Saturday, August 31, 2013

Of Course I Know Her!

Today, is a day for prayer.  Not because it is a holy day or the Sabbath.  Simply because there are people desperately in need of our love and support.  But, I guess that makes everyday a day for prayer.  

Today, however, I am asking for your prayers, love, support, good juju, thoughts...I am asking that they be sent to a fire family so in need of them, most of us cannot even begin to understand.

Do I know the family, do I know the fire wife?  

Of course I know her.  She made sure the holidays were festive and full of love and joy, even if he was on shift that day.

Of course I know her.  I know the words to every prayer she sent up as he left for shift and every prayer she said as he walked back in the door.

Of course I know her.  I know how she held her breath when the news shared a fire or other "incident" in his area, looking for his helmet in the 12 seconds of footage shown.

Of course I know her.  I know how many trips she has made to the firehouse, with the kids in tow.  Trips to say hi to Daddy because he has been on shift for what seems like forever, and everyone misses him only to have the tones go off and get a quick kiss good-bye.

Of course I know her.  The first day of school and trick-or-treating and ER visits with that less than graceful child, seem to fall when she is holding down the fort alone.

Of course I know her.  I know how she must have held her breath when the knock on the door came, the one we all dread.

Of course I know her.  I know how she mourned with the families whose firefighters will never take another call again.

Of course I know her.  I know how she takes a step back when she begins to get frustrated and reminds herself to say, "Thank you" because her firefighter is still fighting his way back to her.

Of course I know her.  I know how she has spent all of these years making these as normal for her kids as possible and how she continues to do that even though their home is now so far away from home and her beloved claws his way back. 

Of course I know intimately as every other fire wife...even though I have never met her.  We all live a fire wife's life.

There is indeed a larger family to be had when you begin life as a firefighter.  This adopted family is there for times of celebration, for times of crisis and everything in between.  She is indeed my sister.  Jacki Dowling and Capt. Bill Dowling of HFD are fighting this fight every day, together and with their faith, department and family.  He has suffered some serious complications in the last day or so.  It was such an amazing day when he was strong enough to be moved to the rehab facility from the hospital, I can only imagine the disappointment in the air now that these set backs have moved him back to the hospital. Not that two steps forward and three steps back is totally without precedent as survivors of such traumatic events claw their way back, it still does not alleviate the disappointment that Capt. Dowling's loved ones are feeling.  And it is because of that disappointment that they need the support of the greater fire family - the family that they will probably never meet - but still need the love and support of that family as we speak.

Photo courtesy of John Nanninga - HEO
Houston Fire Department Station 55
Take a moment to send your thoughts and prayers to this family and the entire Houston Fire Department as they continue down this path of healing - complete with the frustrations of the set backs and the celebrations of the successes that no one thought possible.  There is a family that truly needs the entire fire family to rally around them and I am asking each of you to do so.  The department has been there, I know many, many firewives have sent their thoughts and prayers.  Please keep them coming.

Hug those firefighters when they come in the door and say a prayer as they walk out of it.  

Friday, August 30, 2013

A return to normal...with a 48

This summer was anything BUT normal.  I'm thinking, however, that after waiting for the last 4 summers to return to normal, ever-changing is the NEW normal.  J was on 40 hour weeks, then returned to his normal shift...for a week.  Then back to a 40 hour week for some more training - with a 24 on each end, making for a 90 hour week and jumping right into our family's first camping trip...insanity.  There was just no way for us to adjust and adapt with any success, because we were CONTINUALLY adapting and changing.  

And here we are, Labor Day weekend. Life is returning to normal.  We just came back from the aforementioned first camping trip - tale for another day.  I have a hard time calling it "camping" given that I grew up doing a ton of camping - with a TENT - gasp!  But, I digress...

Anyway, life is returning to normal, which of course, involves a 48 and a holiday and a family gathering or TWO.  Just as school is about to start.  And of course my FF is working 72 of the 96 hours, leaving it all in my lap.  So, assuming there are no burst pipes or broken bones - <quick, knock on the closest piece of wood you can find!!> I will actually enjoy this weekend.  Last minute touches on my syllabi for the coming week, dividing the kids' school supplies making sure that everyone has the correct number of wipes containers, waking up randomly at 3am because something popped into your head and you could not get back to sleep and decided to write a blog post for your sad and neglected blog, running from family gathering to family gathering...all on my own two feetsies...the very definition of Fire Wife Life.

This summer has defined Fire Wife Life...

...ever-changing, unpredictable, quit trying to control it and just go with the flow, doubting if you will ever actually see him again in anything but station navy blue, I just want him to come home, don't you have to go back to work soon...insanity at its very best...the new normal.

And truly, as much as I fuss about it, I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Stay safe this weekend, say a prayer that your FFs do as well - whether they are on the Rim or in the hood or just on call. Everyone, come home safe.  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I have never really heard that term used until we moved to this neighborhood.  I have heard it used by parents referring to their kids' eating habits, kid to kid, but for the first time it involved one of my kids.  And it broke my heart that it broke her heart.

