My children don’t see color

The statement “My children don’t see color.”, as it has come to my attention, isn’t necessarily the right thing for a white person to say. Yet, I’ve said it. And here’s why I will continue to say it…

You know as well as I do that you literally see and hear things and that your brain processes the information, including differences.  So technically most of us “see” color or other differences from ourselves.  But when you see something or someone and your brain processes and forms an opinion based only on what you literally see before you, you are being presumptuous. And when your presumptions are based on false ideas formed in the absence of good reasoning, you are seeing with prejudice.  

We all know there is a difference in teaching. There is “teaching by telling” and “teaching by showing”. The first is usless when it comes to matters that are subjective. Telling my children to not be prejudice, racist, homophobic, etc. is useless. There is too much negative, outside subjectivity.  And unless you make them live in a bubble with no outside world contact, ideas you rather they didn’t hear about will make their way into their heads. Ideas you might want to prepare them to defend against. 

Drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, work ethic, bullying, prejudice, etc…..I want my kids to be able to stand firm in doing the right thing because it is engrained in them. I want them to be able to stand up for someone else or help those in need without any type of judgement.  If you help someone and have to mention their skin color, disability, economic situation, etc. or feel more proud that you helped someone for any of those reasons….you are prejudice. It’s just that simple. 

I am far from perfect. But my children are being shown to love. They are being shown to take care of others. They are being shown compassion. They are being shown right from wrong. So when I say “my kids don’t see color” I mean they see without prejudice. They also don’t “see” wheelchairs, prostetic limbs, hairloss, sign language etc. and form a negative opinion. 

They may be curious, but I’m trying to teach them how to approach differences they don’t understand. Sometimes it is as simple as introducing yourself and talking to someone. Or asking a parent to explain the best approach to their child. The main thing I am trying to instill in them is to make no judgements about anyone until they have interacted with them on a regular basis. Form no opinions based on rumors, outside influences like social media or the news, or other people’s opinions. 

They are learning that not everyone can just get up and go to school and not feel like everyone is looking at them or judging them. They are at an age where they can being to process and understand what injustice means. As their mother it is my job to help them process injustice they have encountered  and how to handle it.

 Don’t deny it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t be passive. 

The statement “My kids don’t see color”, at least in reference to my kids, doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to learn history….all of it. It doesn’t mean they think everyone lives like they do and are as privileged as they are. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t learning about what’s wrong in this world and their role in changing things for the better. But I have never once heard them refer to anyone as a color, disability, or difference.

One time at a festival a young girl who was deaf, blind, and used a wheelchair, had a malfunction of her chair brakes. The chair rolled backwards down a slight hill and hit a curb. She fell out of the chair backwards and luckily land in the grass unharmed. But she was understandably shaken.

As I saw her starting to roll backwards I ran towards her in what felt like molasses. I couldn’t get there fast enough! And you know who was on my heals? My 5 year old daughter. I was actually shocked. She had been getting on my nerves by being a whiny butt just a few minutes beforehand. So much so that we were in the process of leaving the festival. Ha!

But there she was. A completely different child. Asking what she could do to help. She was the only child at that festival who approached the young girl without any hesitation. Yes, she was technically with me, but she wasn’t scared of a child who was different from her.  She showed no hesitation to help a scared little girl because that’s all she saw. 

As the girl’s mother checked her for injuries, she explained to Elle that her daughter was deaf so she wouldn’t respond to the words of comfort Elle was saying. Elle immediately asked what she needed to do to comfort her. Whhhat??? I just looked at my daughter like “Who are you and what did you do with Elle?”. The mother told Elle her daughter uses touch to understand things and having something in her hands would help calm her down. So as we are sitting in the grass, Elle hands the girl a wand with a fuzzy ball and streamers on the top of it that she had won in a contest…..without any prompting from me. It immediately began to calm the girl down. 

My children see human beings. They see a chance to learn about and embrace differences. I feel confident that I have set an open line of communication with them to where they feel comfortble asking me about things they have been told or have seen. They are learning to form ideas and opinions of people based on their own experiences with them. They are also learning that people have different experiences and that they should strive for other people’s experiences with them to be positive ones.

The best way to help them is to demonstrate “loving your neighbor as you love yourself.” It’s that simple. 

