Friday, December 31, 2010

ciao 2010

It's hard to believe another year has flown by. I still can't wrap my head around how quickly time goes. It's been exactly one year since I have been back after my second maternity leave and I have to say, I am more enthusiastic about my job than I have ever been. I find it quite amusing that my very first shift as a firefighter was on Christmas day (first call ever was an elevator rescue) and my very first shift back from mat leave was New Year's Eve (peeling drunks off the floor). As most of you know, I LOVE working during the holidays because there is that vibe of anticipation of emergencies that seem to mark these days. As I sit and type, I can hear the fire engines from the station near our home race by and there is a part of me that wishes I was on the trucks tonight. But alas, I just finished shift this morning and they don't let you work 48 hours straight. ;)

The best thing about work is going to work. And the best thing about work is coming back home. I love walking in seeing my children still in their pj's and tousled hair. I love seeing their faces light up while saying 'mama!' as they run towards my outstretched arms. I don't know if it is them or me who runs into each other the fastest. Maiya is at the age now where she 'gets it'. She doesn't always want to listen to what I have to say but at least she can understand my point of view. She continues to be fearless and independent, strong willed and silly at the same time. Jacob is the peacekeeper, the thinker, the gentle, sensitive being. Jacob captured my heart, Maiya healed my soul. They have made me look at myself and the world in a whole new way.

This decade has been incredible. And a somewhat modern fairytale... I met my husband, became a firefighter, had two babies, and finally started seeing the forest for the trees. Being a firefighting mother has sped my life up to warp speed yet at the same time has helped me to slow down in the best of ways. I no longer feel like I have to push my body to the limit, but rather believe in its strength. I no longer worry about what is around the corner but enjoy what I have now. And I have stopped giving a rat's ass what people think of me because it's only how I feel about myself that really matters along with honouring my family and children. It's been a journey of self-discovery, and certainly not an easy path, but it's been deep and fulfilling nonetheless.

I won't be ringing in the new year only because my eyelids feel like they weigh a ton and I don't imagine I will be able to stay awake till then. But I wanted to wish everyone the best of all good things that are to come.

From my family to yours, may 2011 be full of happiness and growth, peace, health and love. It is my wish that life keeps on getting better and better xo


Saturday, December 25, 2010

love

For someone who has always had an uneasy feeling around Christmastime (and who has been dubbed this year as the official Scrooge at work), I was pleasantly surprised to have one of the best Christmases I recall. It was lovely watching Jacob and Maiya open their presents, believing as children do that Santa and his reindeer came to make their special delivery and eat the milk and cookies and carrots for them. And amazing watching my normally sibling rivaled children play quietly together for hours and then visiting extended family later in the afternoon. It was fun playing out in the snow. But my favourite gift, apart from my children's smiles, was opening my inbox and finding a beautifully written email from a friend who moved to Hong Kong about a year ago. I miss her dearly and thinking of her made me remember what this holiday is all about.... it's about connecting with people you love....even if it is only via a few cyberspace paragraphs. So this Christmas is for you Jo, and for all the people I love that I can't be with, either because of proximity or because they are no longer part of this realm.... Happiest of holidays. xoxoxo

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grinchy

There's always something about this time of year that makes me a bit Grinchy. Perhaps it's the incessant Muzak Christmas carols that play at every store you walk into. Perhaps it's because people look stressed out all the time from the shopping. Perhaps it's because everyone seems to be driving like maniacs... and I don't even want to think about the drunk drivers that may be out there after imbibing too much spiked eggnog. Perhaps because there are moments when I feel utterly hopeless about the fact that in a country as great as ours there are children who go hungry everyday and a little piece of my heart breaks if I think about this too much. I detest the overconsumption, the consumerism, the craziness of Chistmas. Up to the moment I had children, I always took the Chistmas shift because the firehouse is my haven, a place without the pressure of the holidays, where you can break bread without having to wear that horrible sweater aunt so-and-so gave you. And where maybe you can help someone in their time of need. Half the time the calls we get at Chistmas are from people who are alone or just lonely. These are the people I want to be with because I feel like they need me the most.

Despite my bah-humbugness, I do believe that there is something magical about this time of year... I get to reflect on the amazing things that have come into my life which I am so grateful for and sometimes I wonder what a girl like me ever did to deserve two beautiful children and an incredibly supportive husband. I am grateful for my firefighting family who always has my back and are like blood brothers to me. I am grateful for the sense of community they give me, the feeling of safety and security and the bond of friendship that comes through doing what we do for a living.

Perhaps this is why I personally don't need Christmas. It's here everyday when I see my little family and everyday I step into work.

Peace and love. xo

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I know, I know.....

.... it's been EONS since I've posted. No excuse really apart from the fact I have my nose buried in the books studying for this Acting Captain's exam. Only four more months of this and I will have a semblance of normalcy back in my life. Every spare minute I have I dive into my textbooks and my notes. I can honestly say I have read over 3500 pages of material. Reading it I find easy. Assimilating it into my brain is a different thing. I think one of the reasons I haven't been blogging is that I am afraid that if I let my creative juices flow, I will lose all the fire facts, functions of command and all the policies and procedures I currently have crammed in my head and trying trying to desperately keep from falling out of my ears. So please forgive me in advance if I don't get on here much between now and E day. This mommy brain is definitely overloaded. All I can say is thank goodness I love, love, love the material I am learning. No way would I engage months of my life into this otherwise.

Monday, November 15, 2010

very late

Nope, not pregnant. (thank goodness!)


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Finally getting around to posting a Hallowe'en picture.


It was a ton of fun apart from Maiya's initial meltdown when she didn't want to wear her wings.


Jacob was thrilled to be Bob the Builder again and Maiya, once she got her wings off was happy to just romp through the neighbourhood. Nothing much more to say except that I am grateful for the neighbours that gave out stickers, crayons, playdough and little toys instead of candy. Thankfully Jacob was happy to give most of his candy away to the share with the 'firemen' at work and Maiya forgot about her stash altogether.

birthday

It was my daughter's birthday this weekend and while I expected to be a bit sad at the fact that she is growing up so quickly, I am actually quite excited by the fact that she is two! Except for the fact she has started her wicked tantrums. Jacob's only lasted a few months when he was that age so I am hoping her terrible two's won't last too long. It's all par for the course I suppose.... being part of children's developmental stage. But still, when she starts freaking out over something seemingly mundane I just want it to head for the hills. I have found out the best thing with Maiya is to just walk away to another room. And she sorts herself out within a few minutes. I find it interesting that when Jacob was that age I had to coddle and cajole to calm him down but Maiya just wants her space to be left alone. Kind of like me when I get upset.

I find it interesting how my children, apart from one being a boy and the other being a girl, are so inherently different in personalities. Jacob is the gentle, sensitive old soul, who sees things well beyond his years. Maiya is the willful, independent child and she keeps me on my toes. Where Jacob is the hope for the future, Maiya is the one who heals my past. I understand my mother a bit better now, in the decisions she made in raising me.... sometimes only being able to make a decision out of necessity instead of choice. I finally understand a mother's pain, sadness, and let's not forget fatigue. It scares me sometimes that I will never be able to completely protect them from broken hearts and life's disappointments. But as a mother, there is also that oh so pure, unadulterated joy....like when my son first looked into my eyes when he was born, and when I giggle when my daughter is up to her impish antics because she reminds me of me.

