A Mechanic is Born (Kind of)

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I thought moving to the country would be all about planting corn (and I do actually grow corn in my backyard) and skipping through fields of hay and wildflowers with my trusty dog, Alpine, frolicking alongside of me.

In reality, my dog runs about a hundred yards in front of me and doesn’t come when called, the hay fields are full of chiggers and ticks, and the last time I tried to skip, I tripped, stubbed my toe. Oh and the corn in my backyard? The deer ate it!

Moving to the county actually meant dirt, grease, tractors, bugs, more dirt, and lots of bug spray. Not always glamorous – but moving to the country comes with one beautiful, totally-worth-it perk – lots of wide open fields perfect for flying a paramotor.

When you own a paramotor, you have to learn how to work on the engine. I can’t haul this thing down to the closest city and take it to a BP mechanic for a tune up. We own 3 paramotors. Try and make one guy work on 3 motors at a time and there’s a whole lot of F-bombs being dropped until 3am – So needless to say, I’m slowly becoming schooled in the art of paramotor maintenance!

I never signed up for the auto mechanic course in high school. The closest I ever came to an engine “repair” involved me hopping up and down screaming after the radiator on my 300zx exploded – smoke everywhere – and calling AAA to rescue me. I have manicured nails most of the time, and they had never had grease under them… until I became involved in PPG!
The guys started me off easy. After a long day of towing and instructing, they decided to make me change the flat tire on the trailer that we use to haul our gear. They couldn’t believe that I’d never changed a tire. Have you tried to get a lug nut loose? Those things suck! They are practically welded on!ImageImage

They eventually gave me power tools (thank God for power tools). But wow what a pain in the ass.And that’s just changing a tire…Wait until your buddy buys a Top 80 off of eBay (do not EVER buy a paramotor from Joe Blow down the street off of eBay. Just don’t do it) – and gives it to you, it becomes your main flying machine while you’re training, and you discover -surprise- it’s BEEN IN THE OCEAN. (True Story)

Then, there’s a ton of grease, broken bolts, lots more F-Bombs (until 4am) and finally – a saving grace – a very talented motor man who whisks away your sad (salt water drenched) machine and mails it back good as new (Thank you, thank you, thank you Lance Marczak – Top 80 Pro!!!). This was designated as my main training machine – and Garrett wanted the best of the best to work on it. So out it went, and it is back and runs like a dream! πŸ™‚

Now we’ve taken on a new project – a Rotron 294 rebuild. And as I watch the transformation happen and get to assist (and get my hands a little dirty in the process), hopefully I’ll become a skilled Paramotor mechanic myself.

I’ve decided I like my hands better with a little grease on them!

Maybe one day I’ll tackle my old sports car in the garage…You know you’re an air sports junkie when your flying gear is worth more than your car!

“I know there’s a lot of money in aviation because I put it there!” πŸ˜›

Blue Skies!

~Blannie~

Back to Basics

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Image“Kite more than you fly, and you’ll be a better pilot than most!” – Wise words from Loren in Utah πŸ™‚

Kiting, kiting, and more kiting. The entire month of February revolved around kiting my wing.

Practicing forwards in no wind…

ImageKiting in bumpy, gusty wind…

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And unintentionally kite surfing across the back yard…

ImageWhen I first learned to paraglide, I hated kiting. It was the most frustrating thing I had ever done. After three days straight of being dragged on my ass, slammed down on my face, and line burn – I was not a happy camper.

Once I got it figured out, however, I started to love kiting. And now it’s a nice, mellow, love-hate relationship (love being the predominant feeling) depending on the weather and how much energy I have when I pull my wing out.

Kiting was the main focus this month, because the kiting is going to be more strenuous on my shoulder than the actual act of flying is. Plus it’s a back-to-basics thing. More advanced ground handling translates to better control of the wing on launch and in flight. Become one with the wing! πŸ˜‰

Once I’m in the air and in my seat, my shoulder pretty much gets a break – unless you count keeping my hands elevated in my toggles, and some movement here and there. But that doesn’t seem to cause any discomfort.

Forward launches however… Now those hurt. My shoulder goes weeks without a twinge of pain…and then one forward launch later and all of a sudden I’m looking at my shoulder to make sure my arm is still connected and it hasn’t fallen off!

And this is without a motor on.

So what do I do? I keep training. I keep working out and strengthening my shoulder, and I keep freaking kiting. Until either it doesn’t bother me, or I get so good at working with the wing that it takes less work to get it overhead, thereby lessening the shoulder twinge.