 

I’m just going to remain rough around the edges


Yesterday I had an idea. The idea to apply for the position of fire chief that will be open soon. Now mind you, up until a few months ago, I was doing good to just get to work in the first place. Someday soon I will write about the last straw that sent me over the edge into the “I don’t give a damn” pit.

Up until a few months ago, some  good therapy, and the right cocktail to handle depression, I had said “fuck it”. (I’m sorry, Mom and Dad!)  I was even considering quitting my job. I was at probably the lowest point I could get before my brain became so unbalanced from depression that it might have considered suicide. I never wanted to commit suicide, by the way, because I have too many people that love me and vice versa. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t start that rumor. (I know some mouthy people will read this. Some who like to spin the truth.)

For me, the time before the point of no return was indifference. No care given. No feelings…at all.  No sadness. And definitely no joy. Short tempered was the closest I could get to feeling anything. But it only lasted a split second. Other than that it was: When did I shower last? Housework, schmouse-work. Why bother going to the last place I feel normal… Crossfit Hixson? Because exercise is stupid. We have dogs? You can skip school today because I don’t want to drive you over there. Good luck finding food to feed yourselves, kids. Dry cereal for dinner, maybe? And so on and so on….

So here I was yesterday, considering applying for the most stressful, time-consuming, ‘in the spot-light’ kind of a job on the department (in my opinion).

I talked to my husband, my best friend, and 4 of the men I work with that I trust to tell me the truth, not just what they think I want to hear. I can’t even begin to say how important it is to have these people. The ones who shoot you straight. Not scared to give you feedback on what you do and how you do it…good or bad. People, who you know when you turn your back, won’t talk shit about you. People rough around the edges.

Finding these people takes time no matter where you work or what position you are in. You may have to fly solo for a bit before you find them. That means keeping your mouth shut and just observing. Be careful who you confide in. Maybe even throw something out there to see how far it goes and who takes it there. Yes, that’s baiting someone. But who cares. Just be aware that someone may try it on you. So when you say “I won’t tell anyone”….. don’t.

So back to applying for the chief job…I conducted a poll with those 6 people. It came back unanimous. “You can do it.” “Go for it.” And…..”the person you will report to probably can’t handle you”. Hahaha!

I cuss. I’m a smartass. I have reached a point where pissing people off doesn’t bother me if it’s what I have to do. I suck up to no one. Money and power aren’t what I think life is about. I’ll tell you like it is. I’m rough around the edges.

Let’s face it. Around here the big chief has pretty much been chosen before the job is even open. So far in my career, none of the 4 chief appointments have been a surprise. Well….there was that one time they  made a “Rowe” chief. Worst chief ever.

But the job is always posted and people always apply. And they should. There are a ton of perfect candidates for the job. And the process can be a good experience to use later on down the road.

But me….not going to happen. I enjoy my free time. I don’t need anything more to deal with. And I rather be out with the men and women making a difference in that capacity….ya know….delivering them water and occasionally acting like an Incident Commander and stuff.

I believe that most people eventually find their niche. And mine is with those rough around the edges.

Neighbor kids

Most blogs take me a day or two to finish thanks to my brain, my kids, and my life. But not today!!!

Is it wrong to despise some of the kid’s in your neighborhood?? I’m nice and I show some grace….until I’ve had enough. Which takes about 5 minutes. Then I talk to them pretty much like I do my own kids.

Like:

  • “What did you just say?”
  • “I didn’t ask for your opinion.”
  • “It’s time to shut your trap.”
  • “No one told you you could have that.”
  • What did I just tell you?” 
  • “You gonna act like a fool in here then you’re goin’ outside.”
  • “You’re only safe from the belt because you aren’t mine.” (I’ve never paddled mine with a belt, but the suggestion sure does work well) 
  • “Don’t make me start counting…”
  • “Nope. Not gonna happen. Hate it for ya”.
  • “Well then, see ya!”

And they just keep coming back. Usually at lunch or dinner time….or both. 

Am I the only parent with this problem?????

Turkey comas and dysfunction

Unbeknownst to us at the time this picture was taken, we had enough food to feed all the companies that respond on the 3rd alarm fire we had. We rotated crews to the station to eat a Thanksgiving meal.