I won't lie. It hasn't been easy balancing life with a career and children. And there are days when I pine for my single days. But every mother out there can attest to the fact that life would certainly not be as rich and colourful without our children. Because like I said, they are the hope for the future, and they heal our past.

xo

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

just gross

I'm not a person who gets grossed out easily. I can deal with death in every shape (or mishape) and form, blood, guts, vomit, poop, you name it. I might flinch a little on the inside but generally I can hold my own and very little will phase me. The other day at work however, I nearly ran away screaming when I saw this:
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It was my crew mate's breakfast. Oatmeal with peanut m&m's mixed in. G-R-OSS.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

in charge

Well, ran my first call and Incident Commander..... lol. Now it's not as 'official' as it sounds. What happened was that we had a rush of calls that weren't too serious in nature so my Captain, on the way to a grassfire said 'Here's the radio, you're in charge and get to it'. So I did. :)

I took command and hit the appropriate benchmarks and when all was said and done, terminated command. Only stuttered maybe once or twice. I think the most nerve wracking thing was talking into that blasted radio. I've done it a million times as a driver but it's different when you're at the helm and dispatch is hanging onto every word. Also knowing that my colleagues and any member of the public with a scanner can listen in on the call gave me a bit of stage fright. But my crewmates were really supportive and I'm just happy that my Captain gave me the opportunity to practice taking command. Just like becoming a firefighter, becoming an officer doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, experience and a support network of great mentors. I realized one thing at this call as an 'officer' that it's really hard to step back and just take charge of the call without doing the grunt work. I kept wanting to jump in to hit the hydrant, pull the hose, grab a shovel. But I didn't because it's impossible to oversee the entire situation that way. It made me realize how different that position is and that if I ever do get to that point of sitting in the front seat, how much I will miss being a 'boot'. But in the meantime, it's nice to have a taste of 'the other side'..... gives me whole lot of respect for the Captains who keep us safe at calls. Especially at those calls where everything seems to be blowing up simultaneously.

Friday, October 29, 2010

poor, poor trees

Well, there you have it:

...the stuff that beckons me from my kitchen counter. And what my head has been wrapped around for the past few weeks and will continue to do so for the next five months. Apart from knowing the material cold and practically verbatim, I think the toughest part of the process has been trying to gather all the material. You see, they only provide you initially with a reading list. They'll give us a disc in a month with a lot of the info we need to learn but I need the head start... besides, I'm not one of those people who learns well off a computer screen. I like my highlighters! So I bought textbooks and photocopied a kajillion policies on a whole lotta paper. Poor poor trees. Now that I have gathered my little library of study material I feel a lot better... kind of like having a security blanket. So now when I wake up in the middle of the night with a nagging question about flammable liquids and containment, I can look it up right away in the Fire Code and go back to bed in sweet slumber. Yup... I'm sounding lime a total nerd but believe it or not, I am actually really enjoying the material and learning. My biggest challenge is finding the time. I'm doing as much as I can on shift between calls because when the kids are home of course they want my undivided attention. Speaking of which, here are my tired babes last night:

It was pretty cute how Jacob was stroking his sister's hair. I was actually surprised how patient he is with her.... she tends to really push his buttons always trying to get her way and grabbing his toys from him. I'd love to claim that he got his patience from me but nope.... I think he was just born an old, old, soul. xo

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

animals

In general, I like pets... I've had 3 labrador retrievers of my own. But at work, the only 'animal' I like is my colleague who can rip a door off its hinges when he's making light work of forcible entry into a building. Tough, strong guys like that are worth their weight in gold as a crewmate. Other than that, animal, and work, and me, don't mix.

Yesterday's shift we had an alarm. There was smoke coming out of the townhouse when we pulled up. So we took a hydrant, charged the line and made a forcible entry since the owners weren't home. Because I was the first one to cross the threshold, you can imagine my surprise when there was a dog baring its teeth at me. Now I don't blame the dog really, because I was entering his home looking like the Michelin man and sounding like Darth Vader with my breathing apparatus on. But his growling did freak me out and I just prayed he wasn't going to bite me. I was convinced that even with my bunker gear on, the dog's fangs were going to pierce through to my skin.... or worse, go straight for my jugular. All I knew was that I had to get past this darn dog to get to the real safety issue at hand... the fire of course. So with bated breath, I dove in, grabbed the dog and handed him to the firefighter behind me who brought the dog out to safety. Now before you sign me up for firefighter of the year, said dog looked like this:
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I guess I'm not as tough as I thought. But at least I was braver this time than when I once came across an aquarium full of snakes! In that moment there was no shame in screaming like a girl. ;)

Monday, October 25, 2010

busy!

After my kids and my job, studying for this exam has taken up every spare moment of my time. So blogging unfortunately has been suffering a bit. So when I can't think of anything interesting to post about, a picture always comes in handy:


Jacob is ready to take the training wheels off but because we live downtown it's a bit too much of a hazard right now with all those crazy drivers. Maiya is starting to get the hang of riding her tricycle. Bear in mind she's not two yet and doesn't quite understand the rules of the road. It's always a bit of an adventure navigating with her.

On the work front, we're welcoming a new crew member tomorrow. He's not new, new but he's been off with a back injury for awhile so I am sure he is excited to be back. It'll be neat to see how the dynamic changes going from 9 people in the station to 10!

ok..... breakfast then gotta hit the books for an hour or two.

xo

Thursday, October 21, 2010

el stinko

It was biological warfare at the firehouse yesterday.

I don't know what the rookie put in our lunch. Although tasty and delicious... it left all of us with some seriously dangerous gas emissions to the point where we couldn't be in the same room with each other. Heaven forbid if anyone was stupid enough to light a match because the place would have rocked off its foundation. I wanted to don our Level A fully encapsulated hazmat suit because I literally couldn't breathe. One guy dutch ovened himself. That was pretty funny.

I never realized how loud people can toot. And in so many different octaves. Yep.... we're so mature.

Life at the firehouse at its best.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

humbled

I woke up this morning and I was humbled by my body. I'd love to say I was in awe of what looked back at me in the mirror and that I had my 20 year old body attached to my 40 year old head but nope... no such luck.

You see, there isn't a day that I wake up where I don't feel any pain:

There's the pain of having to pry my eyelids open to wake up when I just want an extra hour of sleep. Being a mother doesn't help and being a firefighter compounds the problem of sleep deprivation. Is it worse to say I'd rather be woken up by a fire call than my kids jumping on me in the morning begging to eat sugary cereal in front of the tv?

There's also the physical pain. This is the first year where I really feel the weight of my gear. I think part of the problem is that we have new airpacks and they don't fit me properly. I'm going to have to investigate further into this when I'm back on shift to see if it can be adjusted to fit my torso. There's not a day where my back, neck, hips, or knee doesn't hurt... I even have a bunion that is beginning to throb.. and on bad days everything hurts at the same time. Ibuprofen has become my good friend. I see the older guys on the job and I understand and feel for them because I am becoming one of them. I also see the look of the smug rookies as they bound up the stairs. Ha ha I say to myself... just give it ten years and you'll be feeling the same way I do. But I can return the smug look when I beat them to the top of the stairs carrying twice the amount of gear . :) And in that glorious moment.... every moment of pain shooting through my body and lungs is worth it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

fire

Like a Phoenix rising, there is a part of me that is reborn every time I fight a fire. I am not sure why, but the smell of fire gives me energy, as does the roar of the flames and the sound of my blood as it pounds with that heartbeat staccato in my ears. And the look of a fire... to stand up close to something so powerful is what all firefighters dream of. When facing fire, I feel exhilarated. Rejuvenated. Alive. Yet with each fire I fight, I also know a part of me dies. Whatever toxic smoke I've inhaled is sure to have destroyed cells in my lungs perhaps taking minutes or years off my life, muscle fibres have deteriorated from the strain of exertion, and those really bad calls involving violence chips away at my belief in humanity. But this force of nature called fire is the siren song that keeps me coming back for more.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

on being a woman

On the job, I've had my share of ups and downs. Because as a woman, even though I passed each and every test same as the next guy, I still had to prove myself... ten times over. I remember as a rookie feeling humiliated because my Captain made me don full bunker gear and breathing apparatus and then made me drag his 250 pound arse around the station to prove that I could get him out of a fire if necessary. Instead of protesting, I did it while the rest of the crew watched. He didn't make anyone else do it... but whatever... I did it even though I had already just passed my physical to get on the job. I am pretty sure he broke some labour laws in asking me to do that but unfortunately stuff like this happens. And you don't want to be the one to lodge a complaint because then you get labeled the trouble maker. Same Captain used to ask me to make him tea and bring it to him wherever he happened to be in station. It can be tough being female in the fire service because you're an anomaly, a curiosity, because you have breasts. And many will test you simply because you're not a dude until you've proved yourself and then just become one of the guys. It may happen at a big call where you've done something superhuman or heroic.... or it may happen over the course of time. For me, it happened when I stopped giving a crap what the guys thought of me. And if someone pushed, I shoved back. Now that the years have gone by, I have to say I really like being different and I don't mind standing out in the sea of blue. It's a privilege and not a curse being a woman in the fire service. Looking back, if I had to prove myself again, I would do it in a heart beat, because those guys who treated me unfairly just made me an emotionally stronger, and more determined person and a better firefighter. The irony is that in them trying to break me down, they actually built me up. They gave me a big gift in disguise and I think without them I wouldn't have the appreciation of where I came from and who I've become...

