Friday, December 18, 2015

A Letter From a Fire Wife, to a Fire Wife

Dear Julie,

I know you don't know me, but at the same time you know me better than some of my closest friends.

You know how I juggle practices and games, with homework and chores - on my own a third of the time. You know how I sleep in my bed alone every third night. You know how I plan everything by counting days in threes. My friends listen to me fuss, but they don't really know. You understand how powerful that Daley day is to the family, just as we plan on breathing on PO days. You know me. You know why I hate this picture, even though you don't know me.

You know how grateful I am to catch that phone call while he's on shift or to hear the keys on the counter when he comes in the door. You don't know me, but you totally do.

We all say that we can't even imagine, but the truth is, we all have. We have all imagined. Every FireWife has had that thought of "What if?"  And then we shove it back into its dark hiding place because that is how we survive.  Now you are living and know what we most fear to face. We know that your heart is breaking. We know how your dreams have been torn to shreds by carelessness. We know.

You know me. You know how it was to meet the love of your life so young, just as I did. You know what the faces look like when you tell people you got married at 22, just like I do. I know you.

You are living our greatest fears. You are the reason why having them work on Christmas Eve is really not that big of a deal. You are heartbroken. And we mourn, right there with you.

I am just over the border. MFD, CFD, fire departments around the world...we grieve together. I know that will not stop your heart from hurting. I know that will not give you the answers when the questions from the kids come. I know that Christmastime will always leave you trying to catch your breath when you least expect it. I know. I know birthdays and holidays and weddings and babies will never be as you ever imagined while you were dreaming your dreams.

I know.

But, please know, you are never alone. You truly have the whole family of firefighters and those of waiting for them to come home surrounding with love from near and far. Know, you only need to say the word and we will be there with anything you might need. Having dear friends in the CFD world, I will quickly come down and grab them along the way if whatever you need will make you breathe a bit easier, while you try to learn to breathe alone. 

You are never alone.

We will bring Santa and sing caroles. We will bring food and fold laundry, We will listen to you however you see necessary. We will tell the world to leave you alone. We will rake the leaves that did not get swept up. You just say the word.

Please know, we are all here. We are family. You know us. From one FireWife to another, we are all here. There is a sisterhood that is forged by fire...and it is stronger than the rest of the world can image. Send me a note, let me know what I can do. Please know...

I have watched in amazement at your grace and read your letter and admired the strength that it must have taken to write that through the tears. I am sending you love, support, prayers and hope.

You don't know me. But you do. Just as I don't know you, and yet I do. I know you are hurting. I know you will be angry. I know this will never go away, completely. But, please know, you are never alone. We will walk with you, just say the word.

In love, peace and support,
Wife of Jeff - MFD FF/PM/TEMS

Photo credit - ABC 7 - Chicago

Monday, November 16, 2015


Friday, I spent the end of my second hour and all of my third hour class in the basement cafeteria of our school. I was there with the entire fourth floor. We had no idea, aside from rumors, as to what was going on. Because of the looks on the faces of staff, the kids knew this wasn't a drill. They were beautiful, in spite of the fear. I was so very proud of how they handled it. I was one of a handful of people that had any cell service in the depths of our centenarian fortress. So, I texted the FireMan to find out that he could. He gave me info about what was on the outside, but that TEMS had not been called in. Eventually, we got the all clear.

All of this came about from a threat on social media. Stupid teenage drama on social media.

From our freshmen.

It was a week of "She said that you said" on some bogus student created FB page. THOTs is an acronym I wish they would toss out of their minds. Focus own building themselves up as females, instead of tearing each other down for the attention of an adolescent male...seems to be insanity to this old mind of mine. But that was the root of the whole week's drama.

And from our babies.

Being a junior teacher, I am really out of the loop. BUT, I could feel it in the air. I had said something to admin the day before.

Anyway, Friday after our debriefing meeting I walked out with another teacher...just beaten down from the week. I am stretched so frickin' thin. I was/am so dang tired.  And I looked back at the building as we were being grumpy and miserable together and saw the evening sunset lighting up my building.  That moment reminded me that there was a reason I was doing all of this.

And I went home a smidge less grumpy.

There was our first fire waiting for me in the fireplace. Chili to warm my insides by that lovely fire. 

