Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Week in Review

Craziness does not begin to explain it.  The Boston Fire hits home, even though we are half a country away.  The Fire Wife community gasped a collective breath.  I know sometimes the guys think we are over reacting...and some are.  But, for that split second we can all feel the heartbreak that those left behind will feel for the rest of their lives.  There is of course much discussion to be had in our circles.  I pray we never have to have these discussions again.

Work was insane, but in an amazing way.  My kids latched on to a 95 Theses project, that I always do, like I never expected.  It real, it was genuine, and it was a bit raw.  But they EXPERIENCED learning, like I think they never have before...or at least have not felt often enough.  And, unlike Martin Luther, the anti-Semitic, misogynistic, ill tempered scripture scholar, the voices of my kids were heard.  Our principal is going to address some of their concerns. I found that out while they were working with Serve2Unite and the University on a HUGE community service project.  And when I stepped back into my room and shared the news, their collective faces lit UP! They even came up with a name - the BVHS Neighborhood Ninjas. LOVE! From there, the inspiration flowed through the room and it was awesome to see.

I went to a Bucks game with the kids and my FF on Thursday.  I did not sleep well at all, so I was searching for a proper excuse to NOT go.  Couldn't find one...and so I went.  Suddenly, I got a text from an amazing FFW.  She came out of the bathroom and there were two little girls that looked amazingly like mine!  So, given the empty nature of the BC, we found 2 rows we could all fit in.  The FFs sat and chatted all night, the kids bonded and I enjoyed myself where I expected to be fighting to stay awake.  Such a nice surprise!

We found a place that will take my grandpa.  They have a secure facility.  My dad and grandma were happy with what they saw.  OF COURSE, there is a bump in the road.  Things were going so smoothly.  He had TB when my dad was they point where both of his parents were in a sanitarium.  Any TB test you give him, will come back positive.  So, we go through the X-Rays, but he can't take a deep enough breath to get a clear image.  So, yesterday they were doing a CT to check.  And so, we hurry up and wait.  My dad is meeting with the admin of the building we are hoping to move him to this week. Fingers crossed.

We are just wrapping up a 48.  I had to run to the firehouse Friday night to drop off his meds. That would be a BAD thing to go without on a 48. The tones went off after he got done mopping the kitchen - in his sexy basketball shorts, black socks and Crocs. <snicker> Tones said hit by a car or ejected from a car.  As I was leaving, a witness pulled up in a panic.  I calmed her down and assured her, they were leaving in a matter of seconds.  I speak enough Spanish to usually get by, but speedy, freaked Spanish is not in my repertoire.  I got her calmed down - turns out it was a pedestrian hit and her foot was amputated.  Clearly a reason to be freaked out. 

The Muppets are doing well. One is barking like a seal.  Her bronchiospasms are insane. Clearly, there needs to be some medical attention given.  Our honey cough syrup and cough drops are not cutting it. Although, if I could get her to NOT run or yell, I can keep it undercontrol.  The other girly girl smooshed her glasses.  The boys and I did some spring cleaning...which was interrupted by iPod usage.  Needless to say, I confiscated said electronic devices. Way too much like work.  Funny thing was, I got the same excuse - checking the time.  My only issue with that - he was in the living room on the couch.  Had he been in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher - where there are 3 clocks available in an 8 foot radius. Sooooo, they are now sitting on my dresser.

I also addressed my bedding issue.  Our dog fur layer, does not stick to they satiny type comforters. So that is what I have been buying.  But, they do not hold up to polar bears sneaking up on the bed.  So, we needed a quilt.  I looked into a couple of options, one I would still like to make happen, but I bought one in the mean time. The fireman approved from afar, so life is good.   

Bucks won, Badgers are in the Final Four, Opening Day is upon us. ON WISCONSIN!

And now, I am waiting for the day to begin.  Mass and then breakfast with my FF.  From there, the three stooges are going with my FF to see my grandpa.  My seal-girl and I will be staying behind.  I do believe she will be getting some much coveted computer time and I will be getting some grading in.

Have a great Sunday!  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grief from Afar

Two more firefighters lost.  It sends off a swell of beautiful, heartfelt images.
Source: Boston Fire on Twitter – @BostonFire
I should be in bed, but the sound of an engine flying down the street woke me up, my FF never flinched.  From there, the usually comforting sound of his CPAP is just not allowing me to go back to sleep, so I write.

The "what-ifs" and "I can't even imagines" have begun to creep into my mind.  We all know all too well that we do indeed imagine...every time this news hits.  I am not sure why we lir to ourselves.  We put ourselves in the wife's shoes.  Every single one of us.  

I have honestly been trying to avoid the world of LODDs.  I haven't sent cards quite as religiously as I had before.  It was more than I could process while keeping all of the other balls in the air going.

Clearly, my avoiding it did not serve as a very good cease and desist.  There was no purpose to my avoidance.

I have no words.  I have no advice.  I can't even think where to go with this this.  I am not sure why it is bugging me so much.  But clearly it is and hence the reason why I am on this blog, when I should be allowing my brain to recuperate. 

There is a family left behind to go through this.  Forged both in blood and fire.  One of the FFs left behind a wife and three kids. The other was a Marine.  He served his country and his community. There were real people under those lids and SCBA with real lives.  I hope the families can take come comfort in knowing how many lives have been touched by their dedication and sacrifice.

