Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holidays in the Fire Life

Holidays and firefighting are like oil and water. They don't play well together! However, part of being in the fire life is adjusting, adapting, and forcing lots of square pegs (like relatives) into round holes (like the black hole of holidays in the fire life). It means celebrating on random days, at random times, when you want to celebrate at home. I'm lucky as far as Santa goes - Minion has always known that Santa comes early/late for some kids, because their mommy or daddy has to work. Plus it makes it easier when he gets to split his work up over a couple of days!

I actually just came from firehouse thanksgiving. Minion is with my ex today, so it was go to the station, or hang out on my own all day. I was actually really happy that some of the other wives wanted to go up there, too. This was my second firehouse thanksgiving, and I enjoyed both. Also, the dispatch gods were with us - not a single call! Granted, that means that tonight will be pure hell for them, but, I'm happy we got to enjoy the meal all together.

I like doing Thanksgiving at the station. I've gone by on other holidays, but never for a meal, usually just to drop goodies off and sneak in a kiss on my firefighter. [cue the AWWWW! and maybe a smidge of *gag*]

We have never spent a Christmas day together, and this will be our 5th Christmas together. This year, he's on his 3 day, so he'll be off the 24th, 25th, and 26th. The almighty double time at the part time job called, and I gave him a look, and then told him he could do it, we'd just do Christmas before he left that morning. (It was a lot of freakin' money!) He said no to doing it during the day (because he knows how important this Christmas is to me!) and that he'd see about snagging the night shift for that one. It was already gone, and while the money would be nice, it will be nicer still to have him for the day. On top of everything, Minion is home with us Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hooray!

The years that Minion isn't home, and I'm sitting home on my own, really suck, honestly. I think the next time it falls that way, I'll just invite myself to cook for the station. I like having a purpose! Plus, it's seriously freakin' depressing to be all alone on Christmas Day, knowing your Minion is elsewhere. We celebrate on the 26th on those years, but the 25th is still hard for me.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tips for New Firefighter Wives (Kitchen Table)

Well, Val ( asked for one tip, but I'm a wordy lady, and it's my blog, goes!

Don't give into your fears

Don't let your overactive imagination run wild. FF being 15 minutes late from shift does not automatically mean he is dead in a ditch, nor does it automatically mean he's banging the local badge bunny. His relief was late, he ran a late call, he debriefed with the boys after shift, all of those are much more likely to be the reason behind his tardiness. Work out some sort of agreement that if he is going to do something after shift (like breakfast, the gun show, etc) that he text or call and let you know. Just because your FF hasn't returned your texts or calls in a few hours also doesn't mean he's in a ditch or banging the bunny. It most likely means he is at training, the chief is around, or, more likely than not, they've been running a ton of calls.

Don't identify solely as Fire Wife

I'm proud to be a fire wife, and proud to have a husband who loves his job and is passionate about helping people. However...I am not JUST a fire wife. I'm also a mom, an employee, sometimes a student, among other things. Even if someone is a housewife, get a pet for goodness sakes! Or better yet, get a hobby. Make friends outside of your FF. If you have nothing going on outside of the house, for whatever reasons, you have to make a life for yourself when he's gone. You won't survive this life, otherwise.

Don't text and call constantly

Your FF is at work, don't constantly text and call him. Would your boss be okay with it if your FF blew your phone up non-stop while you were working? Didn't think so. Not to mention, if he's not actively on a call, there's a good chance he is training, learning from the other guys at the house, teaching someone newer than him something, debriefing about a call with the others, or *shock* relaxing. I'm not saying don't ever contact him, but don't blow his phone up. I'm also not saying I haven't ever done this, because it happens. Sometimes the crap just hits the fan, and it's got a hefty chance of being on a shift day. When I'm able, I try to put it in an email, so he can read it later. Sometimes, that just doesn't happen. Work out a system for contact. For us, I text anytime I leave/arrive somewhere, so he knows I'm not dead in a ditch somewhere. I also typically text before bed. I may not always get a text back, but usually sometime during the night he will text me good night (I keep my notifications silent at night). Be reasonable and flexible with your system, however!