Back to basics… with a lot of ibuprofen!

Blue Skies,

~Blannie~

Super Fast-Healing Freak of Nature!

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My shoulder healed fast. Scary fast. You’d think I was taking super woman vitamins or something, but no sir – I’m just a super fast healing freak of nature (my surgeons exact words as I was discharged from care two follow-ups early, with 100% range of motion and almost completely pain free). I think it was the attention to the injury, and pushing myself through physical therapy that did it, but who knows. All I know is that I knocked my recovery time to 6 weeks and I’m cleared to fly! I didn’t just go to physical therapy twice a week and then come home and lay around in pain, wallowing in despair. I did physical therapy at home, I used my arm to the best of my ability whenever I could, and I ditched the sling as soon as it was safe to without re-injuring my arm (and didn’t put it back on again!). I massaged the scar tissue with Renew Lotion and Coconut oil. I warmed up my muscles with tension bands and light exercise, and slowly started building heavier weights into my routine. I was a woman on a mission!

While I was in the end of my healing phase, and still wary about pushing it too hard and flying, we had a visitor. Our instructor, Kevin Hintze with Cloud 9 in Utah came out to give me some schooling on the scooter tow system. Image

I watched the guys fly, and yet again I was plagued by this burning desire to fly a motor like that. I never thought I could fly with style. I love paragliding and I’m getting progressively more comfortable under my wing – but adding power to that? 50+ pounds of power? I’ve practiced no-wind launches and they aren’t much fun. Now add a big, clunky 50lb backpack to the mix and it’s a recipe for face-plants (if you’re me and weigh 110lbs)!

In the past when I’ve had such desire and ambition to strap a giant propeller to my back and fly away like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I’ve shrugged it off and focused on other forms of flight. Or, cracked a beer, parked my rump on the ground, and enjoyed my brew while the boys buzz the dirt on their flying machines. This time, however, was different.

Having heart disease, for me, always meant one big thing – exercise intolerance. If you’ve read my older blog entries, you know that I’d get winded just doing laundry. I used to spend hours in the gym each week doing cardio, but as my heart disease reared it’s ugly head, my cardio became a distant memory. On the up side, my high heart rate translated into a high metabolism, so I didn’t need cardio exercise to maintain my slender frame. I still wear the same size 1 jeans that I wore at 22 years old when I was in college (go ahead, punch me in the face, I know I’m an asshole). Those jeans now have holes in the ass from multiple skids across the dirt during failed hop n pop landings – but they still fit. But I miss cardio – I miss running. I’m tired of being winded, and using oxygen on the rides to altitude. I watched these guys fly, and read comments on my facebook – comments on photos of me with the paramotor, and I decided I was going to fly. I was going to buzz the ground on my own Parajet machine. I was going to rock a no-wind launch like a boss, and I was going to do it with style (no faceplants).

So what’s a 110lb girl with heart disease, out of shape, faced with a 53lb motor, going to do to actually be able to FLY it? Easy – change my life.

No, that wasn’t sarcasm either. I set out on a full blown mission to change my life. I’m not so deep in fantasy land that I believe that I can actually cure my heart disease, but I do believe that I can become practically asymptomatic.

ImageI started with my diet. I love eating healthy – I love vegetables and lean protein, but I also love sweets. I went into total diet overhaul. I got a juicer, and started having green juice every day (Kale, celery, cucumber, pear or apple, and a bit of ginger and fresh lemon juice). Sounds gross, right? Well I’d read this amazing book by Kris Carr (the woman behind Crazy Sexy Cancer) and she overhauled her diet and changed her life and in turn, saved her life. Look her up. If she could do it with cancer, I could certainly do it with heart disease! And she was right – in time (and it doesn’t take that long) your tastes for food do change. I started to love healthy juice, and vegetables have quickly become my diet staple. I hired a personal trainer out of Kansas City and started intense, challenging work outs to build my stamina. I turned a room in our warehouse into a full blown gym and started exercising here regularly. And the backpack… I started putting weights in a backpack and doing sprints in the backyard. I have to get used to weight on my back if I want to fly a motor!