And the news was on.

And the blood.

And the fear.

And the panic.

Suddenly, I wasn't sure I could really keep going with this. I have not even shared this insecurity with my husband as of yet.  It just seems that it is everywhere. That it is surrounding me. 

But, in the vaults of my damaged brain, I am aware that these 129 lives lost cannot be in vain. That is must make our resolve stronger to make this world less broken...starting with me. Starting with my muppets. Starting with my kids at school.

I am aware of that.

But, am I strong enough to make that happen?? You know, while I am setting aside my curriculum to focus on literacy since our kids are going off to college unable write a coherent essay or read a college textbook. How can I address literacy and peace in society when neither are truly valued and both can be construed as signs of weakness?

I am still processing. I don't know where to start. I know that this is not about being married to a firefighter and I will get nastygrams pertaining to that. Instead of wasting your time and mine, move along. I am a firewife. This is who I am. This is my blog. From there very beginning I have fought with people to remind them that I am the sum of ALL my parts and I do not fit into any one pigeon hole. And, I am human - with all the human failings and glories. I am a teacher. I am lost on this journey right now. But, I have kids all around me that I need to help find their way on this journey. No time to be lost. Only time to find our way through this. Violence and hatred never end well.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Making a House a Home, Again

I feel like a military family. Like we are always moving. I think we may have finally found our forever home. I won't bore you with the details, but it was an insane, unexpected turn of events. It happened very quickly and my husband is now on top of the world.

All of which is good. 

He LOVES the house. We finally have enough room to have all our family over and not feel like we are on top of each other.

We have a family room and a living room. We have a game room - in process. We have a two car garage and a real fireplace.  We have a legit dining room. Not a living room we turned into a dining room. Not a heated breezeway that we put our china cabinet in. Not a bedroom that we opted to use instead of jamming into a tiny kitchen. A real life dining room. All so good. We have a 2nd FULL bathroom, which we have never had before. We have an amazing fenced in yard and entire neighborhood of truly amazing people. The kids LOVE this house, even though they are still sharing rooms. I have my own office, in the most amazing of purples.

But I am not feeling like I am at home, yet.

I don't completely relax when I come home. My shoes are not unpacked, yet. I know - first world problem for sure. My closet still has the clothes just tossed in there. I hate the color of my bedroom - but he liked it, so we had to give it a try. I HATE IT. Dungeony and dreary and belch. So, now I have to find a day to paint. The carpeting was horribly stained and needs to come out - in the living room/dining room and game room carpeting smells like you would not believe. I know these are all minor. I will get my hardwood and laminate. I know  that. But I am letting all of these things get in the way of making this a home for us.

I just need to let me self relax and accept it as home. I will get my bathroom unpacked, some day. I will find my shoes and organize my closet, over Christmas break. I will have the rest of my life to make it my own. I will. I started with our menu board. It is my mark on this kitchen. It ties our family to this house and forces us to stop unpacking and running around so we can eat together.
I hoped that the Halloween decorations would pull me in. They definitely pulled the neighbors in, all so very nice. But I felt like I was decorating a store front. 

I wish I had the answer. Maybe the Christmas trees going up will light up my heart. Maybe it will just take time. Maybe it is just that all of the work obligations I have found myself carrying around are just not allowing me to love it like the rest of the crew. Maybe it is just some combination thereof.

Anyway, after all my grumping, here's my favorite room of the house. I can't wait to have a fire in it. I can't wait to get the tree up in here.  I can't wait to enjoy it.

I need to take a new picture without the 2nd TV in there and with all the turn of the
century canvases up!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Context of the TIme

Image: FoxNews
As I tried to watch the debates last night, I finally had to concede defeat. Not because of pandering or disagreement with any one of the speakers. Not because I had a ton to do. Nope, it was simply because my polar bears did not like the sound of the 'Time's Up' ding dong thingy.  The barking session would last 3-4 minutes...and mind you, I was up in my bedroom so the boys could watch TV down in the family room (since the game room is really not ready). You know, the bedroom that shares a wall with the sleeping girls' bedroom.

So, I have it DVR'd. But, sadly, I am rarely without a dog. AND I doubt I will have time to sit down and watch it before it becomes irrelevant.

And so I move on.

