Sunday, September 29, 2013

How Did I Get Here?? Pulling Up A Chair at the Kitchen Table

Sometimes I ask myself that...okay, a lot of times I ask myself that.

Let me first say, I did ask that question.

For the first year, I asked it every day of my life.

I did not date a firefighter or marry one.  I married my college sweetheart. We got married in August so that there would be no undue stress while he was student teaching.  I married a college student...a aggressive soccer player...a room service hottie for a 4 diamond resort...a soon to be elementary teacher...the assistant safety director for our tiny little college in the middle of the cornfields.  He was all of these things, but not a firefighter.

The discussion of being a firefighter did not come up, seriously, until 10 years and four children later.

And I had to decide relatively spur of the moment if I was okay with it.

And I was okay with it...kind of.
Soon, my elementary school teacher had to start his EMT-B classes...on the weekends.  So...we both taught all day...he ran the after school camp at this school until 6-6:30 each night.  I had dinner on the table when he came home, I got the baby and toddler into bed, did the dishes while Daddy played with the boys, stole the boys away from their daddy, tossed them in the shower, and got them to bed.  And then I started grading papers while helping with his papers so he could study for his EMT class - which was for ten hours each day on Saturday and Sunday.  For ten weeks.

You would have thought that I would have been used to doing this whole thing solo.  But...I was assured, it was temporary.  Only 10 weeks.

And then came the Fire Academy.  I got a new teaching position two counties away.  I set up my classroom, with four children in tow.  My dad helped with my girls - one was in home day care and one was in 4 year-old kindergarten in our neighborhood school.  The boys and I left as early as we could, dropping the girls off as early as we could, so my fire recruit hubby could get to the academy and study before classes started. And I had this magical idea that as soon as he was done with the academy and became a firefighter, I would have my husband back.  Life would be good.

Instead there were fights - like more than we had ever fought.  And more and more I felt like I was in this alone.  My FF was NOT used to being the Cub who had to take watch EVERY SHIFT.  One day,  he was so tired that he put the toddler down for a nap.  Only O wasn't so tired.  She got out of her room, took a dining room chair to the casement windows in the front of the house, opened them up and crawled out.  Yes, my little 17 pound two year-old crawled out the front window - barefoot in November.  Yeah...imagine THAT phone call while I was teaching..."Honey, don't be mad, but..."  O was picked up by the mom of one of my former students whol ived across the street...who knocked on the door - to no answer from the fireman who was out cold.  He did however, wake up to the knock from the boy in blue...who luckily understood where he was coming from.  I have so many stories from that first year, that are hilarious...but not really.  And my blog was born out of that insanity.

It was more of an on-line journal...trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

I MARRIED A GRADE SCHOOL TEACHER!  I was not born into a fire family.  I didn't understand how this world worked.  And I was abso-frickin-lutley miserable.  

The first person to find my blog and help me begin to understand this world was a captain in Texas and he directed me to his wife. We have become fabulous friends, even though we are half a country apart.

The next person was another fire wife.  She was on the fire wife boards on the FF forums and it seemed like only she and I were talking on them.  She read my blog and helped me figure out I was not the only thinking some of this was abso-frickin-lutely crazy, and therefore I was not crazy...well not completely crazy any way.  But, like all of us, real life got crazy and Val left the blogging world, but couldn't stay away from us forever.  We are all our own kind of crazy.  And sometimes no one else can appreciate this kind of insanity, but your firewife neighbor in the insane asylum we call the fire life.  Welcome to it.

And here we are, sitting around the kitchen table with her, sharing stories, laughing at the boys.  We wish they would be home when they are gone for an eternity and counting the minutes until their back to back Vacation days, POs, Trade-off, Dail(e)y days, Kelly Days are over...and knowing we are not the only ones.

So, next discussion at this kitchen table better include a whole lot chocolate, I am in need!

And, by the way, my hubby that just worked 5 of the last 7 days...has 8 in a row off.  You might have to save me by the end of the week...

Enjoy the Life of a Fire Wife.  I wouldn't have it any other way! Hopefully you think the same!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Christmas Has Come Early for the Fireman

3:43 am - on a Saturday?  Ugh...

School has just started...I have eight WHOLE days under my belt at my current high school.  My hubby is reminding me that the fact that I have a class of 34 with 17 special ed - 5 EBD, 1 Autistic, 1 CD and a mix of OHI/SLD (sorry for the teacher alphabet soup...just means I have my work cut out for me) working peacefully after having a few subs for the first few weeks of school is a feat in and of itself.  Or the fact that another class of 34 only has 6 boys in it and I have not had an eruption o' cattiness is a moment to be grateful.  He is very good at perspective.  We are nearly a month into school and instead of letting me beat myself up over what I have not accomplished that I expected to accomplish, he is reminding me of that fact that I came into a tough spot and they are learning.  Learning how to function, learning that I may be little in stature, but that is the only thing little about me.  Learning that there is more out there than what they have seen thus far.  My fireman is great for just that purpose.  

