Last night I was poking around on Facebook and I came across a wedding album that a Firefighter Wife Sisterhood member had posted. This wedding album was special. Why? It is special because I have never personally met this amazing lady. I’ve never met her but she’s my Sister. And it’s special because it is a tribute to a love many can only hope for.
I commented on her album and in return I got this amazing message in return. Her message was heartfelt and completely not expected. But in reading it, I realized I had made a friendship for life. Even if we never meet in person, we have made a Friendship Forged in Fire that will last a lifetime.
The Fire Service is a life style that can make or break you. One thing I have discovered is it helps to have an amazing group of women behind you who encourage you, support you and remind you that they have been there, they understand and they have your back.
As we chatted via messenger she asked me if she could use my words with her album. I absolutely agreed. For many reasons. First I was honored, she truly is an amazing woman, secondly, I agreed because I’m one hundred percent behind encouraging Fire Marriages, families and Sisterhood.
The Sisterhood has given me a handful of women who I am very happy to have as a guide through my Marriage Journey. This particular woman’s story is beautiful and when a mutual friend shared it I cried, happy tears. When I wrote that as a comment on her album, she replied, “oh my goodness. I just read your amazing comment. I must say I am mind blown. What you said is one of the most powerful and generous things anyone has ever said to me. I took a few minutes before starting to type this- because I was totally speechless. What a profound and kind thing to say. Thank you seems to fall short, but these are the only words I have. Sincerely- thank you. I am equally as grateful to have you in my marriage journey..my life journey.”
I thought about it and I thought about what Firefighter Wife has brought to my life. I replied, “The Sisterhood has brought some amazing women into my life. Those women have some equally amazing stories of how they got where they are. And a handful of those women and their stories have touched me more profoundly then others. You are one of them. Your words continuously show that deep and abiding love you have not only for your husband but for life. Thank you for sharing your journey so that others may be inspired. I hope I do the same for other Fire Wives as my Sisters do for me.”
I have another Sister often tell me she didn’t think it would be possible to have that connection with someone you have never met. I thought so as well. But I see proof everyday in the connections I have made through the Sisterhood.
Her reply: There is much to be learned from those who are willing to share their gifts of love. No doubt- It is risky to expose our vulnerable spots. We put ourselves out there. It could hurt! We may be judged and shunned by some who may not understand this drive. However- the connections that we make with the ones who will embrace this risky behavior, those who share the desire to grow and learn from each other- they will reflect and perpetuate the action of love. You demonstrate it- emulate it- create it and share it. You, Lisa– are a leader and a risk taker, too. Thank you for being an inspirer of others. Through what you have shared within our sisterhood (Firefighter Wife) you have inspired me to continue to have conversations about the importance of behavioral health, talk about the importance of keeping our (men’s) gear clean- and not being afraid to challenge others to carry on the discussion. Thank you for your courage and bravery; and for your friendship, forged in fire.
The video above was recorded last summer as I spoke to a group of Firefighters about Firefighter Wife and the Sisterhood. I have forged friendships here that will last a lifetime, even if we never meet in person. They are women of my heart who are committed to the fire service, their firefighters, their families. These are the women who will continue to help me grow in my marriage, as a mother and as a person.
To ease concerns: yesterday, somebody very near and dear to Andy and I commented on a post of mine, asking if we were OK. That some of my recent posts had people concerned/scared. First, I want to say, we are perfectly fine. No health issues, no marriage issues, etc. Second, I want to say thank you for taking the time to show us you care.
But I also feel the need to explain my posts. I am who I am in this order: A child of God, me, a fire wife, a mother, a firefighter and lastly a member of an incredible group of women called the Firefighter Wife Sisterhood (there, I’m also a local group Captain).
Those roles overlap in many ways. God is the most significant player. He guides me, I don’t always listen. He has carried me through so many of the most important parts of my life. Most importantly he has brought me 3 significant things: Andy, my children and my Sisters.