Monday, October 4, 2010

week deux

I'm on week two of my vacay. It is so hard not being on shift today. I know I'm an addict because soon as I am away from the firehall I start to get the jitters and start jonesing for the smell of cinders and ashes and the wail of the sirens. I miss my brotherhood. And I'll be darned if they go and have a three alarm without me today!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

anchors away

I nearly busted a gut laughing when my husband came home after bringing Maiya to her swimming lesson...
He remembered her bathing suit but forgot to bring a swim diaper as per pool regsulations, so he decided to use a disposable diaper. Now any of you with children will know that once Maiya hit the water her diaper blew up like a self-inflatable rubber dinghy except that in this case the boat didn't float and her extra-absorbent diaper starting taking her down. Luckily she is fantastic in the water and didn't mind the extra drag too much.

Some days my husband is very good comedic relief. Now if I could just get him to pick up a mop...... ;)

rainy day smiles

Posting this just because they're so darn cute! I'm loving J's bed hair and M's laugh that could save the world. xo

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

on living and dying

A friend of mine who had recently lost a loved one, asked me this morning how I am able to deal with the death and mayhem that I often see as I go about doing my job as a firefighter. The simple answer would be: there are days that I do, and there are days that I don't.

On the days where death catches those in the bloom of their youth, or even in their not-so-youth, I walk back the the truck a little rattled and shaky and it may take a few hours or a few weeks where the images no longer flash in my mind. The drive back to station is unusually quiet. We know we're in bad shape if no words are exchanged back at the hall and we find a separate part of the station to get away from each other to do our own thing. A pot of coffee might be brewed... but no one will drink it. When it gets like that, hopefully the Captain or the District Chief in charge is aware enough to call in a critical incident stress counsellor to help us get through whatever haunts us. Thankfully, these calls are few and far between and we usually get back to work full of dark humour... which to the outsider appears callous and crass but anyone who is involved in high stress emergency work knows that gallows humour is actually a good sign of healing. It's when you sit quietly that you know you're in trouble.

It is hard to see someone die before you. But my job puts me in a position where it is often unavoidable. In the instances where I cannot save that person's life, it becomes my job make them feel comfortable and safe. And to let them know that their life is valued. Words may not be exchanged, but this message can be conveyed when I look into their eyes and hold their hand and just sit beside them until their next of kin can arrive. I don't do it because I have to... but rather because I want to, because it's what I would want someone to do for me. And if they are about to die alone, it is my privilege and my honour to be there for them to make their last moments as peaceful as possible. Death can be difficult and scary. But it doesn't have to be. It can be a moment of gratitude and grace and dignity. And a moment of peace and love.

You see, firefighting is more than just fighting fires. It is more than just a blue collar job. It is a job that cuts to the core of humanity. It has tested my will and resolve countless times but that's what makes me want to keep going into work... to continue to grow into the profession that I am passionate about because of the people who let me into their world in as much time as the Big Guy upstairs will allow. xo

Monday, September 27, 2010

vacay

I've started my holidays... three weeks to be exact. And while I'd love to say I'm going to Fiji or somewhere exotic, the truth is I'm at home holding the front. While it is a great time to really connect with my family without the interruption of shifts, I am missing the sound of the sirens already. Am I weird? Or just simply in love with what I do? I think I am one of those oddballs that considers work a vacation.... I get to splash around with water, have gourmet meals cooked for me... and the bunks aren't all that lumpy. And while I don't get to wear a bikini, I don't mind at all because this post partum body looks way better in a uniform than in two tiny pieces of spandex. I guess these holidays are good for me. It will force me to slow down (ha! she says since there is always a ton to do around the house), and hit the books and the gym and romp with the kids and maybe squeeze in my husband here or there.... lol.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

training

Well, I got my wish. Yesterday's shift was unbelievably busy. But not in the way I expected. Soon as we walked on the floor my crew was summoned to the training tower where we spent the next 8 hours doing training evolutions. In full gear and breathing apparatus we had to crawl through a blacked out confined space maze where some of the openings were so tight you had to take your pack off and push it in front of you while being careful not to rip your facepiece off, do a self-rescue head first out of a window (check out the video that inspired our training), reviewed policies, covered a hazmat spill using AFF foam (so fun! looked like a giant bubble bath by the time we were done), did a housefire evolution with live burn, and did a high rise fire evolution. By the end of the day I was pretty pooched. I realized that I had some advantages and disadvantages: I rocked the confine space evolution because I am slim enough to squeeze through the tightest of spaces but some of the equipment was fighting against my body... the airpack harness wouldn't cinch up around my waist tight enough so the weight of the pack started to really bug my neck and shoulders after a few hours. And I was stuck humping 60 feet of charged hose line through a smoky house with zero visibility. It came down to feeling my way back to where the hose was deployed... bend over to pick it up, sling it over my shoulder, turn around and head back towards the fire and drag it as far as I could, turn around and do the whole thing back again a half a dozen times... all by my lonesome. What made it harder was that there were two tight corners that I had to manoeuvre around and bending charged fire lines is pretty darn near impossible. I was breathing so hard I couldn't hear radio communications so for every two breaths I took I held my breath for a few seconds just to create some quiet and listen instead of panting and sounding like Darth Vader in my mask. In a real fire situation I would have had help but since this was training with worst case scenarioI was stuck on my own. Good fun anyway. I learned a few other things like it is great fun to slide down a ladder but probably wouldn't be that fun with flames trying to get at my behind, and I also learned that no matter how tasty and delicious, do not eat a plate of greasy french fries on your lunch break right before you are going to be humping hose.... burping in your facepiece is no fun whatsoever.

On a completely different note, my husband finally figured out a way to tame our daughter at the dinner table. Lately she has taken to tap dancing on the table and messing around and doing everything but eat at dinner time. So I had to laugh out loud when he sent me this picture last night:

In desperation he grabbed my laptop and stuck in a DVD. Thomas the Tank Engine saves the day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

ack!

.... started going over my study material while on shift yesterday and there are over three thousand pages!