So far, so good. I feel better, I’m sleeping better, I can RUN, I’m stronger… Updates to follow – but I have a feeling I’ll be flying like a boss in no time! πŸ™‚

Blue Skies!
~Blannie~

 

Shoulder Surgery

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All I remember after opening my eyes in the recovery room was my surgeon telling me “It went REALLY well, no anchors needed” and then I blinked, and I was back in my old bedroom at my parents house – with my arm in a very uncomfortable sling and my shoulder wrapped in a whole lot of gauze.

I had just had surgery to repair what we thought was a SLAP tear and torn rotator cuff. Fortunately, despite what had shown on my MRI, I only wound up having to have some tissue removed from the back side of my labrum, and a tendon cut and released.

I injured my shoulder during a rough skydiving landing. Unbeknownst to me, the popping noise that I heard when my arm made contact with the ground was the sound of my shoulder tearing. I had created a bunch of small tears throughout the back side of my labrum – and when I shook off the pain and went back up to jump again, I caused that torn tissue to balloon out inside of my joint. Continued use of that arm over the next year resulted in my labrum transforming into what resembled a big pile of mashed potatoes, and thereby resulting in an immense amount of pain with even slight tasks such as folding laundry. I made the decision to have it surgically repaired – as it would not ever heal without surgical intervention. After being quoted a 6 month recovery time, I chose to have the surgery in October – thereby giving my shoulder time to heal during the winter (otherwise known as the off-season to the midwest skydiving community).

I was quite disappointed in the prospect of being grounded for 6 whole months – so imagine my joy when I learned that the surgery was not as intensive as expected, and about a month was shaved off of my projected recovery time. And no anchors means less pain, right?

Wrong. When the nerve block wore off -and that nerve block was demon all on it’s own – I was up all night long with a terrible itch on my completely numb forearm. Scratching brought no relief, because I couldn’t feel my arm. Yet it itched like hell. Figure that one out!- I was in PAIN. And not the type of pain where I’m writhing around on the bathroom floor with a bad migraine, begging someone to shoot me in the head. It was worse than that. I felt like someone had bludgeoned me repeatedly with one of those spiked battle clubs from medieval times. And being my right arm and therefore dominant hand – I kept wanting to use my hand to move my hair, or pick up my phone – which resulted in excruciating pain as I was reminded that my arm was in a sling because I had just been sliced open and tissue extracted from my joint. Oh, and that whole “we cut your tendon in half and it’s gone now” thing. I’d been told that shoulder surgery sucks. But this went beyond that into a whole new realm of sucks.Shoulder01

Somehow I made it through the first week. And by the end of that week, my pain had begun to slightly fade away. With no anchors to risk damaging, I was allowed to move my arm sooner than the average SLAP patient (if I could handle the pain, that is). I began taking my arm out of the sling, and letting it rest by my side while i watched TV. From there, I graduated to slowly inching it up the shower wall, while I stood with hot water flowing over my incisions to ease the pain – and using my other arm to support and propel it upwards. And when I went to have my stitches removed at my 2 week mark, I was out of my sling entirely, and already showed some range of motion! I was healing – fast.

And so begins the long road down physical therapy alley, as I patiently await my return to the sky. I think it’ll be sooner rather than later! πŸ™‚

Blue Skies,

Blannie

Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight!

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Β Β Β Β  β€œPain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with?”

Β Β Β  Back in January, I mentioned that we were starting up our own air sports training center. Turns out it’s a lot of work opening a drop zone, hence why I’ve been MIA on the blog circuit! I’ve been spending the majority of my writing time doing monthly articles for Blue Skies Magazine πŸ™‚ But now that I have a minute, I figured I’d throw out an update on what is going on in our world over here πŸ™‚

When I first started this blog, it focused on skydiving and successfully knocking things off of my bucket list (albeit quite clumsily), despite heart disease being a daily pain in my ass. I never would have thought that today I would open a drop zone.

In the last year we weIMG_6238nt through about 4 props for the motor , an insane amount of training, many late nights with very little sleep, all of our money, a couple of personal injuries, quite a few tears, and a little bit of foot stomping to get this drop zone up and running.

Now for someone with a heart condition, choosing air sports as a career is not a walk in the park. Quite honestly, it’s exhausting. But every day that I deploy my parachute in free fall, or my feet leave the ground for another paragliding flight, I am reminded that I did not just shake off all of the odds and the doubt stacked against me – I took those suckers and drop kicked them twice the length of a football field. Not only do I continue to skydive with my condition – but I paraglide, powered paraglide, hang glide, and many other things with it too! So that being said, if I can do all of these things with my heart not functioning properly, I can absolutely do them even after I bounce myself into the ground repeatedly.

