I wanted to share some personal joy I recently had attending the Summer Soiree 2023 held by the IAOTP. I tend to get a little shy when it comes to writing things in regard to myself but here we go!
Stephanie Cirami, Carissa Peretti, and the amazing pro team sent me an invitation to attend the celebration in West Palm Beach Florida at the end of July. Along with it came a request to be one of the speakers. The irony is that in February, I had an epiphany about doing exactly that! After being chosen as ‘Top Inspirational Airline Pilot of the Year 2022’ and being awarded at the red carpet gala in the Bellagio, Las Vegas Dec 2022, I thought, “If I was ever asked to speak for the IAOTP and these top industry leaders, what would I say?” I had jotted some notes down of my thoughts and stashed them away. Then, I was chosen as ‘Empowered Woman of 2023’, invited to the soiree and award gala, and asked to speak! I would not have been able to be recognized if it wasn’t for the amazing work and help of my right hand woman, Kayla Bly.
I told my best girlfriend Mary Spalding Stanton about it. We had grown up together, looked out for one another, and stayed besties throughout the decades. Without hesitation she said, “I am going! Can I come? I want to be there to celebrate you, video tape it, (Since I did not have a close or clear video of getting my previous award), and have time together!”
I was concerned about her flying from Spokane to West Palm since she would be flying alone, on the all nighter flight connecting through Atlanta, and arriving early morning. She is a nervous flyer – I may have been part of the cause taking her up as teens and doing some basic aerobatics with her! I told her to get to the hotel and get some sleep (I knew how she would feel after an all nighter flight since most of my career I seem to have been flying them!). As for me, I still barely got the last seat on the flights standby from LA through Houston to Ft Lauderdale. It is the nature of summer travel. We both made it in and together we got to cruise the beautiful area filled with mansions, estates, and beaches!
I had actually been battling a pretty severe case of food poisoning. It is the second time that I managed to eat something bad in a summer timeframe and could not eat any solid food for three weeks. And no, I definitely do not recommend ‘The E Coli Diet”! lol Off to the store we went for liquids and very soft safe foods for me for the weekend. I felt so bad because we should have been able to dine out together but she was very understanding and we snack slurped together!
We got ourselves ready for the big event and I reread the invitation to make sure I did not miss anything. I had to tell Mary, “Umm, so, I did not notice before that it says ‘business casual'”, as we were getting into our dresses. Explaining that at the gala everyone had been dressed to the nines, I said, “I know that everyone tonight will probably be fancier than business casual, I think we will be fine!”
The place was so beautiful! The Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa on the ocean with incredible high end design and style, we felt excited! We were there early which I loved because we got to speak with many people as they arrived. I was so happy to see the IAOTP all stars, meet with some of the same people from the awards gala, get to know some new friends, and share the experience with Mary.
As some of the incredible people spoke before me sharing their inspiring messages, we were served the scrumptious dinner. I had another flashback like the one I had at the gala about how I used to be the person working for a catering company and serving the posh people at the high end events. It was one of the jobs I worked to help pay for my initial flight training. As I eyed the dinner in front of me and so badly wanted to eat it, I had to pretend I was eating and enjoying it as I gummed a few very small pieces to at least savor the yummy taste.
As the introduction began, I realized it had been years since I officially spoke on stage. Before COVID, I was working on a talk with my long time close friend and mentor Brian Shul, bucket listing a future TED talk, and doing many national news segments fairly regularly. Just recently though, Brian passed away suddenly just after giving another one of his incredibly moving key note talks. I have been devastated. We were supposed to meet together soon after that talk and I had somewhat scolded him for loading up way too many talks around the nation in such a short timeframe. I had a big proposal for him, to make his story into a film and I had some of the key people who already gave the nod. He was arguably one of the best legendary pilots, authors, and speakers over the past several decades. My talk was in honor of him.
I dusted off my cobwebs, channelled my USS Missouri (one of his nicknames he and I gave him), and then I delivered. I wanted to share a little of my experiences as Stephanie had guided in an email. It was so much fun to look out and see everyone enjoying themselves. I gave a few love shoutouts along with it because of my eternal gratitude and humble joy!
I have included the quick speech (we each had only 8 minutes) along with some pictures of the celebration. Thank you for joining me for this wonderful time shared!