Seasoned to Grow

These past few months have been an amazing whirlwind with starting the new nonprofit CFFW Foundation Inc., continuing online classes, and of course the normal fire wife life we all know can just be so crazy in itself. This week though I wanted to make sure I made writing a priority. I wanted to talk about something I have had on my heart to talk about for some time now, of course that’s the way it seems to go. I always have things on my heart to share and seem to find it harder to make the time to sit down and type it all out. So, please bare with me with all the changes here and let me push that aside for the moment and talk to you from my heart.

Working a booth for CFFW Foundation Inc

My brain feels like it could explode with all the information it has been taking in these past few months on how the fire life is hard on the home front and as well at the station. One thing that kept coming to my mind is feeling like there is so much information out there and is starting to be available whether it be mental health, fire cancer, being a fire wife, and all the crazy life in between. There’s been something, actually a couple of somethings that I want to touch on, one is the issue that because we as the ones on the home front have a hard time and face a lot of unsung struggles sometimes get overlooked yes, but it does not give us permission to belittle the stresses and the extremes our firefighters go through. We are their strength because we support them and are able to endure hard things because of the love we have in our hearts for them.  We are a team and the only way we will make it through this fire life is to support one another. I want to see marriages and relationships flourish in this life by giving solid information and sharing my heart. The other thing is the term “Salty Fire Wife” keeps slapping me in my face. But it wasn’t because I thought of myself that way. Honestly, I feel so uncomfortable with that term. Or falling under that category. For those that don’t know the salty term is used pretty much in place of Veteran. A salty fire wife would be the veteran wife that knows the ins and outs and knows how this life style works and is often looked to for advice. So why would I be uncomfortable with that term? It’s not a bad term by any means. I have been blogging about being a fire wife for some time now, my husband and I have been married for almost ten years, and I know how this life style works. So, again why does it make me uncomfortable?

Here’s my biggest why, I WILL NEVER KNOW ENOUGH AND I NEVER WILL HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. Every single season has proved to bring it’s own set of challenges, in my face challenges, making me have that feeling that I have no idea what the heck I am doing or am going to do. Each season I have learned yes, but I will never be above learning. I am not a person who ever thinks of themselves as above someone, as I am someone who considers others as my peers no matter of years or experience. And enjoy working alongside my peers, no matter how long or how short you have been in this fire life. My main purpose for writing all these blogs is to help those around me feel as though someone else out there gets it. And when someone else gets it you feel a little less alone. Sure I will give my best advice but I will give it knowing full well it may not be something that works for you. And that’s totally okay! My desire as a fire wife is to break these walls down that separate us because it brings disunity. When we help each other and get to the heart of issues and are able to talk within the realities of this fire life we build community. And I cannot tell you the amazing difference of having a community has had on me. When I started writing blogs I felt so alone and didn’t even know if writing about it was going to help anyone else but I felt called and so I began writing. But let me also say just because I am uncomfortable with possibly being considered as salty doesn’t mean that I disregard those who I may think of as salty. Their wisdom has been a Godsend at times and I cling to the opportunity to always learn more. Or even just have that opportunity to ask for advice from someone who has had that experience. We are all in this together and sometimes we need that more experienced person to help guide us and feel like we are capable. We all have insight or some salt if you will and ways that we can help each other and I hope that continues to grow.

Living that fire life

As the blogs continue to pick up again I wanted to just reiterate that you are not alone and I am so excited to be bringing more things to help us on the home front and bridge that gap to our firefighters and the lives they lead. I am walking this life alongside you and will be working as hard as I can to make things happen for our community. I am so so so beyond thankful for all the love and support all of you have shown with the new nonprofit and just this fire life in general. Like they say it takes a village. Don’t forget to check out all the new and exciting things on the page and stay tuned for a mega raffle in December!

 

 

 

 

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Salty Jane by ‘Stache Salt

A little over a year ago I did a feature blog on ‘Stache Salt. A company who keeps your husband’s grooming needs on point whether it be pomade, mustache wax, combs, as well as an awesome line of apparel. Griffin and his wife Michelle make everything from scratch. Another awesome thing is they believe in giving back. How you may ask? With a portion of their proceeds helping a fire family battling cancer. Last October they blessed my sister who was fighting breast cancer with a donation. It not only blessed her but me as well. This past February Michelle and I teamed up for our not so dirty 30 birthday and raised funds for Carney Strong Initiative. They’re some of the kindest and most generous people. Being a light to those in a hard time and spreading a little salt everywhere they go.


But something was missing. That was when Salty Jane came about. The women’s grooming line. I felt I had to revisit this amazing fire family owned company to let you know about this. Salty Jane offers a variety of hair products salt spray, hair serum, pomade, and so much more. Other things they have created for the ladies, tinted chap stick, shirts, koozies, stickers, candles for the ladies and mandles for the men. Yes, mandles because it’s not a candle. Ha! The month of November is Salty Jane’s Anniversary they’re celebrating One Year!!! First Anniversaries are a big deal and am looking forward to this month and seeing the celebration fun.

Michelle the original Salty Jane aka the fire wife running this side of the business also runs a fitness business. She creates workouts and meal plans for her clients. So not only does she help you look good but she helps you feel good from the inside out. How amazing is that?! She has become a great friend to talk with and relate with. She keeps life real and is very authentic in all she does. Plus, we also share a passion for Taco Tuesday. And that is pretty amazing in itself. If you’re interested in her workouts and nutrition plans send her a message I am sure she would love to help you out.

Just in case you were wondering what my favorite product is, I would have to go with the Salt Spray. I have never been a hair product type person, but their Salty Jane line is seriously my favorite! It’s light, not sticky, and smells amazing! My favorite way to use it is to spray a little before and after styling my hair. And sometimes I will rock the natural wave in my hair with Salty Jane helping to hold my curls. It has been fun, and I have enjoyed watching this company blossom and expand their line. There are a lot of new men’s products since the last time I wrote about ‘Stache Salt so make sure you check them out. Not to mention some fun things for the kiddos in your life. If you purchase a product make sure you snap a pic and share to be featured in their stories or on their page. I cannot wait to see what they come up with next. Please take the time to visit their website and social media pages. You don’t want to miss out on all the fun, especially during the anniversary month! And as Griffin and Michelle would say “Stay Salty My Friends.”

The Good, The Bad, The Awkward

This fire life has many good things, as well as bad. I think life in general treats us this way because without both of those we don’t learn how to appreciate the other. I want to dive into these a little today. Especially the last thing in the title. The awkward in betweens that aren’t necessarily good but not necessarily bad.

So, let’s talk about the good. Our firefighters have a career of saving lives, saving forests, and helping do their part to make the world a better place. How could we not be proud of being with someone like that?! More things that are good about the fire life is the schedule not every couple gets to have days during the week off together. Getting to partake in school days, less crowded store shopping and public. It’s nice to go to the lake without the crowds of the weekenders there. And if you’re lucky enough to have a little weekends and a little week days off with your firefighter you get the best of both worlds. Some other really good things include having someone who knows how to cook and clean just as well if not better then you. It makes a huge difference to have that extra help. Overtime is that double edged sword but can be a great thing when that paycheck rolls in. The list could go on and there really isn’t an end to the things we could say are good about this job.

But, what about the bad??? All of those things listed above have bad sides to them. Because of the life saving there then comes negative impact on our firefighters mental health. There are so so many important events missed and a lot we have to learn how to handle as if we were single. Like I said that overtime check is great but it came with the cost of not having our firefighter present for days on end. Increasing their stress and our stress as well. The more fires our firefighters go on brings a greater increased risk of contracting firefighter cancer. This career can be beautifully devastating.

But what the heck is the “awkward” about? It’s the in between of the good and the bad the things we feel guilty about yet are necessary. Let me give an example. My husband’s position right now allows him to come home on some nights, yet he is on call. More then once it’s last minute, “hey I am coming home.” All those funny hurry up and clean isn’t quite funny. It’s at the end of the day and the last thing I planned on worrying about was dishes in the sink. It gets a little awkward for me to allow him to see the reality of what life looks like when he’s gone. Like no I don’t always have it together when you’re not here. Then there’s the night he says he is coming home and that dang episode on that show he can’t stand but I love is on. I had every intention of watching because he wasn’t going to be home. The routine when he is on shift I am used to is totally highjacked and I am in this in between of which routine am I supposed to be in. It is awkward, it is hard, and dang it it is wonderful because when I think about it I am going to get to see my firefighter.