Any person involved in even one of these sports knows that it is really hard on your body. In just the last year and a half, I have messed up my shoulder, my foot, my back, my knee, my elbow and lord only knows what else. I think it just sort of happens when you combine a career in multiple air sports with a very clumsy personality.

IMG_7710I’ve gone to urgent care with my left arm wrapped in a t-shirt turned into a sling after bouncing in the desert (keep in mind, my right arm is already f***ed).

I left urgent care with a real sling…IMG_5740Β  …..and then took it off to fly for 45 minutes in a wind tunnel about three hours later.tunnel1A

I spent 6 hours screaming and hollering in the ER with some nasty bruising and road rash on my knee after a lakeside faceplant.Β  (It wasn’t broken, just smashed to all hell) photo(22)

I left with crutches, a leg brace, and gauze… and my knee continued to bleed for six more days.photo(21)…And I was back in the air having photos taken in free fall for the website, despite the pain, less than three weeks later.

I’ve popped more Motrin than I’ve ever taken in my life just in my last year learning to paraglide..FFI074Β  With hours.. upon hours.. upon HOURS of kiting. All with a torn rotator cuff and a bad SLAP tear (Right shoulder).FFI022

And I have never been as sore after any workout than I was after my most recent flight in the wind tunnel with my bad shoulder.

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But every bounce, every ounce of pain has been totally worth it. We are now DZOs!

And I haven’t given up a single one of these sports yet (in fact I’ll be adding even more to the list come next spring). Sure, it can be scary to get back up and try again after failing miserably – especially when it involves a whole lot of pain – but I find that my greatest flights sometimes happen right after my worst ones.

Sometimes when we fall, we learn what we need to do right the next time in order to land on our feet. And pushing through fear always makes you stronger!!

~*Blue Skies*~

Blannie

β€œIf you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”
― H.G Wells

One Bum Arm

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The Intro:

As many of my fellow jumpers and social media followers may know, I have a knack for face plant landings. There’s this little thing we learn in the first jump course called a PLF – or Parachute Landing Fall. It’s a technique for landing. If you aren’t going to stick it on your feet, or the landing is going to be rough, you’re supposed to PLF. Sort of like a stop, drop, and roll… or a better description would be drop, roll and stop.

Now as well as I can do it on the ground, or teach it to students, I’ve always had a mental block when it comes to PLF-ing under canopy. I can be hauling ass towards the ground, after the worst spot in the world, backing up under canopy, pulling a downwinder to avoid a tree – thinking in my head the whole time – “PLF PLF PLF” and my landing will still go more like this ” Hand, FACE, Smash”.

I’ve banged up knees, smashed a couple hands, hurt my back… the list goes on a on. But the worst injury today due to failure to PLF on landing? What I refer to now as my one bum arm! And before we go further I want to make something clear – I don’t consider this an injury caused by skydiving. After further review, I consider it an injury caused by stupid. As in, if I had pulled my head out of my ass and PLF’d, I probably wouldn’t have this problem.

The Bounce:

During my coach course, I jumped in some bumpy wind. It wasn’t high enough wind to make me back up (I refuse to jump anymore in winds that high. Those landings go more like “OW on my ass and get dragged for 100 feet” which in my opinion, sucks more than Hand, Face, Smash).

As I came in for landing, hit a little crosswind and got blown towards the runway, I corrected it, and I knew I wasn’t going to stand it up. As I threw out my hand in my normal fashion to catch myself- thereby yanking my right brake toggle and making my bounce that much worse – My fully extended arm made contact with the ground and I felt this little “pop” in my shoulder. I rolled (or flopped, depending on what angle you were watching from). It hurt. It burned. But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t shake off – which I did – and got right back up in the air, several times, to finish my evals before heading home at the end of the course.

And honestly, although it was slightly uncomfortable, it didn’t hurt THAT bad…. at the time. I even made quite a few more jumps during the summer – although I noticed a lot of soreness in my shoulder every time I got back on the ground. I figured I tore a muscle. No biggie, right? Wrong!

The Result:

I knew there was a problem when we started remodeling our house. After a month of trying to paint every room in this big ol’ 4 bedroom house, I had a daily routine. Paint for an hour, take a handful of motrin due to shoulder pain. Muscle through the rest of the day, have to ice shoulder all night long and take more motrin, CausesOfShoulderPain2-Rotatorand whine a lot. In my defense, the pain got so bad that just touching my shoulder felt like jabbing at a bruise with an ice pick. Visualize that? Yeah. Ow.