Holy crap. This exam is gonna be a doozy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

wish it could be forever

I am the first to admit that once I get in a comfortable spot, I like things to stay that way. I do not submit readily to change. I love this stage of motherhood where I cannot believe that my daughter could be any juicier or more delicious. And my son more fascinating in his development. They are both too cute for words. I get into a bit of a panic if I think too far into the future... like what they are going to be like when they are teenagers but this is why I don't think far into the future because I prefer to live in the now and enjoy every sweet moment. It applies to work as well. In my near decade on the job as a firefighter, I have never felt happier, more accepted, more sure of myself than in this moment. I give lots of credit to my crew for creating this amazing dynamic and synergy that I have never seen among any fire crew I've worked with before. We truly are a family. Which is why I feel a big panic attack coming on because our Captain will be retiring in January and our Acting Captain will be promoted in the new year and moved to a different station. And my senior crew member will be retiring in the summer and with his retirement I will not only be losing a mentor, but a great friend at work. I know we will be able to connect off the job but still, it's not the same as running a call together. If I could take my work situation and freeze frame it as a moment in time, I would. I would be happy to live out the rest of my career this way. But alas. That's not how life is. Life constantly changes. It has to. Whether I like it or not. For example:

Yesterday I was informed that there will be a promotional process in the spring and I am eligible to write my Acting Captain exam. If I don't write, I won't be eligible for promotion for another five years. I have been waffling for ages about whether or not I want to put over half a year of my life into studying for this position or if I even want this position. I love being a boot. I love driving the rigs. Acting Captains don't normally get to drive. And if I continued with the process and became a Captain I would never get to drive to a call again. But more than that, do I want to be in charge? Do I want to call the shots? Can I live with a bad decision made at a call because we're all human and mistakes happen. I don't know. Part of me has to write this exam to push myself into another challenge and continue growing. Part of me knows I can do it. Part of me is scared shitless. But my crew and my husband have been giving me the pep talk of a lifetime so....... beginning tomorrow I am going to start hitting the books. Exam is 7 months away. Pass or fail the worst thing that could happen is that I've gained a whole lotta knowledge on fireground procedures which as a firefighter it doesn't hurt to know stone cold anyway. And I won't be left wondering whether or not I can do it because it will all unfold the way it's supposed to naturally... as life does anyway in its natural ebb and flow.

So much for staying in that nice comfy space. Wish I wasn't so darned A-type. Wish me luck. xo

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 11

I've been mulling over what to write about September 11... and now, a day and nine years later, I am still at a loss for words. I cannot think of anything that I could possibly write that could take away the horror of that day, let alone the images we saw in the media, or the pain of those who lost loved ones. And I cannot take away the disturbing fact of knowing that there are people so full of violence and hate that walk among us.

There are a multitude of theories as to who was responsible for that day. Be it terrorists, or whoever the conspiracy theorists think it may be, the fact remains that close to three thousand people lost their lives. And for what?

We're all still looking for answers.

As a mother and a person who wants to believe in the good of mankind, it burdens me to think that there are people who want to hurt others to any extent. My children are still too young to know of 9/11. Have I been lying to them in telling them that bogeymen don't exist? The sad thing is that I think I am. A liar. And possibly a hypocrite. Because I tell Jacob that I will always keep him safe and be here for him. And when I drop him off at daycare with Maiya, I always say, 'see you soon, Mommy always comes back'. Yet I run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out because this is the work I love and do. But in doing so, I might not come back. These are the calculated risks of my job. If 9/11 happened in my city I would have gone in. But knowing the outcome would I? Could I leave my children motherless? Could I still call myself a firefighter if I balked going in choosing my own life to raise my children over saving the lives of strangers? I don't know. These are the million dollar questions that are unanswerable until the split second the decision needs to be made.

The odd thing is when I think of 9/11, I do not feel anger or fear... there is enough of that already. Rather, while there is sadness, my heart is filled with love when I think of the men and women who faced that day because they were braver than I think I could ever be.

Friday, September 10, 2010

ain't just fires no more

If it's one thing I've learned as an emergency services worker is that no two calls are ever alike. They may be similar in nature, but the situation and the nuances are far from identical. With fire, variances can depend on the building structure, the adjacent exposures, the fire load, the source of ignition, or the way the wind is blowing. Depending on the conditions, what is the beginning of a fire can either turn into a massive explosion, or simply self-extinguish. This unpredictability is what makes me passionate about my work and it keeps me on my toes. To me, every shift is like Christmas with the excited anticipation of what the day might bring.

If it's another thing I've learned as an emergency services worker is that calls can range from the traditional to the uhm...... not-so-traditional. Typically people call 911 because of fire, car accidents, major medical incidents, and the like. But we also get 911 calls that no matter how much training we've had, leave us gobsmacked. More than once we've been caught by surprise. Last night we responded to a 911 emergency medical call. Before we even entered the unit, we could hear a man screaming in pain, so we braced for the worst because judging by the agonizing groans, we figured he was pinned under something or had sliced a finger off.

Turns out the fellow called 911 because he was having difficulty passing a poop. Because fire trucks aren't readily stocked with prune juice and bran muffins, we did what we could: we took his pulse and blood pressure and made him as comfortable as possible whilst crammed together in the bathroom. And then we waited. And waited... for this fella's jackpot while hoping that we weren't missing out on a fire somewhere. I know my crew shouted a collective silent Hallelujah when the ambulance finally arrived and took over the call because none of us wanted to stick around to see if the story had a happy ending. Some things are just better left not knowing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

if Obama can become president then I can...

Hmmmmm. A friend just emailed me about my previous post and asked me at what point does one give up on the firefighting dream if it may not become a reality? A very good question indeed. On average for every job hiring, two thousand people apply for a possible 15 to 30 career firefighter positions. It doesn't take a mathematician to see that the competition is stiff. Still, I think it's do-able. Someone has to get hired... why couldn't it be you? I find it ironic however, when talking to my senior crew members who have been on the job 30-plus years tell me that back in the day it was a job you couldn't give away. It was dirty and dangerous and you could get on with a grade 10 education. And all you did was put out fires and there were only 2 breathing apparatuses on the truck and only sissies used them. The medical bag wasn't for the public but to patch up firemen after a call. And the O2 bottle was there to bring 'round those fire breathers who took in a bit too much smoke. One legendary retiree used to run into a house on fire while still smoking a cigar. These guys were tough as nails. We've come a long way since then, with better gear and technology, and better knowledge of long-term health and safety. We now encompass first response emergency medical care, high angle and water rescue, hazmat calls, extrication, do inspections and educate the public. Although not necessary, most departments won't even look at your application unless you have some form of post-secondary education, fire college often preferred which can cost you to the tune of ten thousand dollars and up before you even get to apply. In addition, you will need your CPR and first aid certification, your truck license and air brake endorsement, and be in kick ass shape... again... this is all before they will even hand over an application to you. Then you need to score tops in the entrance and physical exams, pass background checks and sweat through a series of interviews. But I digress.

Getting back to the question at hand, 'at what point do you move on?'. I think that is highly personal. I know some people who landed the job after their very first try, while it took others seven years. For me, it was a 'whichever comes first' thing. I was in the midst of preparing to go to paramedic college but got the call to become a firefighter in the meantime. Either option was good for me and I wouldn't have been disappointed either way. I don't advocate anyone to give up their dream but I think when the dream becomes all consuming at the expense of your family and friends, bank-account, and the things you love then you should reconsider. I think when your entire self-worth is dependent on whether or not you get the job, or if you think you cannot be happy until the day you are hired, then that is not reason enough to keep at it. You are not the job. And the job is not you. Firefighting is an extension of who I am, but I am not defined by it. However, working as a firefighter is an amazing bonus in my life, just like being a mother. It helps shape who I am and is very much a part of me, but it is not what I am.

