A MOTHER’S LOVE

https://sisterinabrotherhoodcom.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/a-mothers-love.docx

FROM THE AGE OF FIVE, I KNEW THAT MY LIFE WOULD GET BETTER. LOOKING BACK NOW, I FIND IT MIRACULOUS THAT I NOT ONLY SURVIVED, BUT HAVE FOUND GREAT HAPPINESS AND LOVE DESPITE MY BACKGROUND.

I WAS BORN IN A SMALL TOWN IN RURAL OHIO TO PARENTS WHO NOT ONLY WERE VERY POOR, BUT HAD ALSO ENDURED A LOVELESS MARRIAGE. WE LIVED IN A TINY HOUSE WITHOUT INDOOR PLUMBING. MY MOTHER KEPT A POT HIDDEN BEHIND A CURTAIN FOR US TO RELIEVE OURSELVES IN SEMI- PRIVACY. WHEN OUR PRIMATIVE TOILET WAS FULL, SHE HAD THE ARDUOUS TASK OF CARRYING IT TO THE OUTHOUSE TO EMPTY, REGARDLESS OF THE WEATHER.

I CLEARLY REMEMBER BATHTIME, WHICH CONSISTED OF NOTHING MORE THAN A STEEL WASHTUB FILLED WITH HOT WATER THAT MOM HAD HEATED UP ON THE STOVE. THERE WERE PLENTY OF TIMESWHEN ALL WE HAD FOR DINNER WAS BREAD AND MILK. ONE GOOD THING WAS THAT MY AUNT NOLA AND UNCLE RALPH WORKED IN MY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. HE WAS THE JANITOR AND SHE WAS THE COOK, SO THEY MADE SURE THAT MY BELLY WAS FULL WHENEVER I WAS IN SCHOOL. AUNT NOLA WOULD SNEAK LEFTOVERS OUT OF THE CAFETERIA AND BRING THEM OVER TO OUR HOUSE, ALONG WITH HER DELICIOUS HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES..

GOING TO SCHOOL WAS EXTREMELY TOUGH FOR ME BECAUSE I NEVER FELT GOOD ENOUGH. I WAS NOT ONLY POOR, BUT TALL AND DARK SKINNED TOO. MY AMERICAN INDIAN HERITAGE DID NOT SERVE ME WELL AT THE TIME. IT SEEMED TO ME THAT ALL OF MY CLASSMATES WERE CUT FROM THE SAME BLOND-HAIRED, BLUE-EYED MOLD. THEY TAUNTED CONSTANTLY BY CALLING ME “POCOHANTAS.” THEY ALSO CALLED MY OLDER BROTHER GARY, “SQUAWMAN.” IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE EVEN TODAY AT AGE FORTY NINE THAT HAS REMAINED HIS NICKNAME, ALL SIX FEET EIGHT INCHES OF HIM.

DESPITE MY DISMAL SURROUNDINGS, I KNEW THAT LIFE HELD MANY WONDERFUL SURPRISES FOR ME. I RECALL THAT MY LOVE OF BOOKS AND MUSIC BECAME APPARENT AT AROUND AGE FOUR. SOME OF MY FONDEST MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD ARE OF MY MOTHER LISTENING TO THE RADIO AND SINGING ALONG WHILE SHE IRONED CLOTHES. SHE’S A VERY TALENTED WOMAN WITH A HEART OF PURE GOLD. SHE WAS BORN POOR, LIVED IN POVERTY HER ENTIRE LIFE, AND IS VERY MUCH A PRODUCT OF HER GENERATION. QUITE A FEW WOMEN HER AGE WHO GREW UP DURING THE DEPRESSION SACRIFICED THEIR DREAMS FOR THOSE OF THEIR HUSBANDS AND CHILDREN.

WHEN IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT I WAS GIFTED WITH AN EAR FOR MUSIC, MY PARENTS SCRAPED TOGETHER TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS FOR AN OLD PIANO THAT WAS ON ITS WAY TO THE DUMP. MY MOM WOULD TURN ON THE RADIO, SING ALONG, THEN ASK ME IF I COULD PLAY THE SONGS BACK TO HER. I PROCEEDED TO DO JUST THAT, WITH FAVORITES BEING, “HELLO DOLLY,” “RED ROSES FOR A BLUE LADY,” AND “WABASH CANNONBALL.”

I LOVED TO READ BOOKS AND WOULD DEVOUR ANYTHING THAT I COULD GET MY HANDS ON. READING STIRRED MY IMAGINATION, AND IT ALLOWED ME PASSAGE TO FARAWAY PLACES WHERE MAGICAL THINGS COULD HAPPEN, AND WHERE ANYTHING WAS POSSIBLE.

MY MOTHER ALWAYS ENCOURAGED ME TO STRIVE FOR WHATEVER MY HEART DESIRED. BUT AS TIME WENT ON, SHE KNEW I WAS RESTLESS, AND NOTHING GOOD WOULD EVER COME TO ME BY STAYING IN THAT SMALL PREJUDICIAL TOWN.

