Just plane thanks…

Earlier this week, I realized I hadn’t blogged for awhile. And with that realization came a bit of stress, because I couldn’t think of what to write about. Thursday morning, however, whilst driving to work… it came to me.

For reference, my commute is roughly 20 minutes. And, as many of you know, my office is just across the street from St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Naturally, I see a lot of airplanes on my drive in, a lot of them throughout the work day, and a lot on my drive home.

And I loooooooooove airplanes.

OK, back to Thursday morning.

Shortly after getting onto I-70, I saw a Southwest 737 coming in from the north. It was flying straight toward me before it banked sharply to the right to line up for a 30R landing. Just a few minutes later, another one crossed overhead, and then another — it was plane after plane on the same approach.

In that moment, I just smiled and let out a big sigh — I was so happy. And that moment wasn’t even out of the ordinary. These simple realizations of how lucky I am come quite often… and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner — I thought it’d be fitting to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the many people who have inspired and supported me over the last several years as I blossomed into the person I am today.

To those who have loved, supported and helped guide me — thank you. Y’all definitely know who you are… and if you’re wondering, “Is she talking to me…?”

YES. I am talking to YOU.

Roughly a decade ago, I had no idea what my future would hold. And — believe it or not — I was deathly afraid of flying. I was also a job hopper. From TV news to communications in the nonprofit, private and government sectors… you name it, I did it. I couldn’t find my place in the sun.

Little did I know that a chance encounter with a big metal bird was about to completely change my life.

It was a cold, cloudy fall day and I was out on a long run in Minneapolis. Unbeknownst to me, I had ventured all the way out to MSP Airport. I was near the south end of runway 17/35 when an airplane took off right over my head.

I was forever changed.

I was fascinated, intrigued and full of emotion. But why?

Then, it hit me: I love airplanes. I’ve always loved airplanes. I will always love airplanes.

Aviation is in my blood, and it took me 20 some years to realize it. My parents were flight attendants on Eastern Airlines (that’s how they met in the ‘80s) and my dad served in the U.S. Air Force for three decades! DUH!

I’ve also always loved things that felt “magical” to me… and this, my friends, was (and still is) the epitome of magic. This epiphany coupled with my long-standing (but completely independent) fascination with space, helped me to identify and realize a dream: to work for The Boeing Company.

Through mentorship, counseling, and unconditional love and support from family and friends, I grew into the aviation nerd / storyteller / history buff / turbulence-loving girl I am today.

So, to all of you, who helped me to look up — literally and metaphorically — thank you.

Happy 100, Big Blue

Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschaapij — Dutch for Royal Aviation Company — is the world’s oldest airline operating under its original name. Known to most simply as KLM, the Netherlands’ flag carrier will forever hold a special place in my heart.

It all started with the 747-400…

I was born June 16, 1987 in the great city of Atlanta, Georgia. Roughly two years later, on May 18, 1989, KLM received its first 747-400. They called it “City of Atlanta” — naturally.

Fast forward to November 2017.

I’m a die hard AV geek. Inked on my left forearm is the outline of a Boeing 747-400. While my day job is doing communications for the State of Minnesota, I spend nearly all my free time at MSP taking photos of airplanes, or in front of my computer writing articles for Airways Magazine or blogging on The Great Planes.

My dad and I are about to fly back home to the U.S. from Amsterdam after a weeklong cruise on the Rhine.

The plane? A 747-400 Combi.

The airline? KLM.

The destination? Chicago.

This is a particularly exciting flight, not just because it’ll be my first time flying aboard the beautiful Queen of the Skies, but because in just a few weeks I’ll move from Minnesota — the state I’ve called home for nearly three decades — to Chicago, where I’ll start a new job working in executive communications for Boeing at the aerospace giant’s world headquarters.

Fast forward even further to today, October 7, 2019. I still work for Boeing, but earlier this year I relocated to St. Louis where I now work in Historical Services as both a historian and a digital communications specialist. To say I’m in my dream job would be an understatement. I’m putting my skills and passion to good use on a daily basis — and no two days are the same. It’s incredible.

Most recently I got to do some research on — and writing about — you guessed it… KLM. And let me tell you… it’s been one heck of a fun project to work on. Learning more about the airline’s rich history and discovering so many unique, fun facts — for instance, did you know KLM is the only airline to have operated every airplane in the Douglas DC series? — has been awesome. As I think back on my own “coming of age” story in the world of aviation, KLM has been there every step of the way.

When I was still living in Minneapolis, Air France and KLM were the “biggies” that all of us AV geeks would get excited about. Even after moving to Chicago, I’d go nuts for those big blue 747s out at O’Hare. When my dad and I took that river cruise in 2017, we flew into Amsterdam and were fortunate to spend an entire day touring Schiphol inside and out. And, of course, there’s the 747-400… the whole “City of Atlanta” thing, my tattoo, my first (and still only) flight on the classic jumbo jet… this love of mine for the Flying Dutchman just keeps growing stronger.