My Sisters have taught me some amazing things. 99% of those things are driven by God. The Sisterhood has taught me (by reading and discussing the Love Dare, watching Fire Proof, and many other discussions) that you need to work on your marriage before it is broke. Marriage is absolutely, positively, NOT one of those things that falls under, “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.” If you wait until your marriage is broke, it may be too late to fix it. I’m far from perfect. Because of that I’ve learned I need to work on me. That’s a big part of marriage. Recognizing that you have areas where you need improvement. You can’t change your spouse. You can only change you and how you react to the world around you. So, I started Daily Love Songs to my husband. I want to remind him every day of how much he means to me, how we have supported each other for almost 17 years and how I plan on doing that for the rest of our lives. I don’t mean we are going through a tough time right now. I’m saying, thank you for ALWAYS being my #1 supporter. Thank you to my Sisters for helping to clarify this for me last night, when I was truly scratching my head.
Another thing about the Sisterhood and being a Fire Wife is that there are many Fire Service Programs that we support and even partner with. One of the organizations is the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). My family was blessed last year to be on the cover of their Volunteer Family Guide. Written by our Chief Fire Wife. One of the NVFC programs is the Share the Load Program. In conjunction with the American Addiction Centers, they provide 24/7 free, confidential help to Firefighters and EMS. Topics I share from their FB page include: drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD, suicide prevention. I share them because they are topics that everyone in the fire service needs to be aware of. We need to take “got your back” to a new level. If we see a Brother or Sister in need of help, we need to help them. These aren’t topics that we can shove under the carpet any longer. So if you see me share something on drug addiction, with a caption that there are those that need to hear this, it doesn’t mean it’s me, or that it’s Andy, it means there are those that need to hear/see this to get the help they need.
So, after all that, thank you for caring enough to be worried, but there’s no need to worry. I’m just sharing my love of my husband and my Commitment to the Sisterhood and the Brotherhood.
My husband had such a wonderful response to my Blog post that I decided to let him take over my blog for a bit. Here goes.
My Fire Wife talks about heroes in her post: Take, Take, Take. Where’s the give?. Which I truly believe that the only heroic thing we do as firefighters is take the oath and staying committed to it. The rest is just part of the job. But as I sat in a meeting listening to talk about financing a program for my paid job as a CFO of a nonprofit, I could not help but feel a little like Clark Kent.
Let me explain, that morning I was at work. I was trying to complete a report that was due and I received a text that there was a structure fire in a neighboring district. I waited and listened as trucks rolled, then we were toned out for the confirmed structure fire. I told one other staff member that I was leaving and headed off, got to the scene, put on my bunkers and white helmet and went to work.
We did not save the house, but we put the fire out, no one was hurt, and some of the contents might be salvageable. Some 3 hours later, I took off the gear and went back to work. Just in time for this meeting. So I sat there and did my paid job as if nothing had happened and most of the people in the meeting did not even know I had left.
Hero? No. But as firefighters, paid or volunteer, we and our families live a different life than the rest of the world. Most of the time without them even knowing about it, unless it was their house we responded to. Maybe this is part of the reason we may be seen as take, take, take. We don’t publish what we do when the rest of the world is going about their day. We just respond when one of them needs help and do our job.
As a Fire Wife and Firefighter I’ve often asked myself what do we give back to our community? After all, we hold breakfasts during the first three months of the year and ask for donations from attendees, we hold a calendar drive every fall, and ask for donations, we show up on your tax bill, etc. It seems like we take a lot from our community.
So the question becomes: What do we give? So I really got thinking about this. And I have come to the conclusion we give our souls, our hearts, our family’s so that our community has heroes. These heroes don’t wear capes, they don’t have super human powers, they don’t drive Batmobiles. These heroes drive beat up pick-up trucks, cars and when they respond to our community’s needs, they come in big red trucks with flashing lights and sirens. Ask anyone of these heroes and they’ll deny the title. They are just average men and women giving back to their communities.
These needs are many, some aren’t true emergencies but each one is treated the same. It is treated with the professionalism of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood that for hundreds of years, from St. Florian through to our heroes in bunkers and SCBA’s, has been giving their lives to fulfill a calling most run from.
