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.