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Lessons in Injury Survival

In my 4 seasons of skydiving, two of them have encountered injuries: one from skydiving (that was oh-so-gracefully my fault) and another completely unrelated to skydiving. Both injuries required physical therapy and time away from the sport. Both injuries took place at the beginning of the season, making time off seem just that much longer.

When something happens that keeps you on the ground, you have two options – deal with it or whine incessantly until no one can stand to be around you.

The former requires a bit of strength of character. Dealing with it also requires you to pick yourself up and find a way to channel the energy you’d otherwise be exerting in the sky to something productive. Keep your mind and body busy while the parts of you that need to recover, can.

I’ve come to learn that physical injuries are very similar to emotional injuries – rest and time off from those things that will only serve to irritate the wound is the only way to bounce back and get back to your healthy self as quickly as possible. Time, and the right therapy, does heal wounds…and, it teaches you patience in the process.

I’m not going to lie, I sit here and preach, but I’ve certainly done my share of complaining and dancing with ants in my pants at the idea of getting back in the sky. I spend every week at PT waiting to ask doc when I’ll be able to get back in the sky – and I’m regularly disappointed when he tells me to wait. But, I also know that when that day comes, I know it’s safe to proceed.

In the meantime, I do what I can to get by – hiking, working out, long walks with the dog, whatever I can do to keep my body moving. And, if there’s one piece of advice I can give from my time on the ground due to injuries, it’s to plan something to look forward to. Whether it’s a vacation to lie on the beach or, in my case, a tunnel trip in May (wee!), do yourself a solid and have something to anticipate other than jumping out of that next aircraft.

Keep moving, keep dreaming, and keep your positive attitude. You might be surprised just how much you actually enjoy outside the world of skydiving – and a positive attitude can only serve to help get you to your goal sooner than you think.

Love and blue skies!


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Life on the ground

Though it seems contradictory to the majority of posts in this blog, and given that it’s entitled Skydive Addiction, I’m a huge believer in the need to enjoy life outside of the skydiving community…outside of the addiction, if you will.

When I first started skydiving, it was an obsession. It’s all I thought about, dreamed about, looked forward to and honestly, all I cared about.

Any downtime at the office wasn’t spent making myself a better practitioner, it was spent watching the latest skydiving videos on YouTube. I missed out on important family functions – the type of relative work that was around long before I started skydiving –  because the skies were blue. I all but gave up my passion for photography. Not so slowly, skydiving was sucking the life out of me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets here. I’ve always been the all or nothing type – it’s just a part of who I am – and in this instance I was willing to give up all other important aspect of my life to get that adrenaline fix. Of course, for me, it was more than that. It was the challenge of the sport that I lived for. The more it taught me about the strength and ability that lie inside me, the more I wanted to be in the sky.

Money and time were no object.

This summer, it slapped me upside the head that the life I lead on the ground is important too. Through a tragic event I was able to fully understand the importance of family. I’m not sure much has changed outside of what’s going on in my own head and heart, but I do know it’s for the better.

I’ve also recently fallen in love with the other aspects of my life on the ground. Spending time with friends and my partner, working out, getting back into the world of photography, writing, focusing on my career…it’s all been incredible.

And now, with some recent changes I’m looking forward to including all these aspects of my life in a new location as we move to Chicago next month!

So what’s my point? Well, think about this: what if something happened that for some reason you couldn’t jump anymore, say financial issues, or heaven forbid, an injury. Take a look at your life as it is now and ask yourself, how happy would you be without skydiving?

I’ve always been a believer in having a multi-faceted life. There’s more to living than just one hobby; one obsession. I like that there are so many aspects to my life that make it great. I like that I have friends at the dropzone and at the office and close to home. I like that when Monday comes I can look back on my weekends with a smile, knowing how much fun was had, but that I’m able to live in the moment and enjoy my week because I like that part of my life too.

Anyway, there’s not really a conclusion to this, more of a brain dump as I take a break from doing laundry and packing up my condo for the big move….and although those things are chores on the surface, I’m rather enjoying the moment.

Blue skies!


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Boogies and more

It’s been a while – my apologies. Life has been busy to say the least.