So I have no clue if I've answered my friend's question properly but there you have it. My 2 cents. :)

dreams come true

I am often asked the question 'How did you become a firefighter?'. To which my answer would be 'Fake it till you make it'. That's not to say I randomly ran around wielding a garden hose looking for house fires to put out. Instead, as ridiculous as it sounds, I would imagine myself driving the firetruck every time I heard a siren go by. I would picture myself in bunker gear and shiny new helmet, trudging up a million flights of stairs, imagining the weight of the equipment on my shoulders, seeing the smoke, feeling the sweat and smelling the stench. In my mind, I already had the job. It was only a question of when. And the firefighter make-believe games I had in my head made the vision all that much more clear. I would visualize different scenarios of myself as a firefighter while going on another boring run in preparation for the physical entrance exam. It kept me from getting discouraged, or worse, kept me from being totally bored. Keeping my eye on the prize got me to where I am today because what you think about, you bring about. I also had a plan B that if things didn't pan out the way I wanted to in the time frame I had set for myself (because if I didn't get on by a certain point my body was going to say 'heck no' because of the physical demands), I was still going to do something that I loved. Either way, it was a win-win situation and having a plan B took the pressure off of my plan A. Thankfully, I never had to go to plan B... although when I walked in to write my entrance exam and there were close to two thousand people waiting alongside me, I had to muster all the courage I had not to turn around and walk out the door. But then I caught a glimpse of the Fire Chief... with his gold braid and bars and stripes and flashes.... and I just had to be part of the magic. Because when the Chief spoke with pride of his fire department and said that firefighting is the best job on earth and thanked us for taking the time to apply, I was convinced more than ever this was the path I wanted to take. And even though everyone sitting beside me was competing for the same darned position and seemed bigger, taller, stronger and male, well, I felt like I had my all to give and nothing to lose. And at that point I wasn't going to be a shrinking violet against the wall at the high school dance and was going to give these big boys a run for their money. And I wrote that exam and later did the physical like it was my last day on earth.

Three months later I got the call. And I was like a kid in a candy shop when I reported to headquarters and they handed me my shiny new gear with my name on it. And although our beloved Chief is no longer with us physically, he was the person who inspired me that day of the exam with his genuine words that to me were as powerful as Martin Luther King's. I knew at that point I no longer needed to feel insecure about my abilities. Leaders like my late Chief are hard to come by. I am grateful I was able to tell him that before he passed.

The most amazing things happen when a tiny seed of an idea from one's imagination becomes reality. Add some inspiration and some hard work and I believe any dream can come true. Mine certainly has. xo

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

first day of school


Well, here we are. Jacob started junior kindergarten today. Normally this rite of passage can be full of tears for both mom and child but nope. Jacob as you can see was thrilled to go. And I, while excited that he will be beginning his 'formal' education, don't feel all that different because I shed all my tears when he started daycare 2 years ago. And we're all used to it by now. So thankfully, today is a normal day and we're in our normal routine. And I am even more thankful that he is not at that age yet where he is fussy with what he wears to school so there was no 'must have' back-to-school fashions we needed to buy.

Still blows my mind that he is no longer a baby but this fantastic little person full of hope and promise. I wish I still held on to that childlike exuberance.... where along the way into adulthood did I lose it?

So no tears today for anyone so that is great but then again, I am not a mother who pines for the past, or misses babyhood. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED the infancy and toddler stage but I find with each and every stage of childhood development, it becomes more exciting and gratifying. The only stage that makes me a bit nervous is the teenage years but that is years away so no point in trying to think that far into the future. All I know is that I am really loving the present. I am still amazed that my children, although such a part of me, are these amazing separate little human beings with their own thoughts and views. And the fact that I am their mother is icing on the cake.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

monotony of marriage

If there is one thing that is without a doubt more challenging than being a mother, it's being a wife. I've been completely bored.

Lately my husband and I have been tiptoeing around on eggshells trying not to set the other one off. It hasn't taken much lately to get me to the boiling point. The umpteenth Blackberry call my husband must take during dinner makes me want to toss the darn thing out the window or better yet, stomp on it till it's in smithereens. An empty fuel tank makes me want to leave the car in the middle of the road and charter a limo. His wayward socks and tardiness leave me in utter despair. Sometimes I choose to simmer quietly but more often than not, I will burst forth with a verbal assault only to give way to a multitude of tears. The children have not noticed too much but I don't fool myself into thinking that they are unaware. I grew up in a household where my parents never openly fought but I knew there was a bomb ticking beneath the surface. I do not want to be that bomb so I choose to get my feelings out, as my feelings happen. Both children are sensitive enough to know when their mama is having a rough day: Maiya will come over and wipe my eyes and Jacob will climb on my lap and give me a hug. He has even offered me a band-aid to fix whatever boo boo ails me. Because no grown-ups should ever burden the lives of children, I have sat Jacob down and explained that people sometimes get mad at each other but it doesn't mean they don't love each other. And explained that it's kinda the same when he and his sister are fighting over a toy or who got more snacks or whatever. I prefer that my children know that parents can and do have disagreements as it is part of any growing relationship. I do not want them to grow up thinking that a marriage is a perfect place. I would be setting them up for a trap otherwise. I think it's ok to fight.. as long as you fight fair.

Part of my frustration with my marriage these days is that we've both been consumed with the children and with work leaving us very little time or energy for each other. Plus we live in an open concept loft so needless to say, we're not swinging from the chandeliers on a Friday night. Besides, by 10 pm we can barely keep our eyes open. So I am totally and utterly thrilled we are FINALLY going on a date night. This Friday the kids will be sleeping over at my parents', giving us the opportunity to reconnect. The last time we had a date night was, oh, exactly the night Maiya was conceived... which was 22 months ago. So we are overdue for a night out on the town. And as long as I don't get pregnant again, even staying home and having beer and pizza will be a treat. But we're going to do it right. It will be nice for me to put some heels and make-up on and have a dinner at a restaurant that doesn't have booster seats and paper placemats and crayons. It will be nice to not have to be in bed early knowing that the kids will have me up at the crack of dawn. I will be able to sleep in for the first time in years. And if we don't sleep in too long before it's time to pick up the kids, we may even go for brunch! Hallelujah, I think my marriage has been saved. ;)

Friday, August 27, 2010

blogger

A blog is a weird thing. Weird because I'm a really private person and here I am broadcasting very personal things about my life at home and at work. I find it easier that complete strangers read my blog as opposed to my colleagues, probably because my 'work face' is so very different than the feelings that I have inside. I hide my worries and fears behind humour and often a false sense of bravado. I can be very guarded with people I don't trust and come across as insular or jaded and hide behind a facade that I am infallible and nothing bugs me. But what I don't hide are my genuine feelings of gratitude and appreciation (and ok I'll go as far as love) for the people I work with. I would never say that I love them to their faces because that would be more than slightly awkward (lol) but I do in the sense that through thick and thin, and when the shit hits the fan they always have my back. I trust these guys with my life so that I get home safe and sound in one piece. How many people can say that about the people they work with? I am one of the lucky ones. I care about my colleagues like they are my own family. And I share their hopes and dreams as if they were my very own.

I sometimes worry if I am offending anyone with what I have to say or if I am embarrassing any members of my crew or the fire department or even city I work for. But provided I write from a place of truth, then no one can judge me or take that away from me. I blog because it is a cathartic process and it helps me work through things that are racing through my head. Blogging slows me down and for this A-type personality that is exactly what I need. I suppose I could always journal or scapbook but my handwriting sucks and well, scrapbooking is just not me. Plus I love the way a blog looks.... all clean and tidy and so accessible. And it's an incredible way to keep all my experiences in one neat and convenient place where perhaps one day my children can look at it and gain a better understanding of their mother and realize that I'm human (and not crazy!) and have always just done the best that I can. And even though this blog is open for everyone to read, I take comfort in the fact that this blog is all mine and that I do it just for me. xo

as the red light turns

I've always wanted to write some type of soap opera based on fire house living called 'As the Red Light Turns' or something like that. There is constantly an interesting, gossipy, or disturbing happening going on usually filled with high octane drama. What I find truly interesting as a female observer at our fire house is that men can and do gossip with the best of them. I've mentioned the saying before that if you want to spread some news around you 'telephone, telegraph or tell a firefighter'. I've tested that theory. And it works better than smoke signals and morse code. What is ironic is that most often the guys who dish it out the most are the ones who can take it the least. I have had my fair share of ribbing... and the way I've survived apart from growing some shoulders and some teflon skin, is to not show any chinks in the armour. Because once they know what gets to you, they'll pick at your scabs until you yell mercy. But I think the only thing worse than getting picked on is not getting picked on. When you're being ignored that's when you know you're in trouble. To be ostracized at the fire house would be an unimaginable fate. You do not want to get kicked off the island. I have seen it happen at other stations and you do not want to be that guy having to put your own flame out 'after the tribe has spoken'.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

day at the beach

Saturdays are Jacob days when I'm not on shift. This past weekend I thought we'd pack some snacks, take the train, and play tourist and head to the harbour. To our delight there were a zillion things to do:

Canoeing in a man-made pond:


Taking part in a drum circle: (Jacob had a blast and didn't want to stop)


After walking around for a few hours and watching the tall ships dock and the street buskers I was starving. Jacob wanted a hot dog but I convinced him we needed to sit in a fancy restaurant and enjoy the view. We found a nice Italian restaurant overlooking the lake and J had fun watching the chef make and cook his pizza in a wood oven. It was cute when he reminded the chef that he forgot to put on the pineapple. Here's J fine dining. Don't worry, the honkin' large glass of vino is mine, not his... :) He was as good as gold during the entire dinner and I was a proud mama when other diners commented on how well-behaved he was.


