Happy New Year!

My “top nine” Instagram posts from 2019.

January 1, 2020 marks three years since I started The Great Planes. At the time, I was living in Minneapolis, working as a digital content designer at Xcel Energy. My job wasn’t a great fit and I felt a bit hopeless, unsure as to what the future would hold. One thing was crystal clear though… I loved aviation and space. Then I thought, “Aw, what the heck?” and figured I’d see what could come of pursuing that passion.

What ensued has been nothing short of spectacular.

Through my blog and by sharing my photography on social media, doors I didn’t even know existed were opened. I got to meet, work with and learn from the legendary Aviation Queen herself, Benét Wilson, before covering a slew of incredible stories — on the ground and in the air — for Airways Magazine.

Of course, the grand finale (or what I thought was the grand finale at the time) was getting a job in executive communications at Boeing’s world headquarters in Chicago. It was a challenging and at times frustrating gig, but a rewarding experience nonetheless. And somehow, it got even better.

I had a great manager in Chicago — he told me when and where I fell short, offered praise for a job well done and (most importantly) helped me to learn, improve and grow. He truly wanted the best for me, which I’m eternally grateful for.

The support from him, other colleagues, and my family and friends helped me to land what I still consider to be a dream job, working as a historian and digital communications lead with Boeing Historical Services.

Reporting to our senior corporate historian is pretty flippin’ cool in and of itself, but each day I get to put my skills and passion to good use, telling stories and helping to preserve the legacy of this incredible company I had once only dreamed of working for.

Looking back, I really can’t believe all that’s happened in the last three years — from bad to good, and everything in between.

I lost my dear stepmom Carolyn in 2017 and my sweet cousin Wendy in 2018 — both of whom were champions for me. I still hear their voices, see their smiles and feel their love.

We moved a LOT. Scott and I have lived in four houses in three states — five houses if you count the year-and-a-half that I lived alone in Chicago / St. Louis while he was finishing school in Minneapolis.

And oh yeah… Scott FINISHED school and we’re finally living under the same roof and working in jobs we love. I’m so proud of him!

I traveled a lot… across the U.S., throughout Europe and even to Asia and Africa. I love exploring and am fortunate to be able to do so much of it.

I went under the knife TWICE. I got my appendix out in Istanbul (yes, Turkey) in 2017 and just a few weeks ago had knee surgery.

I flew on the Queen of the Skies — the legendary Boeing 747 — for the first (and hopefully not last!) time.

I got to be part of history when I supported the first Boeing CST-100 Starliner launch from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

I made new friends and strengthened existing friendships.

I took lots of pictures.

I felt stressed and worried, and cried my fair share of tears.

I celebrated lots of successes — personally and professionally — and learned a LOT.

Through all of these highs and lows, my love of aviation, space and all things flight has grown even stronger.

I am so thankful to the nearly 15,000 (WHAT?) people who have decided to share in this journey with me through Instagram. The best is yet to come, though…

Happy New Year!

What is life?

“What is life?”

That’s a phrase I often use to describe situations in which I find myself unable to comprehend how lucky I am.

There is so much bad in the world — bad people, bad places, bad situations — but in my 32 years of life, I’ve somehow managed to avoid most all of it. I don’t know how or why, but I’ve experienced so much of the good… so much that it sometimes feels unfair.

And today… today was yet another really good day.

It all starts with Chicago… a blustery, midwestern city that reeled me in a couple years back and helped me to blossom into the happiest “me” I’ve ever been. It was there that I began working for The Boeing Company, and it was there that I met some truly incredible people, two of whom I had the pleasure of traveling with today.

While I was living in The Windy City, I met a fellow Chicagoan named Stathis. He’s the founder and president of branding.aero — a brand experience management agency — and a marketing professor at SUNY Oswego. He’s good people, and he’s a fellow AV geek.

Through Stathis, I was introduced to Elliot, who had interned with United Airlines and now works for the company at its Chicago headquarters. He too, is good people, and (of course) a fellow AV geek.

