I Did a Thing

I recently did something that many people find absolutely crazy. I jumped out of a plane at 14,000 feet above the ground! The biggest question I have received is….Why? Why would you do that? Why now? That question is a legitimate one.

A long time ago, in a galaxy….Never mind! I couldn’t resist as a child of the late 70s and 80s. Cut me some slack! Where was I??!! Oh Yeah! A long time a go I had a job that was amazing. Part of that job allowed me the privilege to help kick people out of airplanes. They did it willingly…well mostly anyway. Some jumped as low as 800 feet, others at much higher altitudes, skydive altitudes. That was always a sight to see. They would do backflips, jump arm in arm, and just always floated away from the airplane. Conversation topics would always lead to, “Would you Do It?” My answer was always a resounding “HELL NO!” Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane?! Crazy Talk! I did almost fall out once, but that’s another story for another day. The high pitched squeal I made is still probably hovering somewhere in the atmosphere over North Carolina still today. However, deep in the back of my mind was always a curiosity. What is that like? That has to be an amazing feeling, but that was then. Fast forward to Scrumpy now.

I have lived a lot of life as I have been on this deep blue sphere we call Earth. I have traveled the world. I have buried friends. I have seen my children born. I have seen people die. I have been close to my own death and lived. I have seen the best that humans can offer and I have seen the worst. I have made the best of friends and the deepest of connections, and I have seen people that I thought were close to me turn their backs on me for no other reason than to make themselves feel better. I have been married and I have recently divorced. There! I said it! I have had a failed marriage! I am not proud of that fact, but it is a fact. Since then, I have even received some very nasty and judgmental messages from people. Most from people who really have no clue what’s going on. Isn’t that always the way? While not a complete surprise, those moments bother me. I won’t lie, it put me in a funk. So what’s the point? The point is, I have relearned a valuable lesson over the last few years. Life goes on…in good times and in bad. There is no good life or bad life, there’s just life. (Yes I stole that from a movie. Brownie points if you know which one) It’s up to us to adjust to it and continue to live. I don’t always do that successfully, but I try to keep that thought present. Hold on to the people that truly care for you and cut loose the ones that only keep you around if it fits their narrative. In that guiding thought, I have taken opportunities to continue to experience life when the opportunities arise. Those moments are plentiful if you watch and listen for them. Sometimes it’s me sitting quietly on a Saturday night and roasting hotdogs and smores on a firepit with the kids. Sometimes it’s talking to someone you would never normally cross paths with and trying to see the world through their eyes. Sometimes it’s driving a race car with your best friend or going on a solo camping trip with your own thoughts….and recently it was jumping out of an airplane at 14,000 feet.

Here’s the thing about bucket list talk…it always seems to float around an approaching end of life talk. I don’t want to wait until my life is coming to a close to expirence all the things. I don’t want to get so tied down in the grind that I forget to take advantage of life’s opportunities. I want to skid into my last days saying “Man, what a Hell of a ride!” The thing is, no one ever knows when that will be. No day is guaranteed!