Yesterday was our open house.  We are a tough school in an awesome neighborhood.  I have parents at the kids' (the muppets') school literally bombarding me with questions about the high school.  They so, want their kids to walk to school and many of these parents are alum.  It is not there yet.  I have an 8th grader that will not be coming to school with me next year.  But...maybe my 6th grader.  And that is an honest of an answer as I can give.  It is not unusual for staff to go out after these events - open house, conferences, the day ends in y, etc., and we did last night - to an old pump station on the river that has been converted to a bar.  You really can't see the fire department inside anymore.  Most people would probably not even really know, aside from the plaque at the front.  But, I am keenly aware of the fact that the fire world is all around us.

More so as we speak.  

My FF just came off of a 48.  I was just laying in bed listening to him breathe, thinking about how much I have missed him the last week.  Football and this pesky thing called work, ate up so much of our time and then you throw that 48 in there...and I feel like I haven't seen him in forever.  Night time is dangerous for me.  I have a brain that doesn't stop and often wakes me up - with ideas, with dreams, with fears.  Maybe it is because it is so horribly damaged, but it never turns off.

Especially tonight.

It seems like I was just fussing about med school...studying the different drugs with him, their side effects and contraindications...and now I find myself almost missing that.  He is heading to the other side of the bay in just a few shifts.  The engine will be his new home.  And while we were out with my new work family, that was what was on my mind.  As I was chit chatting and watching him interact with my new staff, I was thinking about the conversations we had on the way over - his engine is second in on a lot of good fires - their location in a neighborhood of one-way streets slows them down a bit.  A lot of their vacants have also already been burned down, causing the house that was rocking 5 years ago, to be just a bit quieter today.  And while we were having these conversations, you could just hear the excitement in his voice.  He is going to be back on an engine.  

And I need to resolve that within myself.

I know he will still come home to me, probably.  I know that he has an awesome crew.  I know he will be happy to not have 20+ call shifts quite so regularly and he will be happy to get a few more Zzzzzzzzzs in.  I know he will be happy to eat dinner warm once in a while.  I know this is why he came on the job.  He joined the department to be a firefighter.  Being a "firemedic" as D calls him, was an unseen turn on his map.  I know all of this. 

And I know that even though everyone comes home, sometimes they don't.  I know that all will be well.  But, for tonight, I need to let my brain just turn off.

Enjoyed the conversations of the night with my new staff last night, I enjoyed running into an old friend (that I totally did not see because she was holding a golden puppy - I only saw the little ball of fluff), I enjoyed the laughter of the new friends who are probably going through my millions of pictures on Facebook this weekend, I will enjoy my son's night game tonight and I really enjoy the new class that I am teaching.  All this chaotic activity in my brain will win out and these quiet fears will be filed away where they belong.  But for now, I am allowing myself to be human, with all of the human fears and failings.  It is okay that I let myself worry, it is okay that my classroom is not perfect yet.  I am allowing myself to not be superhuman...and I will wander back into the bedroom.  

Enjoy your weekend and your muppets.  Laugh with your firefighters and know that the crisp air of fall will soon be here. Enjoy that feeling of the seasons.  Enjoy the soccer and football and picking the apples.  It is the season, although, for my FF, hearing the official word that he is being moved to the Engine as soon as his replacement passes the National Registry, means that Christmas has come early this year...and he better put those liners back in his bunkers!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I Thrive on Insanity

And that is indeed what this week has been.  I started teaching on Wednesday.  My sub was the wrestling coach.  Kind of a funny side know that whole six degrees of separation was fully in place.  He is a former MMA fighter and a trainer for various NFL players and MMA fighters.  His youngest is in D's class.  He trained one of my girls from a previous high school who has entered the MMA circuit, using the gym of one of the earlier faces of MMA, who trained at the Judo club I nearly grew up in.  It was a weird moment of, "Hey, do you know..." and we did.  Super nice guy.  But still not a teacher.

At this moment much of my time is being spent doing some a crap-load of un-training with my kids, so that I can re-train them.  Yesterday, I got the class from Hades the previous two days on my side (one strategic student at a time) and the class after it decided to test the boundaries.  <sigh> Ah well.  This is indeed urban education. Wait until I introduce them to DBQs next week...

