Eleven Thoughts About Skydiving From a Newly-Licensed Jumper

Going from student status to A License is every new skydiver’s first major accomplishment, outside of making the initial decision to get on a plane. For me it is an exciting goal that is now behind me, and I’m thankful for what I’ve learned along the way this past year. There are technically 25 Levels plus an exam to reach the licensed status with the United States Parachute Association (USPA).  Some people finish those 25 jumps in a matter of a few weeks. For me it took over a year because of limited time and financial constraints.  I actually made my Level 1 jump in 1999 as a giddy broke college student – quite a gap between my first and second jump in 2014!  That drop zone doesn’t even exist now.

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I thought this event would be no different than other significant ones like it in my life, meaning I write about it to fully feel it.  It seems I don’t live some things unless I write about them. So here are eleven (11 is my favorite number) thoughts I, a novice jumper, have gathered about this sport as I enter the “real world” of flying through the sky…

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  1. I love meeting new friends who seem to share the common trait of loving “the here and now,” who share optimism as a modus operandi and live in the moment. They are happy and resilient, and that’s contagious.  To me there is nothing like the feeling of entering the sky, moving through the air, and landing on earth.photo7
  2. The drop zone I’ve trained at is simply and generally a happy place. There is a logistical undercurrent that is constantly churning (our operators and manifest staff are really good people), but the sun, the wind, the action – they just make me feel really relaxed.IMG_1954
  3. After one of my first few jumps, I learned that one of my instructors – an older, superb, experienced jumper and friend to all named Pete – had died in a tragic jump accident. He was on the load that went up ten minutes after mine. It sobered all of us, jolted us with a shock of grief, and the experience and introspection brought a lot of people together and changed many aspects of the sport for many people. His death had an impact on me, too. I learned so much from watching and listening to others in the days and months that followed.  People really do die doing this, and it can happen to anyone.  More than anything, I learned that I should never, ever ever become complacent.
    Pete and me
    Pete and me
  4. The most-asked question of any skydiver is, “How many jumps do you have?”  This sport isn’t for the newbie with a big ego. You’ve got to check it at the door.10580904_719936074746461_8102505992405871883_o
  5. Speaking of the door – it’s often called the gate of bliss, heaven’s door, “the sweet spot,” “the favorite,” for many skydivers.  I can’t wait to say that someday. It still makes my heart pound!  What a rush.Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 1.19.56 PM
  6.  Failure. Speaking of ego – I had a bout or two during this process with feeling like a real loser.  Bittersweet.  It sucks to question your own intelligence and abilities, yet it is sweet to see that challenges do the job of making me refocus and overcome hurdles.Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.22.00 AM
  7. I never intended to look beyond my A license and make mental plans.  I did that intentionally.  I was curious and played out scenarios, but I tried to protect my “innocence” because I’ve learned that I’m sensitive and it’s not worth it for me to create a lot of expectations. Just get to the license.  Be proud of that.  Then I can consider what disciplines of the sport peak my interest and set goals for purchasing gear, etc.  I’ve found that to work for me. All along the way, I’ve been like a sponge, listening to tips from the pros and correcting mistakes.

  8. Speaking of mistakes – the most memorable was during one of my solo student jumps. I was riding up on the load and suddenly remembered around 3,000 feet that I forgot to turn on my cypres. For a second I thought to myself, “Hmmm…what to do,” but my safety-compliant second-nature kicked in and I turned around to a guy named Kevin behind me. “Hey, check my AAD, will ya?” He lifted the flap. “It’s off. Have fun riding down!”  As I lunged out to take my walk of shame back on the ground, I felt proud of myself for catching something important and doing the right thing.  I’ll never forget to turn on that thing again, either!  Being mindful of gear, safety hazards, and potential pitfalls sharpens my mind like nothing else.10671452_784785111594890_3668912601387246432_n
  9. Something I love about this sport is that it attracts all kinds of people from all walks of life. Getting to know new friends at the dz makes me really happy.10462625_696227107117358_6437690737977725878_n
  10. My children have truly shared this journey with me. They are feeling the accomplishment of this milestone because they’ve shared the last year of it with me.  They read my log book.  They’ve watched every student jump video and ask entertaining questions. They watch landings, try on everyone’s helmets, and know more than most kids do about the effects of wind direction now. I’ve tried to space out their dz trips so that they don’t get too tired of it, and so far it has worked. They cheer and grab their shoes when I tell them we’re going.10421241_696227573783978_9105552016719620167_n
    They’ve made friends they love to play with there. They introduced me to my boyfriend at the dz after forcing almost every jumper to purchase rubber band jewelry they were making – all because I spontaneously decided to get up and take them with me that summer Saturday.  They left with $20 in hand, and I left with the guy of my dreams suddenly in my iPhone contacts…  So really for me, my children are always sharing my happiness in this journey.  At least one of them cannot wait to become of-age and jump.10888539_784782274928507_2118820842772059442_n
  11. Skydiving is more than flinging yourself from an airplane. It is a door going up, a red light flashing to green, a pushing the “trust yourself” button on a regular basis. It is the horizon, the wind, and wiping water from your eyes in a rush of adrenaline and a release of joy. It is camping out, beer and laughs, and late-night cookouts with awesome people.  And BEER. Yes.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I am absolutely glad that I made this leap and stuck with it to this point. There is so much more to learn! I’m excited for some fun in the sky and blue-sky days to come.