So there I was, 14,000 feet above the ground getting ready to go. I was strapped to a dude that I met about 45 minutes earlier getting ready to leap. It was the few seconds before we jumped that I had doubts, but it was a little too late by then. Good thing there were no seat cushions because the pucker factor was high at that time and that could have been an awkward moment. An instant later we were in the door and my fear turned into absolute elation. Moments later we were out the door. Terror set in again and I might have pissed myself if I wasn’t spending all of my energy screaming. Again though, that only lasted a millisecond as my terror transitioned into pure joy and wonder. One of the images seared into my mind, was me looking over my shoulder as we fell and seeing the plane fly away from us. AMAZING! I hade never seen it from that angle. I was always in the plane when jumpers left. I KNEW what that looked like! This was a moment I will never forget. I didn’t have a conscience thought at this time, It was more of a feeling. A sense of wonder as I said, like a child tasting chocolate for the first time. It was sensory overload but simple all at the same time. It lasted only a second or two, but will stay with me for a lifetime. The rest of the freefall was just pure adrenaline. Here I was hurtling towards the ground at terminal velocity (around 120 MPH), but I didn’t think of that. I was focused on Ashley (My videographer that jumped with me) falling, no flying, with me just a few feet away. She had over 6,100 jumps and still had a Joker like smile on her face. She reached out and held my hand. Chris, my instructor, maneuvered us in circles, and I noticed how beautiful the clouds below us were. Then he grabbed my hand and guided it toward the parachute deployment handle. It was at that point I realized that that was the most important part of the trip that I forgot about! I pulled and then was under a canopy! Just like that, there was peace and quite. We were now about 5,000 feet up enjoying the decent down. The second moment seared into my brain happened on the parachute decent. We were headed towards a cloud, that in itself was amazing, but just as we were getting ready to float through it Chris yelled at me to look left. We were casting a shadow on the cloud. The mist of the cloud created a prism effect around the shadow. It was a pure peaceful and sereal sight. I will never forget it! A few minutes later we were on the ground and it was over.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of those few hours of my life. The nervous excitement. The moments of pure terror. The absolute elation and peace. It was many of life’s most intense emotions felt in a span of about 15 minutes. Would I do it again? In a heart beat! Will I seek it out…probably not. I have too many other things I want to get done first!

So am I saying you have to jump out of an airplane to live life? Absolutely not! However I am suggesting to take opportunities to experience things that motivate you. Step out of your comfort zone. Experience what life has to offer. Go on an adventure or two. Don’t listen to the naysayers and focus on your true connections. LIVE YOUR LIFE and go do YOUR thing!

Freedom Isn’t Free

So to say that this year has been hard for folks is an understatement! We all have our baggage and we all make our way through life as best we can. Our experiences and decisions shape the way we experience the world, our relationships with people, and the choices we make. Covid, for me, has made this harder. I’ve had a lot happen in my life over the last year and the last few months have had me living in my head more than usuall, and believe me…I live in my head. It’s quite scary at times!! However, I think we need to take a moment this week and be thankful. Thankful that there have been thousands upon thousands of men and women that have come before us and have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can go forth and live our lives as we want, even in these crazy times.

This weekend marks Memorial Day. A day that we, as Americans, have set aside to remember the fallen men and women that gave their all in service to this great land.

In August of 1996, I was 20 years old. I was an Airman in the United States Air Force and had the greatest job in the world. I was a highly trained, full of myself, C-130 Loadmaster! I was surrounded by some of the best professional aviators that you could ever hope to fly with. I had unbelievable mentors, I was confident and definitely a bit cocky. I was young and invincible!

When I was brand new to my crew position as a loadmaster, I was assigned to Dyess Air Force Base. Shortly after arriving, I was quickly upgraded by my instructors and deemed fit to fly without supervision on a crew. I was 18 then! 18 YEARS OLD!! It never ceases to amaze me. A year earlier I was at home and just trying to make it through high school. Then after going through an intense training program, I was trusted to be a primary crew member on a multi million dollar aircraft. Our plane normally operated with five to six crewmembers. Two pilots, a flight engineer, navigator and one or two loadmaster depending on the mission profile. At 18 I found myself in a position of extreme responsibility. You had to know your job. If you didn’t, you could put people and equipment in danger. It was a lot to think about, but I was 18 and very confident in my abilities.

It was at this time my path crossed with two amazing individuals. The first time I was deployed to Saudi Arabia, I was placed on a hard crew. All this means is that we would fly with the exact same individuals for the next several months. My Aircraft Commander (The Boss) was Capt. Kevin Earnest…AKA Boo Boo. He was a great pilot, and I was fortunate to have him as an AC on my first big deployment. We carried some crazy cargo during that time. He never questioned what I was doing. He trusted this kid to do his job and he put his life in my hands. I did the same with every other crew position. That’s how the military operates. With absolute trust. In flight, you can’t perform efficiently without it. I have never experienced such trust in people before or since. It is definitely a unique experience, and Boo Boo had absolute trust in this tall skinny kid in the back of the plane. I was privileged to know him! He was my Brother!