I got an email earlier this week from A. Nonymous...upset that I was losing my focus as a FFW blogger and yapping too much about my classroom.  This is a blog that is supposed to focus on the life involved with being married to a firefighter.  Guess what, my classroom is part of my life being married to a firefighter. It is part of my soul and therefore part of his life as well.   I am the sum of all my parts, as I said earlier with a flurry of complaints that were a complete 180. People were upset that I was losing myself as I transitioned into their world of being married to a FF.  Now, they don't want to hear about my mundane part of life. 

Guess what, I would rather be writing about my classroom right now.  I hate writing about this.  I hate researching who the people were behind the symbols of grief that flood social media.  I hate looking for those left behind.  I hate knowing that there are hearts breaking and lives being turned on their ears and there is not a damn thing that I can do about it.  

An entire community mourns, an entire family - spanning the globe mourns.  We can all put ourselves in that situation and feel those emotions as real and as raw as it was us.  The difference is, we can shake it off and know that is okay.  For Boston, there are people that will spend the rest of their lives trying to shake it off and accept that this is real. 

And here is where I kick myself in the arse for not replenishing my card stock because I did not want to deal with it.  Deal with what?  Sounds so silly and self centered, doesn't it.  Guess who will be hitting the Hallmark aisle to grab some more to keep on hand.  That would be this girl.  There is no excuse for not letting a family know they're not alone through all of this.  Letting then know that there is a whole other family that is willing to help in anyway possible, even if it is just a late night conversation when the demons come in the dark of night. I have never had a family or spouse take me up on it, but that does not mean it is okay for me not to make that offer.  Hypocritical, for certain, as I sit her writing and chatting with 3 other FFWs during the course of this post.

To the families and loved ones of Lt. Edward J. Walsh, 43, of West Roxbury -- a father of three -- and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, 33, of Hyde Park, a U.S. Marine veteran - know our love, support and fallen tears are with you. Say the word and we will make sure you are not alone.  We can't bring your FFs back home to you, but just about anything else is possible.  To the men and women of the Boston Fire Department, our hearts break with yours.  PLEASE reach out for any support you might need.  PLEASE take advantage of the grief services offered to you.  It is the least that can be offered to you.

Kiss those FFs, hug 'em tight.  I have to be up in 3 1/2 hours, so I am off to join mine.

Peace, love and prayers...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Grass is NOT Always Greener

And we need to remember that.  

When I left the public schools and went to a Catholic School, I thought it was divine intervention.  I was THRILLED to be where I was.  They apologized for the class sizes being more than 25, all of my classes had laptops, parents actually came to conferences, I could teach - without having to deal with much in the way of classroom discipline.  It was heavenly, for that first year.

The second year, I took a peak behind the curtain and was not so happy with what I saw.  There were definite inequalities.  And personal responsibility lessons were lost to the fact that the student might not get into Harvard, with that A- in my Morality class.  Plagiarism was rampant.  Personal expression was muted if it did not fit within the box.  Money talks. 6th graders in tears because of the fear of the wrath that the B+ in Introduction to Computers would bring was such a heartbreaking.  What in the heck was I doing?

I did not fit into that box.  I had to buy a whole new wardrobe - skirts and blouses and dress pants; heels and dress shoes.  My tights were not necessarily embraced - they were too red, too purple, too argyle.  I am a Chuck Taylor and stolen husband button down shirt type of a teacher. I literally looked at myself in the mirror and asked what the heck I was doing.  What happened to "To thine own self be true."  I needed a jeans pass to feel comfortable in my own skin.

I had become a hypocrite.

The third year, I confessed to my husband that I was miserable.  I wanted to stick it out until the kids were done with high school - but that 14 years away.  What kind of person would I be?? Miserable old lady, lost within the confines of my box. I started looking right away in September for a new home.  Kids were not allowed to go on a trip for their Social Justice class because they would be spending the night in the inner city - locked in a beautiful church - and would be working with the homeless and hungry. And I shook my head. I don't need to air dirty laundry, but I was unhappy.  

When I broke my ankle on that Saturday last March, I found out on Monday that I needed surgery (after my FF had a endoscopy and colonoscopy - my surgeon happened to be in the same hospital a squeezed me in at the end of the day), administration couldn't understand why I took off for his surgery, if he was able to pick up the kids and drive. (He didn't get into the fact that his poking and prodding were at 8am and the anesthetic had worn off.)  Wednesday was my surgery - plate and screw inserted. Money was tight because of all the driving I had to do and the fact that my Catholic school salary took me back more than 10 years.  After my surgery, I was expected back to school immediately, even I was not allowed to drive until I had a cast and I still had narcotics flowing via a nerve block just below my knee. It was especially significant given the icy weather that caused the break in the first place. It was frowned upon that I was not back to school on that Friday. THIS blog got thrown in my face in disgust.  I was, after all, a THEOLOGY teacher...I don't think anyone actually read beyond the title.  They simply made their inferences from there.

Clearly, there was a message here, whether divinely originating or not.  That school was not my home and I needed to move on. 

So, I enjoyed a spring time recovery and found myself back in the public schools.  Taking all the technological ideas that I was graced with in the Catholic schools followed me into my classroom full of broken teenagers, just looking for someone to love them and guide them.  The service I was looking to carry out was right in front me all along.  It was here! In my classroom.

Anyone who says this is the easy path and we are overpaid and underworked, is completely full of crap.  We work non-stop.  I work through my lunch hour and after school.  At home.  In my sleep.  I live and breathe education - public education.  

For a while, I thought the grass would be greener if I did not have to fight the effects of poverty in my classroom.  It wasn't.  I just saw how much fertilizer was spread around to make that grass so pretty and I wasn't a fan.  I am back to where I am needed most.  My guilt has been abated.  Perhaps that is why I felt so guilty, it was not meant to be my place in this world.