I acknowledge that I am far from beautiful. I am ordinary at best.  The size 4 that I was in college and when we were married went away with the four children that I brought into our family.  I have laugh lines and stretch marks and scars and hair that no one can really put a color to.  But I am me and that is how I am.  I accept me and fully expect the world to accept me - as I am.  Not after I lose those 25# or when I look like I belong on the cover of a magazine.  As I am - the sarcastic, sassy, quick tempered and size 10 with red, no blonde, wait brown, nah - strawberry blonde hair that can go EVERYWHERE when the humidity takes over, Chuck Taylor wearing, waiting for the grunge movement to come back and bring my beloved flannel shirts back kind of gal.  If not, if you feel the need to fix me, please feel free to move on.  No need to apologize.  I wish you all the best.

Now, if you have met any of my children and seen them in swimsuits, you would ask if I actually fed them. And this discussion would seem nonsensical to you. I have worked really hard to instill in them that you accept people WHERE and HOW they are.  You love them for who they are not what they look like or what they can offer you.  To have any of them come to me and cry because they were too fat for someone else's expectations broke my heart.  

My youngest, you know, the micro-preemie who at the age of 5 and a half, is wearing her 9-12 month pants as capris.  Yeah, her.  She hit 34# this summer and I was THRILLED.  You know the, amazing little person who sees beauty everywhere she looks - from the early rays of sunlight when she gets up early with me, to the shadows that fall at bedtime. the little beauty that lights up the room simply by walking in it. That little one was the one coming to me because she was a fatty.  She asked if I would not buy Cheetos because they are what made her a fatty. I kinda giggled at her.  Ya, cause anyone would classify you as a fatty.  Apparently they did and she was serious.  My little girl cannot afford to go into the world with body image issues at the age of FIVE!  I will not have it.

WHAT IN THE H3!! are you are talking about child.  (Truly my first thought. Luckily, when I gave birth to my oldest my doc had the sense to install a censor.) 

Apparently, it was caused by jealousy -one of the older kids in the neighborhood was a bit envious that she had Cheetos and called her fatty to make her feel guilty about having them.


Yes, clearly, junk food consumed in large quantities will increase the chances of childhood obesity.  I get that.  We don't have them in the house too frequently because Daddy tends to munch on junk food which is bad when there is no one to monitor things and tell him enough.  Definitely more of a treat in our world.  Lunch usually comes with fruit or carrots/celery and a yogurt of some sort.  And I am the mean mommy that kicks everyone outside - for the entire day.  The run through the sprinkler and swing on the swings kind of mom.  There are no training wheels in the house and skateboards and in-line skates (thanks to that certain TM conscious firewife for chirping in my know who you are!) are becoming a preferred mode of transportation. Again, not that we only eat foods produced by the sweat of our brow, but I am very aware of how much crap my kids are consuming and I temper it with veggies and other healthy options later in the day. Soda is not allowed except on RARE occasions and then they split a can.  Water, milk - they eat well and exercise.  I am not a video game and DVD baby-sitting kind of mom, although we have them in the house.  We swing and play at the park and ride bikes.  We live life outdoors as much as possible, even in the winter.

And here I am dealing with an issue I thought I had nearly 10 years to prepare for.  Apparently not.  I really need to focus on the fact that they are indeed perfect just the way they are, the way they were created.  No one can make them feel bad, without letting them.  (Thank you, Mrs. Roosevelt!) And O - she's a miracle babe from the word go.  She already has that on her side.  The world falls in love with her at first sight.  She is beautiful - inside and out.  She loves the world and everyone and everything in it. The fact that anyone would tear that down, even if it is another child in a jealous moment, is devastating.  Especially over Cheetos. It will take so much to bring back the confidence that was torn down with one word. 


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A moment...

Sometimes you just need to take one. 

I snapped at the kids this morning.  Like, scary, holy crap she's PISSED kind of a snap.  They quickly fell into line because I NEVER snap like that.  I try my damnedest not to.  But this morning, my frustration over my less than optimal teaching position this fall and the fact that 40 hour weeks have stolen another summer from us and that laundry is not done and life is not going the way I want it to go took over.  And I snapped.

My depression and frustration and loneliness took over, even it was just for a moment.  And I let it.  I probably should not have, I am much better control freak than that.  But I did.  

Then I got my eyes checked (exactly the same as they were 2 years ago - life is good for a girl whose "eyes are going to get worse" is she doesn't wear her glasses - just sayin') and cried the whole way there because I snapped at my kids.  Some thoughts popped into my brain that I eventually stashed away, that I really should not have let pop in.  Again, control freaks are in much better control than that.  I should be very disappointed in myself. 

I have the cleanest kitchen and dining room and bathroom.  D even started dusting the living room.   They moved very quickly while I was at the exam.

And then I asked them to go take care of their bedrooms - like they were originally asked to, and I felt that evil monster peeking over my shoulder.  So I left.  I ran to the store to pick up chicken for dinner and some milk for the babies, of whom I was fearful of destroying with my laser beam eyes. And I cried the whole way there. When I returned and D started to fuss because I picked up a Twix hoping that the chocolate would help boost my serotonin levels, I think I sent her a death look and she went back to her lunch, quietly.

You can tell it is bad when my FF had called TWICE by noon to check on me.  He never calls unless he needs something or he's bored.  Seeing as he is at a conference, chances are he is taking the time when he can, not because he is bored.  I must be on his radar.

