I’m calling 2012 my year of living dangerously. I took the plunge and got re-married in June after being divorced for 15 years. I took an even bigger plunge when I jumped out of an airplane for the first time in my life. I survived both scares and the result has been completely opening me up to just about any experience I can find. I am playing with life now and having the best time I can remember! It all started with marrying a woman who gets me and wants me to be happy. It accelerated when I jumped out of the plane. There’s something about an experience that could bring about my death that made me come alive!
I went with three friends. We used a Groupon to get a discount for tandem skydiving. In hindsight, that may not have been the best place to use a coupon! We were in trouble if they decided to cut expenses to give us the discount! Would we be jumping out of the plane because they ran out of gas? Would the four of us have to use one parachute? Would my tandem partner be just another Groupon customer? How exactly was this a good idea? I spent the time we waited by watching the parachute packers do their thing. They seemed to know what they were doing, so I left them alone. I spent the rest of the waiting time going to the port-a-potty to relieve my nervous bladder.
Finally, it was my turn to go. The plane we were in was just big enough for two of us and our tandem jumpers, so we couldn’t all go at the same time. The friend I went up with had already done this, so I felt a little better going up with her. I tried to ignore the fact that she seemed as nervous as I felt! They put an altimeter on our wrists so we could see how high we were climbing. They told us we would jump at about 10,000 feet. All they way up, I kept looking at the altimeter like I was a doctor getting ready to call time of death. I felt every little movement of the plane as it hit even the tiniest turbulence as we climbed. My friend told me later that my tandem partner was using this time for a cat nap! Damn Groupon!
When we hit 9,000 feet, my tandem partner made me sit on his lap so he could clip me onto his harness. I then sat between his legs awaiting further instructions. At 9,500 feet, he opened the door we were about to exit. My heartbeat was pounding and I was about to hyperventilate. Hearing him breathing harder didn’t help! He had already told me what to do when the door opened, but actually doing it took some effort. The only thing that kept me moving forward was the thought of humiliation if I stopped! I turned toward the door and let my legs out the door. He told me to tuck my feet under the plane. All I could think of at that point was, “I hope my shoes don’t fall off!”
With him firmly clipped to me, all it took to exit the plane was for him to scoot his ass on the floor of the plane. At one point, I was dangling outside the plane until the final push sent us falling. We did a somersault and then got into flying position. At that point, my nerves turned to exhilaration! I had to force my mouth closed because there was so much wind my cheeks were flapping! The noise of the wind was incredible. The view was unforgettable! After about 30 seconds, my dude pulled the string and opened the parachute. He had me take the steering controls and taught me how to use them. We then took a spin, circling high above the earth. I don’t like spinning, but that was pretty cool.
He taught me how to slow our decent so we would have a soft landing. I didn’t believe it, but we landed as if we were sitting down onto a couch. It was much softer than I expected. I then waited a few seconds for my friend to land, which gave me a good perspective of what I just did. They packed the equipment into a pickup truck and had us jump into the bed of the truck. I wondered about the safety of riding in the bed of a pickup, but I let it go. When we got back to the starting point, my two other friends were there for high fives all around.
My first thought was, that was an awesome experience, but I’m not sure I want to do it again. I will most likely do it again next summer because I like doing things with my friends and peer pressure will force me! The longer term impact of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane was how it opened me up to doing things that scare me or challenge me. I’ve been running marathons because of the challenge, but they’re no longer scary. I’ve done karaoke both drunk and sober, so that’s not scary. I believe the next step in conquering the scary challenge is doing stand-up comedy which is something I’ve always said I wanted to do. I never did it due to the fear. Spoiler alert – I’ve done it and it was awesome!
Do what you fear the most and find out for yourself that you can survive and maybe thrive from the experience. I know it works for me!
- Top 10 Survivors Of Skydiving Accidents (toptenz.net)
- Wounded Warrior double amputee fulfills dream with tandem skydive (charlotte.news14.com)
- Local woman skydives for 90th birthday (utsandiego.com)
So many things happened on our honeymoon. People have asked me, “how was your trip?” As I explain things to them, I realize how little I remember what happened! I remember everything we did, I’m having trouble remembering which place it happened. I’m really glad I wrote a daily entry on this blog so I can remember what the hell happened on my honeymoon!
Here are the odds & ends of the trip:
1. On the ship, the elevators weren’t connected to each other. Usually, you push one button and it would control every elevator on the floor. On the ship, there was one button for the first elevator, another button for the next two elevators, another button for the next two elevators, and one more button for the last elevator. Every single time I wanted to get on an elevator, I started with the first button and pressed all four buttons to maximize my chance to get an elevator. On the flip side, as I rode the elevators, we would stop at a floor and no one would get on! I’m guessing that there was another asshole who did what I did and found a different elevator first.
