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


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


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


.... 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. ;)