Now, this is not a bash on Catholic Education.  There are amazing things happening in those schools, just like there are here.  It just wasn't for me.  And for the first time, my oldest was happy and THRIVING in school.  After trying charter schools and Catholic education, where he just wasn't blossoming.  Here, in a plain old boring, amazing neighborhood K-8 public school, he is thriving. The stories the teachers share with me about my muppets, leaves no doubt in my mind, they are where they need to be.  As am I.  I am a product of public education - Continuous Progress and Arts based Education.  That made me who I am.   My teachers had a major hand in molding me.  

And now it is my turn. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Hell Hole

I was just joking with Safety.  I told him I was walking the halls and he needed to send me home.  He said it has become chronic after 1st hour, so he was going to bump it up to a 3 day suspension.  Another staff member walked by, asked what the banter was about and his response was, "Oh no, she worked at Grand Avenue.  That was a hell hole.  She's staying."  

And I came up to my room, slightly really freaking offended. 

I am not going to tell you it was all a bed of roses, because it was not.  There was no tip-toeing through the tulips, but we had those kids moving and grooving.  The staff was AMAZING.  We were doing team building, through Ropes and Challenges, which I miss more than anyone will ever know.  The kids were doing that same kind of team building and problem solving.  They learned how to think outside of the box.  You should have seen our staff parties.  Ropes games everywhere.  In fact, I was on a High Ropes  portion of the course when one of my babies fractured their skull, falling out of the crib - and everyone's heads looked up to me. 

I learned how schools actually ran, because our admin had us involved in just about EVERYTHING.  Each team had a communicator, a chair, if you will, that went to a weekly meeting.  Our voices were heard and the information was spread.  I was involved in the Scheduling Committee and the Budget Committee where we, as a team, literally fit the pieces together to keep as much going as we could in the era of declining budgets.  We hand scheduled our 150+ kids, three times a year.

Technology was HUGE.  I had more technology available to me 15 years ago, than I do now.  My classes were not much smaller than what I currently have, but I had the technology to break things up.  On top of what was in our rooms, we had 3 or 4 full labs.  That was the school that truly nurtured and developed my classroom geekdom.  We had a Family E Newspaper and every team took 6 weeks and the kids produced the Friday News show. Portfolios were maintained and defended. 

My kids were amazing.  They were broken and bruised, just like my kids today, but they were hungry.  I had my 6th graders writing cited research papers and my 8th graders developing projects and community service ideas, based on the 10 page papers.  We had an 8th grade memorial garden in the courtyard outside of our classrooms, they organized a Comfort Drive for our troops in the days post 9/11.  They were real.  They were up to the challenge.  Today, I am fighting this sense of apathy at every turn.  10 page paper?  HA, I am fighting for a 5 paragraph essay, where I am feeding them the information, just so they begin to understand the structure.  

I look back at the amazing work we did and I am beyond offended.  We were doing amazing things!  Times have changed, money is not flowing. But I can't help but feel protective of the AMAZING things we did there.  I have yet to work with as wonderfully cohesive of a staff as I did there.  I will probably never find that again.  It was built as a school that was probably ahead of its time, but the ideas for multiple intelligences and project based learning were seen everywhere...and are still in my classroom today.

And ironically, I find myself defending my current school in much the same fashion...except to the community.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  People fear what they do not know or understand, even within education, but also within the larger community.  We need to find a way to work together, instead of tearing others down.  There has to be a way.

So, to my staff from Grand, I miss you guys and what we had there. Maybe I should have stayed on for the last year. I am so proud of what we accomplished there and the connections that were made. Regardless of what anyone on the outside says, we were doing great things.  Anyone who does not know about what we were doing, was clearly on the outside looking in.  Call it what you will, I cannot control that.  But Hell Hole, nah.  Those were my kids and my teachers.  That was our school.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Damsel in Distress

And my prince charmings definitely wear bunker gear.  They also don't have a carriage, but ride in a big, red engine.
Here's my Prince Charming...with his own recruit class...

For a while, Murphy, had my number.  If something was going to go wrong - hospital visits, furnace issues, car complaints, blizzards, etc, it was going to be on a Blue Shift.  Then my FF went through med school and went to the Green Shift.  

And I left no forwarding address for Murphy, being the snot that I am.  The stuff that really went wrong continued on the Blue, until earlier than this year. Murphy found the Green and tried her damnedest to make that trend continue.  Sadly, for poor Murphy (whom I clearly believe is a female stuck in a permanent state of PMS) she was hitting his trades, POs, Vacation Days.  

Well, she has apparently hacked into my Cozi Calendar and figured out he was on shift.

Saturday was the last day of swimming lessons for the winter.  Spring lessons start in a bit.  The boys are at UW-Oshkosh for the state Chess Tournament.  My FF was working down at the Climb for Air, so when we stopped at his new firehouse for the girls to see, there was a relief crew there.  (There was a smidge of disappointment, but they got over it amazingly quickly. Guess this is becoming old hat.) Then we headed by Grandpa's, hung out with him, went to the mall (So I could buy a red pair of Chuck's for Fridays at school - don't judge) and had 5 Guys with my dad.  We walked around the mall, they drooled over the Dr. Who stuff I wouldn't buy them.  We hung out at his house for the first half of the Badger Game and during half time since they weren't going to analyze MY game and I didn't really want to talk to Buzz in his VT lapel pin (Yes, I am being a hater.  Who leaves a Basketball school to go to a Football First School...but I digress.), we decided to head home so I could catch the 2nd half of the 2nd half without having to deal with crabby sleepy headed girl type muppets.  

