Decompressing: After Alumapalooza

The final day of Alumapalooza: time for everyone to pack up camp and move on down the road. Some people would decompress in the Airstream Terraport (usual that would be us), but we are on a mission to return to Canada asap for the skydiving working season. It’s time to supplement the funds and take our newly minted AFF ratings for a spin :).

So off to Lou & Larry’s for the evening before winding our way back home. Decompression with some Rockband guitar and relaxation, enjoying the sun and friendship of our Ohio friends. Life sure is grand!

20 Years, a Skydiver in the Making

‎20 years ago today, October 6, 1991, I took a leap of faith that changed my life forever. I became a skyDiva ~ skydiver. The bravest step I ever took in overcoming my fear of heights was pretty huge, and to this day, at times my ‘Acrophobia‘ is still somewhat a hurdle with each and every jump, believe it or not.

My first jump course and skydive was at the Cranfield Airport, UK. You could say that this is my original homegrown dz, although 5 weeks later, they closed the Parachute School and I had to relocate to Peterborough Parachute Club (aka Sibson). My first jump was on a bright yellow 28 foot Double-L LoPo round Static Line parachute, deployed from a height of 3,000 feet AGL out of a side-door Shorts Skyvan 3A-100 Skyliner. The first jump was completely thrilling and somewhat scary. The second skydive was absolutely terrifying, as I knew what to expect. Yet I kept going back for more. The community, the challenge, the adrenaline and the fear (plus the high ratio of guys to girls in the sport was an additional perk!) kept drawing me back for more. I was hooked from ‘Exit Position: GO!’.

Let’s hear a ‘hell yeah’  for pushing the limits of one’s comfort zone. Anniversaries are awesome … great reminders of where I’ve come from, moulding me into the sKYdiVA of today!

Surrounded By Love, Remembering That I Am Not Alone

I found myself fully awake as slaDE made preparations to go to the dropzone to jump this weekend. I’m used to (sort of) my husband’s early morning departures during the week where he quietly readies himself for work at 5am. And if I’m ever-so-lucky, I can remember his sweet gentle kisses in the sleepy haze of my early morning slumber. But this morning at 7am, the striking cold brisk chill in the air woke me up alarmingly fast as I bolted to empty my bladder. Overnight, literally, the weather had changed from a lazy warm Indian Summer’s night to that belying the abrupt onset of a Winter’s morning. Once I hit the freezing grip of the toilet’s caress, I was wide awake. Sigh, so much for sleeping in :). I knew that with the weather forecast of below freezing temperatures and unruly high winds that I wouldn’t want to be skydiving this weekend (plus my back still is going through mini-spasms — not ideal for arching or abrupt off heading openings). I’m a skydiving snob per se, a fair-weather jumper. And yes, I am okay with that. I’ve spent too much time wrapped up like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Guy / Michelin Man in the sky, and from these experiences, I know exactly where my comfort zone lies. Who wants to be questioning whether one can pull a sequence of handles at deployment time because the fingers have frozen, with all sensation pretty much gone, or at least numbed. NO Thank you!! Been there, done that.

With that being said, I chose to wrap myself up, nuzzling deeper in the blankets of our kingsized bed, loving my husband from afar (Skydive Toronto — 2 hrs away from our homebase in Oshawa) in yet another loner weekend in the Airstream. I sometimes wonder if I’m making the right choice. Of not spending that quality time with my husband on his weekends skydiving when I have other tasks to do or reasons to not be at the dropzone. I guess you could call it dz burnout. I’ve always been a bit of a loner. Yet as I sit here, I’m somewhat sad at my decision. Every singular moment that we have together is a pure luxury, regardless of what we’re doing. How could I say no? And in that moment of questioning and melancholy, I found myself wrapped in love. Literally, embraced by the warm wool blanket gifted to us by a girlfriend in Calgary. Three years after the fact, this worn and well-loved bed covering is one of the valuable items in our rV that continuously provides us with unfailingly comfort in the colder climes. And in this sweet moment of awareness, I think of her, and smile. The trend continues, and I think of, with deepening gratitude:

  • my Mother, whose warm fleece hat covers my head in the morning chill
  • my Idaho-based girlfriend whose lovingly crafted sunflower quilt provides us with warmth, sunshine and love in the darkest of nights
  • another skydiving girlfriend whose pyjamas I was wearing, acquired last winter in the midst of her move to an rV lifestyle
  • the complete stranger whom we purchased an Airstream from off of eBay (I think of this man often, silently thanking him for such an amazing home)
  • a dear lovely soul who is suffering from a terrifying illness and injuries that has this person fighting with every bit of their amazing strength and courageousness. It leaves me wondering: what can I offer or do to make life better for them?

And with these heartfelt revelations and remembrances, I realize that I am truly blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship, family and above all else, good health. Even in my solitude, I am never alone. There are always reminders of those who have left forever imprints on my heart. Of those who are experiencing tremendous trials and startling tribulations that leave me breathless.

With this surge in emotion, I am suddenly overwhelmingly quiet. A deep sense of love emanates from within, filling any space where a void may have existed briefly this morning. I am honoured and truly blessed for the friends and family in my life, for the life-partner that comes home to me, to us, unfailing in his love and dedication. With this appreciation, I’m realizing that, next time, I’ll be hard-pressed to not be by my husband’s side, even in the coldest of winters and difficult of days. I want to be his steadfast blanket, supporting and warming him when he needs me most.

Do you have a favourite momento or memory that carries you through the difficult challenging times, when feeling alone, sad and grey; a heart-worthy impression that provides a souvenir hug, enlightening and brightening your day?