Between planning a move from Cleveland to Chicago (which will be taking place at the first of October…coming up fast!), traveling, and boogies it’s been a busy fall already.

For those who may not know, Labor Day is a busy boogie weekend in the U.S. Last year was my first season as a skydiver, and looking back I was so excited for the Work Stinks! Boogie at Start Skydiving outside of Dayton, Ohio. Though for the life of me I couldn’t find a group of people to go. Luckily, my buddy Rick 😉 was willing to go with me.

One year later I couldn’t be more happy that he agreed to go, because this year at the Work Stinks! Boogie he asked me to marry him just before he hucked us out of the CASA into an awesome two-way head down. You’ll have to check out the video on my other blog.

And once we have the engagement photos from Norman I’ll be sure to send those around. The video of the shoot doesn’t look like much, but we saw the proofs and that man got some incredible shots!!

Okay, but enough of that sappy crap! Back to boogies…

So for us, Labor Day means Work Stinks! which included a CASA, R44 Helicopter, Two Caravans and an Otter. It also means lots of jumpers from around Ohio and Pennsylvania which was great fun! Lots of fun freefly takes place…good stuff.

We’ve also talked about going to Couch Freaks, which is in Iowa. I’ve heard great things about this boogie, though from what I understand the part not to miss is the party. Personally, I’m not much of a drinker (yes, I understand that I’m a skydiver and they go hand in hand..really, I do) so the draw hasn’t been that great considering Work Stinks! is much closer for us…though once we’re in Chicago that’ll be an entirely different story.

So let’s hear it fellow skydivers, what did you do with your extended Labor Day weekend? What are some of your favorite Boogies, no matter what time of the year they fall?

Blue ones!


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For the love of ZOO dives

If there’s one thing I love about being somewhere between a beginner and intermediate freeflyer is this: ZOO dives!

I know many people who get annoyed by zoo dives. We had a plan, it went to shit, and there’s disappointment and failure in that. So, I kinda get that. But as I see it, even if the plan doesn’t go, well, as planned, it’s still a skydive, and it’s still fun! Besides, when you’re in that experience range of 200-500 skydives, you’re at a place where you can think on the fly (pun intended) and turn the jump into something else entirely.

Take, for example, a 6-way skydive that ended the Jump for Diabetes a couple weeks back. We had a plan to have 4 guys as the base on their bellies and two of us as divers out of the King Air in hopes of catching the 4-way round and selecting one person in that circle to rodeo for the remainder of the jump.

Sounds totally doable, but as I was doing my first rodeo out the door, I realized that this jump was already headed in a different direction – so I held on for a longer rodeo! Funny thing was, Matt didn’t even know I was there till I poked my head around to his right!

After letting go I realized that the 4-way base never made it there, so they ended up improvising and doing a hybrid with the three guys who remained linked. Good stuff right there!

Then, lucky for me, I was able to release into a backfly to check this out, only to see Doug floating away from the attempted 4-way in a sit – so I jumped into a sit with him from afar.

Check it out on the video. It doesn’t look as fun as it was, but let me tell you that everyone enjoyed this skydive more than expected. It didn’t go as planned, at all, starting with me changing the plan immediately out the door, but we all just enjoyed our time in the sky, figuring out ways to make it a bad ass skydive no matter what. The smiles in the LZ were huge after that jump!

This is just one example of the funness (yep, I just made that a word)  that can be had on zoo dives. The other thing, is that when things don’t go as planned, it forces you out of your comfort zone. So say you miss the exit count and everyone loses their grips, you’re the forced to learn how to get it back together – whether it’s on your belly, your feet or on your head. As I see it, zoo dives have the potential to make you a better skydive, if you use that time wisely :).

One other thing not to forget, is safety. There are always safety issues that can arise on a skydive, regardless if they go as planned or not. But when they don’t, you get into additional issues like fall rates and separation and deployment. Be sure that, if the dive goes to crap, you know where all of your jumping partners are in the sky. When in doubt, flip over on your back to check out who might be above you before you deploy. And make sure you track away like there’s no tomorrow to ensure safe separation.

Okay, off my soapbox now – but that when promoting zoo dives, that had to be mentioned!

