re too in love to let it go
If you never try, you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth

A few years back, I fell madly in love… and in case you’re wondering, my husband and I met more than seven years ago, so no, it wasn’t with him. Don’t worry guys, it’s not scandalous… I was out for a run near Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, and was blown away when and airplane lifted off right over my head. I was hooked. I quickly realized how “right” this all felt though… I mean, my parents met as flight attendants, my dad was in the Air Force… aviation was in my blood from the start.

I began reading about the physics of flight and watching documentaries on airplanes. I found myself out at MSP multiple times a week taking photos of the planes, and before I knew it, I was identifying many of them from decently far away. I was learning a lot and, more importantly, this was bringing me joy.

Almost a year ago, I had an “aha” moment… “Why can’t I combine my passion for aviation with my journalism degree and my love of writing?” Simple answer: I can. I reached out to Aviation Queen Benét Wilson, an aviation journalist who has inspired me in so many ways. And that decision to ask someone for help, proved to be so worth it.

Benét critiqued my writing and helped me to develop my skills and get my name out there. She also introduced me to Chris Sloan, the managing editor at Airways Magazine. Chris, too, helped me in more ways than one, he suggested topics for me to research and write about that I never would have thought of on my own. As a contributor to Airways, I was improving my industry knowledge, becoming a better writer and making connections out the wazoo.

I was so, so glad I found something that brought me so much joy. It was that one piece in my “happy life” pie that was missing, and now it was there. I kept working and learning, traveling and exploring… just trying to figure out what I was going to make of all of this. I knew that someday I wanted to find a full-time job in the aviation industry, whether at an airline or a manufacturer… I just didn’t know.

Another thing I didn’t know, was that the opportunity to work full time doing writing and communications in the aviation industry was about to present itself… a lot sooner than I had ever expected.

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from mistakes

After years of uncertainty… years of ups and downs and years filled with (yes) plenty of mistakes, I learned, I grew and I found my passion. On day one of the trip I just took with my dad, I accepted an offer to work in communications at BOEING.

Wait… did I just say that? Someone pinch me, please.

YES. It’s true… in December I’ll be setting up shop in Chicago to begin this new journey. It’s amazing. Of course, there will be hurdles… as my husband will be up here in Minnesota finishing his last year of school, before joining me in the Windy City. Our love is rock solid though… so I know we’ll be fine. He is over the moon knowing that I have this opportunity, and his love is truly what helped me to realize that I was (and still am) capable of anything. So… I finally know why that song speaks to me. No one was trying to fix me, and I wasn’t trying to fix someone else – I was trying to fix myself, and I think I’m slowly but surely doing just that.

It was more than 10 years ago that I first began dealing with mental health issues and constantly feeling hopeless for what the future may hold. Who would have thought that in my upper twenties I’d fall so in love with these huge, flying machines, and that in the end, those guiding lights would be runway approach lights, and home would be this city that’s always held a special place in my heart.

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

See you soon, Chicago.

A trip long in the making, is finally here…

I am an only child. My parents divorced when I was five years old. Throughout my childhood and into young adulthood, aside from spending every other weekend together and going out to dinner once a week, my dad and I traveled – that was our thing.

We took the Empire Builder from St. Paul all the way out to Seattle, we went to Hawaii, we went to the 1996 Olympics in my hometown of Atlanta, we cruised, we drove… we did it all.

Into high school and throughout college, there was a bit of a hiatus… my dad was remarried to my dear stepmom Carolyn, and I… I mean – I was an adult! What more is there to say? We saw each other as often as we could, but we certainly weren’t vacationing together anymore. I was busy with school and my dad was (expectedly) traveling with his wife.

Upon graduating from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2009, my dad told me that my graduation gift would be another trip. I was ecstatic! The following spring, we went to Germany, Austria and Italy. It was a different kind of trip – I was old enough to drink beer! Suddenly we weren’t just a dad and daughter duo, we were friends.

Just weeks after returning to the states, I met the second of the “two main men” in my life – my now husband Scott. My life changed forever… in the best possible way.