These debates were held here. Literally 12 minutes from my house. We got to see the Trumpo Jet pull in to the airport and the media circus taking images of itself. 

I was thankful the FireMan was not on shift. 

I have no idea if their services were warranted through any of this, but I was grateful to not have to worry about it, with him helping my boys get some stuff put away in the garage we are digging out. (I still hate moving!)

I fell asleep to a very Trump heavy, politically filled SNL episode from the weekend.

And life was good.

11200636_1070955672916249_3658267464395682453_nUntil this morning, when I saw the flag burning pictures and free speech rhetoric. The veiled and not so veiled racism was abhorrent. And the history teacher in my wept.

Some things that I need to clarify...and I do this with the right to bear arms as well. BUT, I am going to focus on the Freedom of Speech tidbits, I keep reading/hearing.

First Amendment - Religion and Expression. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Some things to notice - it does not say Freedom of Expression, that has become our interpretation of this amendment. 

Notice, it does not say that you have the right to break other laws while you express yourself. (Insert Madonna earworm here.)  This is a FIREWIFE's blog - YOU CAN'T BURN ANYTHING IN PUBLIC PLACES AND HAVE IT BE OKAY!  All materials being burned need to be in the proper receptacles and NOT in public thoroughfares. 

It also may be legal to burn a flag, but that does not mean it is not a jerkface move. 

There are many things that you CAN do, but that doesn't make it right or nice or good or non-jerkface to do them. It just means that you can't be cited or jailed for being that jerk.  But, burning the flag (or anything, really) in the middle of the public street while there are a ton of people in that general vicinity for an NBA game, the presidential debates and general downtown businesses is really not legal, safe, get the idea.

So, instead of me focusing on the jerkface who decided to break the law while invoking amendments in the most convenient context of our time, I am going to focus on MPD. Kudos to Milwaukee Police Department, you made this city and this FireWife proud in your handling of said flag.  Media reported tear gas, it was actually extinguishers. People of Milwaukee should be proud. I know I am. 

Jedidiah Thompson, Jutiki X and Joel Rossman - thank you and be safe!

 There are more images that can be seen at jsonline, as well.  

So, morale of the story, legal does not equal right. And, if you are going to tell me that the Constitution guarantees you the Freedom of Expression, be able to defend that statement. AND, finally, don't break the law and get upset when the police arrest you for it and yammer about they are infringing on you Constitutional rights...because breaking the law is not protected.

Okay, I need to I am tired and about to start preaching on other topics as tangents pop into my head.

Be safe. Come home. Hug your family.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hug Tightly

It seems like my FF and I are ships passing in the night. Life is SO insane that we just don't see each other. Last night, I took the night off of duties - of any kind - and made the nearly two hour ride up with him to the wake of a childhood friend from his hometown. It was just time to talk - with no muppets interrupting. N was at a JV game that they asked him to play in (Perks of being a Varisty underclassmen), girls were at judo with grandpa and I think B was just enjoying the peace and quiet of his gaming world. 

This friend had been battling cancer for nearly seven years. His family seemed almost relieved. Watching him walk in (in uniform) to a room full of firefighters from his hometown/area was interesting. Watching Dan's father tear up at the mere sight of my FF - all grown up. Listening to the stories of his childhood, I got a laugh imitating one of the old admin from the high school (I student taught there), and realizing that this is a world I will never know.  I watched some of the VFDs look at my husband in big city department uniform - trying to figure out why he was there. (He's been gone since 1997.) There was a bit of bravado. But, I was proud that my FF was just there to say goodbye. He was in uniform to say, "See you later, my friend, my brother." Nothing more, nothing less. It was a moment of bonding and not bragging. The fire family knows no borders. He will be missed by all who love him. 39. Gone far too soon.

And then the ride home, hearing about the KCFD's loss. The saves. The heroes we must now honor and the family we must now support. Firefighter Larry Leggio & Firefighter John Mesh - you will be missed.

My lunch is almost over. I will need to brighten my teary eyes and add my pictures later. But, this morning, on our way out the door together, I hugged him tightly. And then again...and again. He probably shook his head at me once he got in the car. But, tomorrow, it is not a guarantee. And this life, there is some uncertainty to it. I wanted to make sure that he was certain that he was loved.