So, if you’re into zoo dives, I highly recommend keeping an eye on the Skydive Chick blog. I’m always posting videos of the crazy things we’re up to in the sky.

Like my friend’s 200th that went from “hey let’s do a hybrid” to total freefly zoo!

Hope everyone had a very jumpable weekend.

Blue skies!


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Skydiving in Social Media

Let’s get real here for a moment…like really, real.

I love skydiving – for obvious reasons.

I love social media – mostly because I work in this space all day and see the benefits, like keeping up on the latest information, staying in touch with friends, getting updates on products and services you enjoy.

I also hate social media. (Don’t worry, I’m not about to say I hate skydiving…not in the slightest. :)) Social media has done things to our society that I fear can’t be undone. Sure, we’re more connected than ever before, but I also believe we’re more lonely than we’ve ever been. Our idea of “community” has been altered. We’re walking down a path that’s slowly putting us out of touch with our humanity (yes, Weeds fans, I did steal that line from the show, but it’s true)!

What’s more is that it’s making us passive aggressive individuals. Instead of talking to people in person or taking someone aside to chat about an issue, we’re publicly calling people out. I’m seeing this more and more with skydiving related topics as well.

In the last week I’ve seen skydivers who have posted about switching from RW to freefly, another who posted about downsizing (which is always a hot topic and everyone has their opinions), and subsequently, I’ve seen “friends” of theirs put them on the spot with things like “you shouldn’t do that, you’ll get hurt,” or “you’re too inexperienced,” or “are you sure about that?”

All this does is put people on the defensive – after all, they were just called out in front of their friends and families in one of the most populated social media communities.

Thing is, I really don’t believe the people who are making these passive attacks see it this way. It’s genuine concern most of the time – which we as skydivers truly love! But if you take a step back and look at how these very public comments come across, the potential outcome probably isn’t what was intended. Think about it, if you were at the DZ, instead of online, would you stand up on the picnic table and yell to the guy who is talking to his instructor about freeflying, “hey, you shouldn’t do that, you’re not proficient on your belly yet, you’ll get hurt, or worse, you’ll hurt someone else!”

Of course not! That would embarrass them, and possibly even make you look like a jerk. Instead, you’d have a personal conversation to express your concern for that person and those with whom they share the sky. That’s just common decency…isn’t it?

As a skydiver, I love having the ability to use social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) to keep up with things that are going on in the industry – updates from USPA, manufacturers like PD and Infinity, getting links to the latest blog posts – and staying updated on my jumping buddies, where they’re headed for the weekend, staying in touch with those I’ve met in my travels, but when I see skydivers who have to get defensive because of someone who didn’t stop to think of the outcomes of a comment they could have sent privately, that starts to make me question how great these tools are after all.

Now don’t get me wrong here, this isn’t an attack on anyone who may have done something similar in the past. I believe everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, so I truly believe that most of these comments are not meant to publicly humiliate other jumpers, or to try to put someone in their place for the purpose of making them feel bad. That’s just not skydiver nature, as far as I’m concerned. We jump together, we beer together (yes, beer can be a verb), we chill around the bonfire together…hell, we do just about everything but sing Kumbaya together at the end of a great day of skydiving. Well, maybe if we’ve had enough of that beer I was referring to, but that’s an entirely different topic altogether.

Point being, I do honestly believe that everyone has the best of intentions in this sport, and those that don’t are quick to be outed by their own behavior. I blame social media for our ability to post anything and everything online and not think for a second that there’s anything wrong with that. But when it involves someone else, that’s when I think it’s time to take an extra second to review how your words could be perceived.

In the end, we’re all here to help each other out. So to the defenders: stop being so sensitive…they likely didn’t mean anything by it. It’s your decision if you want to freefly or downsize or BASE jump or whatever. Just make sure you’re being smart about it. To the antagonists: you’re probably not how your comments make you seem, you’re likely just concerned, but be sure it’s coming off that way, and not as “you’re an idiot, I’m smarter than you and a better skydiver than you so you better listen to me and so should all your friends who will see this post too.”

But then again, this is just my advice, which, given that this is a social media platform, could very well be taken as “skygod-ish” itself.  Though I promise you, that is not my intent. From one skydiving, social media user to another….