Fireside Chat

Nothing divine dies. All good is eternally reproductive. The beauty of Nature re-forms itself in the mind, and not for barren contemplation, but for new creation.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A good year ended sweetly in the living room yesterday with the ones I love.  I don’t know if I have experienced a greater Christmas since my childhood. The laughter was abundant, the food was good, the hugs were warm. I held all of the ingredients – it came and went quietly, joyfully, and left a kind mark of blessings on my heart.

I am thankful.

My mother and father celebrated 41 years of marriage this week and gave photo (21)each other the same card, and that made me smile.  Then, they opened boxes with new hiking boots in them for each other on Christmas day. We giggled at their surprised faces.  I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been best friends for that long…

I was able to provide great gifts for my children this year, and even after a whole day of overstimulation, wrapping paper and sugar, they rode home with me in the dark with gentleness and love on their faces.  No whining, arguing, or selfish meltdowns. Our sleep felt extra sweet.

Of course I cried a little bit when I wrapped the last present for my niece, of course there was some emotion, because our family like most families has experienced some hardship in the last several years. But this year, I’m so grateful for no black clouds on Christmas. We had a peaceful, non-eventful holiday. Nothing big or fancy and nothing to make anyone sad or complain.  Peace is the greatest gift.

FCHATIf you’ve been by my blog this year, I’d like to give you a gift. If you are a little bit sentimental like me, you might like to “unwrap” it and take a while to soak in it. As I look into a new year with joy and anticipation, I enjoy taking some time away to reflect, laugh, cry, and look forward. These moments are sacred.  If you’d like, please take your own copy of a “Fireside Chat” to do the same.  Sit, maybe print it out, and enjoy some time alone before the new year. May you have a prosperous and blessed 2014.




28 Things

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. – JFK

This year has been beautiful. This year has been amazing.  This year has been hard, painful, but wonderful. 28 reasons I have nothing but total gratitude:

  1. New friends. A lot of new friends through Facebook and my job. So many great people. Wow. My life is full.
  2. My job. I don’t take for granted for a second that I have work to do, money coming in, good benefits, a great boss, and goals to set and reach.
  3. That I walked away unscathed from a freak-out crazy hike in August.
  4. My uncle. Aforementioned. I love him.
  5. Progress on my little old house.  Slow, difficult, but getting there photo (3)little by little.
  6. Yoga.  Always.
  7. My oldest daughter. Her elegant growth inspires me.
  8. My youngest daughter.  The child endured months of allergic reactions to an unknown source with persistent resilience and an attitude of a warrior.
  9. My oldest son. Scored a few touchdowns, blowing through Harry Potter books, making good grades, showing me love and strength.
  10. My youngest son. Cheerfully living life. Every day. Growing out of some behavior challenges like a boss.
  11. Tracy Raftl.  Learned so much perusing The Love Vitamin for months.
  12. My father and mother. Can’t type much or I’ll cry. Moving on…
  13. The Ingle Family. Folly loves you.
  14. Blaine. My best friend.
  15. The YMCA. The staff, the swim coaches, the sauna. The sauna. The sauna….
  16. Being closer to the mountains. Some beautiful memories there this year.
  17. Coffee.  Love, hate. Love, hate. Love…
  18. Vic Bailey Honda Service Shop.  My Explorer has been sick a lot.
  19. Eggs.  Thank you for keeping me alive, eggs.
  20. Google Voice. Sometimes it makes for headaches, but other times, it makes for headaches. :)
  21. Wine.
  22. A good friend who stepped up to represent me and help me resolve some legal matters that needed to finally come to a close. With professionalism and grace.
  23. Ample laughter caused by Louis CK, Modern Family, and Off Their Rockers.
  24. Pema Chodron. Her books have enriched my perspective and helped me continue to pave peace in my life.
  25. Great freelance web clients like Golf Squad and Simply Spay & Neuter.
  26. Charleston. Forever.
  27. Good friends and my sisters.  Read long emails, listened to questions, hugged me when I needed to cry. Made me smile.  Love!
  28. Another year with a whole lot of goodness in store.