This is the view out my windows.  Jealous?
I can't wait for a crisp, clear day!
Wednesday night, J  was there with me until nearly 8.  He brought my "classroom" to school.  Two flat bed carts stacked as high as him. And of course...I am on the fourth floor...and the elevator is three long hallways away from my room.  During the course of that time we got all of my books unpacked and all of the cabinets full o'junk, emptied.  And that was about it - my books were put away.  I will have to take pictures on Monday just to give you some perspective on how many books are in there. Four hours later, in a 90 degree classroom (In the end of September, really?) you have a really tired teacher.  Headed home to muppets starving for my attention, a pyr in my lap and another ignoring me and I needed to plan my lessons for the day, make a seating chart, eat (which I had forgotten to do all day) and I think I passed out somewhere before 10pm.

Can you tell there were kid fingers on my phone?
The next day, a bit of a blur, really.  My classes were all good - except for the one from heck.  I got locked in a stairwell while trying to find an unlocked bathroom. J came after school again so we could make it look like someone lived there.  He got my fabric and borders up on the bulletin boards helped with the posters in my classroom with ceilings up to there. I thought for sure I'd have to buy more fabric, yet somehow he made it work.  But of course it was another 90 degree September... on the 4th floor of a nearly century old building.  AND of course, he brought the muppets because the three little ones HAD to see my classroom.  Which meant I got half of what I could have gotten done, done.  Ah well.  By 7:45 I was dragging my butt out that door.  When I got home, I could barely concentrate.  I think I was dehydrated, despite the gallon of water I drank.  

I woke up at 3 and HAD to create a Prezi.  J threatened to drug me to keep me asleep.  I think he might be serious...

Yesterday, I taught at the start of class instead of fighting over seating charts.  And my class from hades came around beautifully.  The heavens opened up and shone down upon me.  But then the next class decided to push the envelope. <sigh>  I was so disappointed after the high from getting that other class to come to my side.  Ah well.  My psych class at the end of the day was so much fun.  I am grateful to end with them. And I discovered that the Coke machine takes credit cards - that is dangerous territory, my friends.

I left right after the kids.  Headed to a bar with a good portion of the rest of the staff.  Met the staff and the teacher I replaced.  And I felt instantly at home.  Our secretary is dating a FF. (Who, by the way, gave me a hard time about teaching for 3 days and still showing my face in the bar with them.  And then told me I would fit right in!)  I met 2 other FFWs.  We really are everywhere... The staff reminded me of the first staff I worked with in MPS and I felt a tad homesick for a bit.  And then I realized that perhaps, this amazing staff is going to be like the one I found myself pining for.  

We were definitely in the trenches.  The last time I found myself in a battle zone, I was looking for the greener pasture.  Even when I found the perfect teaching job - with no real discipline and everything in technology I could hope for - I was feeling empty.  Maybe this is the reason.  Maybe this is where I am meant to be.  These kids need someone and if the school is looking to bring back the neighborhood to it, I am needed there, as well.  It is 5 minutes from home.  And I have a beautiful view.

That gives me reason to look forward to the next gathering...and this school year.

Life is good.  Hubby was on shift last night and headed straight for the race track.  We have football this afternoon and then my hubby should be home by dinner.  Debating on whether or not to take the kids to the airport for the Honor Flight Homecoming or if it is okay to just veg.

Hug those firemen and read to your muppets.  Laundry will wait, time will not.  Peace.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

38 Was Beautiful

My birthday was this weekend...I am now 38.  OLD, I know.  When did that happen?  I have been with my FF for half of my life, now.  If you asked my half a lifetime ago, if I would be married, to a firefighter, with four kids - I would have most assuredly laughed in your face.  

And yet here I am.

And, if you would have told me that a shift day might actually make for a wonderful birthday - two years ago, I would have rolled my eyes and made a snarky comment.

And yet, it did.

Friday night was a date night with my hubby - Five Guys and a a movie, with a Cinnabon to close the day.

My actual birthday was a shift day.  He couldn't get off.  So, it was to be life as usual. 

After several leading questions about my schedule on my birthday, my FFW next door made an appointment for a pedicure at an amazing spa first thing in the morning.  Being a FFW, she knows dang well that there is always an excuse NOT to make the appointment required by a gift certificate.  I am horrible about it.  I have broken my husband's heart because I can't find the time.  But, I digress...

Anyway, the kids cleaned the house while I was at the spa AND decorated for me.  It was beautiful.  I still can't bring myself to take them down.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I love you more than the sun.
From my B boy....<3

Starbucks gave me a free venti hot cocoa, N's team won their game while the other three stooges played with their newly made friends on the playground, my dad took us out for pizza and my hubby stopped by at 10:30pm to make sure I didn't go to sleep without another happy birthday and a kiss.  BUT...the sound of the air brakes and the sight of the big red box at 10:30 at night MIGHT have given my girl next door a minor heart attack.  No worries, FFW have no issues calling FFs out for that, even when it is not their FF.  She made it known...

I don't need gifts.  We had cake the next day and yellow roses somehow appeared.  It was probably the best birthday I have had in quite some time.  The love that was showered upon me is worth more than anything that could be bought.  It was a weekend of love and blessings.  