Some days I absolutely amaze myself. They don’t happen often. As a matter of fact, it might only be once a month. The rest of the time I’m turning in circles wondering where to start.

This feeling reminds me of Thanksgiving Day 2017 when I found myself in the street looking at a 2nd alarm fire (it was only 2nd alarm at that moment). We had just finished our firehall Thanksgiving feast. I was making myself comfy on my couch when the tones hit. 

I’m not even sure how I got there. I was in a turkey coma and I just followed my firetrucks rolling out of the station. This day, I had to. I was so sleepy! Plus I didn’t hear the address. Ha!

I rarely lead the way to a call. In my opinion, the firetrucks need to roll in first. They are the most important and so is there placement. Some may say this is the wrong approach and that as a leader I should go in first. But I disagree in this situation. It took me a while to figure out my officers. To learn how they think. Learn how the respond to me. And I choose to LEAD from the back of the pack because I have faith in them.

It can be done. Pushing them forward. Letting them make decisions on their own and to take control. Hell, they are adults getting paid to make decisions. Most of my officers are seasoned and know what they are doing. They know their people the best. They and their drivers know the maximum abilities and limitations of their apparatus. Use that to your advantage.

They know I will make a decision.They know who is ultimately “in charge” (I don’t like that saying). They know when I say to do something a certain way then they need to do it because there is usually a reason. I don’t give out piddly orders just because I can. They also know that all responsibility falls on me if things goes wrong. And I have broad enough shoulders to take that. 

So back to Thanksgiving….

This is what we refer to as the fire “gettin’ it”. 

As I rounded the corner and said “Oh Shit” at the amount of flames literally roaring out the windows, I didn’t bother to look at any street sign. Genius. This building was a block long. In order to do a 360 I had to speed walk pretty far. (For those who know me, picture that in your head. Haha!). 

 While trying to direct incoming firetrucks to where they needed to go, I found myself a block down the road turning circles…. literally. I had no clue what street I was standing on. This moment later became the only way I could describe to a counselor and my psychiatrist, how I felt. Perfect analogy.

Just in case you need one I’m going to insert this here…

www.riverviewpsychiatry.com

Most supervisors will have very similar moments (turning in circles). And they won’t tell a soul. But me?? I think it’s funny. I can laugh at myself. I’m me and I’m not perfect. Do I often say “I’m not perfect”? Yes. Do I admit when I mess up? Yes. Do I share my story about literally turning in circles in the street? Yes, obviously I do. 

I posted on Facebook and in a recent blog about pulling into the driveway and thinking the newspaper was a cat. I had someone comment “I can’t believe you would post that.” 

Well why not? A huge part of fire service in EGO. And ego, in my opinion, holds us back. Ego tells us we are all knowing, we are perfect, our way is the only way. And that just simply isn’t true. Ego tells us that those we supervise are literally beneath us. That definitely isn’t true.

Our people are assets. Treating them as such gets you further. Letting them know that you aren’t perfect too isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s just simply a way to communicate with your people. Letting them know that despite wanting things to go perfectly, they won’t. And you know that from experience.  


a 360- the term we use in the fire service to describe walking around the entire structure (360°) involved in fire in order to see everything, such as fire extent, exposures, potential hazards or suppression hindrance.

The real me….Volume 1

​So when I pulled in the driveway last night I saw a cat laying there on the edge of the asphalt. I noticed the poor thing didn’t move even when my headlights hit it. So I pulled up the driveway and parked. Cat hadn’t budged. How strange! So I got out sayin’ “hey sweet kitty”. I figured it was sick or injured.

Nope. It’s was the newspaper.

_____________________________

I’m the size of a man. I own multiple guns. I’m certified as a cop and would defend one in a heart beat. I’ve arrest complete psycho (arsonist are CRAZY!!!) I’ve run into burning buildings so many times I lost count. I even pulled a 4 year old out of one. Heck, I even own a snake! 

But my co-worker, Telly, has unintentionly startled me 463 times and at least 7 of those times I may have wet my pant.

_____________________________

When I was the Captain on an engine company we we’re responding to some sort of fire alarm. As we approached one of the bridges that crosses the river, I saw a guy hanging off the side of it.