2. Karaoke contests are frustrating! On the ship, we had three nights of competitions with a final night where the top two finishers of each night competed in the finals. I sang every night! The audience would vote for their favorite and the top two finishers went on to the finals. I believe, and I’ve been told, that I’m a pretty good singer. I have years of experience singing karaoke. I sang songs that the audience would like to hear and not songs I like to sing. Every single night, I sang and every single night, I was not selected in the top two! The only thing that kept me sane was the people who came up to me the next day and said, “Hi, Jim! I loved your song last night”" or, “I really enjoyed your singing.” So why the fuck didn’t you vote for me, you assholes??? Given my years of karaoke experience, I have seen a huge variety of singers. I believed every night that I sang better than all the singers who went to the finals. I’m conceited that way.
3. Meeting people is fun. During the first night on the ship, this friendly young woman asked Alana and me if we wanted to be on their team for a music trivia competition. She and her sister were on the cruise with their parents. The older sister was one of the karaoke singers who beat me on the first night. Her younger sister also sings, but didn’t enter the competition. They were both adorable and we struck up an on-board friendship that made me want to adopt them! I even told their parents that I wanted to adopt them! I have three wonderful sons, but if I could have had a couple of daughters, these two would be exactly the type of daughters I would want! Also, at every stop on the trip, I was able to go onshore and find an extremely interesting person or couple to talk to at a bar.
4. Food is just not that important. The main source of food was the buffet. When you entered the buffet, they gave you enormous plates! If you put a normal amount of food on this plate, it looked like you barely had anything on the plate! So I ended up filling the plate! I would taste something and if it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever tasted, I pushed it aside. I estimate that I ate about 25% of the food I put on my plate. One time, I found a small round dessert plate and put my food on that. It was loaded with food that I liked and it was just the right amount. Another thing that happened is, I wasn’t worried about getting hungry because food was always available! This made me take even less food because I knew that if I got hungry later, I could always go back for more. I ended up eating less during the trip than I would have eaten at home!
5. I had a distinct feeling of “disconnectedness” during the trip. The TV channels on the ship were very limited. The cost of an internet connection was $100 for 200 minutes. You don’t browse casually at 50 cents a minute! So, I spent the entire trip with very limited access to Cincinnati news, which includes how the Reds and Bengals were doing. The ship forces you to be a part of the ship’s culture and they don’t want you to or care if you know what’s going on at home.
6. Too much togetherness is not necessarily a good thing. When Alana and I are at home, I spend a lot of time in my man cave and she spends a lot of time upstairs doing her thing. When we were forced to be together in the same room at the same time, we were ready to kill each other by the end of the trip! We laugh about it now, but there was a lot of frustration by the end of the trip. The key to our relationship is a strong desire to be together balanced with a strong desire to be alone periodically. If we can’t get the alone time, we don’t want the together time! The fact that we both know this and want this is a very, very good thing!
I’ve enjoyed writing about our honeymoon and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. I’ll have some pictures posted on Facebook soon. You can follow me at facebook.com/jim.whittenburg We just posted our wedding photos, so the honeymoon photos might take a while! Thank you for joining us on our excursion.
As my wedding day approached, I knew I was going to be called on to deliver a toast during the reception. I spent a lot of time coming up with ideas about what I wanted to say and I spent a lot of time surfing the web for what I was supposed to say. Then, I knew I was supposed to say something about my bride and say a little about our life together. Inspiration for the toast came from random moments, but there was a time during a Radiohead concert that a flood of ideas came to me. There was something about listening to their music that opened up my creativity. I spent part of that concert e-mailing myself the ideas that kept popping into my head.
While I wrote a speech and converted that into an outline for what I wanted to say, there were many things I thought of and added while I was up there. I guess the pressure helps with my creativity. Anyway, here’s the speech:
“I’d like to thank everyone for coming and sharing our special day. Thank all those who traveled so far to be here with us today, including my brother Mark & his wife Marla who came all the way from China. They came a week early with their three children and got them re-acclimated to the eastern time zone. I really appreciate that you’re here.
I’d like to thank Bill & Sharon for giving me their daughter’s hand in marriage. You did an excellent job raising her. Well, I’m sure you did the best you could.”
I’d like to thank my sons, Nick, Alex, and Stephen for being groomsmen. Thank you for making Alana feel so welcomed by you.