Now, Milwaukee is not THAT big, but if you are going from the FAR NW side of town to the SE side of town, you are covering some real estate.  You are also going from my dad's nice neighborhood to our nice neighborhood, with many not so nice neighborhoods in between, especially at 9pm.  And, I don't have my boys to be my second pair of hands.  That meant it was just me and my sleepy heads. 

You can tell this is not going to end well, can't you. I knew it, too, as I was driving through downtown.  

It started with my speedometer - it suddenly went BONKERS.  From 0-120mph and back again, finally settling on a steady 20 mph, until I adjusted my speed. (I would have much preferred to just enjoy downtown's night time skyline that I adore oh so much.)  Then I had NO speed I went with traffic.  And prayed.

And then I went through the Marquette Interchange...the hesitations started. I won't tell you what I muttered under my breath, it is not appropriate for mixed audiences.  They were the same hesitations that hit the last time this happened - on 794. I was just begging her to NOT die on the on-ramp to the hi-rise bridge and then again to die on the hi-rise.  

Luckily, while all this was happening, I was on the phone with my FF.

As I was swearing at my car and requesting huge favors from the big guy, while figuring out escape plans so as to NOT find myself stranded on I-43 or in a neighborhood where it would be unsafe for my little blondie girl babies to be stranded where it was not safe to tread solo at night, my FF was also planning an extrication plan for me - how to get me the heck out of wherever I landed.  I was planning on what firehouse was where - we were not far from his...what firewife was where. One of my most favorite FFWs of all time offered to come get us. Other FFWs kept me company on-line (and more importantly kept me up to date with UW's comeback).  My FFW next door was putting her babes to bed and did not hear my FF call her.  UGH!  Really??!!?

Stupid Murphy.  We are NOT Besties.  She clearly wears Diva shoes and does not appreciate my Chucks. 

I made it as far as our off ramp.  As soon as she tried to downshift that was it.  There was a Park n Ride just of the Interstate - buses only, but I figured the Sheriff would rather have me ignore that sign, as opposed to blocking one of his off ramps on Saturday night.

We coasted to a stop.  She was down - AGAIN.  I was getting ready to walk home.  Not ideal, but truly a matter of 11 blocks.  Even with the sleeping beauties in tow, it would not have been that bad.  My FF called back and said, "We're coming for you, hang on."  And that was it.  Who is we?  A med unit?  Aliens?  

Along came the big red engine, you know the sound that rig slowing down anywhere, after a while.  But there were only 3 guys on it and none of them were mine.  The Boss rolled down his window and told me not to worry, he was on his way.  Ummm, 'kay.  Did he exchange his SCBA for a jet pack?  If so, THAT would be cool.  A few minutes later, there was my FF bringing me his car.

That way if something happened, I had a car and could take care of whatever needed my attention.  It was Saturday, I could also go to mass the next morning without having to find a ride or wait for him.  As I kissed him good-bye and thanked the guys, the smell of that fresh fire, never smelled so safe.  I do feel for the family that lost their home, literally moments before they came to save me.  But, for that moment in time, that was the smell of security.

Here's where I find this to be interesting, he has only been at this house for a week-ish. AND it is not his permanent house at this time.  They know him, but they don't know me.  We haven't gone out with any of these guys.  And yet, they were willing to get up, out of their chairs, put off their showers after the fire and bail me out of a jam.  That is just what family does, and they are indeed family.

I don't usually play the role of the damsel in distress.  But this time, it was nice to know that I DIDN'T have to figure it out all by myself.  It was nice to know that I didn't have to do it alone. And it was nice to know that I have to be big and bad and shrug off help when it was offered.  I don't lose my Big Girl Panties Wearing card because someone offered to help me out and I took advantage of it. It just means I have enough on my plate, there's no need to add more.

So, spend some time hugging those firefighters of yours. Appreciate the family that comes with the department.  They are your family, too.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Day of Backhanded Compliments

Sometimes, in my world, there are days where I struggle to figure out why I am still in education.  I am working to bring the subtle nuances of the 95 Theses to life.  The fact that Luther was trying to reach out and make his Church a better place and instead he found himself a  heretic and an outlaw (and a jerkface), surrounded by princes ready to throw off the suppression of the Church that apparently surrounded them.  My kids can't read at a level to understand this information, much less pick up those subtleties, so I must bring it to life through the shenanigans of my direct instruction. From there, they can build upon it for the project for that unit.  I am focusing on the past and trying to bring the world of the written word to their present.  And some days I realize that there is so much more than writing a proper essay, learning to annotate the articles that I am giving them each class to allow them to practice this reading thing.  Some days, I realize that I have to change my expectations for success.  

And today, I think I saw that success.  I think I saw the reasons why I am still here.  

It was a day of very back handed compliments.  In this day and age of John Q. Public telling me that I am lazy because I only work 10 months out of the year or until 3:45pm...nevermind that I left closer to 6pm as did many of my coworkers (but that is a detail that the Publics seem to miss out on). 

Anyway,  the first in this list of weird praise, was from a student known as Chicken. 

I have never heard of him, noticed him or truly realized how funny my kids are about their "government names".  And there he was. All of the sudden he was in my class o' repeater freshmen in my sophomore history class.  Chicken was in shock that my class was so quiet AND full of kids.  He walked, spilled some surprised terms of shock because my kids were in my class and working into out sanctuary of learning.  "You must be da best teacher in dis building.  I ain't never seen such a good class in this whole ____building.  You da bomb diggity b---- of all dese teachers. Carry on." And just like that this phantom student was gone.  I have no idea who he is. He prompted quite a bit of conversation after he left and back we went to the burning of Wycliffe and the Council of Constance.  