I have abandoned them, in the bottomless abysses that comprise their sleeping quarters, and I didn't even tell them.  I left for my patio, with my phone and my laptop and my Nook.  I am listening to the Bruno Mars songs that I cannot usually listen to, seeing as I do try to shield the muppets from too many F-bombs. I am in the shade so as not to burn, but I could probably use the Vitamin D.   I took the polar bears with me, just to have them bark at Lt. Crabby Arse next door who is yelling at his kids and so they (the polar bears) yelled at him, as those kids are part of the flock they have come to protect.  I just took the drooly ringleader and threw him back in the house.  He was breaking my Bruno Mars peace with his barking protests.

I am figuring out dinner, trying to get as many people to the dinner table at the same time.  But Daddy's "normal" hours this week does not match up with football practice - with my electronics and caffeinated beverage du jour.  And they have found me.

I sent them back into the house, without a word on either end.

I am taking a moment.  I am in a self-imposed time out.  Just me, my electronics, my quiet tri-pawed polar guard and social media for distraction from my mind.  

My hero cape must in the mound o'laundry that my FF has promised he would do for me, cause I am not feeling it all today.  I am nobody's hero today.  Instead, I am a lonely, broken mom of 4, fire wife.

I'm taking a moment...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Being married to a firefighter places us into a totally different world.  

We are married, and yet find ourselves flying solo much of the time.

We single handedly wrap presents and put together gifts, after decorating the cookies or baking the cake, andwaiting for all the kids to go to sleep.  We play Santa alone and ask Jesus to be with Daddy on Christmas.  We wake the kids up with the brightest Happy Birthday we can muster.

We visit Daddy at work, only to find their rig has not been there all day, or to have the tones go off after, "DAAADDDDYYY!!" is heard echoing through the bay.

We celebrate holidays at the firehouse, when we can.

We fix the leaky pipes and we dry the falling tears.

We explain to family and friends why he's not there - again.

We do all the "shushing" in church.

We make those late night trips to the ER, after calling in reinforcements to help with the other kids.

We take all the kids to the State Fair on our own, so they don't miss out on feeding the goats.

We chase after loose dogs and smiling kids playing tag.

We plan the trips to the park and keep the house quiet while Daddy is sleeping.

We fit in the grocery shopping while he's on shift, so we are there when he comes home to ask, "How was your shift, honey?"

We sleep alone.  Sometimes sleep just doesn't come to us...

We make Thanksgiving dinner on our own and we carry sleeping kids back to the car after the fireworks.

We laugh with our friends on-line and miss the friends that don't return our calls because they don't understand this life.

We sit in the stands by ourselves during a downpour for our kids' games.

We keep the house from imploding and the tears from drowning out the sun.

We laugh at the kids' stories over the dinner we made together.

We tell tales of our younger years over cocoa with the kids and kiss the noses we tuck in at night.

We know that Daddy is not there, but sometimes we forget how much he would love to be there.

All the snuggles and giggles that go on without him.

...the memories that are made and then shared with him the next day.  

...the bonds that made while he watches through ooVoo. 

...that he misses me just as much as I miss him in the quiet of the night...when his night quiets down.

..that he doesn't have to help wrap, but he also misses out on the glow of the un-wrapping.

...that he doesn't get to share his stories with our friends at the football game on Sundays.

..that he misses seeing his son get that first carry over the goal line.

...that the music he hears from my phone, is not near as adorable and the music coming from the little ones actually on stage in front of me.

...that he would love to be in church to see how much they have grown, even though they need to be shushed now and then.

...that he hurts when he is not there to comfort the child in enough pain for me to take them to the ER.

...that he wishes he was here with us just as much as we wish he was here with us.

Being married to a firefighter is not for the faint of heart.  We miss him and we love him.  He is a firefighter and I am his wife.  We live a life that the rest of the world will never quite understand...and I would not have it any other way. I am indeed a Fire Wife.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What Really Matters...

We get caught up in the day to day stressors of life. Trying to find a job is high on our list here.  But everyone has bills, teens, family stress, marital stresses, taxes, politics...stress is everywhere around us.  As firewives, we have even more.  We act as single parents 1/3 of the time.  Yesterday, I held the fort down, made the appointments, took are of business, moderated fights, took muppets to eye appointments, handle the practice schedule, solo.  It is part of this life, but it does bring stress into our lives.

Then, this morning, Facebook reminded me that this is really not important.

A friend of mine from middle school has a brain tumor.  We had a close crew.  A vast majority of our crew went to the two local high schools, the rest of us were splattered among the privates and specialty schools...but Facebook  brought many of us back together and we chat on a regular basis.  And when you see pictures posted from chemo treatments and smile faces of the family on their adventures and the notes on the Caring Bridge updates that the tumor has grown, take a step back.  We are not even 40.  Our kids are still small.  And that is a big deal.  

The rest...

The rest is just background noise. 

Bills will always be there, make adjustments based on where you are.  I have a job waiting for me - just not my ideal.  But it will pay the bills.  My FF is willing to sub on all his off days to make up the difference in my salary.  We will be okay.  

But my friend, for my friend's family there might be just these pictures of the smiling crew.  The agony of the next round of treatment - worse than chemo, the stress on the family, the very real possibilities that the future holds - that is the real stress.  We face the same reality, but 2/3 of the time I don't have to worry about.  But the stress for my friend's family isn't going away.