Be reasonable, be flexible, be forgiving

Firefighters are human, and I've yet to meet one that was omnipotent. They don't always know when a call will run long, when someone will get a flat on the way to work, etc. They also don't always know when they are going to have a decent night, or when they are going to have back-to-back calls all night. Side note, if it is a full moon, the night before, or the night after, it's pretty likely that they will be busy, in my experience. Try to not get angry/upset/hurt if he agrees to cover for a guy on the oncoming shift for an hour or two. First, you have no idea why that guy needs coverage (maybe his wife is in the ER, maybe he has a dead battery, maybe the sitter is sick, or maybe he just plain overslept), and second, some day, your guy will need the favor returned from someone, and he doesn't want the reputation of the county jerk burger who won't cover for anyone. With any luck, these guys will all work together for a LONG time - making enemies doesn't bode well. With that said, it's reasonable to expect a text or call to tell you he will be late because he's is covering for someone. Forgive him when he agrees to help out brothers (or sisters!) and it skews your plans.

For me, part of being flexible means avoiding making early morning plans when he is coming off shift, if at all possible. It also means having a contingency plan. Our son plays football, and we have to be on the field (sometimes over an hour away) at 0800 for morning games. If FF is running at behind  at all, we have to go separately, which stinks (costs more in gas, then we have 2 vehicles there, etc). He tries to be first out when those games happen that way, but it doesn't always work. Sometimes he can get someone on the other shift to come in a few early, and relieve him. However, he can't do that if he doesn't know the schedule!

I absolutely recommend getting a shared calendar. We use Google Calendar, and it works through our various email accounts. He can see my calendar, the Minion's calendar, and I can see both of his job calendars (PT and FT), as well as "other" stuff, such as the company he volunteers with for charity stuff. I also have on my calendar (he'd have to log into my email to see these) my mom's calendar (I manage her healthcare), and my best friend/nanny's calendar. Calendar sharing is a WONDERFUL thing! Before I had a smart phone, I printed a blank calendar each month, wrote it everything, highlighted his stuff in blue, Minion's in green, mine in pink, family in purple, and other stuff in orange. Then, I made copies of it for the fridge, for him, and for me to have at work and in my purse. It helped, but was time consuming - now the online calendar does it all. I can look a month or year in advance and know if he is working, without counting days/weeks (we don't work a 1 on/2 off schedule here). It is absolutely worth it, and has really helped to not double book so often!

Don't assume female firefighters are the enemy

This has NEVER been an issue for me, but it comes up all the time. There was a female at FF's station when we met. That didn't mean she was hooking up with the guys, or that she was endangering them because women don't make as good of firefighters as men. That's all rubbish, in my book. She was just one of the guys, and I never looked at her any differently. Worrying yourself over a female FF seducing your FF is ridiculous and insecure. Don't do it, you won't survive the fire life being insecure. If your man is YOURS, nobody can steal him - it doesn't matter what profession he is in.


 Ask lots of questions, but don't push if he won't answer. Let him know how things are at home, but don't make every call or text a massive complaint session. Show him you care about his job, but let him know you expect him to care about yours, too. He's going to go on bad calls, and not all fire wives can handle hearing the details. If you can, let him know that you are willing to listen. If you can't, make sure he has some sort of outlet for talking about them. We email a lot, because it's easier between our conflicting schedules, and because he's not much on talking most of the time. Whatever you do, keep the lines open, because open communication is key to a successful relationship, especially in a world where our significant others are gone so much of the time.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kitchen Table: Department Events, Breast Cancer Awareness

So, this catch up post will be pretty short and to the point...

The only department even we've attended in 4 years was when The Boss and 2 co-workers were honored for helping save the life of a gunshot victim who was chosen to be recognized by the Shining Knight's Gala, via our local medical college/teaching hospital. Now, I've gone to the station plenty, and we had a big family Thanksgiving a couple years ago, however that's for the station, not the whole department. In talking to him, they have a retirement party once a year, but it just never seems to happen when we could go. At Christmas they support a local charity that provides gifts to underprivileged children here locally. Now, when he was a volunteer, they did all kinds of department events - but that was before I was around :-)

As far as October and Breast Cancer Awareness, they've sold shirts before, but this is the first year they could actually wear them on duty. That's about it, for real.

Talking About Calls

Alright, I'm working on catching up on Kitchen Table responses :-) This one comes from:

When I met my FF, he'd been firefighting in some form (junior, volunteer, career) for 16 or so years. He definitely compartmentalizes things in life. At the same time, once he made sure i could handle hearing about calls, he tells me about a good deal of them. There are PLENTY of run-of-the-mill-dude-wants-a-taxi-ride calls, but he still talks to me about the ridiculous ones. He talks to me about the calls where the victim was in pieces, and the calls where they save someone's life. Early on, I asked him how the department handles traumatic calls. They debrief, talk to the department therapist-type, things like that.

I asked him more recently, how he handles various calls. He confided that the hardest calls for him are not the ones where the victim is dead and in pieces, but rather the ones that the patient dies on them while being worked, or the patient wishes they were dead, due to extreme traumas. He said he figured out a while ago that he can't help the dead, only the living.