These two worlds somehow need to coexist. He is very much aware of the life that is lived with and without him there but for me it’s being comfortable allowing myself not to always have it together for him. It’s a complex life with so many different factors that can make it good, bad and yes sometimes awkward. But it isn’t a life I would trade for anything. Even on the days I question why we do this to ourselves I know deep down it’s right where we’re supposed to be. The fire life is constantly being willing to adjust your life, your schedule and your daily routines. Make the most of each phase and season of Fire life you’re in. Being willing to learn, adjust and grow from it all good or bad.

My Parent’s Job

This month I wanted to bring you another featured blog. Last month’s we learned about Fire Mom a business created from the love of a fire mom and sister. This month however, I want to talk about another important aspect of the fire family. I have talked about my struggles as a mom and have even written a couple of blogs on the struggles of my children. This months featured fire owned company is My parents Job. We are huge book readers in my house so this company just gives me all the feels. They have created a book series to help bridge the gap in helping our kiddos understand what their fire moms or fire dads do. They put into words and illustrations a way kids get a really good perspective. Our children are so important and I am excited to introduce you to this company!

As usual, I want to first give a little background. Lisa Yu is a fire wife who has always had a deep rooted desire to someday write a book. She had no idea what this book would be but it soon became very clear. Lisa was a Kindergarten and first grade teacher for about six years and when it was time for her and her husband to have one of their own kids, she became a stay at home mom. When her child was about a year and a half she began to realize the importance of how to help her son understand what his dad’s job was and why he didn’t always come home at night. This helped Lisa realize that there probably was other fire families out there too explaining to their kids these exact things. With the deep rooted desire to write a book and the new mom life she was living there was no better time to make that desire a reality. And that’s exactly what she did. She combined these two things together. Written from their own experience in hopes to help other families.

There are two different versions of books right now, My Daddy is a Firefighter and My Mommy is a Firefighter. For us of course we have the “Daddy” version. I cannot tell you how I wish that I had this book when my first born was little. There were many hard nights but rarer now, when the tears of missing dad come. Reading this book now still is so helpful, it opens the conversation into a greater understanding. And with my second only being three I am sure it will become a new favorite. But what I loved the most about this book is how the illustrations show the home life and the station life side by side. It makes it relatable and I know for me as a fire wife when I find something that is relatable and helps me with my own struggles it makes all the difference. It feels that void of loneliness and creates a sense of community.

When we got our book in the mail my husband  sat down with my daughter to read it. After they read through it my daughter’s first words out of her mouth were, “WOW!” She felt as if someone wrote a book about her and just for her. She of course asked if she could keep this book and was so excited to have it. When I asked what her favorite part was she responded with, “the part where they save the older woman.” That’s the only clue you’ll get from me about what is in the book. This book My Parents Job created will be one of those books that will be kept for years to come. You will have to get yourself one so you can know what is in it.

This book is special already to my girls, feeling as if it was written just for them. If you’re looking for a way to help your little one see and feel special this book is for them. Helping our kids understand a little more about what this fire life is about. Please check out their website and find them on social media. Their link will also be in the featured tab. Thank you Lisa and all the ones who put the work into creating such a special book to help our kiddos understand the important roles in the fire families we all play. Looking forward to the other books in the series to come!

 

 

 

 

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Beauty and the Beast

I have had this subject on my heart to write about for some time now. I am excited to write about something I believe needs awareness and some spotlight. Today I want to talk to you about women in the fire service. For some of you reading this it may not be something you thought about or it may not be an easy subject to talk about or for others I hope you are sitting there saying “YES Girl!!!”  A couple of weeks ago I sent out interview questions to some ladies who I know work in the fire service. The three I received back are from three different branches of the fire service and these ladies lead different lives. When I read some of the responses I had tears in my eyes and also gained some valuable knowledge as someone looking in.

Flower bouquet from wildbud.co

But I don’t want to start with these interviews just yet. I want to back track to my the first season my husband and I went through. You know, the one where he was a hotshot and I did not know what I was getting myself into. But did I learn quickly.  There was this one day he came home from a fire, it may have been one of his first fires he was on. But, back then we didn’t have iPhones, I think maybe the first camera phones had just come out. So my husband had one of those silver Kodak digital cameras he brought with him. We were really young and dating at this time, both of us still living at our parents. When I was over at his parents he wanted to jump in the shower and wash all the muck and crap from being on the fire line off. He handed me his camera and said check out the pictures while I take a shower. His parents wanted to see them too so I just plugged it straight into their computer and we started looking at the pictures together. Then that’s when it happened, one of the pictures was of two forest service women standing together for a picture. My first realization of women in the fire service. I was freaking out inside, like why in the heck did he have a picture of two women on his camera. But, on the outside I tried to remain cool because his parents were standing right there. I was so embarrassed. When we got a chance to talk alone I let it all out. I gave him the what for. Being young as I was, I jumped to conclusions, and made assumptions. But, then he explained that they had asked him to take a picture for them because they didn’t have any cameras and no one before really had a camera around, because like I said it was pre iPhones. He explained  he had only planned on sending it to them and then deleting it. It wasn’t for him but for them. After talking it out I realized his intentions were true and he had apologized for not telling me or giving me a heads up. And I apologized for not trusting him and jumping to conclusions. Again we were young and learning to navigate a new challenge in our relationship. Once I got to actually know these two women I realized they were not a threat to my relationship but actually were some of the kindest crew members to my husband. They had a beautiful compassionate side to them that the guy crew members lacked, and often were sisters and moms to all the guys. Even though this first experience wasn’t the best for me at the age of 19, it was something that was very valuable to learn. Looking back I shake my head at myself for ever doubting any good intentions. As hard as that is to share I also believe it is important to share because not all fire girlfriends or wives come to the realization that these women in the fire service are amazing people who have these amazingly beautiful hearts.

So, with that background let’s dive in to the interview questions. This first lady may or may not have been one of the women I mentioned above. haha See how it comes full circle. I have so much respect for Molly and her perspective on life in the fire service. And am grateful for the time my husband worked with her.

Molly’s Interview

1) Do you wish to remain anonymous?

No, its fine to use my name

2) What is your fire background up until now?

Structure Intern in HS, Got a job in Wildland a few years later. Started as a temp on an engine for a couple years, left the agency for a bit, came back as a demo (Perm) Engine Lead Crewmember 1 year>Assistant Engine Operator 3 years> Hot Shot Fill in & Detail > Hot Shot Squad Leader 8 years >Mom>Detailed to Engine Captain & Dispatch> Fire Engine Operator 1 year>Requested a demotion transfer to become a Fire Patrol 7 years ago.

3) As a female what is it like to work in a male dominated field?

I like it, it has its plus in minuses at times (like when it’s time to pee on the side of the road) but all in all I enjoy all the people I work with, but I do have to speak up if I need something but that goes for everyone. At the end of the day it is important to see each of us as part of a team, not to mention Mother Nature & the Fire environment is what truly discriminates us and treats us all very equally. There are politics & personality (otherwise known as ego) in this job for sure, but you have to keep your eye on the ball & keep an eye out for each other regardless of uniform, mission, module, color or gender.

4) What is dating like as a firefighter?

You date other Firefighters in my experience because telling a guy who you just met that you will be headed out for 2 weeks with 20 dudes & maybe you can call doesn’t always make sense to them.

5) Are you currently married? Or in a relationship? Explain your relationship and how the fire life effects it.

Yes, he is a Hot Shot Captain so I understand more than most what he is doing & why he might be acting a certain way. Plus, I know his duty to his job & crew. But I am definitely the one who now doesn’t fight as much fire. I stay close to home these days & I’m thankful I can, but the firefighter in me misses the life sometimes. I still contribute to fire suppression, just on more local levels, IA’s are pretty fun, especially when you chase them down & catch them.

6) Do you have kids? If Yes, how does it effect your role as a mom being in the fire service? Ex. Childcare, long stretches gone, missing milestones etc.

I am a Mom & it definitely impacts my service in that in the beginning, well not a lot of Hot Shot Supts know how to navigated Maternity leave (but mine worked really hard to take care of all of that) But you need flexibility & the agency doesn’t exactly have that figured out. They want women in the ranks, but they don’t seem to know how to support them from there as life happens, Dads too.