I chose Doug to be my best man because he was available. Seriously, he is always there for me. He will drop everything and help me when I need it. He helped me get my first job. He worked at an RV and camper sales place as the mechanic and I washed the campers.
I’d like to thank Danielle for agreeing to be the matron of honor. You did an excellent job of getting Alana down the aisle in one piece. We know how hard that was! Thank you to all the bridesmaids for being such good friends to Alana and for accepting me as quickly and completely as you did. Please raise your glass in a toast to the heath and happiness of the bridesmaids.
Alana and I clicked right away. I quickly found out that she was as sarcastic and irreverent as I am. On our first date we went to Go Bananas. Being with her that night felt so natural it was like we belonged together. I’ve never been flipped off so much on a first date. What I have learned since then is, when she flips me off, I just won the argument! Seven months after that first date, on our vacation to Aruba, I asked her to marry me. I’ll always remember it was July 4th because immediately after asking her, fireworks exploded in the sky. I didn’t plan it that way, but I’ll take credit for it anyway.
Being so loved and accepted by her has given me the freedom to be myself and actually figure out who I really am. And, apparently, I’m a sick bastard! I have become her clown just so I can see her smile and hear her laugh every day. We have so many inside jokes now, don’t we? Just so many! We have different backgrounds, different religious and political affiliations, different ages, but we respect each other enough to make that not matter. As for our age difference, my immaturity level makes us even. As fas as politics, I let her have an autographed Hillary Clinton campaign poster on the wall in her office and she lets with me have an 8×10 photo of Ronald Reagan in the garage. On a shelf. Behind the weed killer. As for religion, I tried teaching her how to make the sign of the cross but when she did it, it looked like she was giving me the sign to steal second base! So it’s our respect for each other’s differences that makes us work.
To my beautiful wife – I couldn’t be happier to call you that – I love you and I will be your clown for as long as I live. Please raise your glasses and join me in a toast to my beautiful bride.”
The rest of the night was a blur. I had a great time seeing everyone who could come. We had a great time dancing and drinking and celebrating. I would do it again if we could afford it! We’ll have time to celebrate every day for a long, long time.
Any adult who still thinks they can have “sweet dreams” is dreaming! I woke up at 6:00 this morning due to the weirdest dream I’ve had in a long time, and I’ve had some doozies! This one involved a bunch of my family and extended family gathering at the house I grew up in, only this was a newer and improved house. I never went inside because the weirdness was outside. I saw a nephew, who I haven’t seen in a few years, riding a bicycle with his girlfriend. I don’t even know if he has a girlfriend, but she was pretty. I saw a few old friends from the neighborhood, and my brother who currently lives in China was there. So far, this doesn’t seem weird.
I was outside carving some weird meat that turned into jello when you tried to put in on a plate. So I found these jello glasses to put it in and my friend thought that was really smart, so he stole my serving. I don’t like jello, in fact I hate jello! I love alcohol but not when it’s put in a jello shot! I won’t touch it then. This weird meat was coming from some unidentifiable animal that was still alive and didn’t mind that we were carving it up. Then, for some reason, this animal turned into a dog with a really bad grooming job with patchy fur all over his body. I asked my friend what to do and he said I would have to kill it by breaking its neck. That’s when I woke up!
Where the fuck did that come from??? I can understand the family part of it since I’ll be seeing a lot of them at my wedding next month. Alana is having stress dreams about the wedding, which makes sense. But everything that happened after I saw my nephew doesn’t exist in the real world! How is that shit even in my brain to be processed? So I did what every person who has been freaked out by a dream would do – I went to google “dream interpretation.” There were 19,100,000 results returned in 0.12 seconds. I guess I’m not the only person having weird dreams!
My first attempt to interpret this was to find out what dreaming about a dog means. This particular dog was black. What I found was, “To see a black colored dog in your dream symbolizes the shadow aspect of a friend. The dark side of someone close to you is being revealed and you are able to see through to their true intentions.” I’m on to you, Alana! I can see your true intentions, I think. It was a small dog. What I found was, “To dream of small dogs, indicates that your thoughts and chief pleasures are of a frivolous order.” Yeah, that’s pretty true.
I didn’t spend too much time on this, but I couldn’t find anything about what it means to kill a dog. So I got curious and wondered what they had to say about killing cats. There was no shortage of interpretations here! My favorite was, “To dream of a cat, denotes ill luck, if you do not succeed in killing it or driving it from your sight. But if you succeed in banishing it, you will overcome great obstacles and rise in fortune and fame.” Killing dogs – bad. Killing cats – money!