If he didn't talk to me about calls, I'd worry. I phrase questions carefully, such as, "any interesting calls lately?" or sometimes I'll ask if they've heard from any of their frequent fliers lately. When we first met the only way i could get him to talk was to ask questions about work. So, he's used to me asking lots of (often dumb or silly) questions. Now, with the help of my fire sisters, I have lots of springboards to start with and ask him if he's dealt with similar stuff. Sometimes I'll tell him what's been posted, and ask if he has advice from his side of the fence.

I honestly don't worry about him bottling stuff up, because we have some pretty darn open communication going on. His skill for compartmentalizing is a huge help, as well. He doesn't do it as a way to avoid dealing with stuff, more as a way to keep it from eating at him, or dwelling on the bad stuff. I'd definitely worry if he suddenly started refusing to tell me stuff. I mean, I never ask for stuff that would be HIPAA  violations, of course, just for him to talk to me about stuff. Talking soothes the soul, in my book.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Circling the Drain

Ever have one of those days where nothing is going right, you're exhausted, and the sound of your own breathing is annoying you? Well, I've been having those days consecutively for a couple of weeks. There's been the occasional, "hey today doesn't suck" moment, but those have been outweighed by the "oh holy crap, I'm so overwhelmed, but I don't have time to deal with it" kind of moments. Last Tuesday I totally circled the drain. I snapped. I lost my crackers, big time.

As per the usual, there had been football practice, from 1800-2000 hours. It was Tuesday, so the Minion went with the ex for the night. We actually got out a little early, and The Boss had been at a group dinner thing. He had wanted me to come by on my way home, since the restaurant is literally under 3 miles from the house, and on my way. So, I call, to tell him what I want to eat, so it can be ready when I get there. At this point, I've been hungry for about 3 hours, but didn't have anything in my football bag or work bag to snack on (a true rarity). It was going to be okay, because I'd have yummy food that I love in about 20 minutes. As I am getting on the highway, he calls me back. (Side note, when I am uber-irritable, not taking my call when not at work is not a smart move.) He tells me dinner ended early and he was telling people bye, so he didn't take my call. I hear, "you aren't important enough, and I don't care if you eat!" Of course, I've gone by the fast food restaurants already, and am now up on the interstate. The last thing I really want is fast food anyhow. My birthday dinner? Not-good french fries, with a bite of a nasty baked potato from a national chain. Color me unimpressed. Football season lends itself to lots of quick, on the go meals. So, hearing that I wasn't getting dinner soon, was not a ball of edible delight. Oh, did I mention I get utterly evil when my blood sugar dips a bit? It's fabulous really, and it's even hereditary! The Boss knows this, and in theory understands it, being Mr. Paramedic and all. So, I lose it on him and tell him how from now on I will make sure i feed myself on practice nights. He offers to meet me somewhere in our little town, so I can eat. "Yes, that's what every girl with food issues wants, is to eat a meal with someone staring at her, not also eating!" is my oh-so-rational reply. He offers no real suggestions, is no longer at the restaurant when I drive by, so I go home.

Once I'm home, it's pretty obvious that I've lost some marbles along the way. I'm flushed (freaking hormones!), I'm angry, I'm moody, I'm a big ball of black abyss. I crank at him, and tell him I'm going to bed, because between being exhausted and being hungry, I can only fix one of them, and at least if I can sleep, I won't know I'm hungry. Again, I'm being super rational, obviously. He says okay, and I stomp off, strip down to my underwear and flop on the bed. I'm exhausted, but can't sleep, and I know I can't. I am not even sure the last time I slept for more than an hour or two without waking up. He comes in the bedroom and I'm so angry I am yelling, but so frustrated I am not overly coherent. I finally tell him I'm done talking to him. He walks away to go brush his teeth, and I melt down. I yell about how he is walking away while I am talking to him,  and what a terrible person he is being, and I have some seriously colorful, seriously irrational dialogue going on. I'm digging my nails into myself, trying to release frustration. He looks at me and says, "You know you're not being rational, right?" I flop onto my face and sob hysterically. I'm not a crier, I don't cry at movies, or hallmark cards, or puppies, or anything like that. I despise crying, but man can The Boss make me cry sometimes. I'm crying so hard I can't talk, I'm just choking out random syllables and gasping as my eyes pour tears. He comes and sits next to me, and strokes my hair. I cry harder. I finally manage words.