Blue skies!


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Jump for Diabetes is upon us!

For those who have heard about Jump for Diabetes, you’re likely well aware that this event is happening in just over a week. I know, right…holy crap!

For those who aren’t aware, here’s a little background on what we’re doing!

Jump for Diabetes is an annual skydiving event to raise funds for diabetes research in hopes of finding a cure. It’s that simple! Well, not really, there’s actually a lot more to it than that, but I won’t bore you with the back-end details.

What you should know is this: we’re hosting the event on August 14-15 at Skydive Pennsylvania. A portion of each tandem skydive that weekend is going to the cause. Additionally, we have a group of 11 very passionate, sponsored skydivers who are donating their jumps this weekend to the cause. Meaning: they have people who pledged each of their jumps and that money will go directly to support diabetes research. As you can imagine, I’m one of these jumpers, with the intent to make 20 skydives that weekend for this incredible cause. Wish me luck!

Not only that, we’ll be doing HIGH ALTITUDE JUMPS from 22,000 feet on Sunday. This is huge! I’m so excited that we’re able to offer this up. This also means that we have another turbine coming in to support the event for the weekend. So we’ll have the Porter, Cessna and the King Air for the event!

Of course, we can’t forget about the PD canopy raffle that’s going on. For everyone who donates at least $100 to the cause, they receive a raffle ticket for a 1 in 100 chance to win a FREE CUSTOM canopy from Performance Designs.

That got your attention, huh?

This is limited to the first 100 people to donate $100 and request to be entered in the raffle. So far we’ve sold under 50 tickets. So if that’s all we sell, then the people in the raffle have even better odds. And the best part of this is that you don’t have to be present at the event to win! We’ll draw the winner at the event and let everyone know as quickly as possible who the winner is.

Interested? Email [email protected] to enter.

We’ve also got a grand prize raffle taking place – here’s what the prizes looks like for that:

1st: Tandem and Video Package for 2 OR $500 in jump credit

2nd: Tandem and Video Package for 1 OR $250 in jump credit

3rd: Hot air balloon ride/jump OR 4 fun jumps

Tickets are $5 each or 3 for $10. Again, don’t have to be present to win.

Though if you do attend the event, we’re having a general raffle, where each person who registers gets a ticket (as well as additional tickets on sale at the event) and we’ll be giving away thousands – yes, THOUSANDS – of dollars in skydiving gear including things like FREE jumpsuits, helmets, Gatorz and big percentages off containers, and much, much more.

Pre-registration is $30 and guarantees you an event t-shirt, goodie bag, raffle ticket and $10 hop ‘n pops.

Oh yeah, and all of this goes to support an incredible cause!

So if any of this interests you, please, don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected]. You can also check out our Facebook page and website.

This event is going to be one not to miss!

Blue skies!


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DZ Differences

Over the course of the last year, I’ve been truly blessed to have the opportunity to travel to some amazing dropzones. What I’ve come to find is that each has it’s own unique set of qualities and it’s own unique group of jumpers.

This definitely keeps things interesting.

When it comes to issues like safety, I’ve come to find that each dropzone has their “danger zone” – that one element of the sport where there is constant discussion regarding jumper safety. Seems that every dropzone has their area(s) where they proceed with much caution.

This really came to my attention this weekend when the debate continued regarding canopy downsizing.

As I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago, I decided not to purchase that Sabre 2-120 I had been demoing. Not due to the size, but due to inconsistent and incredibly odd openings. It gave me gear fear, and that’s not how it should be. I really came to realize this after demoing another Sabre2-120 that opened perfectly every time. So needless to say, I’m back on my Sabre 1-150 for the time being – at least until my wallet will allow me to buy new.

The experts at CSC all questioned why I purchased the 150 in the first place, stating that with my weight I should be on a smaller canopy. There goes that mixed message again.

