Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I am not there, yet.

I am working on being supportive, but I am not okay with it. Not yet.

I keep telling myself that I will be.  I keep reading up on things, because that is how this damaged brain settles itself - through the discovery and expansion of knowledge.  I know it sounds backwards and I truly do attribute that to the insane degree of damage and subsequent rewiring of my brain.  I need to read up and ask and learn in order to be okay with it.

And I am doing that, because I need to.
Why would I be anymore freaked out about him being on the TEMS team, as compared to "just" a firefighter?  It is not as though the risk as any less than a roof collapsing or a floor caving in.  I have seen the images of the FFs bailing from the house moments before a flashover or explosion.  I am not sure why.  I don't have an answer. I can only guess it is fear of the unknown.

Perhaps that is what I am searching for. Perhaps I just need to fill that file in my brain with enough information that it is no longer searching for more. I don't know for certain.

A former police officer who I have become friends with recently told me that he refused to speak with his wife about work and told her, point blank, to never ask again.  I could never have that happen.  It is part of your world.  He is a HUGE part of my world.  Therefore it is part of my world.  (Didja see that, Pythagoras would be proud.) It is a part of my world.

Random TEMS patch, not ours
I searched the screen for his box at the temple shooting, I won't have to look, if there is a next time. I will already know.

I want him to talk to me about the theories and the various case studies they are going through.  I want to understand and be comfortable with their training.  I know, most of their runs are simply serving warrants, but, what about the other times? I want to TRUST that he will have every bit of training possible to make sure he comes home to me, no matter where his work takes him.

So, until then, my response was to request a TEMS patch - to sew on to the whole the dogs chewed in my brand new backpack, looking for the imaginary food I was CLEARLY keeping in there.  If for nothing else but to keep a part of him with me while I work through this.

Go love on those FFs or call the ones who are on shift.  I am working on not muffling the muppets, at the moment.  I think common sense has left the compound.  Have a happy humpday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I wish I understood them.  

I wish I could reason with them, but instead, I clearly speak another language.  

I describe myself as a guy with boobs.  I watch sports and drink beer.  I am quick tempered, you have to let me blow up and then it is done. I HATE wearing dresses, I hate buying them even more.  I bought 2 purses this week and that was newsworthy.  (Although, purely out of necessity - one for a more formal dinner, when my FF was on shift and I did not have access to his pockets for lip gloss, license, keys and ATM card.  It is barely larger than my phone.  The other purse was his idea while we snuck away to the mall for an hour - to keep my epi pen.  Picky, picky!)  Heels and make up are fine, but I am not doing my hair and I am wearing jeans.  I have no patience for pettiness and have always fought for girls and women to be treated as equals.  My boys had baby dolls and my girls have trucks.  There is nothing you can or cannot do based on the gender you were born with.  Follow your dreams and your heart.  I have tried to instill that into my kids, both at school and at home.  

But that does not make me a fan of women.

We do not raise each other up, we tear each other up.  We are fearful and jealous.  We are afraid to tap into our own confidence and build ourselves and those around us up from there.  Trying something new is not always on our radar, the fear of failure holds us back. When I hear women worried about females in the firehouse, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, "WHAT ABOUT YOUR FIREFIGHTER?  WHY NOT BE PISSED AT HIM FOR NOT SAYING 'I'M MARRIED.  LEAVE ME ALONE!' " It takes two to tango.  If you are worried about your FF, your marriage has issues bigger than a female FF.  We, as women, do not like to see other women surpass us.  Instead of using that as incentive to strive for our goals, we pull down the mountain that she built and then climbed, in spite of everyone telling her she'll never do it - brick, by brick.  We as women fear being compared and deemed inadequate.  Our breasts are too small, our waistlines too big.  We are not blonde enough or tall enough or pretty enough.  Our house is not clean enough.  We don't juggle it all - work, kids, marriage, love - with as much grace and style as our neighbor.  We, for whatever reason, are in a CONSTANT state of competition with each other.  

But, it hit a whole new low yesterday and my blood boiled.  I was not part of it, I was not privy to it.  Instead it was 2nd hand gossip.  So, I cannot quote it.  BUT, I can tell you that even the smallest portion of it was true, it was so far out of line, that I cannot begin to excuse such behavior.  

Playing on a fire wive's fear of the unmentionable to get them to side with you. 

Telling them they would be alone when their world was crumbling down.

I acknowledge, I was not there.  But, I cannot image the low that these women must have felt that such a thing would be said or even alluded to.  