Makes for a good story.

A boy in that same class came to me in tears- while I am trying to make it through this lesson.  He probably won't be back.  His PO was upset with him, and like usual in these discussions, he had no idea why.  His original arrest was nothing to be sneezed at, strong armed robbery.  But here, in front of me was the kid, no longer a hard nose thug wanna be, scared to death, coming to me.  That goes beyond my academics and brings me into their world.  We'll see if he is there tomorrow. This is the world they live in. I need to remember that.

However, the best conversation of that class did not involve Chicken or his government name or a kid's need for support while he was scared to death. It was from one of the few non-repeaters in that class,  who has decided that I am now her mom.  Clearly, I have four kids, I truly have no need for more.  But, when a student looks at you and informs you that you handle things like a TV mom...and by the way, is it okay if one more kid calls me makes your heart melt.  Take that Phylicia Rashad!  I am the real TV mom here.

Norman Rockwell has nothing on my classroom.

From there you get to lunch, working with one of my moms-to-be.  Collaborative Planning where you never know what might happen when you have a group of social studies teachers together and finally, you arrive at my Psych class.  We are just talking about the brain.  Not necessarily the most exciting.  But, you have to make it happen, you make it creative.  You should see me - my song and dance.  Out of now where, one of my sleepy heads was wide awake and involved.  Weird! There are med issues that make it impossible for him to stay awake through the last class of the day.  Today, there he was.  It made my day.  

I think we were talking about epinephrine and nor epinephrine and how they differ...he raised his hand.  "H____, do you practice this stuff at home?"  I looked and him and snickered a bit under my breath (Shah, with all that laundry sitting in my living room...clearly I have enough time to rehearse), before I asked what in the world he was referring to.  "You are a fun teacher to listen to. I thought that teachers like that were only in the movies."  It made us all enjoy the afternoon.  Bad Teacher (which I have yet to see) references were flung around, thanks to my husband's last name and jokes went from there. I am a clown.  I put on a show,  and apparently it is worth it.

My afternoon was wrapped up with my boys at Chess practice, my girls watching Frozen on my whiteboard, while my hubby and I quietly discussed where to send our oldest next year...with more of my kids working on their tests.  And the conversations in that room, reminded me that I am so much more than a teacher.

Today reminded me that we are here for than Common Core and improved MAP scores and increased attendance and decreased tardies.  

We are here to be the bringers of change - even when people are shocked.  We are here to be confidants for kids who feel they have no one to turn one who will judge them and just BE there, even when everyone else is judging them.  We are here to be parents, even when the kids have some at home - or don't.  We are here to be entertainers, some of them will never see live vaudevillian type action. 

We are so much more than what the world realizes.  I need to embrace that.  We as educators, especially urban educators, need to embrace that.  You as the community need to embrace that as well.  It takes a village to raise a child, sometimes we just wear 15 hats at once.  And that is what you do.  

We are more than those test scores.  We are more than the data shows.  If we were teaching robots, that would be different.  We are teaching kids - and we start where they are and we build up from there.  Judge us, blame us for what you will.  However, might I suggest you walk a mile in our shoes.  Volunteer in your local high school.  Get to know us as teachers.  Get to know our kids.  They are broken and bruised.  They are also beautiful and inspiring.  We cannot control where they have been, only take them by the hand a lead them from there.

Please realize we come in early and we stay late. We work through lunch and on our time after school and after we put our muppets to bed.

I will take these backhanded compliments that I got today.  It helps to get through the days where nothing goes right and no one can see that you are busting your arse to make the world better simply because you are in it.

Enjoy your Friday.  Check on those FFs.  Be comfortable with where you fit in this puzzle we call life.  Someone will always think they fit better in your spot, but know that no one can take that from you. 

Because the Day Ends in Y

That is my response to many questions.  Why did you cut your hair?  Why do we have to clean our room?  How come you're being so mean?

So, today.  It is indeed Thursday.  And, amazingly Thursday ends in Y. What are you going to do today because the day ends in Y?  Random acts of kindness?  Wild and craziness abounds? Take time to just sit back and reflect?

Tomorrow is not promised and really neither is the end of the day.  But right now you can do astonishing things. Feed the hungry, sign up to be a volunteer at your local elementary school or senior center.  The possibilities abound!

You could stop telling your hubby you need to go on a date sometime and snag him for pizza at your neighborhood pizzeria.You could  take your muppets to see the new Muppets movie.  You cut off your hair and donate it to locks of love.  You could find a dog rescue that rehomes your favorite breed and help socialize and entertain the pups, if they have quite a few on hand like our fave.  

Or if you are constantly on the run like us, you could all stay home.  Order in cheap pizza and eat off the living room floor while you introduce your kids to the cheesiness of the 80s movies.  (Keep it age appropriate people!) You could rent Frozen and snuggle under a blanket. 

If you are like me, you are going to be wishing all day that you had taken off of work, but I had St. Paddy's Day on Monday.  So, I will be bugging the boys in my department and be watching basketball as soon as I walk in the door...after chess practice and test make-up.

You could take your FF on a picnic lunch...if you are lucky enough to have grass and not mud...and have the flexibility in your schedule...and your FF is not on shift.

Today ends in Y.  BUT, don't you fret your pretty little head, none. If today does not work, I have NEWS for you, tomorrow does as well.  Well, not TOMORROW, but Friday does. And the day after and the day after and the day after THAT even.