Luckily my Mom was & is the most amazing support to us. Otherwise I would’ve given up my career in order to stay home, which would have still been hard because with our wages you can’t afford daycare, but you also need two paychecks. I’m extremely grateful & mindful of the important role of family/friends are in being part of the Fire Service. I was almost 40 when I had my daughter & her Dad is in the business too, so I really changed my firefighter ways & he is on the road mostly. He does miss a lot & that is always hard as a parent. Especially as she gets older & really is vocal about her worries or her feeling. Breaks your heart sometimes, but she also is a trooper, all the fire kiddos are, they seem to understand that Mom & Dad are there to help others and they are a big part of that too.

7) How is it for you when fire gf’s/wives come around? Are you treated nicely by them and the families?

Yes, they have no choice really. I consider them family so I’m pretty forward. They sometimes don’t understand what it’s like or have fears, but I get that & I try to be respectful of it. I haven’t had any issue with the partners, they are always very cool to me. I did have a girlfriend think that we all slept in a big pile with a big blanket over us all. Yeah, negative. I can tell who was just in the bathroom or who let one fly in the buggy, so I don’t find your dude as sexy as you think. It’s much more of a brother/sister kinda thing 99% of the time. I did end up dating a fellow crewmember & that led to the family I have, but we didn’t tell anyone until I was leaving. I have been on both sides of the fence (I was married to a hotshot turned structure fire many years ago & we eventually divorced). So I am super mindful of how it feels to be the one at home waiting to hear from the one you love, the hard work, the loneliness, the worry, the pride – I get it & honor the strength it takes to love a firefighter. I do wish there was more support for the Men who love a firefighter, it’s not all just Fire Wives these days.

8) How do you deal with female things, such as hair, make up, hygiene, and other things?

I don’t…..just kidding! Lots of baby wipes and emergency supplies. I am very vocal about what I need, and I also am fine with not shaving for two weeks & having a perma-braid. The longest I went without a shower was two weeks, so those baby wipes are LIFE! But you pack what you need & speak up if you need more. PS you do all your business in the woods, so be ready. When you come hiking out of the bushes with a roll of toilet paper on your tool & walk right into another hotshot crew, well it is what it is. Just make sure you’re in the green & everything is buried.

9) What is the hardest thing about your job/career?

Everything

10) What is the best thing about your job/career?

Everything

11) What do your days off look like? What do you enjoy doing during down time?

Very simple yet very busy. Since I’m a Mom there are lots of things to catch up on & I also want to spend as much time as I can with her.

12) Have you ever been treated differently because for being a woman in your field?

Yes, but mostly by non-firefighters/public & sometimes by management. But it seems I do need to say things a certain way to get folks to listen sometimes. Or I would get talked over & around, but you just have to say something in that moment & shut it down so you can get the work done you are out there to do. I don’t think its as intentional as it is habit.

13) Something that the public may not understand or is a misconception about your job?

They get a smokin deal because we sleep in the dirt, don’t make squat, and walk further than anyone will even do, or know & we work our asses off. The federal firefighters are very different than State & local Resources. We ALL have a place & job to do, but we are very different.

14) What would be helpful to you as a woman and as a firefighter in your line of work?

Nomex that was cut for woman to work in.

15) Friendships what are those like for you?

My fire friendships are kind of indescribable. You do these amazing things together & they bond you in a way that is so unique. It’s a big part of why & how I do what I do.

16) Any advice for current or future female firefighters?

Know your stuff, know yourself & never give up. Push yourself early & learn as much as you can so you can set yourself up for things like a family later on (if that is your goal). But I wish I pushed myself earlier in my career. Now that doesn’t mean you have to be a captain as soon as possible, I think its critical to gain as much knowledge, get work hardened & know your craft as well as your enemy (fire & nature, I know its beautiful but it will kill you no matter what you are & who you work for – NEVER FORGET THAT) & that means hard work on the hill & paying attention. Get really good at using the equipment too. Saws, pumps, engines & tools. Know them & use them. Also, have a diverse skill set, I know I couldn’t do all the really physical things all the guys could but I had endurance & I had the ability to take care of other things that kept the crew going, so I found my strengths to balance out my weaknesses. Oh & take no shit!

17) And…This is where you get to add or talk about anything else fire related or not. Anything I missed or you feel like needs to be added.

N/A

I really enjoyed hearing Molly’s point of view and love her matter of fact attitude. I believe it is what sets her apart and helps her be an amazing firefighter, woman and mom. As a mom of girls if they ever decided to be a firefighter I would hope they had the strength Molly has.

This next lady I have known for years. We went to high school together and I have always respected her point of view. The first time I saw Elizabeth in uniform and as a firefighter was when she was grocery shopping with her crew. It is always fun to run into someone you haven’t seen for a long time and seeing them doing well. Some of her answers to the interview questions brought tears to my eyes.

Elizabeth’s Interview

1) Do you wish to remain anonymous?

You can use my name
2) What is your fire background up until now?
I grew up having a family that was in the fire service. I started my first fire class my SR. year of high school. After high school I worked for Cal fire for 9 years and now have been with Modesto City just over 2.5 years.

3) As a female what is it like to work in a male dominated field?
I have a bunch of brothers that I have a unique relationship with each and every one. Sometimes I’m the little sister, sometimes the big sister that has to put them in their place, after the hard calls or they are having a hard time in another area of life. I am the mom that listens and try’s to give advice, I’m the wingman for the single guys. It allows them to see things from the women’s side. I guess that reflects the relationship I have with them. The working relationship is they lean on me and I lean on them. I learned at a young age that most men need to see things to believe. So, if I tell them all the things I can do it means nothing. If I keep my mouth shut and do the job I gain respect. That being said I had to prove myself in order to have respect in the fire service. I have been told, “I don’t care if you are brown, purple, male or female, if you can do the job I am happy to work with you!” But I had to prove myself just the same as the next person. There are lonely days. Sometimes I just want girl time. When I’m on duty for a long time I want to wear girl clothes, do my hair and makeup. Not to catch the attention of the guys, but because I love being a women. That is one of my struggles for sure and it has come from other women. If I wear a dress off duty and am going out with everyone I have been looked down on because I look good. The wives girlfriends may be showing more skin but because I look like a women then I must want the wrong attention. It has gotten much better as I have gotten older and the wives have seen me on duty and see that my hair is a mess and I’m there to work not look good.

4) What is dating like as a firefighter?

Imagine having 10 big brothers and that explains how my dating days were. But it also allowed me to bounce situations off of my crew and see things from a man side.
I had many dating relationships end because the man couldn’t handle me being a firefighter. I had a guy say, “If you ever want to get married, you need to quit your job and find a more womanly based job!” He didn’t make it to a second date.

My husband is in the fire service and when we were dating he had an older women say, “I know why you like her, you can pull her behind your transport any time you want to and you get some even when you are at work!”

The thought that another women could even think that way crushed me. I am a firefighter because it is what I am called to do. God made me to be able to do this job. From the way my body is made to the way I interact with people. I have to have the confidence in who God created me to be and not focus on what others might think my reason I’m doing the job is.

5) Are you currently married? Or in a relationship? Explain your relationship and how the fire life effects it.

I’m married to my Sugar! He is my rock, encourager, listening ear and the one that tells me suck it up buttercup. We are both in the fire service so to say we have a different life then most is an understatement. Our lives are balanced by a calendar and being willing to plans changing based on emergencies. There are times my husband goes on shift the same day I come off shift. But it works for us. There are times I come off shift and only slept 4 hours in 48 hours and I’m grumpy and my hubby lovingly tucks me in bed at 9 am. I have learned my husband doesn’t like to hear about the unsafe times at work, or the close calls I had. So I don’t tell him. The fire service is in our daily life and there are days we wish to turn it off and we can’t but there are other days we have to run away to the east side of Yosemite where we don’t have service and we can reconnect with each other and disconnect from the stress the job puts in our lives. Or if we can’t run away we sit on the porch swing and listen to music just long enough to relax and enjoy who we are outside of the job.

6) Do you have kids? If Yes, how does it effect your role as a mom being in the fire service? Ex. Childcare, long stretches gone, missing milestones etc.

N/A

7) How is it for you when fire gf’s/wives come around? Are you treated nicely by them and the families?
This really depends on the other women. A lot of women don’t like the idea of it and then they meet me and are totally cool.
I have had women that won’t talk to me and then their husband walks up and they act super cool. I have had other women that are super cool and some of my biggest fans. I love when wives come around though. I get girl time but I also am their biggest fans. We are all on the same team and a part of the same family.