And yet we continue to give. From the cat in the tree (yes, that really happens, and yes the big red trucks respond), to the school bus stuck across the road (yes, that really happened just this morning) we are there. We are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Giving of ourselves, our time away from our children, our spouses, our families. We miss plays with our kids, birthday parties, holiday dinners. Why? Because we were called to give.
We were called to give peace to a family that lost someone in a flooded stream. We were called to give our time, while our own homes suffered during Hurricane Irene. We fought 2 structure fires that weekend. Not to mention the countless man hours spent manning the station and the phones as we created a call list to respond to.
We are called at 2:00 am by a passerby who sees a vehicle off the road. We give hours of our time at the scene while we need to be in training at 8am that same morning. We are called to extricate someone from their vehicle using the equipment on those big red trucks, while our “capes” protect our bodies.
Maybe some don’t think that is enough giving. Those are minor right? Those minor things add up. Our department gives the following on an average year (these are MINIMUM hours):
Total Volunteer Man Hours (meetings, drills and calls ONLY): 2,300 hours
Average # of Volunteer Man Hours per Active Member (meetings, drills and calls ONLY): 110
# of hours it takes to be granted those “capes” and carry that hose line into a burning home: 168
These hours do not include the numerous training hours we complete each year to be on top of our game. The best we can be. These hours only show what we give, on a volunteer basis, to keep our community safe, to protect property and lives.
So…., they’re only hours. Right? They are hours spent away from our children. Those children who look at us with tears in our eyes and ask: Does Daddy really have to leave for that car accident? Yes, he does. Someone needs him. But Mommy, what about the play we are going to see with our friends? How will we get there? Please Mommy? Does he really have to go? Can’t he skip just this one call? Those are the hours that we give. We give hours of our children’s lives because others need us. We give hours of our families lives because other’s need us. We give hours of our own lives to train, to be the best we can possibly be so that when our community needs us we can do our job with professionalism.
That’s a Firefighters perspective. What about a Fire Wife’s perspective? My husband took Firefighter I when our twins were 6 months old. I was single mother of 2 while he trained, studied and attended class. A single mother of 2 little bodies that could do nothing for themselves. I was the wife who gave hours of her night when her husband couldn’t sleep because of the visions in his head of that one bad run, that to this day, still lingers in our home. I was the wife that fought each step of his trip up that ladder to those white helmets because I knew the hours it would take him away from us. The hours he would spend at the station because he now wore a white hat and all of the responsibility that came along with it. I’m the wife that takes our kids to functions because those tones went off, just as we were about to walk out the door to go to a birthday party. I’m that wife that needs to explain to the parents of the other child why we have to leave the party in a rush, because, again, those tones have no sense of timing. Emergencies occur when they need to, not when it is convenient for us.
So the next time the thought crosses my mind of do we just take, what do we give? I’ll remind myself, we give our lives. We volunteer so that others can have heroes.
The other night I was talking to my good friend at the fire hall. We were talking about relationships. The good the bad and the ugly. She said something to me that made my heart stop. She told me what an incredible marriage my Firefighter and I had.
I thought about that for a few moments and realized she was right. While I knew we did, it meant a lot to me to know that the rest of the world saw that as well. Part of the reason the rest of the world sees that is the hard work we put into it.
Anyone can have a good marriage. But who wants good when you can have great? Fire Service marriages are not always easy. There are so many demands on the time others would normally spend together. There are the monthly drills, meetings, pager tones, etc. It takes patience and a whole bunch of love to see you through those times where the fire house takes him away.
It also takes a Sisterhood. The Fire Wife Sisterhood by http://www.firefighterwife.com . The Sisterhood has helped me learn how to be accepting of those demands, work with those demands. The Sisterhood has introduced me to The Love Dare, the 5 Love Languages, Scream Free and so much more. I challenge all of my fire family friends to check it out. Ladies, join. It’s worth every dime.
Husbands, boyfriends, check it out for your wives. I say it would be a great Valentines Day present. Talk to Andy. He’ll tell you.