My next stop was to find out what dreaming about friends and family means. I went back to the dreaming dictionary to the “F” page and found an entry for facebook! If you’re dreaming about facebook, you might want to log off for a while! Then, there was a banner ad featuring the face of Barack Obama right next to the entries for “Fairy Tale”, “Faithless”, and “Fake”. Moving on. For family, we have “To see your own family in your dream represents security, warmth and love. It could also symbolize bitterness, jealousy, or rivalry, depending on your relationship with your family.” Jesus, that’s just no help at all!
Scrolling down, there is an entry for “Farting.” ”To dream that you are farting suggests that you are being passive aggressive. You need to express your feelings in a more direct manner. ” I’m pretty sure my farts are in a very direct manner! ”Feminine Napkin” – “Please see Maxi Pad.” Finally, down to “Friends” I found, “to see your childhood friend suggests that you have been acting in a childish manner. You need to start acting like an adult.” I sense a pattern now! My dream was trying to tell me I’m childish and frivolous! I think I’ll go with that and forget about the whole dog thing. I like being childish and frivolous! Now, it’s time for my second cup of coffee. I don’t want to go back to sleep!
I have three sons, the youngest of whom just turned 18. They are all now legal adults! Their mother and I divorced 16 years ago. They didn’t live with me but when we had time together, I did my best to help guide them to this point in their lives. I knew I had limited time with them, so I’ve often wondered how much influence I could have had over them. So I’m writing them this letter to give them my rules for living so they can improve upon my successes, avoid my mistakes, and live a life that will make their kids proud. I don’t know if my kids are proud of me, but I’m very proud of them!
When your mother and I divorced, I had a few well-meaning people warn me that children of divorce will have an extremely challenging life. They told me you would have trouble in school, trouble with relationships, have psychological and anger issues. Instead, you turned into very resilient children. You never became a “child of divorce.” Your school work was exemplary, you were active in sports, and when you found jobs, you exhibited the work ethic I hoped I would see from you. I want to believe I had something to do with that, but I want you to know I give your mother credit for the majority of it.
Now that you’re adults, I want to give you my rules for living a happy, productive life:
Laughter is the best medicine. When you learn to laugh at yourself, you can get through anything life throws your way. You’ve heard the saying, “you’ll look back on this and laugh one day.” Laugh today instead! Laugh so much that people wonder about your sanity. I gave the eulogy for my mother and I had my brothers and sisters and friends of the family laughing during the service. Sure we cried before, during and after the service, but if you can laugh through your tears you’ll be okay.
Be kind to everyone. whether they deserve it or not. I learned this rule a long time ago and I’m still trying to perfect it. One day, I was driving to work. The guy in front of me at the light would not turn right on red even though there was clearly no traffic. I honked at him and got him to go. I turned right and followed him into the parking lot at work. He was the CEO of the company! I now gently tap the horn only when necessary. Be kind to everyone you know or don’t know, because that person you don’t know now could be someone very important in your life later. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
Don’t let pride get in your way. There will be many times where swallowing your pride is the best way to resolve a situation. Swallow hard and do the right thing. Be proud, but not prideful.
Don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Honesty really is the best policy. When you lie to people, you create a divide between you and them. That lie will always keep you from closing that divide and prevent you from being close to them ever again. “What they don’t know won’t hurt them” is not true. What they don’t know hurts you. Cheating is a form of lying to yourself. If you think you can win by cheating, you have already lost. Stealing is wrong. I have no pearls of wisdom about that – it’s just wrong.
Love women just the way they are. I love women! I have more female friends than male friends! Don’t expect your logical mind to ever figure out women because they aren’t ruled by logic. You will drive yourself crazy if you question a woman’s motivation for doing something. It makes sense to them, so it doesn’t need to make sense to you! Don’t fight with a woman, because you will lose! Even if you win, you lose. Go with the flow, enjoy their company, treat them with respect, and always open the door for them (even if they could bench press the building).
Learn how to work a room. At any social gathering, it’s important to learn how to enter and exit conversations. If you’re at a cocktail party and you see someone nursing their drink and standing off to the side, talk to that person. Ask questions to find some common ground and talk the shit out of that topic. Don’t look around the room while you are talking to them just to see if there is someone else you’d rather talk to. When you are ready to move on, do it gracefully. Give them a firm handshake, look them in the eye and say, “It was great talking to you.”
Handle your finances wisely. Don’t use credit for consumer goods. If it’s something that will last longer than the payments use credit. This means you buy houses and cars with credit. You might have to use credit to furnish the house. You should never use credit for impulse purchase or for groceries. If you need to use credit to buy groceries, it’s because you are paying so much on your credit card bills that now you have to charge everything. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. Don’t do it!