8) How do you deal with female things, such as hair, make up, hygiene, and other things?

Let me tell you, when the tones drop and I’m in the shower, putting a sports bra on with a wet back is a tall task. I have had to go to calls with shampoo dripping down my face or the conditioner still in my hair.

With a lot of things in the fire service I have had to find what works for me. My hair is an example of this, policy says I have to have it above the collar and look neat. If I wear my hair in a bun and put on my SCBA mask I don’t get a good seal. I have found if I braid my hair I get the seal I need. But I also found it has to be a side braid to the right. If I go straight down my back or to the left my hair gets stuck in Velcro on my gear. Or under my radio strap. Pulling my hair out once was enough to find another way that worked for me.

Being on your period just plain sucks. When I worked for CAL FIRE and we were on an incident for a long time I would have tampons in my pack and I would use the restroom out in the woods behind a tree. My crew has always been respectful and given me the privacy I needed. Now that I work for a city department I have to be honest with my crew and say I need to use the restroom. Jokes about the places I could use are made but we find a bathroom.

This may sound silly but there are a lot of women things that I don’t know. I don’t bounce those things off the guys at work and they surely don’t talk about them so it makes it really hard to know.

9) What is the hardest thing about your job/career?
I had to think hard about this question. Different days bring different challenges but that is something I love about the job. I don’t know if this is the hardest side of the job but mental health is a hot topic in the fire service. We don’t get to choose the bad things that we see but we do get to choose how we deal with those images. Some calls are easy to handle and others will stick with me my entire career.

10) What is the best thing about your job/career?

I get to do what I was made to do. I love people and everyday I get to help people. I never come to work and the day is the same. Everyday brings a different challenge.

11) What do your days off look like? What do you enjoy doing during down time?

I love the outdoors and being in them with my love or my family and friends. Love to hike, fish, swim or garden.

12) Have you ever been treated differently because for being a woman in your field?

I have been.

13) Something that the public may not understand or is a misconception about your job?
I would say 90% of people that ask me what I do and find out that I am a firefighter ask, “so what do you do, you wear the gear and actually fight fire?” I have never heard a man asked this! When I say “yep I sure do!” They ask, “like you pull the hose and go inside!” I just smile and say yes.
One day I really want to say that I cook and clean for the guys so they can do their job well.

14) What would be helpful to you as a woman and as a firefighter in your line of work?
My uniform in a women’s cut.

15) Friendships what are those like for you?

All of my work friends are men and that is who I am around most of the time so girl friends are hard to come by. I love having girl friends but if I’m honest being around a group of women makes me nervous. I don’t always know what to talk about.

16) Any advice for current or future female firefighters?

Allow your actions to speak louder than your words.
Be confident in who you are but not prideful.
If you are having a hard time ask for help.
Train till you find a way that works for you. Try the way someone shows you but if it’s not working for you make an adjustment so it does.
Know your strength and work on your weakness.

17) And…This is where you get to add or talk about anything else fire related or not. Anything I missed or you feel like needs to be added.
Thank you for an interest in women in the fire service. Some great women before us paved a hard road, and I hope to be maintaining and improving that road through my career. For the fire wives that are reading this, thank you for allowing me to do what I was made to do by supporting me. Your trust is not taken lightly.

So so so much love for Elizabeth. I appreciated her willingness to share the details of some of the things she has had to deal with. But also her strength to not allow those things to keep her from what she is called to do. I am forever a fan for sure! Keep doing what you’re doing and helping pave the way girl!

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Elizabeth in action

This next and last lady chose to stay anonymous but trust me when I say she is one of my most favorite people. She has a beautiful heart and truly cares for others in a way so rare. She passionately wants to see people succeed in all they do.

Check out her Interview

1) Do you wish to remain anonymous?

Yes, but you can reference my position or that I work for a wildland department

2) What is your fire background up until now?

I began my fire career at age 19 as a volunteer firefighter. I was working private ambulance and most of my partners were volunteers at various departments and testing for paid fire departments. They would constantly tell me how much fun they were having and what a great experience the fire service had been. I decided to become a volunteer and thought it would be a good way to get more EMS experience. Though out of my time as a volunteer my fellow firefighters encouraged me to take classes, attend trainings and even enroll in a Firefighter 1 academy, they really kept encouraging me and telling me that I would love this job. After a few years working as a paramedic, I decided I needed a break from EMS and thought a seasonal firefighting job would be a perfect summer break. I pretty much fell in love with the job on my first shift. I loved the wildland academy and within the first shift I was gone out of county and on a fire. I’d say I decided that wildland fighting was my career within the first shift! From there I continued working as a seasonal firefighter, volunteering and took on more responsibilities at the volunteer department. I began taking fire classes, finishing my Bachelor’s degree and continued working ambulance. I even took a position as a dispatcher to gain more experience. I eventually got a permeant firefighter job and worked my way up through the ranks. As an engineer and captain, I worked both wildland and structure stations/engines, dispatch, aircraft and inmate hand crews. After 18 years I promoted to my current rank of battalion chief.

3) As a female what is it like to work in a male dominated field?

I always find this question interesting…. I have definantly had a different answer for this depending on where I was at in my career. First and foremost, I love this job and what I do, I love the guys that I work with and have met along the way and I don’t really think about the fact that there are more males around than females. I think I notice it most when I’m heading out of county or to a training because if there is another female I have to share a room. 😊 I have had extremely supportive partners and supervisors, ones that were willing to teach and coach (male or female) and really were able to see each person for what they brought to the group. I have always had more male friends, been a girly tomboy and played on co-ed sports teams (all girls teams didn’t exist when I first started playing) so I think the male environment is natural to me. I enjoy the off cuff male sense of humor, I do like that I don’t have to be guarded in what I say or fluff or polish a response. I do enjoy the “tell you to your face honesty” that you don’t always get with females and the competitive push to always be your best. And all together I love the comradery and the “brothers” I have gained along the way.

But all of those things have a negative as well, had you asked me this question as a new young firefighter I would say that it’s simple as long as you can hold your own, do your job and you can talk and joke like the rest of the guys then there is no difference. It’s just like hanging out with the guys, but as I returned season after season and began to promote reality settled in. Somethings are always going to be true, if you can do your job and hold your own then it just like any other job and you will be respected. The difference being that every shift, every new partner every new boss, you have to prove yourself. The male firefighters have to do the same, however they are assumed able to do their job until they prove otherwise but as a female I always feel that you are looked at with skepticism. You are assumed unable to do the job until you prove that you can. Even once you have proven your ability, there are going to be those people that think it was just luck and you will need you to prove yourself time and time again. That sort of unspoken skepticism definantly starts to weigh on you. I went through a period where I began to wonder if I was really cut out for the job and because of that doubt I tried to stay away from the non-machismo jobs. I forced myself to do the things (Truck Company, Handcrews, busy wildland stations) that would have to make those people see just how capable and good I was. I was fortunate enough to have a chief who respected me as a firefighter and company officer and who I know fought for me behind closed doors. It took a while for me to really be okay with my path and what I was good at and not let myself be bothered by other people’s judgement. I think that the longer I stayed in one area, those co-workers and supervisors began to see over and over that I was capable and began to respect what I brought to the table.

One of the hard things to still hear is when males will make the comments about other female firefighters and how they were hired when there was a push to hire women or when there were two lists (minority list and a white male list) or how they were skipped over for promotion so that the female could get hired. I have heard plenty of comments about females that are aggressive and assertive, they are referred to as a bitch or worse. And plenty of unflattering comments about other females’ personal lives. The mindset is still out there that females are a pity hire and sadly if they are making those comments about others they most likely say something similar about you but more important if they are making those comments then they really think that a female isn’t as capable. What is most disheartening about that is that these are my partners, the guys that we are supposed to have each other’s back.

As a new firefighter I definantly looked the other way on the culture, jokes and comments. I am comfortable in the male atmosphere, however as a firefighter there were things that were said that now I wouldn’t let fly. As a new firefighter I would have told you that I really enjoy the chatter and jokes and comradery and I still do, but now I have no problem saying “hey that’s not funny” or “that’s too far” Some of that is experience, confidence and maturity and some of that is as you take on positions of leadership you cannot waver on your values and you need to set an example.

