Wednesday, December 23, 2009
We get used to it though.
When my husband was first hired, he shipped off to special training on my birthday. I remember him feeling so horrible and awful to leave me on "my day," but I couldn't understand why. "It's just another day honey," I said to him, "Your career is more important than a day on the calendar."
And it is.
A firefighters family learns to adjust their way of thinking when it comes to those boxes on the calendar. We stop looking at Saturdays and Sundays in terms of a weekend and instead, replace our previous thought process with a new one that is made up of shift cards and multi-colored squares labelled A, B, C and D shift. These become our new normal. Our new way to see things. Our new compass when it comes to the monthly calendar - and as soon as that happens, everything changes.
Sure, weekends don't exist anymore in the traditional sense, but they are replaced with large chunks of time mid-week and the opportunity to trade shifts with a fellow firefighter to take time off that would be impossible in another profession. It's a give and a take and like most things in life, you learn to compromise and make the best out of the time you are able to have together.
This year, my husband works on Christmas Eve - which may not seem like a big deal, but when you have family from this way and that wanting to spend time with you during the holidays, the loss of even one day can put a hitch in your get along. It can make scheduling the holiday festivities a bit more challenging.
That's just the way it is.
Although we're surrounded by loving and supportive people who understand that it's just the nature of the job, it's still hard to please everyone. So instead of going to them this year on Christmas Eve, they are coming to us. We're baking a ham at the firestation and my husband is making his delicious potato au gratin dish to go with it. My mom is bringing dessert (the most important part of the night) and another wife is bringing her homemade potato rolls (ok, it might be a competition between these and the dessert). We are going to open a few gifts and hopefully not get interrupted by calls - but if we do, we're prepared, we're also bringing The Polar Express to watch on the ginormous TV at the firestation (is it just me, or do all firestations have ginormous TVs).
It might not be home, but it's the closest we're going to get on Christmas Eve and we'll be together...which is the most important thing of all.
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.
PS - Keep your tree watered.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The holidays are all about the food. Well, when isn't it all about the food when it comes to a hungry firefighter? What is your favorite meal to make for your firefighter or prepare at the fire station?
Because it's too cold to type without wearing fingerless gloves, here's a recipe sure to warm you.
This hails from my sister-in-law's mother's kitchen (who is NOT my uncle's brother's best friend's neighbors cousin) and the first time I had these I was in love. I know it may sound weird to say that you're in love with an enchilada but after you taste these, you'll understand. I could feel the delicious cheesy goodness right down to my toes (and I'm not one for cliches)!
My recipe card bears all traits of a great recipe as it is smudged, smeared and splattered with oil. The edges are tattered and I can barely read it, but the basic recipe never changes. I've tried other versions of the classic white chicken enchilada and found none that compare to the original. And on occasion, I have modified it using whatever shredded chicken I have on hand. Sometimes it's leftover crockpot salsa chicken, sometimes it's rotisserie chicken because I'm feeling lazy - as if crockpot chicken isn't lazy enough already. But whatever chicken it is, it's always good. My kids devour it with the zealousness of a pack of hungry wild dogs and there are never leftovers.
Simply, it rocks.
We call it chicken EN-A-LA-DAS (emphasis on the "la") because that is just how we roll around here, and it is best prepared while listening to your favorite tunes...whatever those may be. I think the last time I made these (which was just last week), I had a little World Party on my equally kick ass kitchen radio.
Kick Ass Chicken En-a-la-das
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 small yellow onion, diced
8 - 10 flour tortillas (or corn if you like those better)
1 can mild diced green chilis (use 2 if you're bold)
1/4 cup butter (use cooking spray if you're so inclined but believe me, you'll taste the difference)
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth (apprx)
2 cups shredded cheese*
1 cup sour cream
Cook the onion over medium heat in a little butter or canola oil until translucent. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the shredded chicken. Set aside.
In same pan, and no you don't have to wash it in between, melt the butter over med-high heat. Add the diced green chilis when the butter is melted and just begins to crackle. Cook for about 2 min, stirring constantly. Now, reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle the flour over the green chilis. This will make a paste. Cook and stir only until combined and there are no large visible lumps of flour. Then, add the chicken broth, stirring (I like to use a large plastic whisk) slowly until it is all blended, over medium heat. Continue stirring until all the chicken broth is absorbed and the mixture is smooth. It should be fairly thick but if it isn't, toss in a little more flour, crank up the heat and adjust it until you think it's thick enough.
I know, this recipe is soooooo Martha Stewart.