So I went to an orthopedic surgeon. And low and behold, that little “pop” back in July was my shoulder muscle and rotator cuff ripping apart! A.K.A SLAP tear and torn rotator cuff. A.K.A Huge pain in my ass. Or more literally, my arm.

CausesOfShoulderPain6-SLAP

I’ve tried a month of physical therapy – which included rubbing a towel around on a wall (…yep.), throwing weighted balls through a hoop (or more accurately, at people’s heads – though not on purpose, mind you, I’ve never been good at basketball), and a bunch of other strange exercises meant to strengthen the muscles in my shoulder… to compensate for the one that’s now dangling by a thread (an extreme exaggeration, yes, but that’s how it feels). All that did was make it worse. So here we are.

I have to have surgery to fix it. They will slice open my shoulder, put some plastic screws in there, shave down the bone, remove my bursa, a lot of lovely things which are probably grossing you out enough to consider closing the browser window (oh, just wait til after it’s done and I post pictures!). 6 month recovery time.

Which is fine, it could definitely be a lot worse. However – I’ve been in a sling to “rest” my right arm, and I’m virtually useless in a sling! I can’t pull my hair back, cut my food… I can’t even feed myself without my food winding up in my lap, on the floor and in my hair. The dog loves this. She is the only one who will be sublimely happy with this arrangement, and will probably gain a few pounds while happily slurping my meals off the floor.

And then there is sleeping. I can’t sleep on my back. And that’s not even pure stubbornness – I literally cannot sleep on my back. With my heart condition, it causes breathing issues when I sleep on my back. So there’s that little gem of a problem to deal with while my arm is in a sling strapped around my stomach.

My initial response was “Screw it, I can wait 6 month’s until later this fall”. I mean come on, I’ve got a drop zone to open this summer!Β  So I took my bum arm for a test drive in the wind tunnel earlier this month. I’ve done an hour of tunnel time before with no problem. This time, it felt like my arm was being ripped from its socket after the first 15 minutes (and this was during 3 minute rotations). It gave me a fairly good idea of what skydiving will be like this year if I don’t fix this damn thing. And if I land on it again, I’ll really toast it.

I am one stubborn woman, so there is a chance I will still try and wait this thing out a bit longer and see just how far I can push it before I let them slice and dice me. I like being in the air, I like putting my own hair in a pony tail, I like having my food make it from plate to mouth without hitting the floor. And yes, I realize those are all pretty silly things to worry about when you stop and consider other injuries I could be dealing with. But as I said earlier, I tend to whine a bit. OK fine, in this case A LOT. You don’t have to live with me, it is just an honest, whiny blog post after all πŸ˜‰

Blue Skies!

Blannie

Paragliding : A Skydiver’s Experience

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So to start off with a quick update – we’re opening our own Air Sports business out here near Clinton, MO. I know you want details, but that post will follow shortly. Since our business will be starting off with scenic air rides and paramotoring, I’m going to tell you about my experience learning to paraglide.

After bouncing back and forth in communication with a couple of schools out near Salt Lake City, we wound up in contact with Cloud 9 in Draper, Utah. After speaking with the instructors, we arranged for three of us to attend a 10 day paragliding course, and get the boys some further motor training.
Being skydivers, I assumed we had this in the bag. Paraglider – that’s a canopy, right? It must be like skydiving, without the freefall!

…Wrong – As I discovered during my introductory tandem flight. As I sat in my harness with my instructor, Billy, flying with all of the paragliders in the air, I was in awe. It was beautiful! Being a part of a dozen pilots doing this amazing dance under these big, powerful wings was amazing! I learned really quickly that this was NOT skydiving. There was something about it that was so alluring that I couldn’t wait to strap myself into my own funny looking, butt enlarging, harness and fly away!
The next day, I did just that. As we worked our way up the hill on the South Side of the Point, each solo flight down was more thrilling than the last.
Now being a skydiver, flying down to the ground under my Sabre mainly consisted of either: A) holding into the wind and praying not to be blown backwards (I’m tiny and still under a 150, not even 1.1 wing loading!), or B) my favorite- spiraling down to the landing area on those lovely light wind days! But either way – forward, backward, or spirals – there was no doubt about it, that skydiving canopy was going down!
With paragliding, everything is different. You can stay at the same altitude and just glide back and forth.Β  And while spirals might be fun under my Sabre, with my paraglider, yanking on a brake and burying it was a big no-no. Unless you want to spiral your face into the mountain.
However, being a beginner paraglider, who needs spirals? My first time doing a little bit of ridge soaring was 10x more thrilling than spiraling down under canopy. With a paragliding wing, you use thermals to gain altitude and stay airborne! These wings don’t always come straight down, they glide – cutting smoothly through the air. I stayed airborne longer under my paragliding wing after launching from 300 feet than I ever have under my Sabre 150 on a hop n pop!