We walked off dinner and came across the police marine unit...


...and a man-made beach plunked above the shore-line with a great view.


We made it home with a very tired Jacob. He fell asleep in our hallway on the floor soon as he walked through our door. lol


Looking forward to when Maiya is a bit older and we can all spend entire days romping around exploring the city but she naps 3 hours a day and besides, she is enjoying her Daddy time. Just love the post-nap hair and look on her face.... lol

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

laughs and giggles

Well, it hasn't been all doom and gloom at the firehouse. After a rash of bad calls and even worse moods I feel like I'm back to my old self again. Although I must say the guys may sometimes prefer me when I'm a bit more serious (and not pulling pranks!). For some reason when I get the giggles I can't stop laughing. For. Hours. And it gets contagious. I just have to look at a crewmate and the giggles will set off. There were a few times when I literally had to step into the bathroom to try and gain my composure. The only thing that will wipe the grin off my face is when the alarm goes but inside I'm still grinning and doing the 'happy-fire-dance'. But anyway, for whatever reason one of my crewmates and I couldn't stop laughing while we were in the kitchen and I managed to grab a picture. My crewmate is gonna kill me if he sees that I posted his face but there is nothing more I love than sharing a big laugh and his grin is cute to boot so I hoping he won't mind too much. If I'm ever having a bad day I can just pull up this pic and it will set off the giggles again. Laughter IS the best medicine. xo

Friday, August 13, 2010

friday the 13th

Hey, just realized it's Friday the 13th. Kinda glad I'm off shift now to give my body and mind a chance to recoup but still secretly wishing I was working because things just happen on this date. I'd throw in a full moon as well and take on the werewolves. Goes to show you that we all have our addictions and a busy firehouse with crazy calls is mine.

even Xena takes a break

I was looking at my recent flurry of posts wondering when did I get so darn sensitive? I used to wear my toughness as a badge of honour. Bad calls phased me as much as a grade 9 science experiement. So when did I lose my jaded attitude? Not sure. Maybe because now that I'm 40 I feel like I don't have anything to prove to anyone other than myself. Maybe because I embrace the fact that this firefighter does have curves and knows that she doesn't have to be a man to do a man's job. Maybe because for the first time in my life I am allowing myself to feel and it's all whooshing out of me. Maybe because I know that even Princess Warriors sometimes need to take their armor off and take a break. And still be able to do the job just the same albeit with less machismo and more of a softer side. xo

my continuing journey

I don't think I truly thought this whole firefighting thing through when I decided to take on this job. One of my blessings that is also a curse is that I don't think too far into the future and I make decisions based in the now. This helps me in the fact that I don't worry too much about what's going to happen a decade from now, but is also a hinderance because my choices can create some problems. For example, I am not the first female firefighter who is a mother, nor will I be the last. But I have to say that it has been a challenge and a juggle and I have had to make a lot of compromises in my life. It is not easy being a woman in the fire service. The gals I know on the job make it look easy but trust me, it's not. It is certainly fun and satisfying in so many ways but it is a tough, challenging job that takes its toll the more years you have under your belt. I pray menopause doesn't hit me for another 10 years and osteoperosis never kicks in. There are days that, mentally and physically, I do not thrive. As much as I am determined to keep my two 'lives' of motherhood and firefighting apart, recently, my two worlds have been colliding and I have been spinning on my axis at warp speed. I have been bringing my job home which is something I rarely ever do. Some of the calls have hung over me like a dark cloud and some decisions made at the scene by others have left me shaking my head in frustration and left me irritable beyond words. Normally I doff my firefighting job the minute I don my civilian clothes. And normally when I get to work I can push aside the responsibilities I have at home and just enjoy my 24 hour tour at work. But lately home 'stuff' has been nagging me: I've been snapping at my husband and children and feeling resentful at the lack of 'me' time. I know these feelings are normal being a working mother but still...... there are some days I wish I were superhuman and could do it all with a smile and nary a complaint. The guys at work can see the wrinkles beginning to fracture my face. At least I can talk to them about what I feel. They've been a great sounding board.

Not sure why I'm writing this post but perhaps it's because I met a gal who was bubbling over with enthusiasm about wanting to become a firefighter. I was faced with making the decision of telling her the truth of the uphill climb and struggles she will face or of painting a rosy picture. I could tell her the benefits are great, uniforms cool, shifts are decent, or I could tell her she will see things that will rattle her to the core and be under physical duress that is at times unbearable and the intensity of the heat and physical exertion will make you want to throw up in your mask. I decided to tell her my truth... that firefighting is as much a part of me as the children I birthed and the air I breathe. And that I have fire for blood. I told her my truth because looking back a decade ago, I was exactly this young woman. And nothing would have stopped me anyway no matter what anyone could have told me because my journey to becoming a firefighting mother was my own to discover.

more bad news

Last night we had what I think is one of the most horrible of calls: a hanging. When you get that call at 4 am your brain is having a tough time processing and you end up with a gruesome image of the scene as you brace yourself for what you're actually about to experience. I rode in the back of the truck prepared to cut the rope down with the utility knife I always carry in my bunker pants. Thankfully, police had already done that before we arrived so we got to work with the paramedics doing compressions. We got a pulse back after the first round of drugs and patient was whisked to hospital. Not sure if he made it. Not sure if I want to find out. Just hoping my next call is a happy call but frankly, what are the chances of that? People don't call 911 because they're having a great day. Maybe one day I'll get a call to deliver a baby. It would sure be nice to see a life enter this world instead of seeing someone exit it.

time to go

I see this phenomenon happen all to often when it comes to firefighters who are close to retirement: they seem scared and tentative when they should be taking the bull (or the red devil!) by the horns. They'll find ways to delay getting on and off the truck, park as far away as possible from the scene, or disappear at the scene altogether. They seem to do anything they can to avoid getting the job done... which annoys me to no end. I assume all of us become firefighters because we love to help the community, the challenges, and the hard grunt work but as the twilight years approach I see one too many Captains tell the driver to take their sweet time getting there. Besides the obvious legal implications and the simple fact that lost seconds can mean lost lives, I finally figured out why many of the-soon-to-be-retired within the fire department (and perhaps other emergency service divisions) are lollygaggers: they're scarred by too many memories of bad calls. They want to retire in one piece without any mental or physical injury, they're sick of seeing death and tragedy, and they are hanging back to bide the next few months until their last shift. I can understand their point of view but I think when you're no longer in the game, it's time to go because as a crew member, it is so important to have great leadership. I don't want them to hang on just to keep building up their pension. Money is not the reason to get this job nor stay on the job. I do not want to ever sense that my Captain is scared shitless because that is unnerving at a call... especially when the scene is blowing up all around you... I need to know that my Captain knows exactly what to do and take charge. I need to know that he is in control. That he will keep us safe. That he is not going to save himself at the expense of his entire crew. It is the most horrible feeling when the crew feels like we're on its own to make the decisions... it feels like you're being fed to the wolves. At this point I'm not sure who is looking forward to these Captains' retirements: us or them. Till then... let's just get through all the calls in one piece.

