Friday, August 7, 2009

How It All Started, part three

When last I wrote I had just fed my favorite firemen worms! Well, after that I was much more careful about my baking projects. I NEVER brought cherry pie again! lol
I did make a lot of brownies though and an occasional rhubarb crisp.

Over time I got more comfortable talking to the guys and became less intimidated by the uniform, but as high school progressed, my life got messier and messier. While my brother and the firemen were still encouraging me, I didn't feel like I had any support from where I really needed it. Being the child of divorced parents can be hard. Being a teenager of divorced parents is even harder. Add to that an alcoholic step-father who was verbally abusive and more, let's, just say I became very discouraged.

While I was still very interested in firefighting, my mother, trying to be realistic, started to say things that made me start to have doubts. In addition my life was really crazy and I moved out of my mom's house to my dad's house. That was not pleasant either as my step mother's philosophy of mothering was not compatible with my philosophy of being mothered. (that is not said as an ungrateful teenager, you had to be there to know, but it is the most diplomatic way I know how to say it.) She meant well, of that there is no doubt, but my spirit was nearly broken and I started experiencing depression for the first time in my life. After a while I moved away and back to my mom's house, and then to my sister's apartment. My sister and I were very close, but we have very different personalities and that became strained after a while too, forcing me to move back to my mother's home for a while. My brother was the bright spot in my life during this time. His interest in firefighting soared higher and higher. We both had scanners to monitor police and fire channels just for fun. His was portable though and he began riding his bike to calls so he could watch. He became a bit "over the top" with his enthusiasm, but the firefighters were (mostly) good natured about it. I think most of them knew deep down he was a good kid with a tough life and some of them kind of took them under his wing, I believe. My brother knew I still had the bug and for one of my birthdays he surprised me with a most awesome gift. I don't know where or how he found it, but he brought me a solid chocolate fire engine!!! My brother ROCKS!!!

Finally I moved out of my mother's house for good. I moved in with my best friend's parents and had to go to work. My dad very kindly paid my friends' parents for room and board for me while I lived there, but I had to pay for my car insurance, gasoline, maintenance, school, books, etc. I got a job working at the local Boy's and Girl's Club and my life turned onto a new path. When I was able, I moved out of that home and into a rental, with three other ladies. I lived there until I was married.

Now that I was no longer around firefighters, fire engines or anyone who supported my interests, and I was supporting myself, I put my dreams on a back shelf. Gradually I stopped thinking about it everyday and stopped dreaming of becoming a firefighter. I began studying Recreation Leadership at school and hoped for a career in the park service as a naturalist, but I continued working with children to support myself. Eventually I left the Boy's and Girls' Club, and, without a degree, found it difficult to find a job. I finally found one in child care, as a School Age Site Director. I have been doing this same kind of work for various companies for over 20 years now.

Getting back to the whole firefighter thing: My brother grew up, moved away and became, among other things, a volunteer firefighter, clear across the country from me. I missed him terribly, but I loved hearing his stories when he would visit or e-mail. I was absolutely thrilled for him, albeit a bit jealous, (maybe jealous is too strong, just sad for myself, really). After many years, my brother returned to the Great Northwest and became a volunteer firefighter for East County Fire and Rescue in the Washougal, Washington area. He regularly invited me to come visit and tour firestations and sit in the trucks, etc. He even told me he had gotten permission from the chief to take me on a ride along if I came to visit. My brother knew I still had the bug buried deep within me and he is the only one who truly understands.

For Christmas, 2008, my brother presented me with season's one and two of Emergency!, the 1970's television show that changed emergency services in the United States forever. I was so excited to own these, having grown up watching them, as I have stated in earlier posts. I watched the first two seasons twice before I purchased the third season. Before I could purchase the fourth season I had watched the first three seasons three complete times and was working on a fourth. YES, I am STILL obsessed with firefighting! I still want to join a fire department. Watching these shows I fell in love all over again, with firefighting, emergency medical services, (and Roy DeSoto -how pitiful and embarrassing!) In real life, the actor is my parent's age, but it is not the actor I love, it is the character. (I like to think that proves that I am not TOTALLY pathetic.)