Truly ASTONISHING! Enjoy your day.  Enjoy your muppets.  Enjoy your FF.  All because the day ends in Y.  So...what are YOU going to do today because it ends in Y??

Me...I am off to make sure my muppets survive breakfast and I get as much bball in in the next few days as I can. 

Happy DAY!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Don't Be A Freak

Control Freak. That might have been a better name for my mom to have assigned me. 

I want to fix everything and make it so.  There are definitely good things that come out of it, but mostly it feels like I might go insane.

As I have matured (I really don't see myself as older, yet), I have come to accept that not everything is with in my control and I just have to accept that as a fact of life.

Today was a really good day and then things just got, ugh, well... here is what I have learned through my life's journey.

  • Bad things happen to good people.  Being married to a public servant, which just find ourselves more immersed in those events. Nothing we can do about that, but listen, love and support them.  You all know where I stand if you think they need more.
  • John Q. Public will never understand.  They will almost always see the FFs cleaning the truck and sitting outside in the bay doors in the summer.  They are sleeping up close to Mrs. John Q. Public while that same rig is on the scene of the burning metal shavings, soaked in grease and oil, and flames are shooting 30 feet into the air. For everyone that sees them shopping in the morning, no one will see them run out at 2am when their tones go off.
  • Sometimes we just won't understand.  And that is just the way it goes.  I am a high school teacher.  Flour and water are everywhere - all I can think is that they are trying to make Play-doh like the pre-school teachers.  And things, periodically, will get out of hand.  Make sure that  is not your FF. Sleep allows them to heal - mind and body. Even at home when you have been up all night, too. I do believe, whole heartedly, that XX DNA allows us to function while sleep deprieved and XY DNA just does not. By the way, pots and pans and wooden spoons make no difference with that, don't ask me how I know.
  • They are your family, just as much as his.  I had a bit of a scary event recently and I was amazed at how many of the guys reminded me that I could just call, they would be there on shift nights...with proper instruments in hand. And these are not the guys I have known since J has been on the job.  These are the guys on the opposite shift at the house he has been at since December...and he is usually sent out.
  • As much as 48s drive me insane, so do periods where he is home for weeks on end.  We just finished up 3 weeks where he only worked on the weekends - one day.  AT THAT JUST SUCKED.  Not only did I not get to watch what I know he is not a fan of on shift night (because shift night never came), I also did not get to enjoy just chillin' with him while I was home on the weekend. SO, I've decided we just need to keep the 24/48 thing going on a loop and hire a maid, mechanic, handy man, and nurse for the shift days.  They will earn their keep - that is when EVERYTHING will go wrong.  And I can just sit and watch Frozen with the muppets while they all take care of the exploding water heater that put out the pilot light in the furnace causing a freak accident which caused all of my tires to go flat while my youngest broke both her legs and one of the others has projectile vomit and 2 major projects due tomorrow that Daddy PROMISED he would help with. (Which, if you did the math, means I am watching Frozen my bedroom, with the door closed.)
  • Spring is NEVER coming back.  Which means on those nights when I am soooo happy to have that remote to myself, I will be stuck under the fleece blanket, under the denim quilt, under the Pooh Bear comforter, under the Batman comforter, under our regular comforter with the polar bears making a FFW sandwich.  I can't complain, because he is out in the cold, hoping to not slip on the ice at the residence that has not shoveled their walk since November.  And I realize I can't fuss.

So, lesson of the day~

Control freaks are still freaks...just highly specialized freaks.  Don't be a FREAK, just be!

(Think that will be a quote on a classroom door some day, like all the quotes I have up???  I think are seeing history in motion. Mark it down!  Well, okay, you are seeing a history TEACHER in motion.  Still note worthy, just ask my over taxed students.  They would be HAPPY to tell you allllll about it.)

Friday is coming!  See you in an hour and a day...dear, dear Friday.

Dance the chicken dance with your muppets and dance like it is your wedding night with your firefigther.  That laundry will still be there when What a Wonderful World comes to an end, no worries.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


You know them...first steps, first words, driver's licenses, graduations, weddings, get the idea.  Sounds like the most wonderful Hallmark movie.  There are some that are just not made for TV.  They are the ones that bring tears of heartbreak and not joy.  Loss of a child, divorce, death...having to make the decision to put your spouse into a nursing home.

My FF and my dad are currently taking my grandfather in for a 72 hour hold.  His dementia has caused his passing long before we actually lose him.  He has become obsessed and violent.  He leaves the apartment in the middle of the night to check on his car because he is convinced that someone is trying to steal it.  As he makes his way back up, he is a floor shy of where he lives and becomes frustrated and violent because "someone has changed the locks" on his apartment while he is out.  Luckily, the people that live there have not called the police.  

My dad has answered the phone - literally at all hours of the night - because my grandfather calls and wants to know who this lady is - my grandma. Or when did he move into this apartment (I was preggers with D when we moved them - that will be 9 years in September.).   J went over yesterday to give my grandma a break, took him for a walk because he loves to walk.  Tried to wear him out, as my dad did Sunday.  

No go.  The dementia has claimed him.  He is gone.  A few summers ago, he couldn't remember me or the girls, but remembered the boys.  Now, he is gone. The grandpa that taught me how to tap a beer in his basement at the age of 6 and took me bowling is locked somewhere in that shell.  He's lost weight and his gregarious personality that was always entertaining his buddies after work and Saturday morning with the old guys that bought me Hershey bars, is just not there.

Today, we have to make a decision.  We need a facility that can take dementia patients that are unpredictable.  He was throwing things at my grandma this morning and that is not okay.  