Be safe.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

awake

Can you believe it? Exhausted as all f#ck and still awake. What is going on? Don't you just love insomnia?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

roller coaster ride of emotions

I'm in a bad way today. Maybe because my back is killing me from being stupid and lifting some dumbass weights the wrong way. Maybe because as always, I never get enough sleep and can't even put a dent on my spring cleaning even though the summer is almost over. Maybe because I saw one maggot too many on a rotting carcass as I was finishing up shift this morning. Maybe because I am still haunted by a call at our station..... the guys on my previous shift responded to a drowning. It was a hot afternoon church bbq/pool party when a guest noticed a boy at the bottom of the pool. Police/fire/paramedics arrived and worked on this little guy as his mother was trying to drag him away to the safety of her arms, as if holding him could make everything better. Paramedics got a pulse back and he was rushed to hospital then was airlifted to critical care. I am not even sure how to write this because the emotions are so raw. The attending paramedic came by later to our station to give an update and said that the child no longer has brain activity and his organ function is gone. And mom cannot say goodbye and shut off life support. So there he lies quietly in his hospital bed and the only noise is the whoosh of the ventilaor machines and the beep, beep, beeping. He is alive, but at the same time not. Forgive me for being so graphic. But some calls I can process. This one I am not so sure. My heart hurts so much for this mother that I don't even know.

I want to cry. But I can't. So I write. Her little boy is the same age as my son.... four. My Jacob, who in moments will be bursting through the door like a sunshine tornado. I finally understand what my own mother means when she says that it's good for children to be loud and jump around because that's what they are supposed to do.

Extra hugs and kisses and 'I love you's' tonight... that is for sure.

But my day hasn't been completely terrible. A crewmate that I worked with just received a new heart! This firefighter caught some weird virus that damaged his heart to the point it was like having an 80 year old heart stuck in his 40 year old body. It's quite possible he caught this virus on the job but it's hard to tell. In any event, he's been on disability for a few years waiting for a heart donor. And it came! And the surgery was successful! And even though he will probably never be a front-line firefighter again, he will certainly be back working for the fire department soon and be able to chase after his young daughter and enjoy many, many years with his beautiful wife.

So in some strange way, the greatest highs are able to cancel out the greatest lows. Thank goodness for that because I'd otherwise be out of my mind.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

my beautiful birthday boy

Jacob celebrated his fourth birthday this weekend. :) In the previous weeks I must have asked him a half dozen times if he wanted to have his friends over for a party (because he has been to his friends' parties) but each time he said 'No, I just want Mommy, Daddy, Maiya, Nana, Grampa, Amah, Gung-Gung.' So that's what we did. What I adore about my son is how easy-going and easy to please he is. And how at this early an age he already understands that it's not the gifts or the pomp and circumstance.... rather, it's the time you spend with loved ones that matters the most. He ceremoniously cut his cakes (one from each set of grandparents) and took delight in handing out each piece. He romped in the turtle pool with his sister and watched TreeHouse to his hearts content. And fell asleep rumpled, breathless, and happy as every little boy should, holding on to his new toy cars.

I adore this little guy. From the moment he took his first breath, and 'til the day I take my last breath, I will always be so thankful he came into my life and how loving him comes so effortlessly. Raising him, like raising any child, has not come without its challenges but being Jacob's mother has shown me beauty and love that I have never experienced before. I cannot believe it's been four years already since he was born. It frightens me a little bit how quickly time flies.

Happy Birthday my beautiful boy. You continue to amaze me every day.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

slow day

When things are slow at the fire hall we tend to get a bit antsy... and I hate to admit it, we start craving a good call. Last shift was a snore... we couldn't stop pacing so to kill time, one of the guys brought out his smoker from the back of his truck and we smoked 8 racks of spareribs... one rack per firefighter. Heck, if you can't get called to smoke, might as well create some. :) Paleo pals, I ate the entire rack by myself. :)


But alas, after we digested, we were still bored so what did we do to pass the time? This:
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And because I just couldn't leave well enough alone and simply had to get in on the action:
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TA DA!
The Chief would not be amused.

Monday, July 26, 2010

junk in the trunk

Because my bunker gear weighs enough as it is, I try to keep what's in my pockets to a bare minimum. However, like a woman's purse, I always end up with a whole lotta stuff that I carry around just because I'll need it. The items either get clipped on my gear or stuffed in pockets. Some stuff is essential (like facepiece and fire gloves), other stuff is a bonus (power bars, Tiger Balm)for those 'just in case times'.

Below is a picture of just some of the things I have....



Starting at the top left working counter-clockwise you have my face-piece inside the carry bag that gets clipped to the front of my coat and transferred over to my air-pack, chalk with foam chalk holder case to keep it from shattering, safety glasses with granny strings (so I don't lose them at a call) and glasses case, Tiger Balm (can be used for sore muscles but mostly to dab under my nose at really smelly calls), nomex fire hood to keep my hair and neck from incinerating, fire gloves to stop my hands from doing the same, carabiner (cuz they're just so darn handy), stethescope, pump card (I ALWAYS keep this in my pants pocket when I'm driving... it gives you the coles notes on hydraulic pumping pressures in almost any given situation), extrication gloves, holder with folding rope knife and mini screwdriver, N95 mask. Not shown are my ID tags, ear plugs, power bars (ate them), wood wedge (used it at a call to keep a door open... never found it afterwards), pen (someone always borrows it and fails to return), gum (for when breath is less than fresh during those middle-of-the-night calls). Come to think of it I should add a pack of kleenex but they get all mushy when my gear gets wet. A spare pair of underwear would be great at those scary 'holy crap' calls (no pun intended). And I could add a tube of lipstick but that might be carrying it a bit too far. ;)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jersey Shore

You'd think that with summer in full throe I'd be spending my spare time frolicking out on the beach. But nope. First of all, I HATE the beach... sitting in the humidity all goopey with sunscreen isn't my idea of fun. So what have I been doing? Apart from working and hanging out with my children, I've been watching some mindless yet highly entertaining television in my nice air conditioned loft. My fave show of the season is Jersey Shore. I'm a tad bit embarrassed to admit that I watched every episode within the course of 3 days. Hey... I was doing chores at the same time so it wasn't time completely wasted. The thing is I love the show. As ridiculous and orange these people are, there is something really funny and endearing about them even though they don't seem very hygienic. Can your hair really be clean full of extensions and hair gel? Will any of them eventually catch a bad case of mono? Don't laugh but I actually like the Ed Hardy t's but I'd look like a cougar if I wore them. As pathetic as it sounds, I can't wait till the new season starts when they hit Miami Beach. Imagine that. Getting paid to party.
Well, they make me laugh out loud anyway. And make the time go by quickly when I'm folding the laundry. And that in itself is enough to make me love these crazy kids. Just glad they're not mine though! ;)

Friday, July 9, 2010

potty mouth

Ok. I've decided it's about time I start minding my language. I've been swearing a lot and I hate to blame the fire house but together as a group, we're pretty bad. The F word is everywhere. But the thing is, it has started to carry over when I get back home and little pitchers have big ears. I don't swear at the kids of course but I did let a swear word or two slip by when I bashed my elbow when I was doing chores. Maiya is at the stage where she is mimicking everything and everyone. Yesterday, she was saying ah-fuck! ah fuck! I just about fainted... until I realized she was pointing out the window trying to say a truck! a truck! Nevertheless, I need to stop being lazy and start using proper words instead of four letter expletives to get my point across. I do have to admit that swearing at work is somehow so damn, I mean darn, I mean, so delightfully satisfying. It's not very professional though. So we have a bet going on at work now. A dollar goes into the pot everytime we're caught cussin'. I'm not sure if I'll win but I'll sure as hell, I mean heck, try. It might be a long road ahead though. Might be easier to just wash my mouth out with a bar of soap.