And it is a reminder of what really matters.

Not how much we have, but how many memories we make.  I just sent the muppets into the dining room to write some recent memories down and toss them in the jar.  The laughter, the time spent - that is what matters. 

Those smiling pictures in the places they are cramming in NOW, that is what matters.  Making the memories that will last forever, that is what matters.  Spending time as a family, that is what matters.  Love, real love, holding your hair back kind of love, is what matters.  

The rest is just details, background noise.

So, what are you going to do with your Muppets and FF this weekend?  How will you celebrate life?  With S'mores and a campfire, bike rides and a picnics, a minor league baseball game or just a movie night with some popcorn and everyone laughing.  Whatever it is, enjoy the moment.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bento Box Lunches

You can tell it is back to school time, I am hitting Pinterest - a lot.

My newest interest in the land of Pinterest is the idea of using the Bento Box idea for lunches.  Bento Boxes are traditionally used for Japanese lunches.  They are compartmentalized so there is a spot for rice and a spot for the fish and a spot for the veggies.  It has been adopted by moms all over for cute, adorable lunches.   They fit my reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy for lunch boxes, we try to limit the amount that the kids toss each day.  The keep the applesauce from soaking the PB&J, the dip from tainting the get the idea.  Keeps the cross-contamination at bay.  One lid - one box.  As opposed to a lid/box for the sammich, for the applesauce, for the carrots, for the dip, for the apple is a nightmare and I have the cabinet to prove it.

From Nina, a military mom of 4 at
Now, from the truth and accuracy department, mine, will never look this adorable.  If I am taking time, before football and after mass to make 20 lunches, chances are the cookie cutters are not coming out for the sandwiches.  I'm probably also not going to fashion  Hello Kitty out of salami and whatever else concoction is there.  Nor will I probably be digging out all of the letters from each of their names for the alphabet Cheese It piles. I know, I know.  I will never win mom of the year this way, but some how, I will soldier on.
The idea in and of itself is perfect for my three youngest, who are always leaving food in the is SO gross at some points.  This box system allows me to control their portions to alleviate how much gets tossed, without having to go through a million bazillion pieces o' tupperware, hoping to find a lid that matches a container. (Okay, maybe million bazillion is a bit of an exaggeration, but thousands upon thousands really doesn't like much of a stretch.  I don't know where they actually go!) I can send dip for the carrots and cucumbers, without an issue.  Toss in a handful of silicone muffin wrappers to the mix and you have some nice accent pieces, that keep the dreaded touching food from occurring.  It allows me to buy in larger quantities, as opposed to individual sized portions - keeping costs and trash additions down.   It is definitely something that is do-able.

So, I started researching boxes.  You would be AMAZED at how many options there are for the pre-school crowd.  I have CLEARLY been a slacker mom for the last decade plus.  It is a wonder my kids actually show their faces in public.  And I nearly choked on my Cocoa Puffs when I saw the price for some of them.  Really?? $28 for a toddler's piece of lunch ware??  I'm thinking, not so much.  That is $116 - for one day's worth of resealable lunch containers. $580 so I can make all the lunches in one day??  Yeah, I can hire a chef to do it for that price!  So I started looking at other options.  

Some a stainless steel, some have individual components that you assemble inside a box, some are cute anime themed boxes, some have ice packs...all of them were making my head hurt.  I am going to have to invest in new lunchboxes for this to work (our current lunch boxes are the bag shaped collapsible kind - bento boxes will never fit), so the pricier pieces are off the table.  It needs to be something where I can afford TWENTY of them.  I have found that I am at my most efficient when I do not have to worry about things on a school morning.  And so the digging began...

My requirements - 

  • Two piece sets - lid and container.  That's it.  If I wanted to do the component pieces into a bigger box, I would keep doing what I am already doing.
  • Dishwasher safe - They MUST be able to go into the dishwasher.  Football is here, fall soccer will be starting, D wants to try judo...there is just no time for me to wash more things by hand.
  • Affordability - I have to be able to buy 20+ (if I want some on standby) without having to take out a home equity loan or sell my first-born child.  I have to be able to make 20 lunches on Sunday, plain and simple.

Here are the two most feasible options for us at this moment in time.  

  1. EasyLunchboxes - three compartment, 2 piece sets (4 sets per order).  Mommies seem to like them.  Sturdy, kids can get the lids off.  They would cost around $70 for me to get 5 sets.
  2. Ziploc Divided Containers, rectangle - three compartment, 2 piece sets (2 per order).  Free shipping and coupons from allows me to get 5 days worth, plus 2 in reserve for less than $45.  Complaints seem to come from mommies of preschool kids, mine are all school aged. They can open the Ziploc containers we currently have on hand, I don't see why these will be any different. 
I think I am going with the Ziploc.  If they break or get lost, I am out $1.75.  If they make it through the school year, I got my money's worth out of it.  With school just a few weeks away, I will definitely let you know how it goes.  Feel free to share those pearls of wisdom and experiences with me!

Happy Wednesday!  Spend some time playing with those muppets and bonding with that fireman.  They are all kinda cute, in their own way...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Return to Normal

We are hanging out and enjoying the peace...and Daddy is not here.  And it is so nice.