38 is going to be a good year.  I look forward to seeing what it will bring me.

Monday, September 16, 2013

I Can't Watch

I am a news junkie.  I get sucked in and I NEED MORE.  More information, more details, more, more, more...

Today, I almost got sucked in.  Social media told me that there were issues in DC and I instantly turned on a cable news network. 

For 30 seconds...

And then I had to turn it off.  

I was enjoying the last day of peace that I have.  I was chatting with some of my FFW gals and I cold not let it break my heart.  Not today.

Tomorrow, I will take in all the details.

But, for today, I am going to offer up my prayers - without the details.  They will find me, I don't need to seek them out.  I am certain I will have a more profound post as the night goes on.  For now, I will stick my head in the sand for a bit.  

Peace and love.  Tell those firefighters how much you love them as they walk out the door.  Smile and your kids' shenanigans.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Homeless, Hungry and Human

I am firm believer in my faith.  I am also a true believer that actions speak volumes, so much more clearly than any words could ever speak.

For such a wordy person, I am at a loss for preaching and am significantly more comfortable living those words.

In our neck of the words, we have three homeless young people.  Out in 100 degree heat, holding cardboard signs stating that they are hungry and homeless. We don't have this in our part of the world.  Downtown, yes.  Here, no.

My initial response was, "GO HOME."  I was of course, assuming they were teenagers.

Wednesday, after dropping my oldest off at football practice, I stopped and talked to one of the girls, Melissa.  I texted my girl next door and asked her to keep an eye on my girls because of course, I would only choose to do this on a shift night. <eyeroll> I took Melissa to dinner.

I asked what her story was.

And as she shared that with me, I was moved by how she savored every bite of that chicken sandwich.  She was quite open with her tale.

They are not teens, they are 22 and 23.

Melissa's mom died, her sister also died - from a methadone overdose.  She wears a cross decorated vial of her mom's ashes around her neck. She has never met her dad.  She and her friends were staying with her grandma and her grandma died.  They stayed in the house, until the bank repossessed it.  The now sleep in a truck in a park and ride in the suburbs because the city cops won't let them sleep in the city.  They panhandle in the city because the suburbs won't let them panhandle there.  They apply for jobs the first couple of hours of the morning and panhandle for their fare back to the park and ride to sleep for the night.  They are on the waiting list for low income housing in another suburb because the waitlist in the city is three years (this I KNOW is true).  They are using one of the "kid's" grandmother's address for their applications and they each have government issued phones.  She wants to go to school to be a clinical psychologist.

Being the teacher, I asked if she had any college credits.  Her response told me she had not yet been to a post-high school institution.  "I have one."  I knew what that meant - she had taken an AP class.  She could not remember her score on the exam.  But, her AP Psych class motivates her to look beyond where she is now, to where she wants to be in the future.  I have to do something, was all I could think.

I can go on and on and on.  I spent an hour with her.  When I dropped her back off at her triangle median, the mom in me took over.  I ran into the grocery store, grabbed some pb&j, bread, plastic silverware, some fresh fruit, some applesauce and a pack of bottled water.  I didn't want to buy them crap, but it needed to be something that would last with the heat of the car.  I dropped the meager supplies off and reminded them to be safe.

Many people think this is my time to spread the Word.  And it probably is.  However, I am not an evangelist.  That is not my role in the greater world. Fr. Alejandro made me breathe a little easier on Easter morning - when I was barely mobile after my surgery, bringing the kids to mass alone (again), hoping (selfishly) that my FF would not catch a PNB and make it to mass to help me with the kids...his homily was meant for me.  He said (in a nutshell), yes it is a year of Evangelism.  But, what if we tone down the talk and actual LIVE a more Christ like life.  That spoke directly to me.  My beliefs had recently been shaken, as to whether or not I was on the right path.  And it made me think.  No, I am not an evangelist. I am however, a servant.  If I see a need, I work to fill it.  That is okay.  And that is what I have done here. I have contacted some of the agencies that I have worked with in the past to see if they can reach out to them.  I have tried to go back to them to find out some more information, but they have not been at their places.

Now, my message here is not look at how amazing I am.  I am as imperfect as they come.  I have a short temper and a sharp tongue to match.  I am envious of my husband's time away and I hate cleaning.  I am sarcastic and very well aware of my shortcomings, please let me know if you need a list and how I am working to address them. My message is this - acknowledge your neighbors.  Whether they are homeless or wealthy, schizophrenic or average, intolerant or the most patient person you have ever come in contact with - acknowledge your neighbors with a "good morning".  I am not asking you to give money, some concerns are very real, but if you are able - what if you kept a gift card or two for a restaurant in your wallet.  Or, simply stopping to to chat.  Find out what their story is or just discuss this crazy weather.  They are human and our society is so uncomfortable with the marginalized that it is just easier to act as if they don't exist.  As if we truly have invisible people walking among us.  Reach out to the less among us.  At anytime, that could be us.  Or, as I was thinking, my kids.  I would hope that someone would stop and reach out to them.  To help them remember that they are human, that they are worthy of our attention.