4) What is dating like as a firefighter?

I have been in the emergency service field since I was about 18 so all of my dating has been as a firefighter. Initially there is this intrigue and excitement about you being a firefighter, but once some of your personality traits that allow you to be a firefighter come out not everyone is okay with that. I have dated both guys out of the fire service and in the fire service and there is a weird balance of finding someone who understands the job and yet is still separate from it. All of the guys that I dated outside of the fire service didn’t last long, again they thought it was pretty cool what I did but had a hard time with me being able to hold my own or take care of things. Some had a difficult time with me always being around males or constantly thought that my partners were trying to hit on me. Some were really bothered by us living together or sharing bathrooms. It was hard to explain why I wouldn’t be home for weeks, or why I was forced on and couldn’t say no. Not understanding the culture or having worked around other females in that capacity made it hard for them to understand or get me. Most of those relationships didn’t last long. I found dating others in the fire service or from other departments, EMS, or military to be a better fit. I don’t know if that was just where I felt more comfortable or where I mesh better but it just seemed that those groups had a better acceptance of who I am and what I do. This group of people understood the culture, they had worked with other females, they understand the demands of the job and in the end, I married someone from the same department. I think it’s easier to understand the stress that each of us are carrying or the frustration with forced shifts or out of counties. I did find over the years that you can have both sides to you and that who I am at work and how I handle situations that is not how I handle situations in a relationship. One of the things that really attracted me to my husband is that he liked who I was at work, get things done and take charge, but he also allowed me to be a partner and, in some areas, a traditional female in our relationship. Finding someone who valued and respected both side of me was crucial in a relationship.

5) Are you currently married? Or in a relationship? Explain your relationship and how the fire life effects it.
Yes, married for 11 years together for 17 years. Our relationship is unique in the sense that my husband is physically disabled. Having come from the fire service himself, he understands the demands of the job, he’s proud of my successes and has helped me navigate the craziness of our job, but the job has also created stress. There is the sadness and even jealously that I am out there having fun and fighting fire while he is struck in a chair. There is a mutual stress of me being gone and unable to take care of him or keep his very important routine. Because of the brain injury he cannot always process where I am at or what is going on, he cannot always follow along with reality so he gets angry that I am not there to fix the problem or to prevent it from happening. There was a period where the demands of the fire service were so great that I couldn’t take care of him as well as I would have liked and I can still see the physical effects in him. Because of his needs I have always made decisions on what would be best for him, I haven’t always taken the job that I would have if life were perfect or I have skipped over applying for positions because it wouldn’t be the best thing for him. I have no regrets on my decisions or “wish I would have’s” but I think it’s important to mention that our relationship and his needs have dictated what I have been able to do.

6) Do you have kids? If Yes, how does it effect your role as a mom being in the fire service? Ex. Childcare, long stretches gone, missing milestones etc.

No, but I am fully responsible for caring for a disabled husband. I have been very fortunate to have his parents support which allowed me to be gone on long stretches, however they couldn’t always take him to appointments or physical therapy and after numerous long busy summers I started to see the physical effects on my husband. Having to take care of someone has definitely factored into positions I have accepted or applied for and now that his parents are not able to be as involved I have to have pre-arrange care and up until my recent assignment I also had to have plans in place for 24 hour shifts or response from home. There was a point in my career where training schedules actually cost me more in caregivers than I would make for the week. There is always a delicate balance of overtime and what I have to pay for caregivers.

7) How is it for you when fire gf’s/wives come around? Are you treated nicely by the them and the families?
I feel like I am, I have known many of them for years. I don’t really feel like I have ever been unwelcomed. They aren’t my group of friends but I do feel quite welcomed and have fun hanging out with them.
8) How do you deal with female things, such as hair, make up, hygiene, and other things?
I think I just deal, I have never really thought about it. I always like to start the day with a little make up, most people probably have no idea that I have it on, but it is a little part of me that feels put together and like I have my best foot forward if I take the time to do that. But that’s really the last time in the day that I think about that. I’ve found with my hair that I like it up and completely out of my face! I do find that I over wash my hair, like once or twice a day wash, just because of all the dirt, grime, soot and funk that gets in your hair in just a day. There have been plenty of times that I have washed my hair at the end of the day and there is just muddy soot water coming out of it!
As far as hygiene goes, I work wildland so we are all smelly and funky out there on the fire line. If nothing else I’ve learned to let me guard down and be a little dirty and okay with it when I’m working but as soon as the work is over I want a shower. I have always used things like baby wipes and now the commercial fire wipes just to get the carcinogens off my body and have always made it a priority to use saunas and get facials off duty just to get that stuff out of your system. When it comes to that time of the month, I feel like crap for a day and I have had those days when I had to drag my butt up the fire line, but it can’t be an excuse or even known. I look at it like my allergies you just feel like crap, but you still have to work.
One of my silly moments where appearance and fire came to clash is when I took a blast of heat to the face. Since I was a newer firefighter, I of course didn’t think it was cool to wear my goggles, well that blast of heat singed off half my eyebrow and for a few weeks I had to draw my brow in! Another one of my favorites is after a fire or a training you are covered in bruises especially on the legs, well I have gone to many of weddings, baby and bridal showers where I have had other females stare at my legs. I just laugh but I do have a group of friends from a bit of a higher class up bringing and you can tell there’s a little bit of horror in the face 😊

9) What is the hardest thing about your job/career?
The constant on all the time, the constant hypervigilance, constant on the go, constant ready for action and the further up the chain I go that becomes 24/7. You are always on and always representing your department so even on our off time you are expected to preform. I am expected to answer my phone 24/7 and to be able to handle a work problem on my day off. This ate me up for a few years, it really affected me as a person and being able to handle and live life. I affect my home, my relationships and my husband. I was always working, never off and always somehow connected with work. I have gotten better over the years about shutting off, I make it a point once a week to completely disconnect, but my friends and my sister are crucial to this. They keep me grounded to who I am – to the crazy, goofy, fun person that can’t always be out. They make sure that I get back to that person and let work go every once and a while. One of the reasons I love being around my nieces is that I’m really about as sophisticated as a kid and I love how unleashed and free spirted children can be so when I am with them I get to just have that sort of unleashed free fun.

10) What is the best thing about your job/career?

The people! I truly enjoy those that I work around and those that I get to teach. I really enjoy seeing my firefighters promote and seeing their excitement for the career ahead of them. I get a little smile on my face when I hear someone say a phrase I would tell them. I enjoy helping our partners and seeing someone who was struggling come back around. I love the days spent on a fire or in the engine laughing so hard that we were in tears and some of the crazy things we “got away with” I truly show up each day because of the people that we get to share this experience with. I also can’t deny that I love the physical outside all the time aspect of the job. I love to be outside and hike so that part is pretty cool too.

11) What do your days off look like? What do you enjoy doing during down time?

If it was a perfect world then I would spend my days off trail running or hiking all day with my husband. I do make it a point to go for a run, hike or gym each of my days off, but my days off are spent getting my husband to appointments or just getting him out to the store or the trail. The rest of my days off are just spent doing life things, mowing lawns, cleaning, laundry ect… Over the years I have come to realize just how important it is to make time for yourself so I make it a point that every Sunday morning whether I go for a run or a hike or I just skip that all together and wader around a store, I check out, there are very few numbers that will come through my phone or that I will answer during that time and I defiantly do not take my work phone with me!

12) Have you ever been treated differently because for being a woman in your field?

Yes and no. There is always the natural male/female reaction, especially as a firefighter there was that sort of male protectiveness. It’s a let me grab your bag or hold the door or stand up for you. It is innocent and not a reflection of being able to do your job or fit in with the group. It’s just normal male reaction to females. It took a bit to realize I wasn’t being treated differently but rather naturally. It still happens, just this week I had a chief that is my superior hold a door open for me, but usually I make a comment like “after you Chief” and that becomes an unspoken put us back into the fire service structure and out of nature’s hierarchy. I make it a point to hold open doors for my partners or grab their bags, almost a preemptive action so that they can’t.

On the actual job, no once we start working the idea that I am a female seems to go away and everyone just goes to work. The niceties of helping you pick something up go away and its really about the job.