So it got me to thinking about the areas of the sport where safety is a main focus and the differences between dropzones I have visited. Come to find out, almost ALL of them vary widely. These are definitely things that set dropzones apart from one another. Check this out:

  • The folks at one dropzone I have frequented are extremely hesitant when it comes to downsizing. The focus is on the size of the canopy rather than the wingloading. However, most of these people don’t bat an eye when it comes to wingsuiting or camera flying.
  • On the total opposite end of that spectrum, I’ve visited a dropzone that was hesitant to put anyone with less than 500 jumps in a wingsuit, but they highly encourage jumpers to test out canopy size and find what works for them – stressing wingloading rather than fearing size. (Though don’t get me wrong, neither of these dropzones are negligent or ignorant of the safety behind any issue, they just have those areas where they’re more likely to proceed with caution).
  • There’s a local dropzone that’s extremely strict on the rule of not flying a camera before you have 200 jumps, though I’ve been on loads where they don’t hesitate to throw jumpers out through “industrial haze” so thick it’s a guessing game when it comes to locating the LZ.
  • Then there’s the dropzone where jumpers on the flight will have the pilot do two or three go-arounds just to ensure that everyone on the flight will be able to avoid the clouds at a significant distance but they don’t hesitate to throw jumpers out in high, turbulent winds.
  • I’ve also been to a dropzone that in general is very strict. So much so that until you have 500 skydives, you can be grounded for any of the following: not having an AAD, freeflying with another jumper if you both don’t have 500 skydives, trying to jump in winds higher than 15 mph, wingsuiting or camera flying. Though, this very same dropzone has ZERO rules about swooping. Anyone, anywhere, anytime.
  • Then there are the dropzones that have strict swooping rules, these jumpers are often confined to specific areas of the LZ and you will be grounded if you don’t abide by them. Of course, these dropzones have their areas where they turn a blind eye as well.
  • Some dropzones don’t care if you jump barefoot, others won’t even think twice about it.

I’m sure the list goes on, but this is just off the top of my head. It’s amazing how much dropzone policy can differ from one to the next.

And yes, I’m keeping this vague. Who am I to call out dropzones on their policies. I’m no one, that’s who!

For the most part, the majority of dropzones I’ve visited are very safety conscious. Most have pretty strict landing patterns, or at least they encourage safe canopy piloting based on location and conditions. Most are incredibly strict on BSRs, though camera flying has been split about 50/50 when it comes to that 200 jump requirement.

Anyhow, this is just an observation that I found interesting and wanted to share. Though if you’re looking for my opinion, for what it’s worth, I say proceed with caution in every aspect of the sport. Safety should always come first. Know your limits, be aware of those around you and always pay attention.

That is all.

Blue skies!


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Simple Joys of Skydiving

Things were different when I first started skydiving. Sure, I was in a completely different place in my life, given that basically everything has changed since that first skydive last April. It’s not so much life that was different as my attitude toward the sport.

(Back when nothing else mattered but freefall – check out that smile, couldn’t get much bigger) *Photo by Dan Mathie

At some point, likely earlier this season, a switch was flipped in my brain – one that took me from innocent newbie skydiver to one who has everything to prove…to myself. The fun challenges that I once thoroughly enjoyed became challenges that, if I didn’t conquer, I wasn’t satisfied with the skydive. I became easily frustrated. I expected to be able to master every new freefly move within a couple skydives. Needless to say, my Type A personality got the best of me.

So a took a break from the need to succeed and got back to that learning phase of my skydiving career by donning a wingsuit. Almost immediately that child-like excitement overwhelmed me. My attitude was once again focused on the excitement of the skydive and just learning the basics. It was no longer about trying to get somewhere fast, it was about enjoying the moment :).

And what would you know, when it was time to put my freefly suit and weight belt back on, my attitude carried over from wingsuiting. It was about enjoying the skydive. Sure, there was still high levels of effort put into staying with the group, but it became less about trying to improve exponentially on every skydive. I was more relaxed, my head was in the jump for the fun and excitement of it. Of course, once I relaxed, the jump seemed that much easier. As a student, you’re taught to relax into your arch…same goes for freeflying. Turns out, when you really do and get your head out of what the jump “should be,” it becomes that much more enjoyable.

What once drew me to this sport is now drawing me back in even harder. Enjoying the time in freefall, whether freeflying, being a base on my belly, or in a wingsuit, it’s more about the experience than perfection. And now more than ever I believe if you spend a little less energy on trying to perfect a skill and a little more time enjoying what you’re doing – even if the jump goes to hell – that the learning curve will be higher.