What I realized from all this is that although I suppressed my dreams, they never went away and now they are taunting me more than ever. The problem is that now I am a 40 year old woman, severely overweight, with back problems due to multiple injuries and knee problems due to injuries and exacerbated by weight problems. Becoming a firefighter is not likely. (Although my brother tells me that if I can fog a mirror, the department could put me to work, but that is in Washougal and I live in Tacoma.) I told him (half tongue in cheek) that if my husband ever kicks the bucket I will move to Washougal the next day.

And that is how I got to where I am now. Watch for the next post: Beginning to Live the Dream.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How It All Started, part two

Well, throughout junior high, I was sure I would one day become a firefighter. One day my mother showed me a huge article in the local newspaper about Eileen Hodges, Tacoma Fire Department's first female firefighter. WOW! I was thrilled to see her sliding down a fire pole, smiling. I read the article over and over. As it has been MANY years (who's counting?) since that day, I do not remember what most of the article had to say, but I do remember that Eileen had a passion for helping other women train to become firefighters and the article focused on that quite a bit. I found this to be very encouraging and after much thought, composed a letter to her. I was painfully shy and very intimidated by the uniform so this seemed the best way to find out more about this whole firefighting thing.

Once I wrote the letter, I didn't know how to get it to her. My mother suggested the only practical approach, bring it to Station 8 and ask them to get it to her. Well, while it was practical, it was nearly impossible due to my shyness and uniform indimidation factor. Finally, I convinced my innocent little brother to go with me to take it to them. I carefully went for a walk around the block, so that I would approach the firestation from behind. Looking up to the second story I could see the windows to the day room were open and as luck would have it, a firefighter was staring out the window as we were walking up the hill on the sidewalk toward the station. I don't know if I intitially got his attention or if I made my brother do it, but somehow it happened and he came downstairs to the front door of the firestation to meet us. One of us gave him the letter for Eileen and then, blushing, I thanked him and hastily made my get-away. I don't know which firefighter it was we enlisted to help us that day, but he probably found it rather amusing.

A week or two later, I was on one of my customary walks around the block (I always walked around the block in hopes to glimpse fire engines and firefighters outside of the station house.) when a firefighter leaned out of the window and said, "hey, are you the girl that sent the letter to Eileen?" GULP!! I was all by myself. (little kids didn't count and I had a few small neighbor kids with me.) Now I had to talk to a uniformed firefighter with no back up! AAAAACCCCKKKK!

"Yes!" I kind of squeaked, sheepishly. (I still remember what I was wearing, but I won't embarrass myself further with a description!) He told me that he had a letter for me from her and he dropped it out the window hollering, "airmail!" I made one of the little kids go get it for me and made another hasty escape.

I all but ran home to read my letter. I don't remember what it said except that it was encouraging and she had answered my questions. I had mentioned in my letter my extreme shyness and the uniform intimidation thing and she had recommended cookies to break the ice. But if I make cookies for the firefighters I have to deliver them. OH NO!!! Ok. I'll be brave. Maybe. That's what unsuspecting little brothers are for. (Evil grin) I made a big batch of peanutbutter cookies and wrote a thank you letter to Eileen. I made my brother help me deliver them. The firemen were grateful for the cookies. I was grateful that was over with.

Eileen and I corresponded by mail for a year or so, I think. During this time I started to get to know the guys on B shift and a few other guys. The ones that come to mind are Mel Smith, Milt Nelson, Joe Stiles, Dave Jones, Vern Heller, Cornelius Winsebury, Jeff Hokensen (whose very blue eyes were unsettling) and Lonnie Hampton.
Gradually it got easier to talk to them and I occasionally went jogging with one of them (I don't remember which one). Joe Stiles always made me feel particularly comfortable and would answer all kinds of questions for me. My brother started spending more and more time at the firestation as well, with and without me. At some point Eileen got married and became Eileen Lewis. I went to visit her at a firestation one time and Larry Lewis was the one who answered the door. When I asked for Eileen Hodges he gave me a very bad time until I figured out it was Eileen Lewis I needed to ask for.