Finally, turn the heat off, but keep the pan on the burner, and gently fold in the sour cream. The sauce will be delicious, thick and creamy colored.
Now, you should have a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with cooking spray and ready to go. I forgot to mention that earlier but it's okay if you wait until the last minute - nothing is going to go wrong if you do this out of order!
Take a tortilla, hold it in your hand, and spread about 1/4 cup of the chicken/onion mixture in the tortilla. Sprinkle just a pinch (or a tablespoon in this case) of cheese on top of the chicken/onion mixture and roll the whole thing up. Place seam side down in the pan and repeat at least 7 more times, loading the pan up with en-a-la-das.
When the pan is full, find that wonderful sauce you just made - it should be sitting on the stove. Slowly pour the sauce over the en-a-la-das, spreading it out with a spatula if necessary to get all the edges coated in sauce. Place the entire pan in a preheated 350 degree oven and set a timer for 25 minutes.
Pour yourself a tall frosty glass full of your favorite Mexican beer (I like Pacifico with a lemon slice) and dance around your kitchen until the buzzer goes off. When that happens, get the rest of the cheese (should be about 1 cup unless you snuck some while you were dancing) and sprinkle it on top of the bubbling en-a-la-das. Put that whole cheesy goodness back in the oven and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
You can do some cool down stretches at this point.
Viola! The en-a-la-das are done. We like ours topped with some fresh chopped cilantro and tomato but you can do whatever you like. Avocado, green onions and even a nice corn salsa would also be yummy.
*A note about the cheese, my favorite type to use is a blend of cheddar and monterey jack. But - you can use pepper jack, only cheddar or only monterey jack. Heck, you can probably use mozzarella if that's all you have on hand. Just make sure it's cheese, and that there is a lot of it.
*Cross posted at Stop Screaming I'm Driving.
Monday, November 30, 2009
I try, don't get me wrong, but I'm just not a morning person. I curse the fact that I wasn't born with the 'ol "up and at 'em" morning genes like my firefighter grandfather was.
I remember visiting my grandparent's house on the weekends, where my grandparents had separate bedrooms. I always thought maybe they didn't like each other so much but as I grew older and slightly more observant, I knew that they liked each other plenty...but my grandfather was an early bird and my grandmother was a night owl. Hence, the separate rooms.
I suspect this was the case earlier in their marriage too, when my grandfather was an active firefighter, responding to calls and leaving for shifts at the earliest of early hours. Just like my husband does now.
Although I'm the lightest sleeper on the planet (just ask my kids, they'll tell you I wake at the sound of a Kleenex dropping) I tend to be in the deepest part of my sleep pattern when Brett is leaving for his shift...at around 6:15am. And even though I know that he kisses me and tells me he loves me, I panic when I can't remember or didn't wake up enough for it to even register in my conscious mind. And then I have to call him at the station and make sure he's okay, before getting on with my day.
This morning he came in bearing gifts though.
Of the 6 year old girl variety.
Our daughter had woken up when her Dad came into her room to kiss her goodbye. And I'm not talking the drowsy kind of waking up that is easy to fall back asleep from. I'm talking about eyes wide open, rearing to go, fully awake.
So he brought her into the bed with me.
Which caused me to wake up.
And since I was awake, I got to kiss him goodbye and actually REMEMBER!
Ah...what a concept.
How do you say goodbye to your firefighter when he leaves for shift? Do you get up and see him out the door, or are you like me, lazily slumbering in bed just waiting to be told "goodbye" to?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Holidays? Well, those are great if you happen to not be scheduled on one!
Birthdays? Same thing goes. In fact our daughter just celebrated her 6th birthday at the fire station. What little girl doesn't like being driven around in a fire truck, eating take out Chinese and finding a Barbie Dream House in the closet at the fire station?
Weekends? What are those? It's always a nice change of pace when my husband isn't actually on shift for a weekend - but that hardly ever happens and if it does, we stand around and stare at each other like a couple of retired folk with no tee time.
Speaking of standing around and staring at one another, we tend to do a lot of that during the weekdays - especially when the kids are in school. Although I work from home part time and my husband teaches and seems to be constantly answering his Nextel from work, there is a lot of "down time" that normal, non fire fighting couples don't experience until they reach retirement age.
Of course, there are pros and cons to this arrangement.
- Extra set of hands to help with the kids and household chores...although my husband has never cleaned a bathroom at home or organized my linen closet.
- Help in the kitchen. We all know that most fire fighters like to cook, and it's rare to find one who doesn't. I'm spoiled because he is an excellent cook, and his dishes aren't so spicy that they'll burn the pants off you - unless you are into that sort of thing!