I did start in the fire service when there were a lot of people that got hired at time when there were two lists (one minority list and one male list) so every once and awhile you’ll catch a whiff of that attitude. I have had it happen when task were being given out for the day and I got put on cooking even though it was someone else cook day or I got moved to the back seat of the engine (ie the back-up nozzle person). I think those attitudes are rare from when I was a firefighter 15 plus years ago. In the last 5-7 years, I haven’t had those moments. Again, I think some of that is also because after this many years my partners, chiefs ect have come to accept me as being capable and able to do the job.

13) Something that the public may not understand or is a misconception about your job?

The job is not Chicago Fire! Our job is not as exciting and easy as they make it seem on TV. We do have busy shifts, weeks, months but it’s not all the time. We spend our days training and doing projects. There are busy departments that are like what they show on TV but that is a very small percentage. This job is manual labor, it’s dirty, hard and long, the public never sees the mental and physical stress this job has on you. On TV they make the females slim and put together, the truth is that those females wouldn’t be able to physically do the job and being that put together after training or station work isn’t a reality. The public thinks this job is sexy and they know it’s hard but they have no idea the hours, days, and years of training, sweating and fatigue we go through to be able to keep up. The public forgets that that there are actual blood, sweat and tears that go into everything we do.

14) What would be helpful to you as a woman and as a firefighter in your line of work?

Its okay to walk away from this career. I think all of us that are intrigued by this type of work also have a headstrong going to get it done, going to make it happen attitude. I feel that people (male or female) sometimes stay in this career because we are not the type to quit. Especially as a female you don’t want anyone to think you can’t make it, but truly it’s okay to walk away. If you start in this career young enough life will change so many ways and it’s okay to say this job doesn’t work for you anymore.
The other is that you will have to wok physically harder. Our body and muscle structure are built different. Most males can do this job just off of just natural ability, as a female you need to learn technique and you need to maintain your physical fitness. Being a female is not an excuse for not being able to do something, learn the proper way to do things and then practice. You may have to spend more time practicing but that is part of being a female in a physically demanding job. Seek out those with similar body types, I learned to throw a ladder from a shorter male who was able to show me his technique whereas another female who was taller couldn’t really help me. Don’t ever let it be acceptable that a crew member has to help you to complete a task that should be a one-person job, carry your weight on the crew.

15) Friendships what are those like for you?

Some of my best friends are those outside the fire service and those I have known for years. I have a group of friends from college who are crazy and fun and never let me forget the girl they knew from college. I love to be around them because they aren’t in the fire service, they aren’t intimidated or impressed by what I do or my rank, they just want to hang out have fun and they make sure that we all drop all the responsibility and stress that life and work can bring. I have another friend who I’ve known since my 20’s, she isn’t in the fire service but has always been a part of that group. She and I have gone through a lot together, she’s been there in the front seat for a lot of my big stressful crazy moments. (She was there the night of my husband’s accident, just to name one) Both of these groups keep me true to who I am, we keep each other in check and make sure that neither of forget that those girls that we were years ago are who we are at the core and before life got in the way. We definitely make sure that we bring that out in each other. I don’t get to see these girls that often, but every time we talk or see each other it’s just like we saw each other yesterday or just talked on the phone ten minutes ago.

Lastly my sister is another giant rock for me, like all sisters we have had our love and hate each other moments, but in the end, there aren’t many people who understand you better than your sister. She and I are very close, and I think because we are family we make more of a point to physically see each other. We talk about once a week, or at least FaceTime with her girls and there isn’t much that we don’t know about each other. She too is another one that keeps me grounded and true to myself.

16) Any advice for current or future female firefighters?

If you want to do this job, be true to yourself and don’t compromise who you are because you think that they will accept you more. Who you are is awesome and definitely good enough, if you work at a station or a battalion that doesn’t appreciate then find a place that does. There are so many departments and agencies and with that so many different personalities, find the one that fits for you and don’t try to change who you are. This environment can test your values and you, but don’t ever let this job change who you are.

17) And…This is where you get to add or talk about anything else fire related or not. Anything I missed or you feel like needs to be added.

I don’t really think about being a female in this job until I am asked about it. I think it is so important to look at this as a job, and not as a female in this job. If you start to think about all the differences or things that happen because you are female, you can easily get jaded and discouraged (and I defiantly went through that). Being a firefighter as female should be just that being a firefighter. It is a hard mentally and physically demanding job, that will take over you as a person. For me it’s just like anything I do in life, I want to be my best, I want to give everything I have and do everything in my power to make sure that when I walk away at the end of the day I know that I gave everything and gave the best version of me. For me this job is really about enjoying something that is challenging and hard and making a commitment to rise to the occasion each and every time and each and every day.

She truly is an amazing person and I know I completely appreciate who she is and what she is about. She has faced a lot in her life and has handled it with such grace and dignity. And I completely admire her. Again another truly strong lady!

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My hope in doing these interviews is to give you a perspective that may not be seen by a lot of people. I know for me I learned a lot more then I thought I might asking these questions. It gave me a lot to think about that I hadn’t before. Although I gave my first experience story with women in the fire service it is no where near where I am now and what I think. My perspective as a young woman wasn’t always good and I am glad I never held on to that but learned from it. I love having conversations when I see these women and completely support who they are and what they’re about. In my opinion there needs to be a lot more of that. Next time you see one of the ladies you know at your husband’s station or whatever your position may be with the fire service strike up a conversation. Support all the men and women who are laying their lives down for their communities. You never know their stories or where they came from. Strength I believe isn’t something most people just automatically have. It is something that through experience and trial and errors that you gain. These women are some of the strongest women I know and it is something to appreciate. I am grateful for these women who bravely agreed to answer my interview questions and proud to know them too. They are all beauties in the midst of the beast of the fire life.

 

 

 

 

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FireMom.com

It is time for this months featured blog! I am super excited and have been waiting to publish this one. There are so many different fire family owned businesses and sharing them with you is so much fun. This month I would like to introduce you to FireMom.com. This Veteran and Fire Family owned company is owned and operated by a fire mom and fire sister. It is a great way to show another side of the fire life. So let’s get to know more about them. Sometimes the best way to explain a company and who they are is to just let them tell you. Here is what I received from Tara the fire sister when I asked her about her company. It was so well written that I decided it would be silly to rewrite it and made more sense to just use what she wrote…

(My MIL holding her Fire Mom Mug)

“FireMom.com is a California based Fire Family company, which is owned and operated by Fire Mom, Cindy Cornett, and Fire Sister and Navy Veteran, Tara Cornett. Cindy’s son/Tara’s brother is a firefighter with the City of San Diego. He’s been a firefighter for about 8 years and was previously with CalFire.

We launched FireMom.com, in April of this year and our goal is to bring quality gear and gifts to firefighters and their families.

Our products for firefighters aim to make the job a little easier, a little safer, and make their days a little brighter. The gear and gifts we have available for families are to boost morale, support our firefighters, and support other fire family owned companies.

We know there are a lot of companies out there supplying gear and gifts, but we aim to truly bring quality to our fire families. So we’ve designed our own ceramic mug line and have them made by hand, right here in America. We also work with companies like Firewipes, DoorJamm, Fire Grounds Coffee Company, Stache Salt Mustache Wax products to be a one stop shop to pick up quality products.

We’ve also put together Firefighter Go Bags, which contain all the heath, hygiene, and energy products firefighters need when they’re assigned to large fires. These bags can be purchased by firefighters and their families. We also offer our Firefighter Go Bags Community Support Program, which gives the community a chance to purchase these bags that we preassemble, then deliver to base camp or fire stations headed to the point of the fire while an active fire is in progress.

It’s important to us to be impacting our firefighters and their families in a positive way, making sure they have the little things we can provide to help make their live a little better.”

I happen to be familiar with every product they mentioned and some of them I have even featured. They really are all quality products. When I saw the firefighter go bags though I thought the idea was genius. I know first hand as a fire wife there have been times when my husband was on a fire line and could use almost all of these products. I have witnessed various conversations between fire wives asking other fire wives what exactly do they help put into their firefighter’s bags. This makes it so simple for us. We want our husbands to be taken care of while we are apart from each other. The grab bags make it so nice and convenient to order and have delivered directly to them. I can feel good about contributing to my husband and provide him with things he really could use while fighting fires. So this ready to go bag is an awesome idea they have available on their site.