A few weeks back, I had posted a photo of the new United CRJ-550 on Instagram — the first regional jet with a three-class configuration. I spotted the 50-seater out at STL, an airport that doesn’t typically offer much in the way of new, exciting airplanes (at least not compared to Chicago). And in the caption, I mentioned how much I’d like to try out first class on the 550 some day…

Shortly after posting the photo, Elliot reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in coming out to Chicago to fly first class on the newly-configured airplane. My heart rate skyrocketed and I said to Scott, “Oh. My. Gosh.” I was so, so excited.

Before I knew it, Elliot and I were working out the details for what was sure to be an incredible day. Shortly thereafter, he had even more good news for me — Stathis would be joining us!

I waited and waited in anticipation. And before I knew it, the day had arrived. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. with a spring in my step, and headed to the airport for my first flight, which was to depart at 7:45. I flew from St. Louis to Chicago where the three of us met and boarded our first flight on United’s new jet. Next stop: Sioux Falls!

The three of us sat near one another in first class, and let me tell you… there was SO. MUCH. SPACE. Aside from my fluke-of-an-experience flying business class on Turkish Airlines, I’ve always flown economy, so this was quite a treat. After the initial cabin service, we were able to grab additional drinks and snacks from a self-serve bar area, which was super fun and unlike anything I had experienced before.

After landing in Sioux Falls, we had the chance to visit the flight deck, before stepping off the plane for just a few minutes, then getting right back on. Both flights were so smooth and so quiet. What made the trip so special, though, was the fact that I could enjoy it with two awesome people.

After we returned to O’Hare, we spent a bit of time in the United lounge, before Elliot and Stathis saw me off as I boarded my last flight of the day, back home to St. Louis.

Before today, I had never flown standby, and let me tell you… it’s really fun, albeit a little nerve-racking at times. Lucky for me, I live for this stuff and would have been perfectly content if I was “stranded” in Chicago. Alas, I was the very last passenger called to board the flight. I even got seat 1A — go figure!

So, there you have it… in exactly nine hours’ time I flew from St. Louis to Chicago, Chicago to Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls to Chicago, and Chicago back to St. Louis. Spending all day in airports and in the sky isn’t for everyone, but it IS for some folks… like me, Elliot and Stathis. And lucky for us, every now and again the stars align and we have the chance to take to the skies together… the three amigos!

Thank you, Elliot, for making today possible. It was an incredible adventure and I am so grateful for your generosity and thankful to have you as a friend.

And thank you Stathis, for being such a kind, selfless person. It was so great to be able to share in this experience with you!

So, what is life?

Well… simply put, life is good.

Here’s to friends, blue skies and tailwinds.

Finding my place in the sun

The view from my downtown St. Louis apartment — my eighth home in eight years.

Eight years ago today, I was living with my mom in the town I grew up in just south of the Twin Cities. I was a year-and-a-half out of college, working two part-time jobs—day shifts at FOX Sports North and weekend overnights at KARE 11 News—and I had been dating a guy named Scott for about six months. Kind of funny that I ended up marrying a DIFFERENT Scott, huh?

Calm down… I’m kidding—it was the same Scott.

Anyways, I wouldn’t land my first full-time job for another six months, but I never could have dreamt up the journey I was about to embark on… never.

In these eight years, I’ve moved seven times, changed jobs six times, lived in five different cities, worked in four different states, gained three siblings, raised two cats and followed one big dream—one really big dream that I didn’t even realize I had until a few years back.

Even though it sounds like I had a lot going on, not much about my story is unique, at least not for a millennial.

I graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism, which offered a lot of flexibility in terms of what direction I could take my career. Naturally, I started in news… my first full-time gig was at KCTV in Kansas City, and before long I accepted a similar position back home in Minnesota with WCCO.

Alas, a few years of working as an assignment editor was enough for me to realize that news wasn’t my jam. I had a lot of fun and met some amazing lifelong friends, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

I switched to communications—still unsure what my “dream job” really was. I first worked for a nonprofit, before jumping ship to a corporate gig where there was more money to be had (almost 50 percent more, to be exact). I wasn’t really happy there, though. Yeah, yeah… insert your “money can’t buy happiness” comment here. I know, I know, you told me so. I get it.