I pointed him out and while my crew was desperately trying to find where I was pointing I reached for the radio to call for our platform truck to respond. Where the guy was clinging to the side of the bridge was still over land and it was reachable with the platform. My plan was perfect.

Except for the fact that he was just a shadow.

_____________________________

Back in 2012, the fire department got a new knock-on system. For those unaware, that is what we call the lights and tones that come on in the firehall to alert us of a call. 

This new system was shocking to say the least and hard to get used to. Your heart ended up in your throat when it went off.

My bunk in the firehall was a room big enough for a twin bed and small table. It also had a small bathroom with a small corner shower.

Shortly after we got that damn system, it went off in the middle of the night. I shot out of my bed in a panic and ended up in the shower yelling “How do I get out of here???!!!

_____________________________

Back in college my friend and I were at the gym on treadmills next to each other. At some point  I looked at her to talk and my foot came off the side of the belt. I stumbled off the side but stayed upright. No big deal.

Until I immediately put one foot back on the treadmill….that was still moving. That time I landed on my face and burned the crap out of my legs on the moving belt. 

_____________________________

On a fire scene one time, out of the corner of my eye, I thought a ditch full of water with grass clippings floating on it was solid ground. I stepped over a supply line right into the ditch. Upper thigh deep. Turned my ankle. 

Just call me “Grace”. 

Make a decision

This cracks me up every time I read it!

www.powerofpositivity.com

I just got a phone call from one of my officers telling me that they had been dispatched to go sit at a private company and babysit two propane tanks while the fumes were burned off. 8 hours for each tank . 

Um…No. The officer knew he needed to run it by me. I, on the other hand, don’t have to run it by anybody. They pay me to make those type of decisions. So my response was…”Tell them I said “no” and that I said we don’t do that. They can call and hire a private company for that.” I know my officer is tactful and I knew he could handle the situation. But just in case, I added, “If they give you any trouble let me know. I’ll head that way.”

Know your people. Trust them, if they have earned it. Have their backs.  Even when they make a decision that isn’t the best choice. Back them for at least making a decision. Remember it could ALWAYS be YOU making the bad decision.

On with the story….I made a decision. I didn’t call and ask someone above me what I should do. I didn’t run my decision by anyone. I didn’t ask permission to say “no”. I just made a decision. 

It took all of 1 minute to make. We are EMERGENCY responders. Standing by for a burn-off isn’t an emergency. Now if it exploded then we would respond as the emergency responders that we are.

 Plus it is hot as hell outside. How miserable!! And boring!! We have training to do. Calls to run. Equipment to maintain. I can’t make my people sit in a running firetruck for 16 hours. 

Could I justify 16 hours of burning diesel at the taxpayer’s expense? AND at the expense of their safety? What if a house caught on fire and the closest firetruck was sitting there babysitting a tank? Nope. Not gonna happen. 

Unless…that company decides to call my boss. Then things could get flipped on me. You never know who might want to do favors for who. But my decision stands and I won’t back down. Won’t be the first and definitely not the last time. And because I’ve had my co-workers back time and time again, they have had mine. 

That’s how it is supposed to work.

I don’t care if it’s a multi-million dollar company. I don’t care who’s connected to who. My people are worth more to me than that. And so are the citizens of our city. 

No care given

(This quote is fresh and based on what I was typing just now. I’m cracking myself up with these stupid things. So at least one of us thinks it’s funny. Haha!)

 The past few of weeks I’ve managed to piss off a couple of co-workers, the entire DA’s Cold Case Unit, a judge, some random court officers, and countless civilians. And I haven’t looked back with regret or shame. 

I have gotten pretty good at pissing people off just by speaking the truth with zero sugar-coating…or “confection”. Haha! Get it?? (If not, then Google the word!) I still find tact to be important. But  sugar-coating is stupid.

I’ve been around long enough to not give a damn about saying what I think. Some of it is my battle with apathy. Most of it though is age and experience. BUT I must say, I usually only speak out on things I am confident about and I feel are important. 

You probably won’t find me poppin’ off about stuff I don’t know or stuff that doesn’t mean shit in the scheme of things. (That’s my “positive”, Beth. Ha!)