It was also around this time that my path crossed with Staff Sergeant Michael J. Smith. Jay was my first direct supervisor. I had so much respect for him! He was SHARP! He was also tough. He knew his stuff and would not cut you any slack. He wanted the best out of his troops. I learned a lot from him, but he also genuinely cared about his guys. He often would check up on me and made sure that I was adjusting well to life at Dyess. He wanted to make sure I had a place to go during the holidays and he had me over to his house on more than one occasion. He loved his family and they always welcomed me with open arms. I was privileged to know him! He was my Brother!

Both of these men died with the rest of their crew in August of 1996. In total 9 people lost their lives that day. I was in Africa at the time. I remember that day vividly. I always was aware of the risks of the job and knew my responsibility, but nothing drives that point home like the death of your brothers and sister, to attend funerals, and to know that they took off one day and just never came home. I took things more seriously after that. I realized just how unforgiving the job could be. It was a lot to take in as a young 20 year old. I learned how to compartmentalize emotion and I finally got around to writing my first Will. The risks became all too real for this kid. Talk about growing up over night.

No body wants to die for their country. I know I didn’t. They didn’t either. However, we ALL knew the risk. We knew that our number could be called up any day and at any time. We weren’t afraid, but we were aware. It is a painful and unfortunate cost, but numbers will continue to be called up. That’s what makes this country so great. The people! The people willing to serve and possibly die to ensure that we continue to exist. My friends checks came due that day, and it still bothers me often. As much as it bothers me though, I am fortunate. I am fortunate, because I was able to be in their presence for a time. I was fortunate to walk among professionals of unbelievable caliber, among friends and among family. It is a brotherhood plain and simple, and although I miss them, I love that I had the privilege to serve with them. Though there is still pain there sometimes, it has most definitely made me a better person.

As we approach this Memorial Day weekend I ask that you remember that this weekend is not about burgers, hot dogs and the start of summer. It’s a day to remember the great people that gave their all. They gave their all FOR YOU! They had families, friends and lives. Freedom is not free. It is built on the lives of every day Americans and many of them paid for our way of life with their blood. Please take a moment this week to remember them. For without them, we wouldn’t exist and we are the memory keepers of those that go before us. Times are tough but we will prevail. We have to…for them.

To the crew of HAVOC 58

This Too Shall Pass

What a dream world we have fallen into. There is no point hashing out what is going on. It wouldn’t matter anyway, because by the time you have read this it will have changed. We have all been thrust into a world we can’t control. However, what is control really? I submit it’s an illusion. We can plan, dream, expect and even wish, but in the end we are really just adrift on an ocean we call life. The only true person in control is God. We just move along with the waves. At times the seas are relatively calm. We refer to these as the good times. Every so often a squall line blows through and we refer to those as the tough times. Right now we all feel to some extent, that we are in the middle of a class 5 hurricane. However, things are always cyclical and as the saying goes….in good times and in bad….This too shall pass. It always does. Remember that, keep your chin up and keep the faith.

Now coming from me, the saying “Keep your chin up” can be seen as somewhat comical. I struggle with that. I by personality and nature am a pessimist (I prefer realist, so those of you that know me well…stop laughing right now! I am what I am…Popey was a wise one he was!) I am an extreme over-thinker. I can take any situation, relationship, or moment and look at all the possible scenarios that may play out and ultimately focus on the most challenging. Right now this is serving me well. It has allowed me to see what’s coming with all of this and prepare myself emotionally. While I have seen others react in shock to the news cycle, I have found myself having a reaction of….”Meh, it was bound to happen.” Not sure if this is healthy or not, but it is serving me well at the moment, so I accept it. The one thing I do know is that a sense of humor is key in these times. If the storm is coming and there is nothing you can do about it, you might as well take a shot, flip it off, laugh in it’s face and take the hit. What else are you going to do? By the way, the hit still hurts, but it is slightly more enjoyable when you fake giggle.