Hug those FFs and all your family tightly. Tomorrow is not promised.

All a Matter of...




We always place things into a box that makes whatever it is feel like everything will be okay. We remind ourselves that there is always someone else who is worse off than we are. We remind ourselves that there are families that would love to have the ability to struggle with their kids over getting their rooms clean. We consider the fact that there are people literally starving, while we are complaining that there is "nothing" in the house.

I find myself doing a lot of that lately. Mostly for good cause. I need to remind myself of how good I actually have it. I need to remind myself that work is what makes it amazing. I will be missing the chaos of 4 kids going in 4 different directions sooner than I think. A year ago, I wasn't sure I would be around to complain about everything.

And I remind myself of that, daily. Sometimes hourly. 

I am still here. Exhausted. Frustrated. Loved. Here.

But I also remind myself that it is okay to be human. I don't always have to wear my Superwoman UnderRoos. Especially at work,  I really need to learn that it is okay to ask people to help you carry the load. I need to remember that I don't need to make change happen all by myself. There are a ton of people who can help make that happen. I don't have to save the world single-handedly. There are a ton of super heroes just waiting for me not to be a control freak. If I fail, I just head back to the drawing board to analyze what worked and what didn't. And from there, you build your next game plan. From there, you come back stronger.

I failed this weekend. My on-line format for my classes was going through a major update and I could not get it to play nicely until Monday morning - 2nd hour. I did not get any of the grading done that I wanted to. As a teacher I failed. I didn't understand that their update meant such a headache for me. I figured two hours of no access, in the dark of night and then all would be well with the morning light. I know better than that. It was so not the case and I failed. And yet, my classroom is still standing and my kids were still goofy. Life went on, even with my imperfection. AMAZING.
There were two TVs because we can't find the
base for the one on the stand. Sigh.
It is in a box.

But, I did get the common areas of the house unpacked and my walls are no longer bare. My lovely FF is currently working on my office (He is that amazing) AND we all got the Halloween decorations up, The kids had so much fun with that. We are taking this big (to us) house and trying turn it into our home. And that is all that matters. 

We got the curtains hung this weekend because I felt like singing
"I'll Be Watching You" in a minor key every time I walked
past the window during the dark of night.
The meetings that seem to control my day, will still be there. But my kids will not. They will move on to their lives, separate from our home. 

Home. Hopefully they will always see this house as home. Hopefully the teenagers will keep wanting to hang out here. Hopefully this will be filled with the chaos of toddlers again, someday. Home is where the heart is. Boxes and meetings, they are part of life. They keep the lights on and the comforts going. Those are just the details.  The big picture includes Ghosts in the Graveyard and giggles at the table. The big picture is what we make it and what we remember.

It is all a matter of making it memorable.  They won't remember the boxes that seemed to stay piled up forever, they will remember the movies and the giggles and the running around. Memories.

Memories make the home, not the zip code.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Free Time

There's not a lot of it at this moment in time. Kids are up at 5:30-5:45 am, so unless I want to be up at 4ish, I don't get it on the front end of the day.

I teach all day, run kids to activities - sports, debate, chess, lessons, church activities...

Come home to boxes and the remaining Muppets who rightfully seek my attention. But I am so tired, that I feel I am not giving them what they deserve. 

And now my lunch hour is being demanded...not requested, by my students. Pounding on the door. Upset when I leave to go to the bathroom, never mind that my day started with two meetings and I teach 3 classes back to back before lunch.  I find myself grumping at them. I know they need my time and love, nearly as much as my muppets. But, to demand it...  It is just not going over well with my exhaustion.

In one breath, I am saying to myself, "NO! This is my 30 minutes of freetime." I don't get it at home, I live in meetings lately (confirming my choice to NEVER go into administration) and I just need quiet. I need to quiet my head and make my lists. I need to breathe and eat my unhealthy food in my desk. Then my Catholic guilt takes over...these kids really need me. I know that they do. But there is a right way to approach things - pounding on my closed door is not it. And it is okay for me to want peace. I have an administrator who scolded me for not answering my door last week, feeding into my guilt. Sigh...I just need a time machine.