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Spending 10 days in Utah doing nothing but paragliding was amazing. Some days were frustrating – kiting a paragliding wing was a challenge. After excelling at landing (we were familiar with flaring, after all, it just took a different, smoother flare than I was used to), kiting was a bit if an issue due to us having notorious “skydiver hands”. I’m so used to burying toggles and flaring strongly, and I had to forget everything I knew about skydiving and re-train my hands to move the brakes slowly and smoothly in order to kite properly. After lots of cuss words, some foot stomping and maybe a couple tears (I know, I’m a brat), I just sort of “got it”. It was like a light bulb went off and all of a sudden, kiting wasn’t really so difficult after all.

And of course, it wouldn’t really be my type of air sports if there wasn’t at least ONE face plant. On one of my North side launches, I kind of face planted and rolled down the side of the mountain. As I came to a stop about 20 feet down with my glider tangled in bushes and a bunch of thorny twigs in my hair, I looked up the ridge to see my instructor Kevin, looking back at me, smiling. After I gave him a thumbs up, and “I’m OK” he chuckled and hiked down to help me untangle my mess. It didn’t hurt physically, just bruised my ego a bit. Of course I was known amongst some as “Faceplant” and “Twiggy” after that event!
Overall, the entire experience with Cloud 9 was fantastic. We couldn’t have asked for better instructors. Kevin and Steve even entertained us with some speed flying, which was amazing to watch! I even got to experience it a bit myself on a speed wing tandem with Steve. We zipped back and forth across the ridge, swooping down past the boys and passing the camera back and forth. It was more fun than any flying I have ever done under canopy!

When it was too windy for me to fly, I equally enjoyed sitting on the hill with my camera and watching the experienced guys buzz by. Even more fun was watching the guys do their motor training.

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So from here, the next chapter in our lives is about to begin. With a new warehouse, a new paraglider wing, and our very own paramotor – our own new air sports business is beginning to take shape! We should be open for business later this year :).

As a skydiver, I’d highly recommend to any jumpers who have the opportunity – try out paragliding! If you like a canopy ride, you’ll love soaring underneath a paragliding wing. It’s a longer flight, a new challenge, and there’s just nothing like it! Contact Cloud 9 (www.cloud9toys.com) – they were fantastic and I can’t wait to return to Utah for even more training!

 

Until then…

Blue Skies!

Blannie

I am a Skydiving Coach!

β€œWhen we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.”
― Paulo Coelho

Today I held my new USPA membership card in my hands.

I traced the word “Coach” with my fingers.

It’s been a month since I earned that rating and I still cannot help but smile thinking back to that amazing course that I took out at Skydive Kansas.

After a little bit of research on coach courses in the area, my boyfriend helped me get in contact with Jen Sharp over at Skydive Kansas. I wanted a good course, I wanted to work hard for my rating. I waited through a re-schedule and finally the day arrived when we pulled up to the hangar at Skydive Kansas to start day one of the coach course. It was then, walking into that hangar that my nerves started to flutter.
For the better part of that first day, I battled self doubt. I thought back to fumbled exits and lost footing on landings. My confidence plummeted. What was I doing? Could I really do this? Am I cut out for this?

Over the next two days, I didn’t just earn my rating – I knocked it out of the park. I rocked my air evals – passing both on the first jumps. I listened intently to constructive criticism from an amazingly talented instructor, and taking her tips and advice to heart – I nailed my grounds and flew through my debriefs.

Its amazing how easily you can change your whole world, just by changing your way of thinking. Sometimes it’s hard to turn off that voice in your head that says “I Can’t.”. But all it takes is believing in yourself (and sometimes a little outside help from someone who cares) to say “Yes I can“.