(The Firefighter Go Bags)

Before I thought to feature this company I had made an order of two mugs. I have an obsession with coffee mugs and well coffee. Ha! Their handmade ceramic mugs are big and gorgeous. With their logo on them and also ones with their name on them. One of the mugs I ordered was for me and the other a birthday present for my mother-n-law. Because why not a Fire Mom mug for the mom who raised my husband? Seemed like a perfect fit. When they were delivered one mug came completely shattered and the other just fine. When I reluctantly mentioned it to them, I hate having to bring things like that up. But, they were so gracious and sweet about it. And what truly impressed me and I thought this is so rare was within 30 minutes she had a new one shipped out. Talk about customer service. I was completely blown away by the kindness and quick response over a shattered mug! In that moment I knew in my heart this company and the people behind them were something very special. People who also truly care about people. I kept a piece of the shattered mug as a reminder of the kindness shown and who this company is.

(The broken piece I saved)

(The beautiful replacement red FireMom.com logo mug)

Since then we have formed a great friendship and am just so honored to share about their cause and who they are. Please, please go check out their website FireMom.com it will also be listed under my links tab for the companies I feature in my blog. Check out all the amazing companies they have on their website and give them a follow if you’re on social media. Trust me you will want to get to know them.

 

 ***You can now use the code CFFW10 to get 10% off your purchase!

 

 

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A Wise Firefighter and a Lesson Learned

Something that has been replaying in my mind a lot is a conversation I had with a retired firefighter. Our families were enjoying the Fourth of July together and we got on the topic of mental health. How I never really knew about his story surprised me since his daughter is a close friend. But I guess it was just a subject that never came up until that day. And he was very open about it. But it wasn’t necessarily the story but something that he said while telling his story that has been replaying in my head.

While having this conversation he looked me straight in the eye while talking about his struggles with PTSD and he said he wouldn’t have made it through without his family and seeking further help. He said he put his family, his wife and kids through hell but they never gave up on him. That helped him so much and he said he owes them everything. I have brought the subject of mental health in the fire service up before but I cannot say how important it truly is. He was forced to retire instead of given the help he needed because his problems effected his work. That to me as a wife is not okay but I know it happens. He didn’t give up on getting that help and that is something to take note on. For me as a fire wife it touched my heart so much that the fact his family saw him through and he realized their role was everything.

Living on the other spectrum I sometimes struggle with how do I help other fire wives, whose husbands may be facing these similar situations? Knowing that not every situation will have the happy ending or the perfect outcome? We’re talking real life and it can get so complicated and messy. But I also know there are not any perfect answers. Every situation is different and holds its own demons. But what I can do is encourage you to exhaust every avenue of help before ever giving up on your firefighter. See them through if you can because seeing the gratefulness and the heart of this man who made it to the other end told me everything. The family matters in the battle and the family can heal. And if you’re the firefighter reading this don’t forget your family and that they want to see you healthy and be there for you more often then not. Let them. Fight for them.

Though I have been in this fire life a while now, I don’t pretend to know all the answers. I myself am constantly learning and every single season is different. But I welcome knowledge and am always open to learning. Some seasons harder then others in no particular order. Just when I feel like I have this fire life figured out and can handle things, I get humbled and I realize it will never have a pattern to follow. The fire life is just like a raging wildfire unpredictable but we can equip ourselves with the tools on the home front to extinguish the flames that may threaten it. And like this lesson I learned from this man, I encourage every fire family to remember what matters and fight for that. Keep fighting for the ones that mean the most.

 

 

 

 

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The Mason Bar Company

There’s a good chance that you have heard of The Mason Bar Company. But if you haven’t let me enlighten you. This months featured company is owned by a fire wife and her husband. Not only that but they live in and work in the same unit as me and my husband. They took over this business about a year ago.

So what is The Mason Bar Company? They are the original creators of the mason jar drinking lids. They have lids to make it possible to drink from a mason jar. And since this company is local to me I happen to have one of the original lids. Where I live and maybe where you live drinking from a mason jar is the best way to enjoy a beverage. Their lids though can be found all over the globe in stores, and on their online store. These lids vary in many colors and if you like the more natural look they have bamboo lids as well. The business promotes a healthy earth and even carries a variety of reusable straws and mason jar tumblers. You can find a variety of other items to dress up your cute mason jar. But what you may not always get when hearing about this fun and amazing company is the story behind who is running the business. At least the fire story side.

(what the lids look like now and one of the originals which isn’t sold anymore!)

April and James Rafferty purchased the company in 2018 and have been working relentlessly on making this company the best it has ever been. But this isn’t where their story begins. This couple met when April worked as an EMT for our local casino and her husband worked for the neighboring fire department. They ended up meeting through a mutual friend. During the beginning of their relationship April began working on the local ambulance and James went to work for Cal Fire at Base Line. He now works as a Captain for Cal Fire. Her understanding of what her husband does comes first hand with also having the background of a first responder. April and James are also the parents to three year old boy/girl twins. Like any fire wife or parents for that matter will tell you, kids bring a whole new aspect to life. Even after having her twins she continued working for the ambulance up until buying The Mason Bar Company. But, besides working for the ambulance April also used to work designing tumblers. People would ask her to create designs for their personalized jars and when The Mason Bar Company came available for purchase a friend contacted her and the fit couldn’t have been more perfect.

(some of the colors available check out her website for more)

Before this post April and I chatted over the phone for a couple of hours. She is one of the easiest people I have ever had the privilege of talking to. You wont find a more genuine business owner then her. Not only that, she has a good heart and is very business smart. She handles every single aspect of the business which is amazing! And when we got around to it, I enjoyed asking her about the fire wife life. I asked what the hardest part about being a fire wife is and her response was one I know a lot of fire wives can relate to. Her answer was when her husband is gone for a long time, comes home and the schedule gets all messed up. Like me she cherishes the schedule and routine. So, when that gets jumbled things just don’t go as smooth. I then asked her what the best part about being a fire wife was. She said it was watching her husband be able to do what he loves and not only that but understanding what he loves about it because her previous career on the ambulance gave her a deeper understanding of what he does. We also chatted about mom life within being a fire wife and we agreed that making the time to work out was something that is a priority. She gets to unplug for a couple of hours and focus at the gym. Her kids are very much part of the business as well. And if you follow the company on social media you get to see their cute faces from time to time.

(my favorite way to drink out of my tumbler…water, frozen strawberries and a few drops of dōTERRA lemon essential oil…ps she sells oils too…shirt can be found at Wildfire Strong)

So back to the business and what it is like as a fire wife. Being a business owner and a fire wife is not without it’s hardships. There are days when she is slammed with orders (a good thing) but since her husband isn’t home to help she will stay up all night just to get orders out the next day. Her business advice, which I LOVED, was “Wing it all day, every day.” Life as a fire wife and a business owner can be a balancing act so with the mind set of just winging it she is able to give her best every day. I asked about one of her favorite things about the business was and she replied with, one of her favorite things about this business is she is constantly meeting new people. She loves working and interacting with her customers. I can attest that one of the best things about her business is meeting her too. And like I said she handles every aspect of the business so it is likely you are going to come in contact with her in some way or another. I of course had to ask her what her favorite color Mason Bar Company lid was, her answer…ALOHA CORAL. And if you’re curious mine is…RED…all day every day. My kids also enjoy these lids and getting to be like mom. If you want to know more about The Mason Bar Company and their products I will provide the website under the links tab. Find them on social media. By supporting this business you are supporting a fire family and that is what I am all about and the purpose behind these future blogs.

(our favorite colors)

 

 

 

 

 

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Give Me A Break

Here I am in mid summer and so far it hasn’t been as bad. Regardless of what each shift or season holds there are always going to be those days when I just need a break. A funny side note because the title could kind of sound harsh, the Kit-Kat commercial song is what’s running through my head as I am typing about this. Haha But in all seriousness sometimes I get to these points with my husband gone on shift and the kids are home with me and I just think to myself, “I NEED A BREAK”. And those are some of the moments when I begin to miss my husband. I realize the importance of having those few seconds to take a guiltless shower, workout or run to the store for a quick errand alone. They may not sound like much but they make all the difference.

Over the years I have gotten better about communicating these needs to my husband. Even this last year I started to get my hair done again. Which for me is a big deal and I sometimes will even feel guilty about spending money on that. Taking these little moments have become easier since my kids are a little more independent but when they were babies it was so hard. The constant worrying or feeling like I needed to hurry back home when they were babies was always there in my mind. To make it clear it wasn’t there because of my husband or anyone else, I alone felt that way because of myself. It’s this broad season of life when I believe as moms we’re figuring it out and no one knows the perfect formula. My babies are so dependent upon me and as a fire wife I am a lot of the time their only constant person, so I would get a little stressed leaving them behind to do something for myself.