MY DAD USED TO PACK UP ALL OF OUR BELONGINGS, AND THEN WE WOULD HEAD SOUTH TO FLORIDA WHERE HE COULD FIND WORK AS A BRICK MASON. WE WOULD STAY WITH MY OLDER SISTER LINDA AND HER HUSBAND CHARLIE UNTIL WE FOUND A CHEAP PLACE OF OUR OWN TO LIVE, USUALLY A TRAILER. THIS BECAME A YEARLY RITUAL STARTING WHEN I WAS ABOUT ELEVEN YEARS OLD. SINCE I ADORED BOTH MY SISTER AND HER HUSBAND, FLORIDA SEEMED LIKE THE PROMISED LAND TO ME. I DIDN’T OBJECT TO TRAVELING DOWN; BUT LIKE CLOCKWORK, MY DAD WOULD COME HOME FROM WORK ONE DAY TIRED AS WELL AS FRUSTRATED, TELLING US TO START PACKING BECAUSE WE WERE MOVING BACK TO OHIO, WHERE HE COULD MAKE MORE MONEY. I WAS SO FURIOUS WHEN REMOVED FROM SCHOOL JUST WHEN I STARTED TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS, BUT THAT’S LIFE WHEN YOU’RE A CHILD. I NEVER FELT LIKE AN OUTCAST IN FLORIDA BECAUSE THERE WERE SO MANY NATIONALITIES OF CHILDREN, MANY WITH DARKER SKIN THAN MINE. I WOULD SOB THE ENTIRE WAY BACK TO OHIO. I WROTE DESPARATE POEMS AND LETTERS TO MY SISTER EXPRESSING MY SORROW, WHICH OF COURSE, BROKE HER HEART.

FINALLY DURING ONE OF OUR YEARLY TRIPS SOUTH, MY SISTER AND BROTHER-IN-LAW PERSUADED MY PARENTS TO LET THEM COME MY LEGAL GUARDIANS. THEN I COULD LIVE WITH THEM AND GO TO SCHOOL. I WAS ONLY THIRTEEN YEARS OLD, AND MY LIFE WAS FOREVER CHANGED. I NOW REALIZE THE UNSELFISH LOVE THAT MY MOTHER HAD FOR ME. IN ORDER THAT I MIGHT HAVE A BETTER FUTURE, SHE GAVE UP HER YOUNGEST DAUGHTER. I AM POSITIVE THAT SHE SPENT MANY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS BECAUSE OF HER DECISION. THE LITTLE INDIAN GIRL WHO NEVER SMILED, GREW UP HAPPY, WITH A RENEWED ZEST FOR LIVING.

I WILL BE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL TO MY MOTHER FOR HER UNSELFISH LOVE.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

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FAMILY

Family covers alot of territory,  but I want to talk about a very special one;

FIRE RESCUE FAMILY.

Unlike blood family, you are connected by experiences, camaraderie,  time on the job, and if your lucky, maintain contact after retirement.

You will have conflict,  differences of opinion on everything from how much coffee to add in the am pot, who kicked ass on IV’s, intubation,  grabbing the nozzle and being first to whip fire’s ass, if your a male, getting the most attention from the cutest girls in the grocery store, maybe if your a female the same holds true.

The point is your fire family is sacred.

Yes, the snoring and farting in the bunkroom at night also make you a member of the exclusive family.

You get to hear all of the complaints from who hates who, who is getting divorced, who is dealing with their kids problems, drugs,  bad grades, etc, who is suddenly dealing with medical problems, either their own, or others, which becomes all of ours who sit at the fire family dinner table, and the loss of parents and others dear to us.

This we talk, tease, cry, console, and in the end of it all are there for each other.

And this is life.

Time passes, and people retire, leave that assignment, and sometimes tragedy strikes, and illness takes them from our family.

I never want to candy coat our sacred family or our profession,  but it is the best family that I have ever known, and those of you who wish tp become a part of that exclusive family,  I welcome you.

PRIDE

Pride is what you will feel the moment you put on the blue, red, black, white, or whatever color they give you t shirt that says: Probationary Firefighter.

Pride, self respect, self esteem, and most of all; self sufficiency.

Those are powerful nouns, but describe the different feelings you will get when you put on that shirt for the first time.  You are now a part of a very exclusive club for life.  And don’t take it for granted.  Now you are identified as a firefighter, or a firefighter – paramedic.  You have made the decision, are now in the throes of completing your probationary year with whatever department you have been hired by.  It is up to you now to decide how to conduct yourself, and believe me, appearances matter.

My suggestion is to walk tall, convey that pride, and look the part.  Nobody wants to see their beloved firefighters especially the ones representing their cities looking like a bunch of vagabonds. 

I have seen people show up for shift with the nastiest looking uniforms on, t-shirts with holes in them, stained, too big or small, letters faded, wrinkled, scuffed up boots, pants that look like they have never been ironed.

Tragic!

Can you imagine what the public thinks when they see a firefighter -paramedic getting out of the rig looking like that?

Believe me, they notice.

If I sound like your mother, so be it. 

Don’t confuse Pride with arrogance.  Take the time to always look professional because you have worked so hard to get here. So what if you have to fill out the proper paperwork to exchange your old ratty stuff, or it might require some off duty time to handle such, but make the effort!