"I'm losing my mind," is the first thing I can get out. Then, "I feel like I am going crazy," is the next. He finally gets me to calm down, and I promptly start flipping through my phone, trying to figure out where in town is open past 2200 hours, because it's now 2145 and I'm in just panties. I finally ask him to take me to Waffle House. I also ask him to take me in his gas guzzling truck, as opposed to my car, because I can't handle having to clean out the passenger seat so I can sit. He obliges. I despise the Awful Waffle, but it's open, and I'm way beyond hungry. He orders a side while I order a meal. We eat, we talk, I eat, we talk, we stop eating, we keep talking. It keeps coming back to me really feeling like I am losing my mind. I can't get to sleep, and when I do, I can't stay asleep. I've gone from minimal hot flashes to hot flashes that last hours upon hours. My mood and temper are on this constant pendulum that refuses to hover over middle ground. My appetite is all messed up, and I'm having to force myself to eat a lot of the time. I've been chalking it up to being so exhausted that I don't have the energy to eat. We get home and go to bed. I'm so exhausted, yet I still can't really sleep. I don't get up and pace when I can't sleep, because it disturbs the little sleep The Boss gets. Instead, I play on my phone, watch some episodes of favorite shows, etc. I finally crash out, and have decided to let myself sleep a bit. At some point he gets up, and I don't move. I sleep until about 1015, although much of it fitfully. I finally check in with my boss at work via email, to let him know I'm having some issues, but I'm not dead in a ditch. I'm at an utter loss for how to fix myself, and that is perhaps my greatest frustration.

We discuss my upcoming appointment for my annual female stuff, which is on Monday. I finally decide to request a sooner work in, and let them know that I'm willing to see the nurse practitioner who saw me for my breast lump last year. she took me seriously, was proactive, and I liked her. That's rare, me liking female doctors - I've just had so little luck with them. Part of my concern was the second lump I'd found and how #2 seemed more obvious in recent weeks, which had also been when my crazy had been more obvious. I'm in medically induced (as in my ovaries and tubes were removed) menopause for almost 2 years. I'm worried about being able to convey my issues. The Boss tells me that they will understand if I simply tell them what is going on.

I spend most of Wednesday and Thursday resting, aside from Minion time after school and at practice. The ex made me mad, but I didn't make too much of a scene. Honestly, I didn't really have it in me, anyhow. I'm convinced that rest is helping, so I cram in as much rest as I can. Like any dutiful women however, I make sure things are clean, shaven, etc Friday morning. I feel less like a shell and more like me, but I've also not been back to work since Tuesday, and I've been sleeping whenever I can manage it. So, I lay everything out for the doc (NP). She is adamant that it isn't hormonal, and is certain it is related to (fill in the blank). She wants me to see a zillion specialists, and be tested for everything from lupus to lyme disease to thyroid issues, you name it. I ask about her running some of the testing because my usual doc is good about running stuff while I work on getting appointments with other specialists. She says that Usual Doc dabbles in primary care, but that I need to see all these specialists really. My PCP is local to where I work, which is not local to home. If I get sick at home, I hit the Quack In A Box, since the co-pay is the same. I get a tongue clucking, and get told I need a local PCP. I'm also sent for a same-day mammogram and ultrasound for Lumpy and Bumpy.

Thankfully, Lumpy and Bumpy are just fine. I however, still felt at loose ends. The NP's biggest recommendation was to exercise. Yes, I know exercise is good stuff. However, when brushing my teeth takes all the energy I have for the day, exercise is not even remotely close to happening. I felt brushed off, and at an absolute loss for what to do. I asked for doc recommendations, and was given pre-printed recommendations based on which hospital network they were affiliated with. I could give a flying flip about that. I want real true-life recommendations.

So, feeling like the circus side show, I post to my fellow firefighter wives. I've posted in only one group (of my many FFW groups) as to what is going on. I'm feeling fairly displeased, and let down that essentially nothing is being done for me. Thankfully, my fellow FFWs are a big ball of health craziness, too!

So, I feel a little less like I am circling the drain, now that I've had some consistent sleep. I was given xanax to "chill me out and help me sleep". Ha! It gives me insomnia and migraines. What kind of crap is that?! I've also asked around and found an internal medicine doctor (the receptionist informed me that I needed to be seen for preventative care, not internal medicine, and I informed her that the doctor and I would make that decision), and I have an appointment for the end of the month. Of course, it is on a shift day, but, such is life.

