Can you believe it? I can’t. Just like those fire couples years of marriage or high school or of your babies life sneak up on you. It feels like yesterday but at the same time it feels like eons of work and effort have gone by. This week marks the two year anniversary of this website and everything we represent.
The mission has remained steady, only enhanced and refined, literally by the fires in our lives as we aim to serve the fire community.
“Strengthen Marriages and Encourage Fire Wives” rolls off our tongue and our finger tips on the keyboard very easily and naturally. The best missions are simple like that but with many complex facets to complete. It is the measuring stick for everything we do. Does it strengthen marriages? Does it encourage fire wives? If no, then we don’t do it. We don’t write it. We don’t speak it. We don’t post it. We don’t allow it in comments.
But making those decisions can sometimes expend extreme amounts of emotional energy, prayerful consideration and challenging “iron sharpens iron” kind of discussions with my Trusted Advisor team and Group Administrators. These decisions are not taken lightly as we now have over 50,000 followers on our social media platforms and around 500 paying members of our Fire Wife Sisterhood, not to mention partners from every corner of the fire service as well as outside the fire service. In case you’re doing that math, yes that is a 400% growth rate. Wow! Which is mostly why I am here this year to simply say
Last year’s one year anniversary blog post “10 Things I Learned in One Year as a Fire Blogger” is actually still very applicable and correct (a good sign we are on track with our mission, yeah!). But the difference in year two is the people. (Yes, I’m doing the girl thing and shedding tears as I reflect and write on this.) I hesitate to call this a blog anymore because it’s so much more than just a writing routine to post a few articles each week. It’s an organization. Even more, it’s a movement. It’s a movement to change attitudes and perspectives and lives.
Let me explain that “movement” by starting with a confession. Fire Wives used to scare me. I steered clear of them. It wasn’t my domain (I’m not a nurse or a medic or dispatcher, etc.) And there was so much, shall we say, assertive territorial-ism with that group of people, I chose to just not engage. Actually, it was to the detriment of my husband and our marriage because I was in essence shunning a big part of who he was. But I couldn’t help it. The fire wives I had encountered were either as avoidant as me and therefore not wanting to connect, or they were part of the fire / ems community and so loud and in your face about it (yes, they were passionate about their jobs….that’s a good thing) or they were fire wives who were bitter and cynical and beat down and surviving on that crass edge of sarcasm and overly loud opinion sharing. Then were those few who seemed to have it all together and in no way did I want to share how much I was really struggling with this life. So yes, I avoided. It took me 10 years into our marriage to feel comfortable, confident and safe enough to speak out about the trials, tribulations and beautifulness of this fire wife life. And our mission to ‘encourage fire wives’ means that we shortcut that 10 year cycle for fire wives everywhere and transform into a community that is open, warm and accepting without losing any of that boldness and strength that is necessary to navigate this life.
Many fire wives tell me they have trouble engaging with other wives in their department. They see cliques, and drama, and politics, and actually, other battle scarred fire wives who are probably hurting just as much as they are but reacting in their own mode of self-preservation. (This isn’t just a fire service thing by the way. It’s a general community of women topic. Just don’t want you all to feel generalized or singled out.) So this is why it’s a movement. Because I know I’m not the only fire wife out there feeling isolated, uncomfortable and not wanting to engage in that environment. Our mission deepens now at year two as we encourage women to be confident in themselves, bold but not abrasive, to extend themselves into scary places in the name of love and friendship. And with each fire wife we reach out to, we slowly but surely grow a far reaching fire wife sisterhood that is warm, welcoming, strong and UNITED. Everyone in it together. Everyone able to be their own unique selves but bond together in the commonalities – our fears, our joy, the humor and the uncontainable pride we feel by being a part of the fire family.
This is why year two has been all about the people. It takes an army of people to form a movement.
So I want to peel back the covers a bit and share with you transparently what this army looks like, in the hope that you can fully appreciate all the people behind this mission and where we are going.
First and foremost is the Trusted Advisor team. This group was formed in October 2012 literally by divine appointment. (I prayed over our list of members and leapt with faith and started the advisors group.) This team of women has worked together through tough times in business and life, tears and laughter, joys and pains, changes in direction, successes and failures, individual wins sometimes at the expense of the team and team wins sometimes at the expense of the individual.
The role of this team is simple. They are my “go to fire wives” for any major and lots of minor decisions we make about Firefighter Wife. We have all over-worked and under-worked in this position and help each other to bring it all into balance. It’s a blend of personalities from a variety of backgrounds – legal, corporate, ministry, writing, and mostly in advance life management. I can’t say thank you enough and they know it. I just want you all to know the solid rock of leadership upon which this organization stands. Where else have you seen a committee of women work together for 17 months, through conflict, and still stand together in love and friendship? It’s rare and I never take that for granted.
But it’s not just these ladies. We have multiple Facebook group administrators to help us manage the 24/7 chatter, selfies, vents, praises, pleas for help, gracious prayers of thanksgiving and of course funny internet graphics that make our Fire Wife Sisterhood membership community come alive, engage and thrive. A special shout out to Julie and Crystal who help admin our main FB group from multiple time zones and hours of the night, the team of ladies rocking the Fit Fire Wife motivation and Katt, Julie and Jennifer who contribute as marriage mentors in our Rescue My Marriage group. There are also ladies queued up and patiently walking with us through growth season with our Fire Wife Care Team and our state Fire Wife Captain roles. Not to mention how many have stepped up to serve in out booths and meet ups at in person events across the country. See? I told you it was an army!
Next I must say thank you to our members. I know you have choices on what fire wife groups to participate in and where to invest your time and money. You chose to be here in our amazing community and because of your loyal support we can reach more and more fire wives and serve you in more and more ways. Do not underestimate what your $60 / year or $8 / month does to serve the fire community. Those fruits are being multiplied over and over.