- Couple time. Married people with 9-5 jobs are always talking about "date night." We like the occasional date night too, but feel lucky that if we can't squeeze one in between our kids' activities and his schedule, we get a lot of time together while the kids are in school.
- Someone else to throw the slobbery ball for the dog and, last but not least...
- A designated lawn mower.
- Extra set of hands - don't pretend you don't know what I mean by this.
- Too many chefs. When my husband is at work, I'm in charge. Although at times this can be stressful and leave me feeling like a single mom, I don't mind it and get into my own groove just fine. When he's home, my whole balance is thrown off as I am distracted by him and he is also trying to be helpful (which is great, but like I said "too many chefs"). Sometimes it just gets a little tense and we need to decide who is in charge!
- Boredom. When he is working, my husband has a strict schedule and a tremendous amount of things that need to be done at the fire station. Here at home, it's a little different. Of course we try to maintain a nice routine - it helps everyone out - but we are in no way as regimented as the fire house is! Adjusting to a more relaxed home life after being on shift can take some time, even a few days. And we try our best to make it through these times with as much understanding for one another's "schedule" as possible. But believe me, it isn't always perfect.
We all know, as fire fighter wives, that the schedule is demanding, crazy and irritating at times. But it can also be a blessing.
And for all the times I've grumbled, "I wish you worked a normal job like other people," I would not have him trade places with a 9-5er for the world because I love what he does, I love how it makes him feel and I'm proud to be married to him. And at this rate, after 13 years of marriage and 13 years of enduring a fire fighter's schedule...we're in GREAT shape for retirement and all those days of staring endlessly at each other over the tops of our golf clubs.
How do you cope with your fire fighter's schedule?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Even though his department is small, and their last loss was not in the line of duty, you never get used to it.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
My name is Briana and I googled Firefighters Wife and your blog popped up. The reason I did that is because my boyfriend of 3+ years is considering a career in firefighting and I wanted to get a little info about what that might be like for me. Any advice/info would be much appreciated. Thanks so much.
After being married to a fire fighter for over 13 years, the best advice I can give you is to BE FLEXIBLE! As you must already know, a fire fighter's schedule is a unique one, not a "regular" 9 - 5 job like everyone else. So, the family of a fire fighter needs to be understanding in regards to his/her work schedule. Which means, abandoning all pre-conceived notions of weekends and always having him/her home for holidays.
I know, sounds rough right?
But really it's not. I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me and said how lucky I was to have my husband home during the week. He gets to participate in school activities with the kids that not many other working parents can. Although he misses the occasional birthday and Halloween, he makes up for it by hosting amazing fire station visits for our children and their friends.
Who else can say that about their dad?
As a spouse, I've spent numerous evenings visiting him on shift at the fire station. Making meals or just hanging out in between calls is a way you can stay connected with your fire fighter during those long shifts.
And get to know the other fire fighter's wives and families too. Your best support when something happens is one another. And the "family" that is formed by having a loved one in the fire service cannot be compared to any other working environment. It is a special bond that will last a lifetime.
Monday, October 26, 2009
"The Real Firefighters of SC"
You Know You're a Firefighter's Wife If:
You know what IFSTA, IAFF, SCBA, WSFTA, and ARFF stand for.
Your Husband's wardrobe looks like this: non-descript bottoms paired with any navy blue shirt/sweatshirt with a fire department logo on it.
Your Husband's haircut is "nice and tight." So are his buns.
You've eaten more gas-producing foods in a 24 hour period than any sane woman should (unless she's a fire fighter).
You know the difference between a police siren and a fire siren.
Your kids think the fire station is "Daddy's house."
You've received more dalmation-themed collectibles than you thought humanly possible.
You know that all of your smoke detectors work.
Your Husband will not let you near the BBQ.
You can make 4 dozen cookies without a recipe in 1.5 hours flat and have them delivered asap.
You know that you always have a team of highly-trained ems professionals at the ready (you know, in case a baby falls down the stairs or something).
You know that it is faster and waaaay better to take the ambulance to the hospital (NEVER go it solo, and actually WAIT in the waiting room!).
Your single friends are always aksing "are there any single firemen at Hubby's work?"
Your children can make good use of vaccuum hoses and rubber gloves.
Everybody knows a fire fighter, and will asume that you know them too.
You find it hard to sleep when your Hubby is at work.
You get severly angry when people don't pull over for firetrucks and ambulances.
You've held more birthdays at the fire station than should be allowed.
You get to listen to stories about fires, mva's and in my case, sprinkler systems.
