On a sunny Sunday afternoon in June, the ladies and I gathered at the Brown Palace for high tea. We had our pretty summer dresses on and arrived to a room filled with roughly 200 gorgeous people looking freshly scrubbed and happy. Our plates were ready, full of adorable tiny sandwiches and sweet petit fours. The tiny purple macaroon immediately caught my eye, topped with a blackberry and a little gold leaf garnish. I was saving that one for last.
“I want to nominate you for the Aspire award and I need a bit of information to complete the entry.” my accountant, Beth Ann Bethel, had told me a month before. I’d seen the promotional email from my financial advisor, Laura Rumans, a few weeks prior. Trilogy Financial Services was planning Aspire: Celebrating Denver’s Women of Distinction. The award recognized women with four key qualities — ambition, perseverance, humility, and influence. I liked those adjectives, but breezed passed it trying to get control of my inbox.
A few weeks later, I discovered I was a finalist — one of six women to be honored at the awards ceremony. It was a lovely event. Nick Richtsmeier of Trilogy served as emcee and introduced the keynote Pui Kalyanamitra to kick things off with an entertaining story about her mother’s ambition to provide opportunity for her girls in a freer society. The program continued with three women from different backgrounds sharing their stories about building a business, overcoming obstacles and challenges, opportunities earned, lessons learned, and work-life balance. Each story was unique and had a memorable message or outcome. Then Nick introduced the finalists, describing their achievements and challenges with a surprisingly meaningful and personal delivery. I was really touched to hear him describe my own and each woman’s experiences. This room was hopping with life and passion.
Many simple truths rose to the surface during the two hours together sipping Earl Grey and daintily nibbling on cucumber sandwiches. One is that we’re in this together. Each woman’s story was about how she had struggled and found support or had others whom she supported in their struggle. Challenges, success and failure are part of life and growth, whether in health or home or work. Another theme was how defining one’s life on one’s own terms is a large part of being a woman. When work, family and life passions are combined, an infinite number of combinations become available, and we don’t need to fit within a defined role. Most of the women presenting started with an education pointing them in one direction and evolved their careers into something quite different. There was no straight path, no set of predetermined steps. Each woman chose her signature route.
The award went to Jolene McKenna; her story was of overcoming challenges, generosity and resilience. I came home with a finalist trophy — an engraved glass pitcher ready for mojito season — and a feeling of empowerment from being surrounded by good energy--both from the sparkling guests who attended and the special women at my table who are both inspiring and supportive. Thank you to Joy Lowe, Cyndi Maupin and Beth Ann (along with Linda and Katherine) and Carla Carwile (there in spirit) for being part of my tribe, now and over the years. They have helped me realize my potential, navigate obstacles, and reach out to others.
I may have left that day with a few scones tucked into the trophy box, but what I really took home was that everyone there could be an Aspire winner — which truly is inspiring. And with all those pitchers, that could make for a pretty good party.