Through all of this, what has surprised me the most about myself are my feelings of loneliness. I consider myself an extroverted introvert. When I meet folks for the first time, I am VERY introverted. New people take a lot of energy out of me. I can fake it with the best of them, but I don’t like the get to know you phase. However, once I do know you, I can be the life of the party in short bursts. I like to see people laugh. I consider myself fairly witty and can be a HUGE goofball just to make the folks I know and care about smile. Now, if I consider you a friend, forget about it. You have me for the long haul whether you know it or not. Now there is a point to all of this. Even knowing this about myself, I have always known that I don’t have too much of a problem being by myself. I enjoy solo trips. I like alone time. People annoy me. I can rub them the wrong way as well. I have been called intense. I need time to recharge away from folks often. I can go dark and step back from the crowd without notice. It gives me a sense of peace and the illusion of control in my world. What I have found though is that being alone through this “Quarantine” sucks!! Even with all the video meetings, chats and phone calls, I am finding that I am longing for crowds. I miss people. I miss friends, I miss being annoyed, and I definitely know that I need to be connected. I don’t know where this is all going, and I defiantly don’t know when it will end, but I do know that I have re-prioritized my own needs. When this is all over I know that I am not going to take my time around people for granted. I am not naive in thinking that I am going to jump up and down and become an extreme extrovert, but you can bet I am going to try a lot harder to appreciate my people and show them how much I value them. In life, we are born alone, we die alone, but during the journey we have each other and that really is a big deal. I miss you all! Keep your chin up, the first beer is on me!

P.S. Check on your introverted friends too. They are most likely approaching critical mass as well!

Valentine’s Day is for the Birds!

No seriously! It is! Ask Chaucer!

If you’ve ever been around me when February 14th has approached, you have undoubtedly heard me express my sheer excitement and admiration for the day most of you call Valentine’s Day. Corporate greeting card, chocolate and flower day, as I like to refer to it, is my most favorite time of the year. I rank it right up there with the day I had to drink Magnesium Citrate before a surgical procedure. Don’t know what that is? I will spare you the details and let you Google it. However, I will say that it is an effective way to turn a human into a bottle rocket! Ohhhhh the memories of the horrible night still haunt me. Yes! I hate Valentines Day! I always have. I will admit that the marketing behind it is genius though. I mean who is going to plant a battle flag and rebel against love, ESPECIALLY if you are in a relationship. Taking a stand against the dreaded VD in that scenario is like saying you hate puppies, or kittens or babies! Who is going to do that? Not many, mainly because no one wants to risk not getting any loving later on…..am I right guys? Huh? You know what I’m talking about!!! Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge!! Anyway, at some point the marketing monster planted the seed that made it clear that the only way to profess your true love on this random day in February was to spend tons of money on flowers (that are just going to die), candy (that only has about five decent chocolates in it, the rest will be thrown away) jewelry (don’t even get me started with that) and expensive restaurants (that you more than likely will wait to get into for hours and may still never get a table). The seed that was planted has continued to reproduce and this idea is now a raging rain forest that is out of control only surpassed by the fat man in the red suit. I am sure you are saying. “Well Scrumpy, you are just a cynic!” Well…yes that is true, however, it doesn’t mean I am wrong.

To think that all this was started by Geofferry Chaucer and his poem Parliament of the Fowls. That’s Right! A poem about birds picking a mate. In the end they even decide that singing is better than having a mate and decide to wait till next year! In other words, it’s OK not to buy into the hype. Hear that single people??!! It’s OK to not have a date on VD! Skip the depression this year. Let’s face it, if you were single the day before and single the day after, it’s not going to matter if you are single on VD!! Don’t let the marketing monster dictate how you should feel or when you should spend all your money just to prove it. Take heart in the fact that most of the couples that are out and about that night will most likely end up in a fight due to wading through the masses of people anyway. It’s a sham I tell you! I mean Al Capone saw that, and look how he handled it! He had a bunch of Irish mobsters killed. I submit that it was because he forgot to get flowers for his lady, she gave him the stink eye, and he took it out on those poor Irish chuckle heads. Well…..either that or it was because he was the head of a murderous crime syndicate in Chicago, but who REALLY knows?! The point is, don’t be an Al Capone because you buy into the hype and it leads you into an evening of stress and frustration!! Instead, know who you love and why you love them! Tell them often! Don’t have anyone dictate that it has to be this Friday night, and don’t break the bank on a useless night out. Plus, I’m thinking about going out and I’d like to get a table at Salt Grass in less than 3 hours. Thanks for your help!! Love you!