All I can say right now, is that I pray they are safe.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Crew

Okay, Suicide Prevention Day, 9/11...those were a couple of heavy posts for me to take on.  Both of them really drained me after writing them.  Wow, when did I become so melodramatic, anyway...

I have another rather serious post tumbling around in my head, but I am leaving it there.  I am just not ready to tackle it, yet.  

So, instead, I am posting pics of my people.  My muppets and my fireman.  Begrudgingly, there are a few pictures of me in this mix as well.  I much prefer to HOLD the camera than be the subject of it. I just do not photgraph well.

They came out my FF's family pictures.  We have not had entire family pics done since N was a baby - 13 years or so.  It was time.

As I said on THtH's Facebook page, these muppets are our future.  Your children and grandchildren are our future. It is up to us to teach them, to raise them  in love and structure.  It our responsibility to teach them what responsibility looks like.  It us to teach them that every person is worthy of being treated with human dignity and respect, even if they don't really "deserve" it.  Kids live what they learn. 

These are the loves of my life.  
D was literally pulling my hair in back so tightly, it was pulling my whole head back.  Ugh...

Where is that baby of mine??

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Complacency Cannot Be Tolerated

I was sitting and thinking about what to write for today.  Trying to conjure up some all powerful images and move the world with my words.  

And I failed miserably.  

I have nothing spectacular to say. But, at the same time, I don't think being a firefighter's wife...with a blog, I can let today go by without having something to say.
So, while I was running around, folding laundry, talking to the polar bears, I realized my biggest concern is not al Qaeda.  It is not my plane crashing or underwear bombers.  My biggest fear is that we have forgotten. 

In the days post 9/11, we were a united nation.  

Truly, One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.  

Our flags were flying high, our trees were wrapped with yellow ribbons and we all stood outside with candles at 8pm.  

And where has that gone?

We have people fighting over nonsense and the political divide that was bridged, for a bit, is back to being a fracture the size of the Grand Canyon.  We remember - in September.  We have a day on the calendar.  But, have we forgotten that this tragic event that shook the world to her core, brought us all closer together?  
Have we forgotten how total strangers became closer than blood as the world literally came crashing down around them?

Have we forgotten that there were firefighters who survived the collapse of the first tower, only to enter the second, in a valiant effort to help whomever they could?

Have we forgotten that so many of them never came out?

We were a unified nation.  There was no color or creed.  We were Americans.

Our flags were flying.  Our families closer than ever.  Men and women rushed to serve their country and communities though the armed forces and our local community agencies.  

Now, we are fighting over budgets and whether or not that rig is necessary or if our firefighters should really get paid to eat lunch together.

Fingers are pointing and blame is being passed.

We should be reaching out and bridging those divides.  Not blaming Muslims for the bombings.  That is the same logic as the Jews killed Christ.  I have no patience for it.

We should be supporting our communities, feeding our hungry, developing bonds with our families.  

We are AMERICANS. This is September 11th.

We remember what those 343 sacrificed.  

We mourn and memorialized the 3,000+ other souls who never came home.

We thank our military for their service.


We fight for those who have no voice.

We strive for all voices to be heard, even if they go against the grain.

We work to make sure that my children are treated with the same dignity and respect that every child deserves.


We cannot forget what we felt that day.  It is not enough to tell the story of where you were.  We all have those images.  But, now, how did it change you?  How did you work to make this a better place to raise our kids?  What still needs to be done?  How can you help?

FDR, in his declaration of war, said that Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, was a "date that will live in infamy."  It was my grandparents' 9/11.  I remember it...but have we become complacent in its its meaning?  How many young adults know anything beyond what they needed to for the two questions on their US History WW II exam and the one question on their final?  How many average Joe Americans know the story or the repercussions of that one event?  I feel like I could play the role of Jay Leno and ask random people, but it would break my heart instead of making me laugh.

September 11th changed our lives.  We must embrace that change.  We must remember that the intolerance of other religions cannot permeate into our society.  We must encourage our kids to learn about their history and that of the world they may never see.  We have to reach out to our neighbors and say hello, can I help you carry those bags in?  Don't be complacent - make a splash, because you can. 

We have to be the difference we want to see in the world. 