Ah well, ramblings. There are two teens in here at the moment. I tried to call my FF, but of course, they caught a run. My bell will ring, my class will come. I will tap dance through my 51 minute one woman show, before I head down to a meeting, only to complete the day with one more class. 

Then on to get the little girls - who I am keeping out of judo today because one of our Asst. Chiefs is speaking to N's football team on leadership for their dinner and I should really be there since the FireMan is on shift. Tomorrow is the Homecoming game, Saturday is the dance, although N is going to another school's HC with another FF's daughter. No rest for the wicked.

Happy Thursday! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dreams take Work

Anything worth having is worth working for. Right? No matter the fatigue factor or the exhaustion. No matter the stress or the time. If it is worth it.

As we move AGAIN and into our final, forever home, I am reminding myself of this. It is FINALLY in the neighborhood we have been looking at for YEARS. It is FINALLY large enough for our big family. It was totally unexpected, totally not where we were going with things, but totally PERFECT for us. And so it is worth it.

I am hoping to make our 2600 sq. ft. storage unit look like a home soon. I found my makeup this morning - first world issue for sure. But that allowed some comfort. I don't know where my comforter and sheets are, but I will find them before the cold sets in. There is an extra refrigerator in the middle of my kitchen, as we work to make room for one down in the game room that is currently full of boxes. I am hoping to make that space become usable soon. I am hoping to find stuff soon.

I am hoping to be able to wash clothes soon. We just bought an AMAZING new washer dryer set. LOVELY. 9.0 cu. ft. gas my all electric house. we ran to Sears...and bought a new electric dryer for my all electric house...because that expensive new dryer is cheaper than busting up the concrete slab that the laundry room sits on to make that happen. SO...if you need a gas dryer - that I would never have gotten rid of...hit me up.

I am hoping to be able to enjoy life, most of all. I am reminding myself, that this time of work and stress and headaches, will be worth it when my whole family can sit at the same table, in the same room for Thanksgiving. It will be worth it when there is space for my kids to come home with their families and spend the night. It will be worth when I am the grandma and I can steal all of my grandkids for the weekend and they can all stay with me.

It is so worth it.

Sleep can wait. Grey's can wait. Grading can...oh wait. Sigh, still need to do that. I love this house. Now, I need to find it beneath all the boxes and tubs.  It is there, our home, somewhere. I'll do a tour for you soon. Who knows, maybe, I'll give you the box tour tonight. ;)

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, September 21, 2015


Sometimes life takes over. June 2014- Now 2015 has been insane. I'll spare you the boring details and hospitalizations. We are clearly not done, but I am still here. And in the grand scheme of things that is all that matters. Another school year is upon us, another 9/11 memorial has been celebrated as we vow to #NeverForget and my 40th has come and gone. And I am still standing.

This is my first post of 2015, and we are already well on our wait to finding 2016.

This past weekend I traveled to Colorado Springs, to the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial. It was decommissioned earlier this year and recommissioned on Saturday. It is breath taking. Captain August Gutzmann, MFD, was added to the memorial and his granddaughter asked if I would join her out there. It took some juggling of schedules and my amazing FF holding down the ship so that I could head out there for the weekend, but I am so grateful that I did.  

It was hard to prepare for the ceremony and NOT put myself in the shoes of the family. It was a concerted effort to clear it from my mind as I got dressed. It literally took me telling myself to knock it off and just get moving. But, as I met the families and as I spoke with those left behind, it crept back into my brain. These families all knew it could happen to their FF. But survival tells you to place that in the not now bucket of your brain. No matter if the loss was 2015 or 1985, the loss was real. The pain came back. The wives, the children, the parents, the grandchildren all remembered that pain and grief as though it was yesterday. The ceremony honors the fallen, but reminds the living that they are not alone. And, more importantly, we have not forgotten.

I was very proud to be part of the Milwaukee Fire family. The Honor Guard and Pipes and Drums were AMAZING. I ran to our bass drummer to share in the excitement after the parade Friday night because the excitement was just electrifying. I was so proud of all the practice time that our pipers put in for the breathtaking parade Friday and Saturday nights and the absolutely chilling performance that was part of the ceremony Saturday at the memorial. It was an experience that I will not forget.

Since I am aware that images are far more powerful than anything I could ever type, I will leave you with these. 

Be safe and come home to us.
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