You've seen Backdraft 40 million times and Ladder 49 10 million (but who can get sick of staring at Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta?)
You've had some of the best holiday meals at the fire station.
You've lost all sense of what a "weekend" really is due to your husband's crazy schedule.
Your husband gets to go on field trips & preschool once in a while.
All of the teachers want your husband to "demonstrate" his skills for the class (yeah, right she just wants to see him in his bunker gear).
You feel like the luckiest girl alive when he comes home off shift and sends your heart a-flutter.
Monday, October 19, 2009
My name is Stacy*, and I'm from "Somewhere in the United States*." I came across your blog one day while I was searching for websites for fire fighter girlfriends, fiances and/or wives, I read through one of the posts and was hooked.
My boyfriend is a full-time fire fighter for the city of *****, and I'd like to ask you a couple questions.
I'm new to the fire department world, sort of. I am a 911 dispatcher, and I am the daughter of a sheriffs deputy so I'm used to odd hours, missed holidays, cold dinners etc., but only as a daughter. As a partner, do you ever get used to it? How do you handle it? I have two young sons that he has taken in as his own, how to I explain to them when Dad has to go back to work, or if they hear something is wrong with a firefighter and we don't know who or what is the matter? How do I handle it if that happens?
Another issue that has been raised, is they just hired a female who is getting put on his crew, I know he loves me and it isn't the jealousy side so much that gets to me... It is would she be as strong as the guys in the department? Is she going to be able to help the love of my life if he needs it, or he going to have to rely on a 2nd wave of crew to come in and help? I know these aren't questions you would be able to answer really, I don't know if your husband has any females on his department or not, but in your opinion, do you think there is way to come over this fear short of waiting for it to happen and see how she does?
I understand if you are busy, it sounds like you have your hands full, I was just hoping to get another opinion on how to start getting used to being a firefighter's wife.
Thanks so much,
*names, locations changed for anonymity
Thank you for your questions.
As far as "getting used to" the crazy schedule, missed holidays and family gatherings, I don't think that I so much as got used to it, as I accepted this as our way of life. My husband has been involved in the fire service for as long as we've been married, longer actually. Before he was hired full-time, nearly 9 years ago, he worked as a "part paid" as well as his full-time job as a general contractor. He was the President of the Firefighters Association on top of this, so you can imagine how often he was really, physically home with us.
During that time, our boys (who are 12 and 11 years old now) were very little, so I understand what you are going through. I had come from a family of firefighters, and so had my husband - so explaining that to our children was easy, it is in our blood. Living in a small town, where the firestation was just down the street also aided in the understanding that the boys got at an early age as to what and where daddy did his "fireman" work. Having him come to their preschools also benefited them and my husband was never shy about showing up and doing fire prevention education for their classes.
It's important, in my opinion, not to hide the seriousness of the job from young children, but not to glorify it either. Being a 911 dispatcher, I'm sure you understand this. Taking them to the firestation, bringing dinner or treats, keeping them in close contact while daddy is gone, reminding them that although he misses some birthdays, it is pretty cool to have a daddy who gets to be home on his days off when other dads are working. These are all small things that can help ease the distance when he is on shift. We still visit my husband at the firestation - even though the boys are older they still love to climb on the firetrucks and snoop around in the station. And the support he feels from us coming out there to spend time with him is priceless.
We stay involved in the family activities too. Even though our department is small (being at an airport) there are a lot of things that we can participate in as a family. This teaches the kids the importance of dad's work, as well as connects them to the children of other firefighters. They know that their "firefighter family" is always there for them, no matter what.
As far as the female co-worker is concerned, you probably don't need to worry. All firefighters have to pass rigorous physical agility testing in order to be hired. This test is getting more and more competitive for all, especially females, as the interest in the field of firefighting increases. I understand why you'd be worried, but I assure you that she has probably had to prove herself ten times over what her co-workers have had to, because she is a female. If your partner's safety with any of his co-workers is ever in question, he should report that to his immediate supervisor, as safety on the job is imperative - as if their job isn't risky enough just by definition!
It can be hard to get used to, especially because the fire service holds a unique and strong bond unlike any other working environment, but I'm sure you're going to be just fine, as will your family. The fact that you are already thinking of how you can support and understand your firefighter tells me that you're probably ahead of the game.