Not that my FF is not here, I will be missing him later, make no bones about it.  But it is reassuring that we are back to normal.  

from the Bay View Compass.
My  FF is back on shift.  He made a last minute trade to be able to go to the lake with us yesterday.  A FF he worked with at the academy this summer has a cottage on one of the smaller lakes just west of here. And he invited the FFs working at the academy out to join him for the day.  There was an adorable labradoodle named Yankee who kept the muppets entertained.  (And made me realize how much I miss my tennis ball chasing goldens.) Seaweed was grossing out my city girls.  Floaties taking the kids out to the diving raft. Wondering if the Pedal Boat my boys were pedaling around the lake would actually make it back to shore, Laughing at the stories of the FFs who have a lot more years on than mine, that really cannot be shared here.  It was such an amazing afternoon.  Just to be around people who get this life and to laugh. Daddy took the lead with the kids, he played with all the little girls, taking them out on the pedal boat. Before we left, my fireman got the news that he has been dying for all summer.  He was being nominated for a Garden District Award.  I'll fill you in on that later.  Quite the soap opera.  None-the less, life was perfect.  It was so enjoyable, that I forgot to take pictures.  My camera sat idle.  I take pictures of the most mundane things and I was too busy chit chatting to capture these moments of my kids' lives for all eternity.  Ah well.  I am sure they'll forgive me. 

On our way home, with 3 1/2 kids sleeping in the back from all the fresh air, we had to stop at two firehouses.  One to deliver a pair of forgotten sunglasses from the lake, hopefully he gets them tomorrow.  And his regular house to pick up his non-disgustingly smelly, from gross training hay fires, bunkers. Which meant he was going to be back in his element today.  

And the world will be righted.

Just like all good fire families, we are going to carry on without him. 

Our State Fair is a GREAT State Fair.  Don't miss it, don't even be late...

We are off to the fair without Daddy.

Life is back to normal.  We will head off after lunch, meet grandpa there after he is done refereeing his tournament.  Eat fried food we would never consider outside the confines of the Fair Grounds.

And all is right with our abnormal normalcy.

My FF is away from the craziness of the muppet show we are running here, we are working our way back without him and life is good.  Hug those firefighters as they come off shift, do something fun with the kids today, even if it is just the Hokey Pokey in the back yard, and enjoy life!  Happy Sunday!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sometimes You Just Don't Know How Good You Have It

I must be one of those odd wives.  I like this schedule.  Mind you, three 48s back to back to back is a bit much, but overall I do.  And that was just reinforced this summer.  For the last five weeks my hubby has been out at the BIT (Bureau of Instruction and Training - the academy, if you will) teaching the health and wellness component.  And he did a great job.  But, he missed out on summer with the kids and we missed him.  He presented it as this amazing opportunity - he would be home every night.  

Yeah, the next he says that, remind me that it is not as good as it sounds.  

Between him leaving at the crack of dawn - which is not his favorite thing, me having to be the enforcer of the alarm - also not enjoyable, and the kids crestfallen faces when they wake up and realize that he has already left - which went away in the last few weeks, sad unto itself, I am just grateful to have him home.  The last few weeks had football thrown in the mix and this week felt we needed more excitement, cue the puking girls.  It will be oh so nice to get back to our insane normal.  I actually miss having him around.  (I will deny saying that if you bring it up with him in the room, mind you. ;) )

I got up this morning -without an alarm, but still earlier than everyone else, and one of the polar bears yelled at me for breaking the peace in the house.  He's right, we need it. And as I sit here typing, the sun has risen and there is an amazing breeze coming in the window and my FF is still next to me. We are done with the 40 hour weeks.  He goes back on shift Saturday. I may have to go to a FF gathering without him, with FFs and families I don't really know.  But, as he so aptly pointed out, not like I really have a hard time talking to people I don't know.  Or perhaps, that last minute trade will fall in his lap.  None-the-less, it will be a nice day. The kids will enjoy themselves.
When the fire world starts to appear in playtime,
I know the kids are missing Daddy.

When I was talking to my dad about this a few weeks ago, he welcomed me to the real world.  I don't like it.  I have not enjoyed my visit and I don't think I want to come back for a while.  I either want to have the exact same schedule as we did teaching or this whole 24/48 thing is good, too.  9-5 which is actually 5:30 - 5:30, you can keep.  I don't like the real world.  I will stick to the insanity that has grown so nicely on my soul.  I kinda like it.

Have some fun with your muppets and enjoy some time with just your FF if you can sneak it in.  I think mine might have talked me into a day at the park and a bonfire to celebrate Daddy being home.  
And I wouldn't have it any other way!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Step Back for Reflection

I actually have this chair in my classroom
and used to wear jerseys on a weekly basis,
pretty good capturing of me.
I am a huge proponent for righting the injustices of the world.  I keep toiletries and non-perishables in the trunk of my car so I can help those most forgotten by our society whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I use my blog as a platform.  Even though it reaches a limited audience, it keeps the conversation going.  I am working to raise our kids to look out for those who are treated unjustly.  I have no problems being the big mouth frog for voices that no one cares to listen to.  That is just who I am. 