Be the difference.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World Suicide Prevention Day

RIP - Cookie, they miss you more than you
could have ever realized.
It is today.  And sadly it is a very needed awareness day.  Suicide touched my life as a teen, coming up to a party (one I was supposed to be at earlier in the day) to find that it was a drinking party gone bad.  The image of him being brought out with a sheet over his body...and his brown bagged hand slipping off the gurney is forever embossed in my mind.  Most recently a student, came to my class and only my class and hung himself in the stairwell of the auditorium later in the day.  I have seen it professionally - how it impacts my kids.  I have seen it personally - how it breaks the hearts of those left behind.  WHY did I not see it earlier?  I could have done SOMETHING!  Why didn't he come to me, I would have helped? All of us who have been through a suicide, have asked those questions.

And now I am looking at it from a very different perspective.  That of a spouse of a firefighter.

My husband has suffered through depression for nearly all of adulthood.  There were periods of time where I had to force myself to think about how I would raise the boys alone, because it was a very real possibility. Through a TON of hard work, he is now at a place that he can not only cope and function with his depression, but can thrive and help others learn as well.  He is now working with the department to reach out to our firefighters, even when they cannot reach out for themselves.  They completed a department wide training that was VERY well received.  My husband was happy to back in front of a classroom, I think.  He has also continued his own training on HOW to meet these needs in the fire department.  And the training of the entire department will continue with a house by house training.  It is very real and they are taking it very seriously.

It makes me happy that they are addressing the elephant in the room.  I know it is uncomfortable and sometimes you feel like you can't breathe because of it.  But, none-the-less it still needs to be discussed.

Depression and suicide among emergency personnel is a very real issue.  Our department has had a rush of incidents that cried out for attention from the department as a whole and they have responded to it.  Our firefighters see things everyday that Chicago Fire would never dream of putting on prime time TV and they are expected to just be okay.  Many don't talk about it at home because they feel the need to protect US from the atrocities they see on a daily basis.  Many don't talk about it at work for a myriad of other reasons.  And often times work is the last place the depression is seen.  So many of our firefighters put all their effort into being "okay" at work, that when it is seen there, something REALLY has to be done. NOW.
These are the KNOWN numbers of firefighters who have taken their own lives.  They represent the broken hearts of the families and departments left behind.

As my husband has done his research, he has found that the go-to guy is Jeff Dill.  He is an assistant chief (I believe) out of southern Illinois, founder of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.  As I read through his data and information, it is quite staggering.  In the past 10 years, suicides among firefighters has surpassed the HUNDRED years prior.  Now, truth and accuracy department.  Suicide has not always been okay to talk about.  It still is uncomfortable and many families still don't address it.  These numbers reflect the REPORTED  suicides. 

So, as I started talking to my husband about this last night, he was more than happy to share his research with me.  Partially because he is always happy to know more about something than me, but also because he is so very passionate about this topic.  He has been where many of these firefighters are and knows how you cannot see that tomorrow can be any better than today.  He know how it feels to truly be without hope.  As I went through the suicide portion of his presentation, the numbers were staggering. The implications were huge.  And I had to step away from my computer.

I started to work on this last night, with my FF right next to me on the couch.  But I couldn't.  He had to be gone.  And here I am back at it, in an empty house where I can think through this.
There was one bullet in his presentation that will struck a chord with me - 
On the surface it contradicts the core beliefs of firefighting: Courage, Honor, Self-sacrifice, Confidence, Strength.
How true is that.  You feel like this is your only option and have no clue where to reach out and get help and yet it goes against every fiber of your being.  

We don't know the true numbers that reflect the prevalence of suicide in departments.  The recent suicide in Atlanta stuck with me for a very silly reason - we shared a first name.  There are just not that many Katrinas out there, that you don't hear it anytime it is mentioned.  Katrina Sims was only 24 years old and took her life at the firehouse.  In quarters! One of our own, here, recently took her own life, shaking the family to the core.  It is very real and hopefully the fire world as a whole will continue to bring awareness to her ranks.

Here is what the statistics of KNOWN firefighter suicides tell us.  Again, this does not include those that go unreported or attempted suicides.  An extreme example of attempted suicide was the Chicago firefighter recently shot by police in Mount Greenwood.  Suicide by Cop was his believed intention.  He thanked the Sgt. as he was loaded in the ambulance.  

So, the numbers...
  • Most FF suicides have been active firefighters, under the age of 50.
  • 70% were carried out by white males.
  •  Majority were deaths by firearms.
  • NINETY PERCENT suffered from one of the following conditions - depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, bi-polar, anxiety, or other mood disorders/phobias.
We, as fire wives, are the most valuable resource our departments have in addressing the mental health needs and prevention of suicide among firefighters.  We see them without their game faces on.  We see them at their lowest points in the dark of night that comes to them in the middle of the day.  As much as we would like to believe the Brotherhood will lift them up, we are truly the ones on the front lines.

And so, how in the heck do we do that, you ask. 

Know your FF.  I can see that my firefighter is going to crash LONG before he can.  I know his triggers and his signs.  I also know I can point it out to him, without  fear of  him lashing out.  That has not always been the case, but that is where we are now.  I know how hard it is and it is easier to NOT get yelled at for bringing it to his attention, BUT it needs to be done.