And so, they have taken him to the hospital.  Hopefully they will have the answers that we were just beginning to discuss this weekend.  This is a first and hopefully a last for me.  How do you take someone away from their home because it is for their own good?  How do you separate a couple that has been together for 60 some years?  How do you sit patiently at parent teacher conferences, waiting for someone to come in, concerned about their student...just to provide a distraction. 

I think I am going to walk around our halls for a bit. Like my grandpa use to take my girls.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reaching Out When They Have Pulled Away

A close FFW friend of mine, literally moments ago, posted that her FF's department had to respond to a suicide.  Never easy calls, for anyone involved, but it is part of the job, right?  

But this time, it was no ordinary call.  It was a fellow FF.  

Thanks to Paul Combs for keeping this in FD's minds.
And it was suicide. 

A firefighter suicide.

And that sent shivers through my spine.

Suicide in the fire service is very real and very scary and very much un-discussed in some departments, they just don't talk about it. Others are starting to sort out where to go from here and there are some that are truly working to make sure their FFs are okay - physically, mentally and emotionally.  I am truly a lucky FFW to be part of that last group.  MFD is aware of the issues, after suffering losses far too close to home, and is actively addressing them.  We, the spouses and family back at home, have to realize that our firefighters see things that we can only imagine. 

If there is not a support network in place, at home and at the firehouse, they can be consumed by the things that go bump in the night.  My FF is part of the team that goes to these FFs and reminds them that they are not heroes with bullet proof suits - immune to the tragedy of their vocation, they are people.  They have hearts that break and are not immune to the atrocities that are sadly a part of the job.

My FF, your FF, the Cub on their shift...they are all going to see things and work through things that are going to get to them.  And we need to know what we are looking for because that WALL of "Look at Me, I'm a hero, I GOT this", comes down at home, but maybe not at the firehouse...right away.

Please, please, please - know what is in place to support your FF. ASK.  MAKE your FF tell you what his department has in place.  If he won't tell you because he is trying to protect you, call his boss or call another wife in your department.  Be that annoying spouse.  Know who you can call and what they can do to help you and your family when your FF is struggling.  Know the number for your EAP.  Find out if your department has any mental health training in place.  Talk to wives - in your department or on-line.  

Things to look for, IE Red Flags:  (FIREFIGHTERS - I'm speaking to you, too!)

Depression - "The PERSISTENT feeling of sadness and loss of interest." ~Mayo Clinic.  Depression can be caused by any number of things.  End of a relationship, suspension, injury/illness,  death of someone close, family history, meds, etc.  This is a sensitive issue in our house and I am very aware of when my FF is going to go down.  Sometimes before he is.  

Red flags for depression include, but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping - either too much or too little.
  • Lack of interest in enjoyable activities - used to ride his Harley and now, he won't go when the guys ask him to go for a ride or a rally.
  • A feeling of worthlessness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
  • An UNUSUAL amount of isolation at home, the firehouse, department events.  Some FFs are just introverts, so it is not unusual that they spend down time alone,  But usually they read or work on a project.  Now, instead they are sleeping - ALL THE TIME.
  • An UNUSUAL sense of sadness or erratic behavior.
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The thing to realize about PTSD is that it may not show itself immediately after the trumatic event - it could be weeks or months or even years after the event.  And because of that delay, we may not connect the dots (they might not either for that matter).   Symptoms to look for:
  • Restlessness - your FF's mind is ALWAYS going, ALWAYS racing
  • Sleeplessness - do the nightmares keep your FF from taking the chance that will come?  If you don't sleep, the nightmares don't come.
  • Then inability to relax and just enjoy life.
  • Mental replays - either awake or in dreams - where your FF hears, sees, smells, feels or tastes the events of the that traumatic experience.
  • Totally shutting down of emotions.  If you feel NOTHING, there's no pain.  But, there is also no joy or pride or love felt either. 
FIND a COUNSELOR.  Be sure that he/she is experienced and specifically trained in the specific needs and issues that come with PTSD.  Sadly, last winter, Tosa PD saw the first hand worst case scenario with PTSD.  We need to make sure we are especially aware of the signs and symptoms. do we prevent this from taking over.  Far too frequently, those concerned with our health and safety, put theirs on hold.  Because it is a sign of weakness, or it couldn't happen to them or...

It is, however, a very real and very serious problem within our fire departments.  

Suicide: To kill oneself.  

On the very surface level, it contradicts EVERYTHING that the Fire Service has come to represent: Courage, Honor, Integrity.  

We don't have complete statistics on the rates of suicide in the FD. Up until recent times, you just didn't talk about it.  And some suicides just might not be ruled a suicide.  It is hard to tell. Captain Jeff Dill of Palatine Rural Fire Protection District in Inverness, Illinois, who holds a Master’s degree and is a Licensed Counselor, has done an amazing job of reaching out and digging through reports throughout the decades to begin to compile this data, found on his website

Here's what is known about suicide in general.  70% are white males.  More importantly, 90% of ALL suicide victims had one of the following conditions: depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia-psychotic delusions, bi-polar or anxiety disorders, or Mood disorders.  

And there are some of those red flags you can look for if you are concerned that your FF's depression or PTSD has totally consumed them, including:
  • appearing depressed or sad nearly all the times
  • a withdrawl from friends or family that is out of character for your FF
  • a sense of hopelessness/helplessness that seems to weigh on your firefighter's soul
  • acting impulsively - giving away possessions - like all of them or the prized possessions - or going on a huge once in a life time trip
  • feeling a sense of strong anger, on the verge of or crossing over into a sense of RAGE
  • threatening to hurt or kill themselves
Please remember that the firehouse might be the last place these behaviors surface.  Often times they are trying to hold on to what ever piece or normal that they can, and firefighting is just that - what is normal to them.  And they will fight to keep that.  If they are note "okay" they might lose that.