It makes me want to puke and it breaks my heart, all at the same time.

Why are we not building each other up?

Why are we not celebrating the victories - both large and small?

Why are we not teaching our daughters that women support, where girls compete?

We are so hard on the guys; why are we not hard on our own?  

Step up.  

Build up.  Build bridge and mountains and climb to the top.  The view is beautiful!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Longing

Ever feel something that you can't quite put your finger on...a nagging feeling that you are not quite where you are supposed to be.

For some reason that has been going through my veins for a bit.  I am not quite at my destination on this journey.

I have no idea where that location is or why there's a feeling of...I don't even know what adjective to insert here.  Emptiness or discontent or...I don't really know. 

I clearly have to find what purpose I am needing to fulfill.

I am having a very philosophical moment.  I clearly need wine on a Saturday night to make sense of this...and not lesson plans on a busy Thursday lunch hour.

So, bear with me.  I clearly need to sort through this and life seems to be giving me no time to do so.

On the side of Fire Wife Life, my FF made it through his TEMS (Tactical EMS) testing yesterday.  He should be getting his email to be fitted for tactical gear and get that training started.  That is a whole new discussion, for another day.  Tonight I am flying solo, J's on shift, D has judo class on the other side of town.  Luckily, I just have to get her to my dad's - right of the freeway.  I will also be attending my first political fundraiser dinner tonight, like the go buy a dress kind of a dinner. (That was miserable, btw.)  Tomorrow my kids will dissect their community mapping project with the guys from Serve 2 Unite and begin to determine, based on the data they collected, what their service project should look like.  And finally, tomorrow night, I am going to head down to FIBland to see a couple of FFWs for dinner downtown.  Saturday, my FF is on shift - I think it is a payback flip and D has her first judo tournament.  I think he is sad to miss it.  I will be sure to record it for him.  And Sunday, Sunday is laundry day.  Definitely not a SunDay, Funday, that is for sure.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Break 2014

It is coming to a close.  Our first day back to the grind will be the day after a shift day, which is probably best.  I won't be tempted to stay in bed longer than I should because he's there and I won't have to help him <insert missing necessity here>.  I have only had all of my muppets under one rough a few days this break, which makes me miss them, but I know they are out having fun and bonding with family.  So important.  

WE are the Bridge...

The Bridge has been a topic this whole break.  It makes me happy that it has stuck with them.  I got to help a FFW bust out of the house for the day, and terrorize the college kids of Northwestern, drinking Chai in the fashionable Unicorn Cafe, while her brave FF held down the fort with my girls mixed in with their muppets. My hubby bought some Chucks for me, not necessarily a newsflash, but it shows that he tolerates and embraces my quirkiness.  We celebrated my mom's 60th birthday, with a lamb cake (Not quite like the cake of her childhood, but close) - that N made using the cake mold I bought on my FFW escapade earlier in the week and my FF decorated because I am just clumsy. 

The holiday was brunch and dinner at my house after a lovely mass and homily by Fr. Alejandro.  Such a nice celebration.  

Summary, a wonderful recharge of batteries.

Tomorrow, we begin the end of the school year.

Bring it on.

Celebrate the coming of spring and the departure of the polar vortex.  Live life in a manner that you make a difference and will be missed because of the lives you touch.  And love that firefighter like there's no tomorrow, even when he's driving you looney. Peace, love and chocolate bunnies.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Good From Evil Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the astounding opportunities my kids have had through Serve 2 Unite.  

Today, I get to write about the fact that my muppets also get to be part of this.

My husband has come to understand that my control freak nature, is just that, part of my nature.  It is somewhere in my DNA or in the scarring that is my brain, but it is definitely hard wired.  It drives me to madness when I can't control something horrible and leads me to at least do something to make it better.  It might be safe to call it a bit of an obsession.  I have bring attention or try help the pain ease a bit or something to make things better.  Perhaps it is the idea that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, who knows.  It could literally be due to the immense amount of brain damage I suffered as a child (again, good out of bad).  No matter what the origins, I am also looking to instill this in my muppets.  

Help where you can. If I don't do it WITH them, how will they ever learn this and make it part of their being?

I was so hyped after the success of my kids' community mapping adventure, that I was excited to be part of another opportunity brought to my attention through Serve 2 Unite.  The Bridge Project caught my attention because the Civil Rights issues of the 60s are still impacting us today.  