It’s maybe easiest to look at our Flame Fest website and our FDIC write up otherwise I have to write a novel here! Here is why partners mean so much to us. They also have choices on who they want to align with and support. These partners have shown us loyal support, given me wisdom and guidance, trusted us with their audience and believe in and align with our mission. Our members do not see much of what goes on behind the scenes with our partners but for me personally this has been a joy and blessing to grow friendships, to support missions together for the fire community and to dive into the fast paced ever changing world of social media and online businesses to
I am so excited here in 2014 because I have been invited to speak at 5 major fire industry events and at each of those I get so filled up connecting with these partners and just socializing with the kind of people who fill your soul and keep you fired up to do more good. Thanks to all of the following (and a zillion more I’m unable to mention due to not wanting to make a novel!)
- Jodi Monroe, fire wife and business owner of Firefighter Art
- Rhett Fleitz (The Fire Critic), Willie Wines Jr (Iron Firemen) and the First Arriving Blog Network and bloggers (Dave, Chris, Andrew, Paul…..etc!)
- Pete Edwards, Firehouse.com and Firehouse Blogger Ryan Pennington (A View from the Jumpseat)
- Mark Lamplugh and all those working in the addiction treatment space (1st Responder Treatment, American Addiction Centers)
- Cindy Ell, Firefighter Cancer Foundation
- Shane Parkins, National Firefighters Endowment and the organizer behind Detroit Mutual Aid
- Zach Green, founder and President of MN8 Foxfire
- Jeff Dill, founder of Firefighter Behavioral Health
- Amy Bomar, fire service marketing maven and fellow partner in work-life balance
- Sarah and her team at National Volunteer Fire Council
- Mike and Ann Gagliano who first spoke out about firefighter marriages and support
- Ron and his team at National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
- David Soler, founder of FirefighterToolbox.com
- Rick Laskey and John Salka, Five Alarm Leadership
- Antonio and team, Foxfury Lighting
- Marriage partners like Wendy and Tara at The Dating Divas, Tony & Alisa DiLorenzo at One Extraordinary Marriage.com, Dave Willis at StrongerMarriages.org
- Heather, my shipping and customer support department!
- Jessica Elizaldi at Fire Swag
- Lauren Levin at GoodEventCo.com
Each of you know that I am picky and difficult about who we partner with. I don’t take lightly entering into partnerships because we chose to only bring the best to our members. Thanks for tolerating my pickiness, living up to those high standards and boosting up Firefighter Wife to be what it is today.
Memorial Day weekend is the 1 year anniversary of the opening of our Fire Wife Sisterhood membership community.
In that time, we’ve grown to over 500 members and added more offerings than we even imagined
- Care Mail – special packages from Firefighter Wife delivered to your doorstep 3 to 4 times per year
- Rescue Pack – Secret Sister exchanges with themes “Date Your Mate” this month
- Fun engaging post series and devos in the facebook group
- Special webinars and live spreecasts with experts
- Discounts on a lot of products (such as the FREE 100 Love Texts book in the Fire Wife Academy)
- Special “sub groups” on hot topics like Fit Fire Wife, Rescue My Marriage and Financial Peace University (the first ever online version of Dave Ramsey’s popular course!)
Look for more big announcements about the Sisterhood coming up on Memorial Day weekend as we celebrate our 1 year anniversary of the Sisterhood!
“How can I help?” This is a common question. Here are a few ways:
- Share our facebook posts to those fire wives in your life
- Become a member. Membership dues help fuel our ability to reach more and more fire wives and align with more and more national partners to bring special offers, programs, free stuff, giveaways, etc. Besides, you will get back way more value than the $8 / month price.
- Attend our events. Flame Fest is a gigantically enormous event for an organization our size and so freaking rewarding I can’t even describe it. But if we don’t fill seats, it won’t happen year after year. Seeing Firefighter Wife at a trade show is one thing. Immersing yourself in the mission for 2 and a half days is a life changing experience (and actually that’s what we’re going for!)
- Volunteer your talents. All of our volunteers come from our membership and have been around long enough to really understand the purpose and mission of the group. So if you want to volunteer, get in line and enjoy the ambiance while you “move up in the ranks” so to speak. It’s sort of like the fire service actually. It takes some time and training to get to know the organization at which time we do start to appoint people as adminstrators, Fire Wife Captains, etc.
- If you are an organization or business that wants to get involved, by all means message us. We do carry other product lines in our store as well as offer sponsorships and trade services with partners that compliment our mission. Message us here.
Now I have another confession. Before all of this I never owned or wore a fire department t-shirt. But over time I realized our firefighter wife brand means something more than just another t-shirt. It’s a symbol of the friendships and encouragement that have grown out of our community. Now my closet is full of them because I can always remember this friendships whenever I put one on.
This is not about numbers and how big we can grow (although those numbers have certainly come and for that I’m incredibly grateful). This is about touching lives and reaching people where they need to be reached.
How else do you get the motivation to do something for two years and invest so many hours of your life (and your own personal finances into it)? I like to be transparent so I’ll share with you all that I haven’t paid myself a dime. Instead, we’ve taken the revenue we’ve generated to pay a team of fire wives to help adminstrate the community (yeah for making some flexible work from home jobs for a couple fire wives!). And to put on big far reaching events like Flame Fest. Because if you are growing something for the right reasons and mission, that is the right way to do it and it will continue to be blessed.
Two years. Countless hours. The joys outweigh the tears by that thousands. And it’s all because of the people. It’s not “just a facebook page” or “just a facebook group” or just someone else selling fire themed t-shirts. This is about changing perspectives and the culture of the fire families to be one of warm, welcoming encouragement through and through.
A sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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