Monday, July 5, 2010

yours truly

Here's a picture of yours truly that one of the firefighters took after a call at work:
It's one of the very few pictures I like of myself, probably because this photo captures me where I am in my element and most comfortable in my skin and my surroundings. I wish I could bring that comfort level into my own home. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out motherhood and I'm just making things up as I go along, flying by the seat of my pants, and learning from my children, and from my own mistakes. If you were to take a snapshot of me at home I would be a disheveled sweaty mess, sometimes feeling like a failure, feeling the pressure to get all the things I need to get done but not accomplishing half the tasks I've set out for myself. And often feeling completely worn down. (I don't get a lot of 'atta boys' at home although Jacob did offer me one of his stickers from his star chart when he noticed I had tidied the house.) But at work, for some reason I feel polished, assured, wise and in control. I feel like I have fire instead of blood running through my veins. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because work is my refuge and my haven and it's better than a five star hotel. Maybe it's because the sleepovers are even better than the sleepovers I had as a kid. Maybe it's the uniform. Maybe it's the bunker gear that gives me super human powers. Who knows? Just super glad that I'm headed back on shift in the morning because after a few days off I sure do miss the smell of diesel and smoke. That's the beauty of my job, I am at home long enough to crave being back at work. And I am at work long enough to crave seeing my little family at the end of a shift.

Off to bed. I'm on the ladder truck but gonna try to slide over to the pumper since it's a busier truck and runs more calls. Let's see what tomorrow brings. xo

Saturday, July 3, 2010

pic of the day

I am at work right now missing my babes so it was nice when I sat down to open my email to find this picture that my husband sent me of the kids having a quiet moment watching tv and eating snacks.



I swear the kids look bigger everytime I get home. Can't wait to give them a hug in the morning. xo

my split personality

Besides the obvious that it is insane to run into a burning building when everyone else is running out, I think my choice to become a firefighter is a bit of an odd one. I normally hate, hate, hate driving and don't even own a car. I prefer any mode of transport to getting behind a wheel. I mooch my husband's pick up when I need to get to work. But for some reason when I get behind the wheel of a firetruck I just melt into the seat and get comfy and happy driving to calls. Maybe being the biggest vehicle on the road or getting to sound the air horn has something to do with it.

I am also a bit of a wimp. Ask my husband and my crewmates. I can't watch the news because most of it's bad. I can't sit through any type of movie that is horror related with ghosts, or vampires, or blood or guts. But I can run a call like no tomorrow even if there is puke, poo, or any other part of the body that is sticking out when it should be in.

I am also a loner and prefer to just hang out with my little family or just by myself on my days off. I will take a good book and a hot cup of tea to any party, social gathering, and beer. In contrast work is such a social place full of strong personalities where everything is done as a group. The only time I get alone time at work is when I am on the throne and even then I can get interrupted by an alarm call.

So for whatever reason here I am. Odd choice or not, I am a firefighter and there is nothing else in the world I would rather be. There is firefighter me, and at-home me. And come to think of it, I don't know anyone, besides me of course, who has witnessed my two different personas. And I kind of like it that way. ;)

always still my baby

I am not looking forward to the day when I am either not strong enough or my kids are too big for me to carry.

Yesterday Jacob wanted to sleep over at my parents' house. Since we live in a building, it's a treat to visit my parents' as they have a huge yard with a teahouse, deck, sandbox... all backing onto a park that has a splash pad for the kids to run around in. On rainy days, they can hang out in the carport which has basically been converted into an outdoor solarium. So I brought him over and watched him run around and play. After dinner and bath, I waved goodbye. He waved back happily. At 9:30 pm I got a phone call from my mother saying Jacob had big quiet tears rolling down his face. Jacob, was crying that he missed me and that he wanted me to come get him. So I did. I could have told him a million things, that he needed to stay, that it was too late for me to get him, that he chose to sleep over thus a sleep over he was going to have, that he's slept over a million times before so one more night wont' make a difference. But the thing is, I believe as long as his wishes are not ridiculous or far fetched, he should be listened to. And I wanted him to know that mommy or daddy will come get him anytime. Even when he's a teenager and gets drunk somewhere and needs a ride home, I want him to be ok with calling me for me to get him.

Of course he was fast asleep in bed when I arrived and although I could have left him at the house and turned back, I picked him up and put him in the car. As I carried him up to our loft, his head resting on my shoulder and arms wrapped around me, I was reminded of when I was a little girl. I used to pretend to be asleep in the car just so my Dad would carry me into the house. And carry me he did. Just like I will always carry my own children when they need me.

I hope it will be for a long, long, time. xo

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

whatever

I have to say that without an ounce of doubt, I am proud, proud, proud of our boys in blue. I am referring to the tireless police officers who have been watching over the city during the G20 and when some of the craziness that ensued. I have friends and loved ones who are with the force and I was dismayed at how the media chose to skew their coverage against the police. Not once did they show police being spit on, hit, or being hurled at by whatever objects the protesters had on hand. I won't even get into the verbal taunts. So what if the coppers pushed a few anarchists around. So what if said anarchists were held in a prison cage. It was probably still cleaner than the places they've been squatting in. And now the anarchists are crying boo hoo police brutality and that their rights were violated and that we're living in a police state of martial law. Sorry guys.... I guarantee no one has your sympathy. You lost us when the first window was smashed and the first match lit. Get a real job, and have a shower. There are other ways you can make a difference.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

G20

I try to stay away from politics on this blog because I fear I might end up ranting for days. But I thought I'd mention the G20 circus only because my husband is gone 16 hours a day now working the thick of it. He says the G20, to put it mildly, is a huge gong show. More of a cluster f*ck really. With federal money being spent like there's no tomorrow and busloads of protesters and police officers being brought in from all corners of the earth it's chaos really. Wish the political dudes could play instruments and sing... at least maybe we could make another Woodstock or something. But alas, businesses within the security perimeter are at a standstill and let's not even get into traffic. Thank goodness I'm off shift this week and can stay in my neck of the woods and really ignore the G20 unless I choose to read the paper or turn on the news. Where we live, we've been practically unaffected by it all.

Until I heard the whirl of chopper blades over my head. Apparently it was the Presidential helicopter in all its glory.


I would have flagged him down and invited him in for tea and introduced him to my kids but I've got laundry to fold and need to wash my hair so maybe next time. It would be cool though if a common person like me could actually sit and talk one on one with the Prez. Oh the things I'd like to ask with my outside voice! ;)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

girl power

I normally despise 'forwarded' email messages and delete them without opening but this one I received from one of the most amazing women I know, who has been like a sister/mother/best friend to me. She is not a firefighter but has worked for the fire service for 30 years and is the glue that holds our fleet together. I dedicate today's post to my friend, the Goddess. xo

This is for some of the strongest women I know

You are the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says, "OH SHIT, SHE'S UP"!


LOVE YOU, GIRLFRIEND!!!!!


NOW YOU RE ON THE CLOCK!!!!


Make every day count girls. We know who really rules the world and keeps the peace.

Monday, June 21, 2010

note to self...

...no matter how much in a rush one might be, always, always take the time to make sure you've packed the proper gym attire. I did not and realized all I had were my fave cargo pants that my husband bought for me so I rolled them up and decided to do my workout plan of heavy lift day of front squats.

Bad idea.

Halfway through my workout I literally lost the seat of my pants. A half dozen heads jerked in my direction upon hearing the loud rip. Nonchalantly, I finished my sets even though I was mortified. Thank goodness no one was directly behind me or they would have injured themselves busting a gut laughing. Oh well... it's all in the name of a killer squat. Thank goodness I was wearing my oh-so-modest granny underpants and not a thong.