All in all, staying connected with your partner is probably the best thing you can do for you and your family when it comes to your new life in the fire service. Letting him decompress after a busy or especially tragic shift, letting him talk it out and listening are all things you can do to be there for him. In turn, it is important that you have support too, because sometimes the stress of being married to a firefighter can be hard on the support person. My family is understanding and flexible when it comes to Brett's work schedule. They are always there to help me and I don't know what we'd do without them. Because my grandfather was a Fire Chief, my dad understands...I'm pretty lucky.
I'm also good friends with the other wives and we know that we can count on one another whenever something happens. Thankfully, we've only been called upon to support each other for the births of babies - but we all know in the back of our minds, when we kiss our husbands goodbye before a shift, that he's going off to a dangerous job. So we cherish each moment, every day, and try to stay positive.
Best of luck to you! You're going to be a great "Fire Wife."
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I am in awe of the thousands of tributes and projects dedicated to honoring and remembering the heroes and victims of the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and Flight 93, projects like dc's 2,996, which has already reached it's goal of having one blogger write a tribute for each of the victims lost in our nation's worst terrorist attack. The project is already working on assigning a 2nd wave of bloggers, worldwide, to write tributes. I invite you to visit this site to read amazing stories of the people who were lost on that day, to put faces and real lives to the names, to remind yourself that we are all in this boat together, and without one another, we are simply alone.
I longed to be able to find the strength to participate in the 2,996 project, but it is just too hard for me. Perhaps because my husband is a firefighter, at an airport. Perhaps because ever since he could say the word "firetruck" my oldest son has been obsessed with all things firefighter.
He watches every move his father makes, taking mental notes for the pretend inferno he will conquer as soon as he gets home and dons his father's old bunker gear and helmet, in the hot summer sun.
He has been a firefighter for Halloween 4 times! And shows no sign of wanting to be anything but.
He wants to save all his money to buy child-size bunker gear (since Daddy's is a bit big and cumbersome). It is $300.00, but he's on a mission. I have no idea why they even make bunker gear to fit a 9-year-old.
His brother and sister delightfully oblige his firefighter escapades with the willingness of little clones, obeying his every order just as if he were their Chief. One is the siren, one is the trapped person in the building, McRae saves the day.
Perhaps because we have a family history rich in Firefighters, it is no surprise that my son wants to follow in these footsteps, those of my grandfather, Brett's grandfather, Brett's father and my uncle. Perhaps his love of the profession will wane over the years and he will forget the days he spent drilling Daddy on how smoke turns into fire, or how you vent a roof. Perhaps he will chose a "safer" line of work. Somehow, I think not. It is undeniable right now, and for now, that's okay.
It is okay because although there are tremendous risks associated with being a firefighter, there are unimaginable rewards.
Running into a burning building to save a life when everyone else is running out is just one of them, and I will never forget.
In my life, it isn't possible to forget what happened on September 11, 2001, as I look into my children's eyes when they ask me "Will a plane ever crash at Daddy's work?". I wish that I could tell them "no," but I can't.
*Originally posted on Stop Screaming I'm Driving! - September, 2006
I don't think a thing about it.
A few minutes later, just when the first siren is fading, another blast from another engine. And another, followed by more sirens from what I've come to know by sound, are smaller command vehicles and police cars.
"There's something wrong," I think.
More sirens pass. It takes a long time for their sounds not to be heard so I know that they are going far.
A normal person probably wouldn't give these noises a second thought. A normal person would carry on with their day, corralling kids, folding laundry, preparing lunch.
But the wife of a firefighter doesn't do this.
Brett doesn't work for our local district, although he did for some time before he was hired as a full-time firefighter at the airport. But these men and women are still, as all who are involved with the fire service know, family to us.
I called him at work to see if he could find out what was wrong.
The "Oh" of his response was telling enough.
Head-on MVA, 3 or more vehicles involved, dumptruck on fire, and on it's side, one red (death), immediate response requested, caller states that this is "really, really bad."
For a split second, I am grateful that my husband is tucked into his airport firestation busy doing nothing more dangerous than waxing the bay floors. Although mayhem can come anytime.
Then he says the names of the firefighters responding to the call, all people we know. One of them, the son of a firefighter who used to work with Brett. I still think of him as a teenager and cannot imagine the storm he is about to witness on the highway.
Then it starts snowing, and I think, "Great, now they (the responders) have to put out the fire in the snow, and help the injured in the snow, and direct traffic in the snow, and see what nobody wants to see in the snow."
Being married to a firefighter is like this, it just is. I can't hear a siren without thinking about where it's going. I can't see an image of a firefighter without thinking of my husband. I can't help but worry every time he leaves for shift that something bad will happen.
All I can do is hope that he, and others, make it through whatever disaster they bear witness to without many scars, inside or out.