So, what is out there?  My goal is by summer to have a list of resources available on here for all 50 states.  Please feel free to email me if you can help with your local support system.  I would so appreciate it. 

In the mean time, here is what I have:

Nationally - United States:
  • - developed by Phoenix Fire department
  • Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • National Depression Screening Project - 1-800-520-6373
  • Safe Call now - 206-459-3020
  • United Health Care "Care 24" - This is open to all UHC members - 888-887-4114
  • IAFF Wellness Fitness Initiative
Locally - Milwaukee
I will post the link to my list as I get it together.  For now, here is a start.

Wives, listen to your gut.  You may have to share your FF with the FD, but you still know him as well if not better than anyone else.  If something seems off, go with that and let yourself be wrong, if you are.  Enlist other FFs.  Contact me if you feel overwhelmed with the national contacts and I WILL find something closer to home, if not in your home department.  Reach out to your Ladies Auxiliary, to the other wives in your house or on your shift, check out Wife Behind the Fire, there are women who live the same life that you do readily available, almost 24/7.  You will never be alone.

Firefighters, you know when some thing if off.  Reach out, to your peer support team, your captain, your wife, your crew, one of these crisis lines.  Reach out to SOMEONE.  It is better to swallow your pride and admit that something is wrong and that it is not okay, you don't HAVE to just rub a little dirt on it, than to have leave behind your wife, kids, parents, department...all asking, "What did I miss? Why didn't he SAY something?"  

You are truly never alone in this world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Lent is upon us.  Fat Tuesday was yesterday, and I indulged.  Starbucks and paczkis and Buffalo Wild Wings and Classic Slice Pizza in between kids' conferences and extra soda was a bit much, but it was an enjoyable day with my husband and good reminder that not all of this needs to be part of my life.

Every year I give up soda for Lent.  I hope that by the end of Lent, I will have broken my desire for it and I have to have that happen.  This year, instead of just soda, I also decided to give up caffeinated beverages of all kinds.  Which means no more Starbucks, along with my no more Coke.  I am also going to fast M-F and share my evening meal with my family.  I am finding that I am turning to food for comfort and solace when things get insane instead of to my people.  That needs to change.

I am giving up all of my lunch hours, as well.  This time can be used for studying, make up work, help with an assignment.  I will check on co-workers if there is no one in my room - be an ear or a sassy joke  or just an adult face.  It all helps at some point. 

Last year, I made a pledge during Lent to share with the Muppets, everyday, why I was blessed to have them in my life.  I failed miserably because my broken ankle impeded my ability to get up the stairs to their rooms.  I will probably revisit that again the future, before my oldest leaves the nest.  So this year, I decided, after reading a friend's post, that I will give up complaining for Lent.  

Truth and accuracy department - I goofed up within an hour of making my declaration - about gas prices of all things.  BUT, like I preach to the kids.  Falling down is okay, staying down is not.  As of this moment I have made it a whole 3 hours and 18 minutes!!  It will be tough because my department (of males) tends to turn our department meeting into a bit of a b*&$# fest, but I got this.  

So, even if you are not Catholic, perhaps this could be a time of self reflection and self improvement.  What can you do to make a better YOU? 

Saturday, March 1, 2014


There are two things from teaching at the Catholic High School I was at for the last three years.  Some of the people, sure.  But people come and go from your life all the time.  And, we were so far removed living two counties away, that I never really bonded with the staff there.  The two MAIN things that I miss, the technology.  I admit it. I LOVED having the technology.   As a teacher, I have just as much.  Actually more.  There are more copiers/printers.  I have a desktop AND a laptop.  But, the student technology is not the same.  I miss teaching in a 1:1 classroom.  I miss being paperless.  I miss being able to switch to a new activity at the blink of an eye because someone brought up a GREAT idea.  I miss the creativity that the digital media encourages.  I miss that.

But, even more, I miss the service aspect.  

So, I am the guinea pig for the service requirements here.  We're working with UW-M, Serve2Unite, and various other neighborhood associations to be determined next week.  Yesterday was the first introduction to the project with my kids.  We did a learning circle to discuss  the project and some basic expectations. The discussion focused on what makes life better.  More specifically, what makes our community better.  I, being sheltered in my sweet little neighborhood, said that level sidewalks would make my neighborhood better.  Better for the kids learning to skate and ride bikes.  Better for the joggers who are getting their miles in.  Better.  Right?

Then you listen to the kids.

Less crack houses.

Less boarded up houses.

Less violence.

Less gun violence.

More things for teens to do.

More grass.

And then I felt horrible.  Forgetting that they may live in the same city that do, but they certainly do not live in the same world as me.  

So, I am hoping that this will make somethings better.  The neighborhood the kids choose for the project.  The focus the choose for the community mapping.  The changes they decide to implement.  I am hoping it makes them better people, better adults as they leave me.  I am hoping that it makes the community better, better for the families that live there.  I am hoping that it makes our city better, more invested in the individual neighborhoods that are too often written off because they are in the hood.  

I am hoping it makes me better.

It is a shift day.  I am in my classroom on a Saturday morning.  Blogging, grading, copying, planning.  All to make this school better.

We all need to chip and make this whole world a better place.  

What are you going to do today to make things better?

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