Let me just say this if it is something you are currently feeling like. IT GETS BETTER. Sure a lot of the time I spend is at home with them and it’s great, but there are the days when it is a struggle. Learning how to communicate with my husband or figuring out friends, family or a babysitter to take care of my kids so I can get a moment of feeling like an adult is okay. And it is okay to want those moments. There have been times when I can go days without talking to another adult and it doesn’t dawn on me until my husband asks if I talked to anyone that day. Sometimes my answer is no. Then there are the times and this is kind of funny but I will be talking to someone and be like hold on I need to use the potty. Ha! And in those moments I am like, I definitely need more adult time and conversations.

There is a whole army of fire wives out there that understand these types of times in our lives. What has helped me through the years are those people who understand. But also more then anything what has helped me is communicating how I am feeling in a respectful way to my husband. That, hey I need to slip away for a moment or I am going to have a girls night next week. He is way more receptive to that then me blowing up on him because I am at my wits end and I waited too long to share my feelings. I also want to say the same in reverse. Speaking for myself in all these things. I also think these things for my husband as well. Sometimes his job can be a lot of expectation and coming home it can be the catch up game and expectations of needing to help out. But, sometimes he needs a break too. He needs some guy time and not the guys he is forced to be on shift with but guys who genuinely care about him as well. And I know he struggles with the whole guilt thing too. Spending time off to go do something for himself. Both of our state of minds are able to reset when we allow ourselves the time to do so.

These days don’t always happen as often as we would like but we (my husband and I) have realized over the years the difference they make. So from time to time we make them a priority. Life can get so hectic and busy that often we forget to take care of ourselves. If you’re in this hard season of life remember you’re not alone. I totally get it. Like I said every season and every shift in the fire life throws new things at me and sharing with you what helps me will hopefully help you too. Because you matter.

Then Comes Baby

Part 3 of 3.

I have shared so much about the subject of motherhood and the emotions of raising kids in the fire life. I wanted to go back and talk about pregnancy to now. What was it like for me then and what is it like for me now. Every stage of it has been a lesson learned. So bare with me this may be a little longer then what I usually write.

DSC_0049.jpg (Newborn Picture of baby number 2)

When my husband and I decided to have kids we did not realize how our lives would change. When I found out I was pregnant the first time around I had this feeling but I wasn’t sure. I was working in banking and I happened to be in the middle of transferring to a new bank. The night I found out was the night of my last day at the old bank. When I took the test my husband and I waited nervously for the lines to appear. When those two pink lines showed up we were a number of things, surprised, nervous, and excited. Ready or not we were pregnant. I went through that weekend a little scared about starting a new job and getting this news at the same time. I had one of those annoying pregnancies that went almost perfectly. No morning sickness, only one small thing made me nauseous and everything was going well. I had work to keep me busy during fire season but it wasn’t until my husband was gone for nineteen days that I started to struggle. I ended up taking a day off work and drove five and a half hours to see my husband on his 48 hours off the fire line. It was worth the drive to see him but I found out fast how you cannot control your emotions when you’re pregnant. I cried when I had to say bye. I tried my hardest to keep it together but I had no control. He ended up coming home later that week and all was good again. Then later in my pregnancy my milk ended up coming early. I know maybe TMI for some but I have a point. My husband was at training week to get a certificate, I cannot remember which. But the night before the test I ended up in the ER. I had a high fever and kept feeling like I was going to faint. My breasts were also in a lot of pain. A girlfriend ended up picking me up and taking me in. My diagnosis was mastitis in both breasts. If you don’t know what it is both of my breasts had major infections. I was hospitalized for three days. My husband missed his test not wanting to leave me and both of us scared about what it all meant for the baby. My white blood cell count was being a pain and wouldn’t go to the number it needed to be at. But finally got everything under control and baby was healthy and doing great. I always felt guilty he missed getting that certificate but thankful he was there beside me. The rest of my pregnancy went a lot smoother and we gave birth to beautiful little girl. My husband was there because he was still a seasonal firefighter and we had baby in the winter.

(first pregnancy)

The realization of how much things were different came a few days after giving birth. You’re both physically and mentally exhausted. There was this moment though I remember like it was yesterday. I looked at my husband and began to cry. The realization that it wasn’t about me and him anymore hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before but it was there it’s reality truer then ever. The time and energy we would spend on each other was now dictated by nursing, diapers, and worrying about this little human who fully relied on us to live. But man was she beautiful. She has made every moment to today worth it. When fire season came back and my husband went back to work all the fun of navigating motherhood shifted. He missed her first word, her first steps, the endless blow out diapers. But one thing I never touch on that I want to say is that my husband has never been angry about any of it. Yes, it is sad for him but he never held any of those things against me. I always have kept him in the loop on it all. I sent him pictures of every moment making sure he was a part of it all. In the fire life that is one thing I have had to learn to do when it comes to our children. I asked him one day if it made it harder for him and he said yes but no. It was hard to miss those things for a moment but he wanted to be a part of it in any way he could. My first daughter has taught me the most when thinking back. All of the learning, demands and expectations that are put on fire families is hard. It is one of those things you cannot truly grasp until you go through it.

I went back to work six weeks after to the original bank I was at. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be until I was there. I cried at my teller station feeling the guilt of every hour I was away from my daughter. I only lasted a week before I begged my husband to quit. I needed to be home with my daughter and was not ready to be working again. We made it work. And I have never regretted that decision. But about the time my daughter turned six months the second bank I worked at called me asking me to come back. I was a much more confident mom and my hormones had a time to chill and get back to normal. The part time schedule worked for our life during that time. And when my daughter was a little older then two years we found out we were again pregnant. This time my husband wasn’t home but at an academy. I waited until he was done with his final to tell him the news. I ended up texting him a pic of our oldest daughter saying guess who is going to be a big sister. I felt lame telling him through text but I wasn’t going to see him for another week and couldn’t hold it in. This second pregnancy I wrote about before so I will make it shorter. Around 15 weeks I was on the phone with my husband who was on a fire. It was a good day, I just got back home from work and settling in. He said something that made me laugh and in that moment I felt the gush. At first I thought I peed myself from laughing. I got off the phone and went to the bathroom to realize I was bleeding. I called him back crying and freaking out. When I called the hospital I talked to the on call OB because it was the weekend he said it was fine and just to rest. I didn’t feel like everything was okay though and sure enough in the middle of sleeping that night I felt another gush. More blood. I called again and they told me that it wasn’t enough to really worry. But when it happened a third time I knew something wasn’t right. My husband was ready to come home but I knew if he did I would loose it and thought if he came home it would mean something worse was about to happen. So I told him to stay on the fire. My brother drove me to the ER and after some ultrasounds I found out I had partial placenta abruption. This is when the placenta begins to pull away from the uteran wall. I was put on bed rest for a month. My husband came home for two days of it and was back in time for the follow up ultrasound. It was one of the hardest things I ever went through. Taking care of my toddler while on bed rest and a husband who was gone fighting fires. We recieved a miracle and when our second daughter was born healthy I instantly looked at my husband and said I was done. Everything I read about placenta abruption said the odds were higher in pregnancies after. It usually doesn’t happen in the second trimester but in the third. So, that scared me even more. After my second child we decided that it made the most sense for me to stay at home. After a month my husband went back to work in his new position and the transition of being a mom of two began.

DSC_0136.jpg(Second pregnancy photo shoot)

There are days that are harder then others but my girls do not know any other life. To them it’s normal to not expect dad to be home for days on end. It is normal to them that their dad might miss things that are important, and it is absolutely normal and definitely okay to cry and struggle with each of those realizations. When they’re having hard days I have learned to be more aware and to stop what I am doing and let their feelings and emotions be heard. It is not easy and there are days when I fail miserably at this mom life thing but it is all part of it. If we didn’t mess up at times we wouldnt know how to make the next time even better. Every stage of life is different. I no longer fear the “it’ll never just be us” I feared before with my husband, but have embraced and love that it will always be ALL of us. It will always be us, firefighter, fire wife, and fire daughters. It will always be us working to live out this fire life one season and sometimes one shift at a time. They make this fire life worth it.