One of my first blogs was my story and how I got to be a Fire Wife. And how much I HATED being a Fire Wife. Not really being a Fire WIFE, just hating the fire service. Thankfully, with the help of a great group of women, an amazing leader (Lori Mercer) and some inner reflection, I grew to love my husband’s other love: the Fire Service.
Fast forward a few years to the summer of 2014. In August of 2014 I remember being at the station and asking our Chief if I could have a brief conversation with him. I had decided to take Scene Support Operations (intro level course to being certifiable). Our Chief was an instructor and I wanted to take the class with him. It just so happened…… he was teaching it in September at a neighboring District. Well…. I wasn’t getting out of it now. I look back and ask myself, “What was I thinking?”
I was issued bunkers, gloves, helmet (it’s red, not black, but it’s a helmet) and any other piece of PPE that would keep me safe at an incident. Thank God Andy was on board with this. That Fire Wife: yeah, she made her husband (Assistant Chief) take the intro level class with her. That’s right, an Assistant Chief in a class for probies. Actually, I didn’t make him take it. He offered as soon as he knew it was what I really wanted to do. I wanted to do it for so many reasons: personal satisfaction, the drive to succeed, the need to help others.
At the same time I decided to take Scene Support Operations, one of our Jr. members was taking Firefighter I. This was the perfect training opportunity for both of us. We drilled on ladders, knots, Donning and Doffing. He helped me more than I helped him but it was great having someone working on some of the same skills as I was at the same time. Then, another Jr. Firefighter decided she was going to take Scene Support Operations with me. She drilled with us. We worked at the skills we would need to pass our practical exam. Now the Chief calls us the Bobbsey Twins. I enjoy teaming up with Chris and Sarah. Together we strive to improve our skills, learn as much as we can and be a helpful part of an awesome team.
The class was 2 nights a week for 2 weeks and 1 all day Saturday. I have to say the classroom part was not nearly as exciting (sorry Chief) as the hands on. The practical (an all day Saturday event) was awesome. I learned so much from our Instructors. I learned I can do a leg lock on a ladder (now that’s just crazy in today’s world with harnesses, but I learned how to do it), I learned more about an SCBA then I had learned training with Chris. I learned how to pack hose, I learned how to use a fire extinguisher (that probably sounds odd but there is a special way to do it). My personal best, walking on the roof of a building. I was scared of heights (still not my most favorite thing) but now I know I can conquer that and climb the ladder to the roof. But best of all, I was able to get on a hose line. That won my heart. Having the feeling of that charged line in your hand, knowing you have an awesome person behind you. That was the icing on the cake. Those are the moments I realized I had made the right decision and that I could do this.
Well, my brain said I could do this. My body said, “What in the good Lord’s name are you doing girl? You are 40 years old. You do this crap when you are 25-30 not 40. Your knees can’t take the pain you are inflicting on them. Stop this girl before you hurt yourself.” I laughed at my body and said, “this is my goal, you are not getting in my way.” But I can say Scene Support kicked my butt in a good way. I’ve continued to get healthier by losing weight and becoming committed to a healthy body.
I accomplished my goal. I got my certificate. So did Sarah. I’m proud of the hard work she put into that class. She worked her butt off. Chris he passed Firefighter I. The smile on his face when my firefighter handed him his certificate and black helmet will never be forgotten. We all earned those certs.
So…. yeah me!!! I was certifiably a Firefighter now. One small teensy problem. Andy and I never discussed how we would handle this new aspect of our relationship. Remember that Type A personality thing I mentioned before? How well do you think I like taking orders? Yeah…. not so much. Add to that those orders are coming from my husband no less. Well….. we were right back to the screaming matches. At least we kept it at home and not at incidents. This was a whole new level in our marriage. I think we have come to a mutual agreement. It’s still hard for me to remember that at the Station or at an incident, he’s my (gulp) Superior Officer. NOT my husband. That’s difficult. But I think we are getting better at it. He’s a great training partner. I enjoy our cardio walks and work out sessions. He pushes me to be the best that I can.