Reach out to other firefighters in his circle.  They are his family, that makes them your family.  Find out who you can reach out to when you see that things are starting to spiral downward. 

Have the number for you EAP readily available.  Ask for it.  Call your union if your FF won't offer it.  In this day and age, Google is your friend in cases like this.  Counseling is often needed and sometimes it is better coming from you, sometimes it is better coming from another firefighter.  Again, only you know your FF that intimately.  

Love and support your firefighter.  If you get to this, you have reached the worse part of "for better or worse".  I will not sugar coat it, it will suck and drain your soul.  But, it is when they need us the most.  

Create a support network for YOURSELF.  As I said earlier, this journey is soul sucking.  Make sure your faith community is involved - for you, make sure your friends are there so YOU have someone to talk to.  If you need counseling because you are struggling to get through this - THAT IS OKAY!   Get the help you need, as well.   

Firefighters, if you think you are struggling, accept the help.  It is not a sign of weakness.  No one will question your skills.  It is a sign of your HUMANITY, which can be lost in this world you are part of.  There is always a better path than suicide, even if you can't see it.  Sometimes you have to let someone else in, no matter how hard it is or the fact that it totally scares the crap out of you.  Reach out to your wife, your boss, your brothers.  REACH OUT TO SOMEONE. You are not alone.

Resources -

  • has a great section regarding suicide.
  • Again, Jeff Dill has an amazing site, please do check it out.  His questionnaire is something I wish I would have had all those years ago when my FF was struggling so desperately with his demons.
Your department's Employee Assistance Program - EAP.  Get this number, put it in your phone.  It varies from department to department, but I cannot stress that enough. 

So, today, we need to remember those who saw no other way out.  And we need to reach out to those who are struggling - in the fire service or not.  Depression and suicide is a very real issue that needs to be addressed, not ignored.  It is okay if the rescuers need to be rescued.  That is what we are all here.  Reach out, don't ignore the signs because it is easier.  Don't think you are bothering someone.  You and your firefighter are never alone.  That is the bottom line.


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Empire Struck Back

Mom.  Such a tough title to embrace.  Heartbreaking and rewarding.  Loving and and guiding.  In good times and in bad.  But, none-the-less, I love it.  And, there is only so far you can go with these minions I so lovingly call muppets, before I have to remind them that this is indeed MY Empire.  

Today was one of those days.  After days and days and days of bribing and pleading and demanding and requesting and assisting and reminding and I had enough.

I went to put some clothes away this morning...and the "little bit left" my oldest had assessed the situation as, was really more of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  RIDICULOUS!

So, I calmly said a few things loudly that I would never say in the presence of the aforementioned minions. Continued putting the laundry away...and then cleaned the room.  I removed the clothes - there was full basket o'clothes left.  Mind you, this is after I thought I had it ALLLLLLL done.  I removed all the garbage.  Hmmmm, didn't know Gogurts and popsicles were allowed upstairs.  

Then I proceeded to remove EVERY. SINGLE. TOY.


And after my mini tirade....
notice how there are only school clothes hanging up...
Notice the dresser where there was once a shelf full of toys.  As they earn their toys back, they will have to make choices.  I am only allowing them one shelf.

Now, I am not totally heartless,  they each got their favorite blanket, their pillow pet, a baby doll and their 18 inch doll.  But, aside from that, they will have their books to keep them company

Some tears.  But, I will bet dollars to donuts that they will think twice when I ask them to clean their room in the future.  I don't think this is how they envisioned their afternoon when the bell rang.

Laundry is My Nemesis

I hate laundry.  I have always hated laundry.  I do think it is in my DNA.  My FF always says, "THANKS.  You are awesome."  And swears up and down that he will take over the laundry for me.  And. It. Never. Happens.  Sometimes I am stubborn and wait until I run out of undies.  Other times I just spend a day getting it all caught up.  

That was how I spent yesterday.  We went to early mass, and WOW, were my people figidity.  They could not sit still to save their soul - LITERALLY!  ;)  I am grateful that Fr. Michael was saying mass.  He is straight and to the point, no nonsense, but he is an amazing preacher.  Talk about cutting out the fluff.

We got home and dove into laundry, after my FFW girl next door brought all of us doughnuts.  She is so sweet.

There was a slight pause in the cycle of wash, dry, fold, repeat.  That dramatic pause came with a desperate plea from the firehouse.  Our local cable company is not playing nicely with our NBC affiliate, and has not for sometime.  That meant no Sunday night football for the poor deprived firefighters.  So, I ran down with a converter box and  antenna, to save the day.  It takes a firewife to save the firefighters, every time.