Pet-peeve: A know-it-all you doesn’t have their facts straight. 

I strive NOT to be that person. And I strive to surround myself with co-workers and friends who feel the same as I do.

 Tact and fact only, please.

July 16, 2015

WARNING: This is going to be a long post. So grab a drink or some ice cream. I haven’t talked much about it since it happened. And I’ve only sat down once before now and written anything down. I don’t know why I haven’t been able to. My role was totally insignificant compared to those who sacrificed their lives and those men who charged in and kill that piece of shit.  

_____________________________

It’s been 2 years since the terrorist attack in Chattanooga. Althought I wasn’t in the gunfight or have direct contact with the victims, that day messed me up. I’ve been different ever since.

 A huge part of me believes that I’m ridiculous for being so torn by it when I wasn’t directly involved with those who died. I didn’t fire a weapon or get shot at. But when you work in emergency services you never really know which call will effect you. So I guess this one got me and now I am trying to give myself a break and share my little piece of that day. 

Some would say that September 11th changed their view of the world. Back then I was 26 years old, single, with no kids. I had only about 4 years under my belt as a firefighter. I was still 10ft tall, bullet-proof, and naive. And although it did have an effect on me, I wasn’t physically there. It had no direct impact on my life.  14 years later I found myself standing in the middle of a highway trying to provide some organized help to chaos and keep account of men and women that weren’t normally under my command. 

Let me sidetrack here a minute and explain some relevant information about myself. If you know me well you can scroll past  this. Haha! For those that don’t know me, I have been certified as a “police officer” since 2003.  But you won’t see me walking around writing tickets or arresting people. Most people don’t even know. 

I attended the local police academy. At that time I was a Lieutenant for the fire department. POST (Police Officer Standard Training) is a requirement in order to be a Fire Investigator on our department. I had applied for and gotten that position. 

Although 5 years as a fire investigator gave me a huge amount of experience in law enforcement, I have NEVER been a patrol officer. And that is where you really become a cop. I have maintained my POST in order to have an extra layer of protection for myself, my family, and my coworkers.

Not too long ago I was talking with a group of cop friends during the yearly police in-service. We were discussing the 16th and how there wasn’t any mention of me in the federal reports….or any reports that we knew of. Although I am grateful I wasn’t mentioned, I know I was there. So do about 100+ law enforcement officers I came in direct contact with that day.

During our lunch break from class, I found myself having an overwhelming need to write stuff down about that day. I hadn’t at all up until that point. I had even been asked by our state fire academy and the local Homeland Security office to write a synopsis of what all we did that day. I didn’t write down a single word. I just simply couldn’t. But that day, after talking with friends, I found myself writing…..

Not writing what we did, but writing about how ANGRY I was. I was pissed off over just about anything and everything. I had gone from a “realist” to a “pessimist”. And despite all I had seen and done in my career, I had remained a realist until that day. Afterwards I was nothing but short tempered, paranoid, and negative.

After a long time and some counseling through our Employee Assistance Program, here is what I determined to be a huge factor in why this anger I had was so overwhelming….

With all my experience of law enforcement meshed with fire service, I began to ask for some sort of cross-training between our fire and police departments YEARS before this event. Even if it was just simple “awareness” training for our firefighters on what to watch for on medical calls. Something. Anything. Because I had this overwhelming feeling that something shitty would happen.

You want to know what I got from our training chief at that time? “This is Chattanooga. Nothing is going it happen here.” I also got told by another chief “We can’t be letting them use our trucks in those situations (situations like Columbine High School). What if they get bullet holes in them? We would have to pay to get them fixed.” We spend our careers training for shit we hope never happens. How is was this any different??

Well, at that point I said “Forget you”.  Not literally. Just in my head. Because at that time I still had a filter.  I contacted the person who was over the SWAT team at the time. I let them come to one of my firehalls and look at all the rescue equipment we had. I let them ride up in the platform (bucket on the end of an aerial firetruck). I let them see how we crank the trucks…just in case they needed to use one. Just opening up a line of communication with the guys who would be there for my people. 

I’m not stupid. And they aren’t either. We all know that using our equipment to do something miniscule is out of the question. But I told them if they’ve got a downed officer in the middle of a shit storm or victims bailing out second-story windows and I’m there, take one of my trucks. Or hell I’d drive it for them.