Love yourself. There will be many times in your life where you will not be proud of yourself. You will do something you’re ashamed of. You are not alone – this is human nature. As hard as we try, we can’t live a perfect life. When you mess up, learn from it and never do it again. Then, you have to forgive yourself and let it go. You can do this only if you love yourself and respect and value who your are. Loving yourself opens up your ability to love someone else and accepting them as they are. Then, when they fail to be their very best, you can be there to help them rather than scold them. Loving yourself lets you love others freely.
Friend quality is better than friend quantity. Having a few close friends who know you as well as you know them, and they love you anyway, is better than having a bunch of “friends.” Your best friends should be your spouse, your brothers, and a few other close friends you would trust with your life.
You aren’t the only one. There will come a time when you are surrounded by people who appear happy and successful and who seem to have it all figured out. When they are alone, they have doubts, fears and frustrations and they question why all those other people seem to have it all figured out. No one has it all figured out all the time. Everyone has doubts, fears and frustrations. You’re not alone.
If all else fails, follow your instincts. You have been given the gift of intelligence and good looks, thanks to yours truly, and you’ve proven that you’re moral, ethical, and caring individuals. But there will be times where you don’t know what to do. Your conscience will never lead you astray. If what you’re considering feels wrong, don’t do it.
Finally, if you could just do one thing, it should be “enjoy life.” If you use the above tools, you should be well on your way to enjoying life to the fullest. We are on this earth for a mere blink of an eye. I hope to live long enough to read what you want to pass on to your children.
I got married when I was twenty years old. Everyone said we were too young to know what we were doing. They were probably right, but we were married for 15 years, had three wonderful boys, and currently have a good ex-spouse relationship. She took the plunge relatively quickly and remarried a few years after our divorce. I spent the next 15 years being either single or in relationships that weren’t going to lead to marriage. I wasn’t about to get married again. Not that being married was horrible, but I wasn’t ready to commit over that 15 year period.
As I dated, I found that there were three types of first dates:
- The date that can’t end quickly enough. I had these types of dates quite often! I went on dates with women who wouldn’t talk and who wouldn’t stop talking. I went on dates with women who claimed to be casual smokers but smoked a pack an hour. I went on dates that were supposed to be just a quick drink but ended up with them ordering food that they assumed I would pay for! I even went on a blind date because a mutual friend thought we’d hit if off. During the date, I began to question if my friend really knew me at all because this person was not my type at all. This is the kind of dating that leads to hilarious stories in the future.
- The date that leads to more dates. These types of dates gave me some hope that I might be able to meet someone normal after all. They were a good enough first date to warrant another. So you go out again and learn more about each other that you can’t learn during the first date “interview.” It might lead to more dates as you haven’t found anything causing you to turn and run as far away as possible – yet. Eventually, something happens that makes you reevaluate this person and decide it’s best to walk away. This is the kind of dating that makes you hopeful in the beginning, but you know in the back of your mind that it’s not really what you’re looking for.
- The date where you find “the one.” This is the date that is so obviously different from all the others that you go home alone wishing you didn’t have to. This is the date that tells you your life has just changed irreversibly because you just met your future. This is the type of date that made me want to ask Alana to marry me. Not on that date, mind you, but cautious optimism became outright giddiness. This is the kind of date you get to have once, if you’re lucky.
On our first date, Alana made a very subtle, straight-faced, joke about one of the stories in Date Type #1 that I told her about over the phone. You had to be there, but let me assure you she caught me off guard. The date was at Go Bananas, which is a great first date place to go. You get to spend some time talking while waiting for the comedians, then you get to see what makes them laugh. I already knew I could make her laugh because we talked for hours on the phone before we even went on the date. She loved my sense of humor and I loved making her laugh. A comedy club was the only natural choice for our date. After the club, we went next door to the bar. She spent the majority of that time flipping me off and saying “fuck you!” I knew I had either met my match or met the female version of me. This date took place in late November.
I’m 50 years old – she’s 36. I’m a Reagan Republican – she’s a Clinton Democrat. I’m an early bird – she’s a night owl. I’m a recovering Catholic – she’s Jewish. I could list all the ways we’re different but none of that matters. Over the next few months, we became inseparable. We started out by spending just the weekend together. Little by little, it became Friday through Sunday then Thursday through Monday. Then, it became odd to be at my apartment alone for even one night. I loved being alone in that apartment when I leased it in May 2010. I couldn’t wait for the lease to end in 2011. We became “roommates” for good on June 1st.
To be continued . . .