So, here’s to you, KLM, on your 100th birthday. Your legacy is incredible and I’m so humbled to be able to help celebrate this amazing milestone with you, both personally and professionally.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Our African Adventure

Sunday night, I snuggled into my own bed for the first time in 10 days. It was 9:30 p.m. CT when my head hit the pillow, which oddly enough marked exactly 24 hours since I had woken up across the pond. That early wakeup (3:30 a.m. West Africa Time) was followed by 18 hours of traveling from Casablanca, Morocco to both JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York, and ultimately back home to St. Louis.

This trip came to be when my husband Scott and I decided to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary in Morocco. The itinerary we planned for ourselves — which I’m quite proud of, I might add — took us up the beautiful Atlantic coast to the country’s northwestern most region, across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain, back into Morocco and on to a picturesque village in which nearly all the buildings are painted blue, farther south to the country’s “cultural” capital before venturing even farther south into the world’s largest hot desert, a mere 30 miles from the Algerian border.

Our 9-day adventure exceeded my expectations… the people were so kind and selfless, the scenery was simply breathtaking and every city had such rich culture and history. Of course, our JFK-CMN flight on Royal Air Maroc’s 787-9 and the return on the 787-8 were reason enough to take this trip (my first Dreamliner!), but throw in a full week of exploring North Africa and all its beauty… what could be better?

I hope you enjoy these photos… I sure enjoyed taking them.

Day 1: Friday, overnight from JFK to CMN on AT201 / Saturday, exploring Casablanca

Day 2: Sunday, bullet train from Casablanca to Tangier

Day 3: Monday, ferry from Tangier to Tarifa, Spain

Day 4: Tuesday, car ride from Tangier to Chefchaouen (the “Blue City”)

Day 5: Wednesday, car ride from Chefchaouen to Fes

Day 6 (1): Thursday, car ride (8.5 hours!) to Sahara

Day 6 (2): Thursday, sunset camel ride through Sahara’s sand dunes

Day 7 (1): Friday, sunrise hike and morning camel ride

Day 7 (2): Friday, car ride from Sahara back to Fes (w/ stops in Rissani and Midelt)

Day 8: Saturday, train from Fes to Casablanca

Day 9: Sunday, racing the sun from CMN to JFK on AT200

Oh yeah, the cats…

Until next time, Morocco…

Chicago, I love you…

Nearly eight months ago, I left my South Loop apartment for the last time. As the door closed, my heart grew hollow… I felt as empty as the space I was leaving. It was a dreary day, as is often the case when you’re dealing with a long, tough goodbye.

For me, Chicago was both a blessing and a curse… there were some incredibly high highs, and some awfully low lows. I moved there to follow my passion and to fulfill my dream of working for the world’s greatest aerospace company — I knew the job itself might not be perfect, but I knew it was a step in the right direction.

It was tough… tougher than I thought.

Scott still had a year-and-a-half left of school up in Minnesota, so I was living alone with our two cats. I was acclimating to my new surroundings while trying to master an incredibly challenging, stressful and demanding job. Don’t get me wrong, I will never regret having taken that job, as it shaped me into a better person and a more valuable employee.

I couldn’t have made it through, though, without the love, support and encouragement of the amazing people I surrounded myself with. These friends, family and colleagues encouraged me to do my best, look on the bright side and persevere. At times, they saw a lot more in me than I ever saw in myself… and I’m so grateful for each one of them.

Today, I’m living in St. Louis, Missouri… and let me tell you, it’s NO Chicago. In fact, in the last eight months I’ve probably complained more about this city and everything it lacks than I’ve complained about any other city in my life. But… it’s home (for now). And more importantly, it’s where I’m writing my next chapter.

I’m in my element here. I’m learning, I’m growing and somehow I’m becoming an even bigger AV geek (I know, right?).

I still owe so much to Chicago though… to every neighborhood I didn’t have time to explore and to all the friends and colleagues I didn’t spend enough time with. That’s why I went back there this past weekend — it was my third return visit since having left. I got together with friends, I worked out of my old office and I went to see the planes… all the planes.

Yet somehow… it just wasn’t enough, which means I will be back. That city and everything about it tugs at my heart on a daily basis. And even though I miss it, even I can’t deny that I’m a better “me” here in St. Louis. I’m finally with my husband, I literally cannot WAIT to get to work every day and my overall quality of life is just so much better. I feel healthier, happier and more balanced. This is where I’m supposed to be… and being able to not just recognize that but embrace it is a pretty neat feeling.