I then did one more switcheroo from the private sector to government. I had heard from several people that working for the state was a lot more “chill,” and at the time, a low key gig was just what I needed. You see, it was during my first post-news job at the nonprofit when I had my “aha” moment: I loved airplanes… I always had.

So, throughout those few years of uncertainty, stress and not making “enough” money in various communications positions, I was also trying to figure out what the heck I could do with my love of aviation. I tossed around a few ideas in my head, and picked the brains of my family and friends.

Simultaneously, I was on two huge journeys: one with my head (trying to find my place in the working world) and one with my heart (trying to make something of my passion). I knew though, that if I really, really wanted to, I could rekindle the romance between my head and my heart, and weave these two stories into one epic saga.

I started small… I went out to MSP Airport a couple times a week to watch planes coming and going—I took pictures and quizzed myself on the manufacturers and models of the various aircraft. On January 1, 2017, I started this blog and launched my @thegreatplanes Instagram account.

Shortly thereafter, I began working with a mentor who critiqued my writing, cheered me on and helped me to get my name out there. I then did some freelance writing for Airways Magazine, which—between the many interviews I conducted and trips I took—was completely life-changing in the best possible way.

I was a few months into my job with the State of Minnesota when I got “the” call. It was Boeing, wanting to interview me for a position on the Executive Communications team in Chicago. No ifs, ands or buts… I knew I was taking it.

The job itself was a great experience, but it was pretty demanding and, on top of that, I was living alone while Scott finished school back in Minnesota. Despite the challenges, I did my very best… I made friends, I learned as much as I could and I kept a smile on my face even when times were tough. I had no idea that just one year after moving to Chicago—and before my husband even moved down there—I’d be packing my bags once again, this time for St. Louis.

And so, today, I find myself a Missouri resident once again. I’m working on Boeing’s historical archives team, where I’ll get to tell the story of all the amazing people, products and events that helped Boeing to become the industry-leading aerospace company it is today. That’s pretty remarkable, to me at least.

If my story isn’t enough to prove to you that YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, then I don’t know what is. At 31 years old, I’ve had a lot of jobs, I’ve lived in a lot of different cities and I’ve put myself first more than once, but all of it was because I was following my heart… and I’m glad I did. Plus, millennials are supposed to be selfish job hoppers, right?

Fly on, my friends… fly on.

Goodbye, Chicago… I’ll miss you!

I can still hear the “ding dong” alerting riders that the doors are about to close on the CTA train. I miss it already, even though just hours ago I was on my early morning train ride from downtown to the airport.

I sat tiredly in a daze on the Orange Line. I leaned against the window and looked back toward downtown—the buildings were dimly lit against the dusky mauve sky. I thought I’d realize my dreams in Chicago… and I guess in a sense I did, but I just didn’t think my time here would be so short. It was so, so short.

I made the decision to look back only once more. I turned my head and stared in awe at Willis Tower. I vividly remember sitting outside of what was then the Sears Tower as a 12-year-old, proudly holding my geography book as I posed for a photo to bring back to my seventh grade class as part of our “Where in the world has your geography book been?” project. And even now as a 31-year-old, that building never ceases to take my breath away, if only for a split second.

I passed Willis Tower every weekday morning as I walked from my South Loop apartment to Boeing’s world headquarters, and every evening as I returned home. I remember exactly how it looked at sunrise and sunset. I remember exactly how it looked in the rain and in the snow. I remember exactly how it looked in my “favorite light” (the golden hour) and exactly how it looked when clouds completely engulfed the structure from the tippy-top of its two antennas all the way down to the 80th or 90th floor.

I really love that building… and I’ll sure miss seeing and living within the Chicago skyline.

I was now about halfway to Midway Airport. I was loosely holding onto the luggage tag on my suitcase as I noticed it still showed my Chicago address. I then realized that our downtown St. Louis apartment will mark our eighth residence in eight years—Jeez Louise. But I’ve loved each and every place that my husband and I have together called home.