And sometimes that gets me in trouble.  Sometimes I speak too soon.  Sometimes I look at the whole picture, but I don't actually take it all in.

And that was almost the case yesterday.  I have a whole blog post written, ready for me to publish.  But then I started digging and researching - as I have learned to do as my age continues on.  I have learned that an educated piece may not be the piece that everyone gets all riled up about, but it is the one that needs to be put out there.  

And emotions need to be curbed, sometimes.  

It is amazing how much you learn as the years march on, isn't it?

All of this was prompted by a Twitter conversation with a WFFW that I have been friends with in the cyber world for quite some time.  She (and all other wives of wildland firefighters) live a life that me, a FT structure firefighter's wife, can't really wrap my head around.  As we were chatting more and more did not make sense to me.  And it seemed like paperwork mumbo jumbo BS to me.  So, I took to my sharp tongued keyboard and put out this piece (that is actually really good, if I do say so myself :D ) and was ready to take all the shots that would be coming my way.

And then I did, what every educated writer does, I set it aside and did some more research.  Sounds backwards, perhaps, but I seem to be my best writing while the ideas are swirling around in there.  Trust me, as damaged as my brain is, stuff gets lost in the holes of that Swiss cheese!  

Then I realized, perhaps there is a more devastating tale.  Perhaps it is more of a story that all of the ducks were not in a row.  

I first understood that WFFF did not receive PSOB benefits unless their title that of FIREFIGHTER.  I was under the impression that the only reason the GMHS received benefits was because of their ties to the city of Prescott FD.  But that just did not make sense to me.  I get  that my FF is a career FF and things are different, but to totally leave families who gave their FFs up EVERY SUMMER, to leave them out in the cold, on their own seemed heartless.  It didn't make sense.  I couldn't wrap my head around it, so I started poking around more.  I started asking questions of people whose opinions I have come to trust.  I started reading the bills and the heart wrenching stories and I realized that there was so much more to this story.  I found that all firefighters employed or deployed by a government agency qualifies for PSOB benefits.  Private entities have their own set of rules. 

Instead of this tirade I was planning, what I actually discovered was a more of a universal moral to this heartbreaking tale.   

We, as spouses of firefighters, need to make sure ALL of our ducks are in a row - certain that there are no technicalities to be surprised by if we fins ourselves in these shoes.  My rational brain totally understands that seasonal/PT employees are different than FT employees.  My emotional psyche thinks it sucks that promises were not fulfilled and working 40 hour work weeks for 51 out of 52 weeks of the year is still classified as seasonal/PT employment.  I feel the pain of Juliann Ashcraft, as much as I can with my husband still coming home to me.  And, truth be told, I would probably be on the same crusade, were I walking in her shoes.  But if her husband's contract that was not amended, there may be some tied hands in this discussion.  If they were waiting for approval from a board or commission, clearly it would have come too late.  If he was promised that to keep him quiet without ever actually planning to fulfill that promise, that is even more heart wrenching.  I can't begin to know.  Perhaps we will never know for sure.  His officers perished with him.  Everything we have is educated conjecture.  

Speaker Andy Tobin
photo by Gage Skidmore
Do I think that he should be classified as FT posthumously, yes.  I think it would be what is right. He was working full time hours, at full time pay for a year.  To me, that defines full time.  But those contracts...<sigh>. Do I think that the bureaucracy will actually step up and reclassify him?  No, I really don't.  Hopefully I will be pleasantly surprised and his family will be provided for the healthcare they so desperately deserve.  But again, I am on the outside looking in. I know that Andy Tobin, Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives is drafting legislation to provide FT benefits to any seasonal/part time worker that dies on state lands.  I am trying to put pieces of this puzzle together, rather blindly, but that sounds like a step in the right direction.  Especially pleasing if it applies retroactively to the 19 GMHS.

I see this as an opportunity for all of us.  WE need to make sure that our WFFs are taken care of.  We need to make sure that people are aware of Wildland Firefighters Protection Act - HR 2858. We need to let Andy Tobin know he doing what is right. We need to make sure that the are respected for the service they are providing.  We need to make sure that the WFFs and their families know what the risks are and what they are entitled to, to be sure the unspeakable discussion is actually discussed.  We need to continue to talk to ALL of our FFs about how we as their families will be taken care of if one day there is that dread knock on the door. We as wives, need to talk to our FFs and know what the plan of attack would be.  And we need to support the families of our fallen firefighters - including all 19 of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and  Brendan McDonough.  We cannot let these families feel that they or their FF are forgotten - at any time. 

But all of this requires us to be uncomfortable.  And we need to embrace that discomfort and have these talks - with our firefighters, with their departments and with Congress.  Make your voice heard and hear the voices of our firefighters.  Perhaps, however, you should take a step back and take a look a the big picture.  What do you want to accomplish? What is the best route to achieve that goal?  Sometimes it is just jumping in, sometimes it is doing your research, sometimes...well, you'll know what is when you see it. 

Have the talk, support your fellow FFWs when they need it and love that firefighter of yours.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bonus Dog

Because, you know the two polar bears are not canine presence enough.  You need to add another monster sized drooley dog.  My FF just shook his head when I told him Nova was coming for a visit.

So, we had 350+ pounds of drooling, tail wagging love in our house.  And amazingly, it went well. 