Sitflying in Skydive Dallas

What a gorgeous calm sunny day at Skydive Dallas! Only a hint of wind flip-flopped the windsock on the massive green fields of emptiness. Before darting northbound to Illinois, slaDE and I managed to make 2 skydives before continuing onwards with our trek. Fabulous and frivolous sit jumps that had me giddy with excitement at my new skydiving pursuits. A whole lotta fun checking out some new skills. The learning curve shall be steep!

Kudos to Whitney for the beautiful photo she took of my hubby sitflying over Ambergris Caye, Belize. 🙂

Married to the Wind: Making smart choices

An early morning return to Skydive Houston meant that we were ready to jump lots after a miserably cold housebound week, excited at some big way practice (as promised in SDH’s last newsletter). Unfortunately, the coldish temperatures scared the big way organizer off and we were left to our own devices for planning some fun jumps. Not having enough belly jumpers to make anything significant in number, Jason, Jim Culhane, slaDE and myself made 3 RW skydives together.

After my final jump, I was grounded (self-imposed) due to the high winds which were blowing faster beyond my comfort zone. A rough gusty landing was enough to send me scampering for safer ground, ice in hand nursing my booboo. In addition to that, three super bumpy jumps with weirdly sluggish canopy input had me choose the safer option, for me (everybody has there own comfort level. The drop zone relies on each individual skydiver to make informed smart decisions on when to jump or not).

Wind wus I may be, but past experience has taught me valuable lessons on where my comfort zone exists. As the old saying goes: “It’s better to be safely on the ground wishing you were in the air rather than in the air wishing you were safely on the ground”. Darwin’s law will weed out those who make poor choices. And I don’t want to spend another 4 years grounded, nursing another injury (as I have done before).

Skydiving memories

Interesting how years can pass since seeing an old friend, and when meeting up by chance, it seems as if time has stood still somewhat.

I had this experience today. I ran in to an old time skydiving friend from my packing days at Lake Wales. We’re going back 15 years +. We’ve had no contact since then, be it via email or facebook or life in general. But one look at Jeff Dudley upon glancing at his face, I knew instantly who he was and the connection we once had (I was a packer dating an amazing man and Jeff was the drop zone airplane fueler / handyman / load organizer dating a sweet girlfriend of mine, back in the day of carefree and frivolous fun). It was if time had stood still and a flood of flashback memories tickled my brain, and I was transported back in time to a period of so much happiness and adventure. If I remember correctly, Jeff was the one who had indoctrinated me in to the Muff Brothers skydiving club, member #1245.

Jeff himself hadn’t changed a bit. And reliving memories of a time when life was dramatically different (yet strikingly similar) is fun and fulfilling for me, seeing how far I have come. Times like these have me feeling blessed for what I have, for the good dear friends I have made and kept over the years, whilst appreciating my life and husband even more. A walk down memory lane is awesome, especially when it brings kindred spirits together after such a long time. A lifetime away really.

BTW: What is a Muff Brother, you may ask? The initiated skydiver:

Must dock on a dive which includes at least one “Muff Brother” while wearing a pair of muffs.
As a “Muff Brother”, you are entitled to “MUFF DIVE”, cut in on beer lines, and are required to out skydive everyone else on the load.
The card one receives is good for ONE FUNNEL.

The Most Worthy of Awards

Another memorable day.  Surrounded by new and old friends, I managed to pull off the 1000 jump with a surprise whipped cream wallop to my husband (after a deliriously comical fun day of skydiving with our Frontier friends). Somehow, I was caught in the line of fire when slaDE felt it only fair to ‘share’ in his celebrations. Hmmmmmm, I’ll have to remember that. Share and share alike :), especially as I approach my 24 hours of freefall award!

Celebrating 1000

What a glorious day to celebrate a New Year …. jumping with slaDE on his 1000th skydive, along with 13 other friends. I was there with him from the beginning of his AFF progression, right through to today. How fantastic! Traditionally, when a skydiver has a big anniversary jump, they 1) buy beer and 2) get creamed with a pie. No pictures YET. But baby better be ready :).

The photo to the left was taken after my beautiful husband completed his first AFF jump. That was back in 2002. 8+ years later and 1000 more jumps under his belt, he is still as passionate about his skydiving career as his first day of freefalling from an airplane. FANTASTIC! We completed a 13 way RW skydive (to the right, copyright Pat Calandra) for slaDE~s 1000th jump (which also happened to be TK Haye’s 50th birthday). FUN!

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One jump IS more than plenty. I learned this lesson from Brian Germain a long time ago. And if for some reason I had the inability to ever skydive again, the jumps that I have made previously were enough to last me a lifetime of memories and joy. Sometimes we have the choice to quit skydiving. Sometimes we don’t. So for to me to make just one skydive today on this notable first day of 2011 was beyond my hopes and aspirations. And the number synergy tickles me blue! 🙂

Aircraft a.go-go

One of the novelty aspects to skydiving is the ability to jump out of different types of aircraft. As long as the flying apparatus can get to altitude safely, skydivers are pretty happy campers.

Of all the vehicles to altitude that I have been blessed with the opportunity to leap from, my favourite to date I think has been the Lockheed Super Constellation. Doors on both sides at the rear of the plane, exiting at the speed of a small jet. My first skydive (a static line round parachute jump made on October 6, 1991) was made out of a Skyliner — like a Skyvan, but with the exit being a side door rather than a rear ramp.

Here at Zephyrhills during the Christmas boogie, they have 3 Otters (a left hand wide door to exit from), 2 Skyvans (a rear-facing ramp that one can run and dive like superman from) and a local visiting helicopter that takes jumpers to an exit point of 5,000 feet for $58 . Wow, what a selection! Spoiled skydivers we are :).