Before I knew it, we were pulling into Midway. It took me all of 20 minutes to get from my seat on the train to my seat at the gate, coffee in hand. After a last-minute flight change yesterday evening (from 6:50 tonight to 7:45 this morning) I was certain I’d get a boarding number in the C30-60 range, and was astounded to see A32 on my boarding pass. This told me two things, I’d get my coveted window seat and our flight would be really, really empty. Turns out we had a total of 45 passengers, meaning we had about 100 open seats and everybody got their OWN. ROW. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I hopped on board the pitifully empty Southwest 737-700, situated myself in seat A7, and waited for pushback. The MDW-STL flight has us airborne for a mere 45 minutes. Now for most folks… that’s awesome, but for me… I find myself wishing I had just a little more time in the sky. Once we hit our cruising altitude of 26,000 feet, we were up there for only 10 or so minutes before beginning our initial descent into St. Louis.

I’m of course so happy to have been able to get back to my new home ahead of Winter Storm Gia, but I hated having to leave The Windy City so hastily. However, my quick exit was so in line with how my one year in Chicago was… it was always go, go, GO!

I had visitors seemingly every other weekend, which helped make Chicago feel a lot homier. I took seven day trips to six new cities. I traveled to Florida once to see my dad, made it back to Minnesota several times to visit family and friends, and made one trek each to Los Angeles and Seattle. I explored so much of Chicago on foot, and even more of it on my bike. And that’s all on top of doing what I was there to do in the first place—work for Boeing.

Working in Executive Communications was fun at times, difficult at others. I worked mostly 10 hour days, but plenty of 11, 12, or even 13 hour days too. I was never truly unplugged… I almost always had my work phone in tow, and some days I found myself spending more time on my work computer than on my own iPhone. That’s not to complain, that’s just how it was… it was an adjustment for sure, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I gained so much knowledge and so many skills. I made lifelong friends and I learned a lot about Boeing and a lot about myself. I’m so thankful for that.

I think my new adventure in St. Louis will be a bit more my pace, but only time will tell. Several of my coworkers told me they couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to work in the Boeing Archives… which is music to my ears and makes me that much more excited to start on my new team.

I’m really glad that I’m the type of person to go wherever my dreams take me… wherever life takes me. Not a lot of folks are fortunate to live that type of lifestyle, so I do consider myself extremely lucky. So, for now, here’s to fond memories of Chicago, new beginnings in St. Louis and following your heart. Right now mine is in the sky—literally and figuratively—and I couldn’t be happier.

Peace Out, 2018!

My 2018 Top Nine

Wowzers, 2018 has been one heck of a year. As most of you know, I spent the majority of it in Chicago in my new job with Boeing. My brief stint in the Windy City was great, but living apart from my husband was—and still is—quite tough. I made the best of it though… by exploring new neighborhoods, making new friends and spending a heck of a lot of time out at O’Hare—my happiest place.

Looking back on the past year, I’m so glad I did all those things, and I’m really proud of myself for making it a priority to embrace being a Chicagoan… as I had no idea my time there would be so short.

A couple months ago, I was offered a position working on the Boeing Archives team—an opportunity that I truly believe would have been foolish to turn down. And even though it meant packing up and moving to St. Louis (even before my husband made it down to Chicago!), it felt right, and I’m all for doing what feels “right.”

So, this New Year’s Eve, I’m once again a Missourian—for those who don’t know, my first full-time job was at KCTV in Kansas City, so this isn’t the first time I’ve called the “Show-Me” state home. Having only lived in St. Louis for a few days, there are things I like an awful lot: rent is dirt cheap, it’s a bit warmer, I have my car back, there’s a lot of neat little neighborhoods and I’m quite fond of the arch AND the fact that I can see it from our ninth-floor windows. There are also things I don’t like at all: it’s SO spread out, it’s the most dangerous city in the U.S., it doesn’t have even close to the same vibe as Chicago…much less the awesome donuts and pizza that I loved to veg out on, yada yada yada.

But, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my other half is to always make the best of things… and that’s exactly what we’ll do here together. I’m working for the greatest aerospace company on the planet, and now I get to truly embrace my inner AV geek and tap into my writing skills to help tell the story of this company that’s been going strong for more than a century—it’s a complete honor and privilege, and I can’t wait to embark on this journey with my family, friends and all of you fellow AV geeks.

Thanks for the support and here’s to another solid year of peace, love and airplanes!