The shirt drawers - long sleeve, short sleeve, sweaters and sweatshirts.
Anyway, upon my return to the house, the laundry resumed and by halftime of the late game, it was all done.  We added a third dresser to the girls' room - solely for shirts.
I am obnoxiously organized.  They each have their original dressers. Top drawer - socks and undies, next two drawers - PJs, and bottom two are for pants.  (You would think it would make it easier for my FF to put the clothes away, but he is always confused about what goes where.)  I also pulled out all the summer clothes from their dressers.  We will need them this week, but it will get chilly quickly and I thought I may as well yank them while I was uprooting everything anyway.  Football may the day go by faster, that helped.  I have several donate bags.  It was a indeed a cleansing day.

My FF is subbing this AM and needed a change of clothes.  So, I ran them off to him, where he swore he would take care of the laundry from here on out.  Uh-huh.  How about I just do a load a day and we'll stick with that.  

But for now, there is satisfaction in knowing that I got it all done and I think I will stick with that today.

Hug your FFs.  Take a moment over the next several days to think about where we were 12 years ago.  A prayer to the 343, all who lost their lives and those who will never be the same again.  


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Shaking Off the Old

I am a firm believer that if something isn't working, sometimes it is best to shake off the old and move on to the new.  And that is hard.  It is hard to move away from where your comfort level is.  It is hard to venture into the unknown.  Sometimes it is hard to stand on your own two feet when the rest of the world is telling you to sit down and hush.  

Now, here is where I have to practice what I preach.  My first inclination is not to move on, but to stay and fight and make it work.  And I wear myself out with that.  I have seen in my marriage, in my classrooms and in my personal life.  I am a fixer.  I am a control freak.  I am a perfectionist.  I feel a drive to make things work and when they don't there is a sense of defeat...failure...sadness.

However, after I let myself let go and accept that nothing lasts forever; that I need to take what I can from it and move on, things become easier.

We saw it when we entered  the fire world.  My husband was a teacher for over a decade.  He came from a family of teachers and he was fighting to make it work.  And I tried to help him make it work.  But it just wasn't working.  Everyone was unhappy.  And there was a sense of failure...yet again.  The fire service came up in the discussion and it was scary.  I was going to be home for 24 hours at a time with four small children.  I was going to work around a teacher's schedule AND the fire schedule.  We almost literally jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.  And it worked!  It was scary, but it worked.  There is a sense of calm among the chaos that our home has never seen before.

O - crashed in my classroom.
Now, it is my turn.  My time in the Catholic schools has come to an end - for a myriad of reasons.  Distance was not my friend, especially not with 4 kids in tow - tired and cranky many times.  Football season nearly killed me - sent my b/p SOARING.  Inclement weather turned our usual 40-45 minute drive into 2+ hours of white knuckle travel, with the kids in the car.  There was a difference in ideology for my classroom.  It was time to move on.  

Now, I find myself more at home - both literally and figuratively.  My kids' school is 5 minutes away from home.  The high school I will be teaching at is 5 minutes away from home.  And the two schools are just a parkway apart.   I can come home in between school and open houses - without cutting it close.  I can eat DINNER!  ohmygoodness.  Sounds like silly little things, but with the exception of 10 months of my career, I have always had to drive on the freeway to get to work.  I have never been closer than 25-30 minutes from home.  If I forget something it will not take my entire prep period to go and retrieve it.  Gas won't cost half of my pay check. I DON'T HAVE TO BE OUT THE DOOR BEFORE O'DARK THIRTY!  My guilt about leaving the public schools for a cushier gig is officially gone.  Life is good! 

You have no idea how exciting change is.  So far, I think I am going to love my department.  I have been teaching World History for EVER and I am very familiar with the good and bad of the text.  I don't have to reinvent the wheel!!  I can pull out my units and tweak them!  Psychology is new-er to me.  I have not taught Psych since my student teaching.  And that is and of itself is exciting!  I am 3 minutes from the kids' school - which might allow me to still attend Muffins with Mom and such events I have usually missed out on.  Shift days won't be near so painful.  If I need to get work done at school, I can pick up the kids and drop them off at home - AND GO BACK TO WORK.  Such a novel concept!  

I can be part of the revitalization so desperately needed for this historic cornerstone of our neighborhood, especially as the school enters her centennial year.  Change is good.

So, as life comes at you, it will be in a constant state of change.  Work, friends, homes, family, hobbies...nothing is static.  All aspects of our lives are in a constant state of change.  We can fight it and struggle to keep the status quo in place.  Or, we can jump in to the changes with an exciting, adventurous outlook and see where it takes us.  I think that is where I am going head!  Wish me luck.

My FF is still recovering from his insane last two weeks, especially after his fantasy football draft last night.  But, my friends, that is a story for another day. Kiss those FFs, laugh with those moments and realize that sometimes you just gotta embrace the change.
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