You Dog You!

I have often watched my dog Herc with a sense of curiosity and amusement. I think we can learn a lot about being a good human by watching and behaving more like dogs. Now, don’t get me wrong, if I took on the personality of this big goofball I wouldn’t last a day before I was committed to the loony bin. Can you imagine? Me as a 6 foot 4 man running at you full speed first thing in the morning with a glint of insanity in my eye just to greet you with enthusiastic hyperactivity. As you say hello and shake my hand, granted you just saw me yesterday, I declare with excitement that I am so happy to see you that I peed a little. Then there is the eating thing. I am not sure if eating your food in as few bites as possible is socially acceptable. Wait….yeah…I may already do that. Forget that one and ignore my eating habits next time you see me. Thank you! Anyway, randomly eating grass in the yard and forcing yourself to vomit at the most inopportune time is probably a bad behavior as well. Of course sniffing someone else’s butt to get to know them better is definitely gross and frowned upon in today’s society, but lets be honest that visual is kinda funny. Let’s not even get into the grooming habits of pooches in front of company. OK OK!! So maybe there are a lot of behaviors that we don’t want to follow, but the actions above are not what I am talking about. I never have to worry about where I stand with Herc. His love is 100% unconditional. No matter what I do, or have done, he is waiting there for me when I get home. No judgement, no disappointment, he is just happy to see me. He doesn’t ask for anything in return other than care and companionship. When things get tough and uncomfortable in life he doesn’t abandon me. He senses when I am low and seems to understand that he should be close. Not to fix things that are going wrong but just to support. He stays close just to let me know he is there. He is constantly on watch and ready to defend his people at a moments notice. He does this because his pack, his tribe, is everything to him and he will never ever retreat from them. His loyalty to his pack, to his family and to his friends will never be shaken. This is admirable. This is humbling. This is a lesson we could all stand to learn.

I have no idea what I am doing here, and I don’t really care!

Well here I find myself on the interwebs. No clue what I am doing, but here I am. If you are reading this welcome! I have been told since high school that I am a decent writer. Am I? Don’t really know, and quite frankly it doesn’t matter. In the age of text talk and autocorrect, being a decent writer is really irrelevant. I do know that I have been encouraged often to write down my thoughts, mostly from the crowded amphitheater of thoughts in my own brain, but we’ll get to them later. Anyway, here I am. I am going to be sharing these “musings” with the world. That really doesn’t mean much in the day of FB share algorithms. However, before we move forward we need to get some things straight. I can put my thoughts down in words, but I need an editor. I don’t speel so good. My mastery of the written worn in grammatical sense is not always in the tope 10 of my stenghts. See what I mean?! Take a Tylenol now, cause were are going on a ride! Next, my thoughts are my own. I think I am pretty funny, I’ve been told otherwise, but that has never stopped me. The only one I need to entertain is myself, and it’s a real barn burner of laughs up in my head and that’s all that matters in the long run. Third, I am a glass half empty kind of guy balanced by a fairly dark sense of humor. Being in my early forties I have come to the conclusion that that can’t be changed. I can go doom and gloom really quick and then laugh at how ridiculous I am. I am an overthinker! I think way too much about what might be instead of what is. This is both a strength and a curse, but I am starting to accept the consequences both positive and negative. Anyway, here I am with a blog (Who the Hell blogs anymore?) You can read it, like it, or hate it. In the end I don’t really care! I don’t know what you as a reader can expect other than I am going to use this as a journal of all that is good, bad and indifferent in my life filtered through the lens of what I think is both serious and humorous. Lets go on an adventure!!

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.