Have pride in yourself, the career that you have chosen to be a part of, and remember, people take notice.

Until next time,

C. 

 

Cindie hose

Strength

A powerful word indeed, and it has many meanings. You will have to demand and command strength  to pursue a career in Fire-Rescue.

Physical strength is required regardless of your gender and/or size.  Does it mean that everybody who is in shape is capable?

Hell no.

Nerves of steel, strength of mind and character. The ability to believe in yourself when people around doubt you, want to change the course of your chosen path by intimidation, enticement or threatening your resolve to thrive in spite of the obstacles thrown your way.

It is not my intention to scare you, but to prepare you for all of the above.

The stares, glares, and whispering begin upon your arrival  the first day of boot camp. That is where your strength of character and determination begin.  Both men and women will size you up and make premature assumptions as to whether you are going to cut the mustard or not.  And that goes for the instructors too.

That is the first test to see how you react.

Stay calm,  cool and focused.  They don’t know you and/or what your made of yet.  I learned quickly that the person who looks the most intimidating can turn out to be the biggest whiner of them all, or your biggest advocate.

Oh, you must have bravado, even in the face of the uncertain, and that is where the instructors will try to break you down.

That is their job.

The thought process is that when you break down the group, exposing their weaknesses, fears and phobia’s, they will come together, bond, and help each other get through a tough day, becoming more resilient as a group throughout the training process. After all, boot camp is nothing compared to the very real situations you will come across and have to  manage and mitigate when on the job.

Strength of character is just as important as physical and mental strength.

Trust me when I tell you that.

You will quickly learn who has your back no matter what, who will twist the knife deeper, and throw you under the bus for their own self gain. Some of them will try to get to know you better on a more personal level, if you get my drift, and don’t forget those who just have preconceived notions that women are better equipped to stay in the kitchen, become teachers, secretaries or nurses.

Those professions are to be commended, but that is not what you signed up for, and by relaying such information to you, I hope it continues to strengthen your resolve to continue in your quest to pursue this profession.

Just remember that strength, courage, tenacity, and finally, resolution to take whatever is thrown at you will shape your future as a Firefighter-Paramedic.

Until next time;

C.

 

Cindie Mask

 

PERSEVERANCE

Stability, steadiness, Tenacity or singleness of purpose, persistence, stamina, backbone.

These  words equate with the qualities necessary to pursue this career, both at the very beginning when enrolling in the Fire Academy, enduring the long process of testing, getting hired, making probation, getting promoted, and last when preparing for retirement.

People have asked me over the years how long the process takes, and I tell them it is different for everyone, but in general, a long process.  You don’t just fill out an application on Friday, get called the next week for an interview, and finally get the job in a couple of weeks.

That is where Perseverance comes in.

Enrolling in the Fire Academy to get state certified is the first step, and yes, the list to start is usually very long.  As the years have passed since I went through the process, tenacity, along with stamina and a lot of patience is still required.  I suggest you prepare physically, mentally, and have ALL required documentation completed. Many people are under the impression that you sign up first, and then prepare.

No ghost rider.

The ones who try and make excuses why they are out of shape, didn’t get their physical yet, or transcripts from school, etc. will be booted out before they start.

Stamina is your friend.

When I began my career firefighting was separate from emergency medicine except for becoming a first responder or the golden goose; EMT, which I had the foresight to become in the beginning.

Now the profession has evolved tremendously.

More often than not, these days if you wish to embark on this journey, firefighting, emt, associates degree is all crammed into one.  Then Paramedic is next if you want to be with a progressive department and get promoted up the career ladder.

Becoming a Paramedic is not for sissies either.

And all of this takes place before you even have a paycheck, so being single minded with your focus on this incredible career is required.

Have I lost you yet?

I haven’t even started to talk to you about the various character’s you will encounter along the way.

And no, you cannot pull out the woman card.

Remember that I told you we would embark on this long journey together.

Stay tuned.

C.

 

Cindie uniform copy

 

First blog post

FEMALE FIREFIGHTER

The correct term is firefighter, who is a female.

I have been thinking about starting a blog for quite awhile, but waited until retirement became more comfortable for me.

I got hired June 8th, 1987, by a large urban department in south Florida.  Seeing a female riding backwards on a fire truck was a rarity then, and a curiosity even today, depending on what part of the country your from.

Over the years people would question me as to how, why, when,and what made me choose such an unusual career. And I would respond by saying, I didn’t choose it.

It chose me.

And I never looked back.

Since this is a blog and not a manuscript, I will be brief.

Firefighting is a tough, inherently dangerous profession, and if you think otherwise, my advice is to find another career. And that doesn’t cover the intricate aspects of living in the fire house for 24 hours or longer with a lot of different personalities.

My intention is to open the conversation for women who are thinking about this career, already in the fire academy, newly hired, or retired.  I welcome your comments, wisdom, fears, questions, or anything else you want to contribute.

This is not a blog to bash male firefighters.

Let’s start this journey of conversation together, are you ready?

Until next time,

Stay tuned.

C.

 

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