Friday, August 27, 2010


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


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.