Two five year-old male great pyrenees and an 18 month-old male newf.  I mean, what could go wrong right.

Especially with a family gathering and a birthday party being held at our house and...

But, amazingly, everything went smoothly.  

from N's i-Pod.  He has discovered Instagram.
I think they look like they need sunglasses.
 N didn't pay attention to the placement of the sun!
Nova, the newfie boy who came for a visit, speaks dog.  I know it sounds like a no brainer, but by polar bears are a mini-pack all unto themselves.  There are rules and not all dogs that have come for a visit know the rules, or listen to them when they are shared.  Nova, was told to lay down and be quiet because it was naptime for the polar bears - AND HE LISTENED!  He was met with old man indifference when he first came in the house and he did not push the issue.  Nova was told that he wasn't allowed to sleep in the bedroom, and he contently went to sleep in the living room.  (The enforcer sleeping on the threshold to our bedroom might have had something to do with that.)  He waited patiently for his turn to eat.  He went to check things out when the polar bears did.  It was amazingly calm.  Bear even went so far to make sure no one was messing with his puppy when one of the human visitors got a bit too "rough" with him.  I couldn't believe how quickly they accepted him.

I know there's a ball in here somewhere!
Again, courtesy of N's iPod.
But, on the flip side, he brought some life to our world.  After having the golden retriever geriatric ward for so long, I have forgotten what a puppy brings to the family.  The pyrs are impressive when they wrestle, but it lasts 5 minutes and they are back to their nap zones.  Bear came into a pair of old goldens - 15 and 10 I think, and was told when it was acceptable to play.  There was none of this puppy fun shenanigans to be had in our House of Hounds.  When we brought Giovanni into our world, Willow was definitely not in the mood to play and so things were kept relatively quiet.  And that just became the norm.  The kids were heaven having a dog around who knew what a ball was for (my pyrs have no use for tennis balls, unlike the goldens) and with whom THEY could initiate play and he would happily join in.  It was good.

My brother finally friends!!
But, that night after Nova went home and there was peace and quiet to be had, the polar bears were sleeping at my feet on the newly lit patio, I enjoyed it.  

So, the burst of puppy energy was fun while it lasted, but I think I am content to have four muppets and two polar bears.  No need to be greedy.  I am content with the puppy love we currently have drooled on us daily.  I can share.

Two more days in this forty hour normal bologna and we are done for a bit.  And then we can go back to our normal abnormality of the fire world schedule.  I might actually get to see my husband when he's awake (being in the burn tower for the whole day yesterday was a shock to his system after being on the box and in the classroom for so long!) and we are not at a child's event.  

I know, crazy talk, but a girl can hope, can't she??

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Mondays

I actually kinda enjoy summer Mondays.  Not the part of him going back to work, I am totally really for these "40" hour work weeks to be over, but the part where we can just be.  Last week was the start of football, a brand new brake job starting on fire due to the calipers getting stuck - that was fun, a bonus dog (every house needs a black bear to compliment their polar bear, after all), rearranging the living room furniture just because have been in this house a year and I have not done it yet - a new record, Despicable Me 2, a family renewal of vows - and all the drama that ensues, D caught the bouquet and has yet to put it down, there was a disco themed 60th birthday party and then of course all of the crazy last minute de-slobbering cleaning that goes with a birthday party at our house. I survived the double-super-secret lifting of the Lego ban that my hubby instituted - making my son's day and my other half cringe.  It really was a great week.

And now that it is Monday, there is nothing going on.  The bonus dog is home and the family has left.  There is no football, no menu planning, no nothing.  And it is a great feeling.

My husband has worked on the outside of the house for me since the middle of spring. The re-landscaping of the front, the has been a huge project on his part.  And I love him so much for making it happen for me.  He finally got to put the icing on the cake.  The gazebo is up, the lights are on and I heard plans of making it last through the fall with a patio heater and some Plexiglas.  We broke it in with some Wicked Orchard and our neighbors.  And he was so thrilled to make it happen - for me.   

My FF may be a gumba when it comes to the daily chores around the house (don't get me started on laundry again), but he does work very hard to bring me whatever my heart desires - usually through a lot of sweat equity.  And that is indeed why he has captured my heart.  Tonight, we'll sit on that patio...and just be.  It is Monday afterall.  And that is why I love summer Mondays.

He's a good guy...I guess I'll keep him no matter what day of the week it is.  

Hug those FFs, laugh with those muppets and just BE!  Happy Monday!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Honor Flight - Vietnam Edition

I never seem to be able to sleep in.  My FF gave the muppets this big long spiel about going down to the toy room to watch TV when they wake up, don't come talk to momma, she needs to sleep, yada yada yada...and I wake up at 5am.  No rhyme or reason.  And of course I am wide awake.  When we were first married, I would have woken the guy up next to me.  OF COURSE he wants to chat with me.  As the years have flown by I have learned that is just NOT the case and let him sleep.  Which usually leads me to waking up the muppets for entertainment or technology.  And here I am with my laptop - in my lap.

Reading the paper this morning, I read about the latest Honor Flight.  To honor the 40th Anniversary of the end of physical conflict in Vietnam, an Honor Flight out of Oshkosh took 114 randomly selected veterans on the first ever Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight for Wisconsin Veterans.  This is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, for no real reason.  Just because.