Meet Me in St. Louis

I’ve actually never seen “Meet Me in St. Louis,” but with my love of classic movies, and given it stars none other than fellow Minnesotan Judy Garland, I can’t believe I haven’t! More to come on that…

Today is important, because I’ve officially worked at Boeing for a year now. I’ve learned a lot about the company and the industry, and even more about myself. Living alone in a new city has been telling—sad at times, exhilarating at others—but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

To be honest, the last couple months have been really tough. The loneliness of living alone has really started to set in, and a few other things here and there had led me to feel a bit hopeless and unsure of what my future held. But I did my best to “keep calm and carry on” with a positive attitude… and that, coupled with the love and support of my family and friends, kept me going.

And believe it or not, as much as I love the city of Chicago and the amazing friends I’ve made here at Boeing World Headquarters—and despite having only been here for just more than a year—I’m moving on. Heck, I’ll just say it: I’m movin’ on up!

Well, technically I’m making a lateral move career wise… and I guess I’m moving farther south… but to me, this new adventure is a huge step up. In approximately three weeks I’ll be moving to St. Louis to work in the Boeing Archives.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of The Boeing Company, and to be able to work with a team who shares that passion and in a building that houses and preserves such remarkable artifacts… it’s incredible. Man, I’m excited!

To add to that excitement, I’m currently onboard Spirit Flight 737 from ORD to LAX to celebrate my great friend Chris Sloan’s 50th birthday at the PAN AM EXPERIENCE! And… AND… this morning I got a call from one of my favorite people on the planet: my mentor, Benét Wilson. She said “I told you so…” with regard to my new adventure, and she’s absolutely right.

She DID tell me so.

She knew that despite my having to deal with some tough stuff over the past couple months, everything would ultimately work out for the best. And it did.

With that, here’s to perseverance, positivity and new adventures. Cheers!

Thinking of You

“Fly the wings of an eagle,
Glide along with the wind…
No matter how high,
I’ll be thinking of you the whole time.”

I first heard the song “Thinking of You” by Hanson as a 9-year-old girl who was crazy about boys and even crazier about music. Fast-forward 22 years, and oddly enough this song speaks to me more now than it ever did before.

One year ago today marked the first time I was truly on my own, living in Chicago. It was an unseasonably warm fall day, and I had no idea at the time how different life would be starting fresh in a new town, in a new job, with no family and only one friend—a high school pal who fortunately had lived in The Windy City for several years.

It was the day after Thanksgiving 2017 and my husband Scott, his brother Keith and I drove down here from Minneapolis. The two brothers hung around Saturday to help me get settled, but come Sunday morning… they headed back north. We said our goodbyes and I went for a long walk alone along Lake Michigan—I didn’t know what else to do with myself. I was equally excited and scared, knowing my new gig with Boeing would be an incredible experience, but being apart from Scott would be difficult to say the least.

It was my love of aviation that got me here—I’ve always loved traveling and the connectedness that comes with doing so, but more recently I’ve become fascinated with the physics of flight and all the magic that comes with defying gravity. When the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t turn down the chance to work for the greatest aerospace company on the planet, but at the time, I had no idea that saying “yes” to a job, meant sacrificing so much.

Long story short, I wouldn’t change a thing…. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. I knew going into this that Scott and I would only be apart for 18 months… and we’re already two-thirds of the way through it! If the next six months go by even half as quickly as the last year did, it’ll be a breeze. Scott and I are two tough cookies, but together, we’re like… a tough Oreo… double stuffed with… toughness.

Anyways…

Yesterday around lunchtime, after spending the long holiday weekend together, Scott and I hit the road… he dropped me off at O’Hare before continuing on toward Minnesota. The airport is on his way home, so we get a bit more time together on the 20-minute drive, and I’m left feeling a lot less sad and a lot less lonely out there with my flying friends. What can I say? The airport is my happy place.

After spending a few hours photographing the heavies landing on 28C, I headed back to the train station to catch the blue line home. The sky was gray and the streets were empty… I cried a few tears, and then started humming “Thinking of You.” Today, I was inspired to tap back into my musical side, so I recorded my own version of the two-decades-old pop hit. So, without further ado, I give you my best impersonation of three prepubescent boys, rocking out in harmony.