This very bridge that I was marching with my muppets across was called the longest bridge in the world - it reached from Poland to Africa. Bottles, rocks, slurs, spit and hate met the marchers as they made it to the southside fo the bridge.  This weekend's march was a much needed reminder. A sad testament to the fact that our city was is soooo very segregated.  We are not done, yet.  Saturday, nearly 50 years later, we were invited to join in by S2U.  
Photo credit: Cheryl Polka
The Unity Chant cards
It was cold, it was rainy, the turn out is not what it would have been had the weather from the day before held up.  But it is something that my kids will take with them.  

Photo credit: Cheryl Polka
Armadeep Kaleeka, son of slain Sikh Temple of Wisconsin President Satwant Singh Kaleka, was the Grand Marshall for the portion of the march beginning on the south side of the bridge.  Chants were chanted, my N volunteered to help with the banner carrying - he might have the same drive that I do.  It was an amazing day.  Something that I know the boys will not soon forget and I am hopeful that it will stay with the girls as they make their way into their teen years and adulthood.  Some things are worth standing out in the pouring rain, even with the car is parked a few miles away.  

WE are the Bridge.  If it does not start with us, then when...with whom?  

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

We are the bridge.

N, on his own went out to see if he could help.  He led the way for the southside.

Walking with the DA, some aldermen, and the mayor met us on Canal Street
South meets the middle.

The kids signing the pledge - to be the bridge.

These kids ARE the Bridge.  They are our future.
Let's make sure they reach out to each other.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Good From Evil, Look For It

Not always easy to do. We all have to look for that rainbow that comes after the storm or the fact  that it is always darkest before the dawn.  But, how do you do that when you see nothing but hatred and anger behind it...and the heartbreak left behind in the wake?  Amazingly, I have seen that!  

Since starting at the high school I am currently teaching at, I have been some amazing people - some characters and some simply amazing. The most recent part of that "amazing" came to us in the fall through Serve 2 Unite, funded by Arts @ Large.  Both AMAZING organizations. I'll let you read the back stories of both, but it is found in the temple shooting nearly two years ago. 

I was sitting there, quietly working on my kids' headphones for the coming school year in my bedroom, listening to the kids giggle in the living room...when I got the phone call from my FFW next door - from work.  "Where's J? Is he at the temple?!" I literally looked at my phone.  Why was she asking?  She knew it was a shift day, where do you think he is?  Why would he be at a temple?   I had no clue what she was talking about.  I was watching Oddities and clearly oblivious. "Oh, my god, you don't know."

And my heart dropped.  The tone in her voice.  I hit the news explosion that was upon us and couldn't breathe for a moment.  I studied the rigs, looking for Med 7.  This was the day I learned the difference between those red boxes - MFD has the zig zag gold on the side.  I remember seeing the images...burning them in my mind.  There is one of Pardeep's brother, Armadeep that haunted me.

It is as clear as day.  Even in the dark of this sleepless night. 

As I said earlier, you have to look for that first ray of sunlight that comes out of that darkness.  Luckily, I didn't have to look it found me.  Through Serve 2 Unite.  

Love and acceptance out tragedy, heartache and hatred.

Six lives were lost.  Pardeep's father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin was among the casualties. Countless others, rocked to their very core.  Anger and bitterness would have made total sense for the families involved.  NO ONE would have faulted them,. Instead, they turned that heartache into a chance to mend broken hearts and bring an end to senseless violence and hatred.  Through the amazing initiative of a grieving family and a repentant skin head.

Pardeep and Arno.  They are the most amazing odd couple you have ever seen.   I have to admit, I spent much of the first meeting with them trying to figure things out...who fit where, how this ACTUALLY came to fruition...and don't remember much of the actual discussion in our little social studies department. When Arno came to speak to the Sociology class, I brought my World History kids in as well.  His message was worth sacrificing a day of content.  Watching my kids, who didn't quite trust me at that point, listen to this big, raspy voiced man share is tale of hate mongering, with these kids who are all too familiar with it, was AMAZING.  Instant defensiveness.  One of my big guys refused to sit on the same side of this monstrous room.  Another actually commented to me, "You really want me to listen to this sh!t?".  They could not wrap their heads around it.  Experience has taught them that leopards don't change their spots.  And here was this perceived monster who had a swastika tattooed to his middle finger...and I was asking them to listen to him.

Fast forward to this past Friday.  When my kids, 75 kids from so many different paths of life, converged on one of our southside neighborhoods to do Community Mapping, not only with S2U, but also with UWM's Urban Initiatives & Research, to determine through analysis of data, what we can do to make a difference in that neighborhood.  Watching these same kids who did not think Arno was worth  giving up my elaborate notes for...was AMAZING!  The smiles that Pardeep brought to my kids.  And my FF working with a group that was so diligently trying to update their Neighborhood Safety map, made me smile. 