Just because our vets lost years of their lives, if not their lives.  In some cases these sacrifices were for a cause no one really understood.  

Just because our vets came home and were expected to pick up where they left off.  No talk of what they saw, who they lost or how things changed at home.

Just because some of our vets were so maltreated upon their arrival back "home" it makes my stomach turn.

Just because their spouses held down the forts for YEARS without their service man/woman.  Babies were born, milestones met, struggles tackled - without them there.

Just because they saw things that would cause the rest of us to never sleep again...and we wonder why they come home and not the same.

Just because I am researching the impact of PTSD on our military and emergency personnel and I see the damage that it causes EVERYDAY.

Just because.
The way the Vietnam vets were treated was a huge reason why I became a history teacher.  Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.  Cliche, clearly, but true none-the-less.

My dad was not in Vietnam.  They started at his feet and never got past them to decide on his vision - ingrown toenails.  His feet kept him out of the war and is probably why I am here today.  I have very little first hand experience with the Vietnam "Police Action" homecomings, or lack thereof.  Just what I have heard and read.  But it was enough of an impact to cause me to sell t-shirts in support of our troops in high school when the first gulf war broke out.  It was enough of an impact to lead me into education as my vocation.  It was enough of an impact for me to lead my middle schoolers to an Operation Comfort drive ten years ago. It was enough for me to take the muppets to Mitchell International Airport to welcome home the last couple rounds of WWII vets coming home from their Honor Flight to DC.   It was enough for me to take time to take the muppets to see the traveling Vietnam Wall.  It was enough for me to have my seniors send letters to the service people struggle to readjust this spring.  It impacted me.  

And it continues to impact me on a much different level now that I find myself married to a firefighter.

There are families with the same concerns I have.  That knock on the door.  That uniform on the porch. But they last for YEARS at a time.

My FF met with CFD yesterday and was dropped off at home by the officer he drove down with.  I was on the phone with my dad when that big red SUV pulled up - EVEN THOUGH I KNEW IT WAS HIM, my stomach dropped.  Sad really, that my Pavlovian reaction was momentary panic, but it was.  Military families have the same fears, but not every third day.  It is every day, for years at a time.

I fuss about not seeing him enough over the course of these last 4 weeks, but the truth of the matter is he came home to me every night.  I complain about how the kids only get sick when he is gone.  But he comes back, every time, within a couple of days and can offer me some respite.  We get grumpy about having to live in the city limits, think about the military families that move just as the kids are making friends, again.  Just as I live a life Jane Q. Public can't imagine, military families live a life that this Mrs. Firefighter can only begin to try and picture.  And these Honor Flights, these thank yous that are DECADES too late, are the least that we can do for the sacrifices our vets and their families have made.

I wish my blog could have the reach that Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band have.  They are to today's vets, what the USO was for our grandparents' generation.  That taste of home.  I wish that my classroom service could reach as many people in need of someone just acknowledging all that was given up for king and  country as the amazing work that they are doing.  And clearly none of my efforts will have the same quantitative impact.  But, for the handful of service people who got a note acknowledging the human side that they are struggling to stay in contact with or the smiles of my little people's flag waving faces, it did make a difference.  It says you are not forgotten.  It says we appreciate you.  It says you are not alone.

Please take the time to reach out to any of the vets you come in contact with on a daily basis.  If you have not seen Honor Flight the Movie, I highly recommend that you make a point of it.  Support the Honor Flights in your area, especially those for our World Wars vets, they will not be with us for much longer.  Take the time to reach out and let our heroes know they are not forgotten, they are indeed loved.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Crystal Anniversary

It is hard to believe that I am old enough to have actually been married for 15 years.  Even harder to believe that we are closer than we were the day we got married.  But, we were babies when we  got married.  I had been out of school a year, he was about to start student teaching.  We spent the first few months of our married life living in two different cities.  I was staying with my dad and he was doing his student teaching where we went college.  We finally got to live together full time, when he found a place to student teach in the same city I was teaching in.  We loved spending time together. I am just amazed, every day, that he still does and hasn't got tired of me.
And here we are, clearly 15 years older and four muppets later.  But we are clearly in a very different place.  I was marrying an elementary school teacher.  It was just the two of us, ready to take on the world!

Four years later, we welcomed our second son into the world - on our anniversary.  (Which by the way, I called in February - never mind that he was due the middle of September.)  He was the best anniversary gift ever. And that adorable little guy, is now my happy go lucky about to enter 6th grade boy.  He is so gentle and kind and loving and giving. We are truly blessed to have been given him.  Well, aside from when he doesn't want to clean his room...

And now that 4th grade student teacher I married is a firefighter/paramedic.  Still teaching, but to a very different audience.  The two kids I agreed to has morphed into four muppets. The baby golden retriever we started with has turned into a pair of drooling polar bear pyrs. 

Life is clearly not what I had envisioned it to be.

But I would not have it any other way.

To my firefighter on our crystal anniversary (I did have to look that up, by the way), I love you more than ever.  Now, let's go celebrate with some Bay View Redcat Football practice and Despicable Me 2.  And somehow that all makes things seem crystal clear.

I wouldn't have it any other way! 
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