Of course adminstrations changed and little was done with my proposal. Following adminstrations did not give  a shit either. Again…. “That sort of thing won’t happen here”.  Well here we are several years later with a local kid going radical and killing 5 of our military personnel. Terrorism right in the middle of our fucking yard.

NOW they want to get together and have some training with each other. And apparently have a committee working on it. So I guess that is a positive. But it should have been started ages ago. 

    The entire time I stood in that road I was protected. Protected by men and women that lay their lives down every time they go to work. Multiple local and regional departments, state troopers, ATF, FBI, DEA, Sheriff’s Department….all surrounding me. Patient, calm, and very respectfully. 

    As a Battalion Chief I live, eat, breathe Incident Command. Form a plan. Provide resources. Keep accountability. And that is all I did on July 16th.
    I remember thinking that at some point one or more of those cops would ask what in the hell a fire chief was doing telling them where to go….why in the hell they had to give me their name…why in the hell they had to report back to me when they left the hot zone… 

    But never once did that happen. They were nothing but respectful.

    I knew over half the faces. Some where people I consider friends. Some I have a huge amount of respect for. ALL of them I was proud of. What hit me most about that day was not the killings. It was watching those men and women run forward to save others. 

    All I can really think of to describe what I witnessed is “Awe”. I love my local law enforcement. I wish everyone would take time to really, truly get to know them. Cops are humans like the rest of us.

     That day I witnessed them go above and beyond to save countless lives. Far and above anything I had witnessed before. And it makes me angry that there are people out there that refuse to treat them with the respect that they deserve. 

    We live in an incredible country. We have freedoms and opportunities that majority of the world never know. We have people all around us that sign up to be there on our worst day.

    Yet we take complete and total advantage…and then ask for more. And we want to buck and defy a system in place that is trained to respond to situations like this. A terrorist attack. By a local. In our city. 

    I was not looking forward to being on duty today because it is the second anniversary. I said “it is a shitty day to be on duty”. But a friend of mine said 

    “It’s not a shitty day. It’s a day to remember what they sacrificed. To bring to light the things that need to change.”

    Words that struck me to the core. “To bring to light the things that need to change”. We all need to remember what these men and their families and friends sacrificed. And what those who are still living sacrifice every day. 

    Remember, respect, and make changes. 

    Housework Hell

     

    1375ceedeab62f26227a00a1487017c0.jpg

    I wake up every day with the intention on getting shit done. Everything. In one day. Catch it all up. Then maintain it. Have a spotless house.

    Um. Ok. Nice dreams. But the reality of it is, I am too lazy. As a matter of fact I’m laying here typing a blog about how lazy I am. A blog about my lack of motivation. Lack of caring. Lack of will power. Lack of, well, alot.

    I’m completely opposite of a “successful”, “Pintrest”, “Good Housekeeping” mom. That’s me. You will rarely see me post recipes, DIY stuff (athough I am a DIY freak!!!), fancy decorations, fun-filled vacation, perfect holidays, life hacks, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m successful enough that my kids get food, shelter, and clothing. I have managed to keep them, my husband, our 2 dogs, and our snake alive so far….along with somewhat clean and dressed. And I’ve made some pretty kick-ass stuff all by myself.

    I am just baffled at why, as women, we put so much pressure on ourselves? The stupid thing is I care NONE about how my girlfriend’s homes look like. It makes no difference to me in how I view them.

    So why in the hell do I beat myself up for my mess? Why can’t I let adult people over? Or ask for some help?  The intent is there. The guilt is definitely there. I just have no motivation. It’s overwhelming. The mess. The disorder. The idea of fixing it for it to just get wrecked again.

    Maintenance WAS the key. Notice I put “was” in bold. That’s because I used to have my shit together. Now it is so overwhelming I don’t even try and start.

    I guess for now I need to lay off myself. I get the basics done. That’s more than some people do. My house is always full of neighborhood kids. That’s got to say something good about me, right?

    I should follow the advice I give my friends when they are overwhelmed.

    “Just embrace the glorious mess that you are.”

    Be messy. Live life. Straighten it all out later.