Most often, success comes with struggle, and heart ache. In my case, it came with a little bit of both – but left me with a new self confidence, well earned pride, and a shiny new membership card with the word Coach on it! πŸ™‚

It’s not just the rating that I am grateful for – its the self growth I achieved while working on that rating, and the confidence that grew with each task. I left Skydive Kansas with a different positive outlook that I had not been expecting. It was more than just a coach course.

I can achieve anything I want to achieve if I want it badly enough – Despite health conditions, despite outside negativity, despite any obstacles.

You can have anything you want if you work hard enough and believe that you’re capable of anything.

If it is in your mind and in your heart, it is already yours!

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I am a skydiving coach – and yes I can!

~*Blue Skies!*~
Blannie

100 Jump Wonder!

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I made my 100th skydive a few weeks ago at Skydive Kansas City, and officially joined the ranks of the 100 jump wonders!

I anticipated my 100th jump for weeks and I was so excited to finally hit triple digits! Making 100 jumps was a goal that I had set for myself, and looked forward to before I had even earned my A license.

Skydive Kansas City provided a great experience for that memorable jump, I couldn’t have asked for anything better! We all geared up, got on board the King Air, got a nice surprise of a little extra altitude (almost 16,000 feet! Big thank you to the DZO and pilot!) and I exited with a couple of wing suiters and did my first wing suit rodeo – which was a blast.

After flying around the DZ on the back of my wing suiter until about 5,500 feet, I deployed straight off of his back (which was a very different experience, and made for great video!), and then I flew around under canopy kicking my feet and spiraling to my heart’s content while I screamed “I LOVE SKYDIVING!” at the top of my lungs – giggling like it was my first skydive.

After a nice, softΒ  landing, I happily accepted the glass of celebratory gin spiked lemonade provided by my boyfriend – and I then received the pie-ing of a lifetime.

As I was being hit in the face with pies from every angle, covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce, I realized something – as awesome as it was to hit jump number one hundred, I didn’t really know any more than I did at number ninety-nine.

I decided that I wanted to do something with 100 jumps. I want to help teach the newbies. And I don’t want to just half-ass my way into a coach rating – I want to earn it. I want to learn every single little bit of knowledge that I can get my hands on, and pass that knowledge on to new skydivers. So the studying begins. Between now and June 8th, there will be lots of studying, note-taking, and practicing evaluation jumps. Beginning June 8th, I will be spending 3 days in Jen Sharp’s Coach Course out at Skydive Kansas.

And then the planning starts for the next One Jump at a Time Event for charity. And this time? We’re going to see how many drop zones in different states that we can fly to and jump at in one day to raise money for heart disease. Exciting!

Blue Skies!

Blannie

USPA Membership Renewal Time!

I realized today that I still needed to renew my USPA membership. After filling out the form, I am amazed by how much my life in skydiving has changed in the past year.

This will be my 3rd year as a skydiver.

It took me two years to make 25 jumps and get my A License.

Now, granted – I broke myself on one of my student jumps, my original home DZ (Archway) closed down for awhile after a fatality, winds and bad weather were constantly against me (I even earned the nickname “Wind Hold” at one point last year, “Storm” at another because everytime I showed up at the dz, the winds picked up or it rained), I was sick and still learning how to deal with my heart disease symptoms, and I could only jump on Sundays due to work… However, that being said – it took me 2 YEARS to get my A license. I got in April of 2011 on my friend Christopher’s birthday. At Archway. The only DZ I had jumped at for 2 years.

Now moving on to today…

In the last year:

  • I have made 78 skydives between April of 2011 and today. (I’m at 98 total)
  • I got my A License and B License
  • I have traveled to and jumped at ten different drop zones.
  • I went to my first boogie.
  • I jumped out of eight different types of airplanes, and a helicopter.
  • I made three night jumps – the last on New Years Eve, right at midnight.
  • I flew 15 minutes in a wind tunnel.
  • I went from not being able to flat pack, to teaching students how to pro pack.
  • I bought my own rig, and paid it off.
  • I downsized from a student 230 main, to a PD 190, to a PD 170, to my current Sabre 150.
  • I demo’d a Pulse 150. That landing hurt.
  • I landed on my feet a lot, and also crashed in quite a bit. (I still don’t PLF. My crash landings go like this: foot, hand, face.)
  • I had on target landings, cornfield landings, soybean field landings, a desert landing, and one landing about 2 miles away from the drop zone.

And I did it all with a heart condition.

It just goes to show you – even if someone says you can’t do something, maybe you can. And you can even do it 98 times, with style. ;).

Blue Skies!
Blannie