I continued over the next few years to bring cookies, brownies and other goodies regularly. I brought half of my sixteenth birthday cake to them (which probably didn't make my mother too happy because she had knocked herself out to please me with a special cake, but I was young and in love with all things firefighting!) I even brought them my first home made pie, it was cherry from the tree in my yard. After I delivered it I was eating someof the sour pie cherries and talking with my big sister. She and I were pitting cherries for another pie. Suddenly, she noticed a tiny worm in one. She started checking others. They all had them. She told me and I didn't believe her. I COULD NOT believe her. I just gave a wormy cherry pie to the firemen! I was mortified!! I was totally beside myself in a near panic. (I rarely panic, so that is saying something!) My sister finally got me settled and convinced me that what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them. She said they would never know and besides, it just added protein and firemen needed extra protein. I decided to let her be right. This is the first time I have ever mentioned it when there was even a remote possibility that one of them would ever find out. Sorry guys, I really didn't mean to give you worms!

Stay tuned for part 3.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How It All Started, part one

In 1972, on January 15th, Emergency! debuted on public television. That happened to be my third birthday. I don't know if I actually saw it first on that day, or soon after, but one thing is for sure: As long as I can remember I have been in love with Roy DeSoto! (Yes, I guess I AM nuts! Sigh)

I remember watching Emergency! with my dad when I was very small. I always thought Roy was nice and John was a goofball. I loved when the fire engine or rescue squad would roll out of the station and the sirens would blare. I loved watching the fire scenes and the medical calls and the crazy firehouse antics between the firemen.

At that time in my life it was unheard of that a woman would ever want to be firefighter, the term firefighter wasn't even used yet, it was "fireman." So, I decided to be Dixie McCall when I grew up instead. I wanted to be a nurse.

As I got older, I watched Emergency! sporadically, when it was on in re-runs, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I still liked Roy better than Johnny Gage. I began in about 4th or 5th grade to think about what it would be like to be a "fireman." I wasn't too serious, yet.

By seventh grade, I KNEW I wanted to join the fire department. I started talking about it, a lot. All the time. I drove my family and friends nuts, I am sure. My dad obliged my interests, talking to me about it whenever I wanted him to. My mom bought me Firehouse Magazine. They were taking me seriously! In my English class I wrote a story about a female firefighter. It was called, "One Of The Guys." It won a citywide contest and earned me a spot at the Young Author's Conference where I met Stephen Cosgrove (Wheedle on the Needle, Serendipity, etc.). Then in Home Ec. class we were learning about different cuts of beef. Our teacaher, Gloria Hudson, gave us an outline of a cow and told us to decorate it in some way, for fun, as a contest. The winner would get to choose whatever toppings they wanted to put on a home made pizza we would be making in class. I put Barney Beef in full turnout gear. I won!! Soon my grandfather, a retired firefighter from Portland, Oregon found out I had the bug. He was awesome. He introduced me to some of his firefighter buddies when I visited him. He gave me firefighter decals and other memorabilia.

At school, I was not taken so seriously, at least, not by most. My seventh grade math teacher, Paul Stephens, stated to me in class in front of everyone one day, "No woman fireman is going to climb a four story ladder and save me out of a burning building!" "You're absolutely right!" I said boldly. "You can burn to death!"
Boy was I p'd off! Mom was madder than a wet hen too when I told her about that!

Another day as I was walking home from school, I was heading up the hill towards home and talking to another kid that walked the same direction. I was discussing my interests and he said to me, "You'll never be a firefighter, you won't even ride on the truck!" (he might have said "fire engine") Right then, Engine 8 came around the corner from a block or so away, pulled up along side of us and the driver, Milt Nelson, hollered out, "Want a ride?" (sorry Milt for snitching, but since you are retired, you probably won't get in to too much trouble).

HELL YESS!!!!!!!!!!! ( I thought to myself) as I jumped into the driver's side jump seat and left the jerk I was walking with in a cloud of diesel smoke when Engine 8 roared up the hill. That was the first of the, so far, four best days of my life!

Tune in next time for part two of "How It All Started"

Welcome to Flashpointz!

Welcome to Flashpointz! This is a blog that I am creating so that I have an outlet to ramble about whatever I feel like blah, blah, blahing about. It will probably often have to do with firefighting, firebuffs, fire engines, my brother or who knows what else. For those who are interested, check out my brother's blog the Engine 10 Project. Some of this blog will make more sense if you do.

EDIT: 3/2010  Just a note: The blog referred to above has been re-named the Engine 17 project the reasons of which are outlined within that blog.