I will say, I could have very easily given into the drain last week, had it not been for my FFW Sisters, and their support. Here I am, largely a stranger, and they reach out to me, check on me, and support me. My local friends whom I am closest to knew what was going on, yet dealt with it with radio silence during the weekend (very abnormal). Thank goodness for the Sisterhood...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Re: Kitchen Table #1

It's been a bit since I've blogged, outside of occasional entries for my husband. So, here goes nothing! I fully blame the firefighter wife sisterhood ;-) So, a new weekly format has started, and the lovely Val has encouraged us to give input, as well. My poor fingers were itching to blog again, so here I am.

Topic: How Were You Brought Into the Fire Life?

I met The Boss at a big dinner out with a bunch of friends. It turned out that we had a ton of friends in common, but had never met. He'd seen me online, however, and knew I'd be out that night. As the night wore on, people left, and he continuously shifted seats as the group got smaller, until he was almost directly in front of me. Up until then, he'd taken every chance he had to stare at me. At one point I even asked one of my girlfriends who the dude was staring at me. She laughed it off and said he was probably looking behind me. (Note, there was a blank wall behind me!) So, we finally get to talk a little, but he is a man of few words most of the time. He's very much a still-waters-run-deep kinda guy. It gets late and I live a ways from the restaurant, so I finally decide to leave. He and two others leave too, after all three of them and another friend try to give me "easy" directions back home. I make a few wrong turns, but eventually I get home. I look him up, and drop a quick message to him, because even though he was a bit of a creeper, I was interested in talking to him.

So, we exchange tons of emails, and finally tons of texts. He tries to explain that he has a crazy schedule. I laugh about that one. At this point my son is 3, and I share custody with his dad. I have my full-time work schedule arranged so I'm a stay at home mom when I have Minion. I also go to school nearly full-time (3 classes most semesters), and I am working an under-the-table job to pay off medical bills. Oh, and on top of all of that, when we met I was working back shift (AKA 1800-0600). I was supposed to work it for a week, and wound up on it for 5 or so weeks that time. So, I make it clear to him that whatever crazy schedule he has, it won't faze me. He finally tells me what it is, and is surprised that I roll with it so easily. It's a numbers thing for me, and I'm a numbers kinda girl, so it works. He works each day of the week once, in a three week period, for 24 hours at a time. Got it.

We finally have our first one-on-one date, for lunch at a chain restaurant about halfway between us (we live an hour-plus apart) We meet about noon, and we talk for hours. It's literally almost dinnertime when we finally walk out. He walks me to my car, and I'm wondering in my head if he is scrawny or athletic. We kiss good-bye, which turns into quite the little show on the side of a semi-busy road, in front of the restaurant. He picks me up and moves me against my car, while we kiss. *SWOON* (Yeah, I'm sappy and love a strong man!) That is on Friday. He's available again Sunday, and we have lunch again, with lots of conversation (okay, conversation mostly from me, but by now I've figured out how to get him to talk, at least a little!) and again, making out like teenagers in the parking lot. We start going to most of the weekly Tuesday night dinner meet ups (anytime he isn't on shift) and that becomes date night.

Randomly one night, my dad (whom I lived with after my divorce) lets me know that he's being considered for a large promotion, but if he takes it, he will be moving several states away. I panic, looking for a place to live, knowing that I can't afford anywhere decent that has two bedrooms. I start looking in the area the FF lives, because my son's dad doesn't live too far from there. A friend offers for me to move in with him, and have a duplex arrangement. I'm contemplating it and consult The Boss. He tells me that if I am going to move up here anyhow, it may as well be in with him - he has 2 bedrooms that are utterly unused, save some random swords and purses (definitely a story for another time!) I brush off the offer, but a week later, I accept it. Terrified, I pack Minion and myself up, and we move north to our new home. I'd been dating my FF for less than 4 months.

The first night I stayed in the house totally alone, I'm pretty sure I never really went to sleep. The dog was there, but she's trained to not get on furniture, so she wasn't much help. Over time, it got easier. We live in a very safe area, it was just scary to be alone in a new place. Six-and-a-half months after I moved in, he first verbalized that he loved me. Another month later, he asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. Six months later, I took his last name.

These days, I'm wife, mom, room mom for school, team mom for football, team first aid for football, and I work full time at a job that I once loved but no longer love. We share Google calendars so I'm not constantly counting days to figure out when he is on shift, and so at a glance we know who is where, and when. He works part-time doing paramedic work for a private company in another county. Full-time he is a firefighter and a paramedic with 11-ish years in the career service, and several as a volunteer. I still have my moments, but most days I'm pretty happy being a firefighter's wife, living the firefighter's wife life, and wearing more hats than a hat rack. Forget being a jack-of-all-trades, I'm a Missy-of-all-trades...or at least 10 nights a month I am!