It was an amazing transformation.  In so many ways.  From that skeptical group of kids in October...from that group of kids that was SO uncomfortable THAT morning, because I separated them from their friends and asked some of them to this group this community of amazing kids, working together SO amazingly! It made my heart happy.  

Good from evil.  I didn't have to look for it.  It found me.

Photo credit: Serve 2 Unite

Photo credit: Serve 2 Unite

Why would I post the serious pictures?

It was an amazing day.  Seeing me kids leave their comfort zones within their peer group and into unknown groupings - begging me to change them - and move out into the community to reach out a seek to make it better.  This would not have happened this way had it not been for the tears falling to water such a beautiful, life filled group.  
Please know, I am not saying that I am glad that it happened.  It woke me up in the middle of the night, hence this post.  I am, however, grateful, that hate did not turn into hate.  Instead, into spreading a message of love and tolerance.  And, I am indeed blessed to have been a witness to it.

My husband has been permanently temporarily assigned to the TEMS house - another creation in response to the tragedy of the that fatal day in August 2012.  If, God forbid, we were to see an event of that level, I won't have to wonder if he is there.  He will be there, presuming his formal assignment comes to be.  Instead of watching to see if there, I will be finding something productive to do, hoping for that phone call when all is said and done.  

I will be looking for that break of dawn to get me through the worry that will accompany such events.  We have to look for that ray of helps lead us to tomorrow, no matter how dark the night has been.  My kids are my ray of sunshine.  Be sure to find yours.

Peace and love.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

May I Have a Mulligan, Please?

So, not even 8am - my psych grades have DISAPPEARED  from my gradebook.  Minor Holy FREAKING COW Freakout on my part.  I have the paper grades at home. (I am SOOOO glad that I have that!  I don't have them for my other classes!) I will see if I can sneak out of the building and grab them.

My back pocket is empty - that means no card to get water from the vending machine and I CANNOT drink the water from our bubblers! Dehydration is bad for the mood!

Laptop cord anyone????  Anyone? Yah, that is at home, too.

Courtesy of my dear friend, Staci..."you forgot your flashdrive, you forgot your flashdrive, you forgot your flashdrive, you forgot your flashdrive,you forgot your flashdrive..." But, only for the next 5 1/2 hours!

How about that flashdrive - with all the amazing resources you have created for the educational environment you are fostering?  Nope, not here!

Paper in the copy machines with the newly added lock codes.  Funny girl!  Are you crazy!

WHY, you ask, are you such a mess??  You might think that it is because it is a shift day, but alas, it is not.  So, you say just have your FF run all that stuff up to you, you guys only live 5 minutes away.  Sadly, not feasible.  He is subbing, extra money is always good.  However, because he is teaching, somehow that excuses him from having to deal with the morning chaos.  You know, he has to get there early to make sure everything is a sub.  You know, where the regular teacher MAKES the copies for you.  The regular teacher also does the lesson planning for you.  As a sub, you are not required to attend morning meetings.  But regular teachers have to do that - while fussing at the muppets, who could NOT get their arses moving to save the ever loving souls, this AM.  I was so busy making sure they had everything because Daddy was gone, I did not even give myself a once over, clearly.  I even had to go back in for my phone.

I love him dearly and do appreciate that he is working for our family's needs.  But, I feel as though I am a bit undervalued.  Shift days, he has to leave early so he can relieve the guy on the shift ahead of him.  I get it.  Long nights make things miserable.   And now that he's working at the school, awesome.  But he needs to leave early to make sure everything is in place and ready to go for the day.  All the rewards of teaching, without any of the paperwork headaches!  Score!  I am so thrilled he is not one of those subs, like I had a few weeks ago - with her back to my kids while she updated her Linked In Account - on my white board.  However, that time from 6:30-7:30 on NON-shift days is GOLD.  There is not another living teacher soul in this one chatting my ear off while I am trying to get somewhere or accomplish something.  No kids that need my undivided attention.  I value that time and it is when I am most productive.  I am afterall, very much a morning person.  Just me, Pandora blaring and my work.  And, I have lost that now.  With no real concern to how that impacts me.  And it does bother me...a bit.  He will feel bad if I bring it up, but at the same time I don't want to play the martyr.  We need to find a compromise.

Only 8 more hours to go.  I am a FFW.  I thrive through adversity.  I got this!
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