Just a year after meeting and upon finding my first job in journalism, Scott and I moved to Kansas City together. Ultimately, our journey brought us back to Minnesota just a couple years later. Once we got back to the Twin Cities, Scott decided to go back to school and after a few more years in television news, I decided to switch career paths and went into public relations and communications.

Scott and I got engaged in September 2013, and just months later in December, my stepmom Carolyn was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. It was devastating and it was scary. She and my dad lived in Nashville (she was from Tennessee and both of her children, along with her sister still live down there), though she and my dad had a second home in Florida. I didn’t see them as often as I’d have liked to, but we were fortunate enough to visit at least a couple times each year, whether it was in Tennessee, Florida or up here in Minnesota.

About a year and a half ago, I thought back to all the trips my dad and I had taken, and I went out on a limb – I asked him if we could take another trip together… we were both married, he was supporting Carolyn as she battled the beast that is cancer, and I was supporting Scott as he attended college full time and worked part time – a challenge in and of itself.

I was surprised, but now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised… just a week or so after my request, my dad told me he had booked a special trip for us. He told me that in October 2017 he and I would fly to Switzerland and take a cruise from Basel to Amsterdam on the Rhine River. I could not believe it. I was so, SO excited.

Throughout winter 2016-2017, the thought of that trip understandably took a backseat to my stepmom’s deteriorating health. It was a difficult time for our whole family. Scott and I flew down to celebrate her 70th birthday in March of this year – it was quite the occasion, but it was bittersweet as I feared it would be the last time I’d see her.

In June, she wasn’t doing too well. I told my dad I wanted to be down there with him and the rest of the family. He booked me a flight down to Nashville toward the end of June, but something inside me told me I needed to get down there sooner. My dad switched my ticket to the next day. I flew from Minneapolis to St. Louis, where I connected to Nashville.

I exited the airport in Tennessee and immediately saw my dad. He hugged me really tight and whispered in my ear, “Carolyn died.” My heart sank into my stomach. I hadn’t made it in time. I didn’t know what to think.

Needless to say, the months following her passing were difficult for everyone. There was sadness, there was frustration… but we all stuck together and supported one another. I was so happy to have been there for my dad in his greatest time of need. And, as October neared, I realized that this trip – a trip that I had at one time doubted would even happen – would not only happen, it needed to happen. This trip would be so meaningful for both my dad and for me… I felt more thankful than I ever had that this adventure was becoming a reality.

Tomorrow, my dad is flying into Minneapolis, and Thursday we’ll fly to Amsterdam together. From there we’ll head to Zurich, and ultimately Basel before embarking on a trip that will bring us through France, Germany and the Netherlands. I’ve been waiting for this trip for what feels like my whole life.

There is something else about this trip that is so incredibly special. When my dad booked our trip, I was just getting into aviation… photography, journalism, anything and everything flight. He knew how much I had dreamed of flying on a Boeing 747… the beautiful, iconic Queen of the Skies that undoubtedly would retire in the years to come.

Not only did my dad choose a flight back to the states simply because it was on a KLM 747 (a combi at that!), he even adjusted our schedule by jumping through a number of hoops when he found out our flight was switched and we would no longer be on the Queen – that just wasn’t acceptable to him! This trip means so much to me, but knowing that he wanted that experience so badly for me, makes it that much more special.

In just 48 hours my dad and I will be high in the sky, nearing the Atlantic where we will drift to sleep and wake up in Amsterdam. There, we’ll spend a half-day exploring Schipol Airport (a one-on-one behind-the-scenes tour a year in the making!). We will then fly to Zurich, spend the night, and take a train to Basel the next morning, where we’ll board our ship later that evening.

We’ll stop in various German, French and Dutch cities before ending back in Amsterdam, where we’ll spend an additional two days. A week from next Monday, we’ll board a KLM 747-400 mixed configuration aircraft (half passenger, half cargo) that will bring us to Chicago where we’ll catch our final flight back to Minnesota.

Honestly… this trip, and the memories that will be made, means the world to me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend this time with my dad, and I cannot wait to share the experience with you all through photos and through writing.

To blue skies and tailwinds… and smooth sailing!