(See that smile? Just like it was as a student…loving the innocence of this picture) *Photo by Sandy Weltman

Besides, no matter how precise your sitfly is or whether you can always stick that head down with the perfect transition, you’re still skydiving. In the end, that in itself is an incredible experiences.

So the next time you (and me for that matter) find yourself frustrated that your learning curve seems to be slowing down a bit, do your best to forget about it and remember what got you into this sport in the first place. Whether it’s the freefall or the canopy ride, your desire for skydive was once very simple. Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that can bring the most joy.

Love and blue skies!


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A game of balance

Before I dive right into my first topic, I should probably give a short introduction, huh?

I’m Ashley – the newest blogger here at Skydive Addiction. I’m beyond thrilled that Adam asked me to join the crew here because, just like the rest of ’em, I’m an adrenaline junkie. My path to the sport started like a lot of others: I did a tandem skydive thinking it’d be a one time thrill, but by the time my feet were back on the ground I knew this was something I’d be doing for the rest of my life.

That was just more than a year ago. I’ve spent the last year of my life changing everything I once knew. My relationships have changed along with my priorities and my work/life balance. My views of the world are different. I’m stronger and happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve learned lessons I thought I never would have – all thanks to skydiving.

My skydiving career is just beginning, but I already feel like I’ve accomplished so much. Most of the time I’m a freeflyer, working to perfect my head up positions, dabbling with head down every now and again. I’ve also begun playing in the sky with a wingsuit. There’s so much to learn and so many new challenges – I love this sport!

But I’m not here to just talk about me…

I was recently asked by a student skydiver this question: how do you balance it all? Where do you find the time to fit it all in?

It’s something I’ve been wracking my brain over for the past few days, because honestly, there’s not one right answer. And if there is, I’ve yet to figure it out.

Balance is something I struggle with everyday. I’m a multitasker, so if there aren’t a million balls in the air at once I’m bored. Sometimes this backfires and I lose a ball or two, but for the most part it’s worked for me so far.

What I can tell you is that I’ve learned the importance of the other parts of my life, outside of the dropzone. It’s really hit me hard this season that *gasp* there IS life outside of skydiving. Until recently, nothing else mattered. My focus was on skydiving as often as possible, traveling when the weather gets bad, going to boogies, spending every weekend feeding the need for freefall. But that quickly led to my obsession bleeding into those times when I couldn’t be out skydiving, like when I had to go to work. My work days were miserable, I was day dreaming about that next jump…my focus was on the sport and nothing else. Relationships with my family and friends were suffering. The worst part: I didn’t even care.

I’ve come to realize that a balance is possible. Life isn’t always about that next adrenaline fix. Sometimes it’s about slowing down and savoring every moment. I think wingsuiting taught me how to do that. It’s like I was once freeflying through life at high speeds, always looking toward that next adrenaline fix, and now I’m learning to take a little more time to savor the good things in life, to savor that freefall for a little longer.

Ha! Cool analogy. I just pulled that one out of thin air. I’m pretty proud :).

One piece of advice that I was given a few months back came from the freefall photographer, Norman Kent, and it’s this: embrace each moment and live it to the fullest. That’s what skydiving is about – we leave whatever is in our heads in the door the second we jump out and for 60 seconds, it’s all about the skydive. So do that with all aspects of your life. Open your eyes and shut your mouth. Pay attention. Embrace every moment as it’s happening rather than looking behind you or too far out in front. Live in the moment.

I guess the best way for me to approach it is to take life one step at a time, compartmentalize. When I’m at the office (doing a job I love I must add…I’m lucky in that respect) I’m thinking of the job at hand. It helps me be a better practitioner and I end up enjoying it more. When I’m blogging, my focus is on the topic and my readers. And of course, when I’m skydiving, it’s all about the jump.

So for now, that’s the best I can offer on keeping your life balanced while considering yourself a skydiver. I’m still a newbie too, so it’s very much a learning process. I’ll be sure to share the lessons as they continue to arise.

Until then…

Blue ones!