All Hands Working …. situation …" Doubtful "..errr … "Will Hold" … maybe??


blaze14n-1-web buildings on fire comTo say I've been using "All Hands" this year is a HUGE understatement. For my non-firefighting followers, "using All Hands" is a term we use to let dispatch and everyone else know that the job we are on is large enough that we'll be using everyone responding. Following that transmission (signal of "All Hands") the Incident Commander (IC) will follow up with a prediction that the situation. Usually, you'll hear one of two probable outcomes.  Either the situation is "Doubtful", meaning we will more than likely need more help or the IC will signal "Will Hold" meaning that there is enough members on scene to handle the situation.

I'm still not sure what my "Situation" is yet but I'm leaning towards "Doubtful". I've had a pretty difficult time since Thanksgiving and the smoke condition is still heavy. I have a ways to go yet. I'll get into all that in a minute or two but first, I wanted to tell ya about some of the good times over the past two months.

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I've known the Holidays were going to be hard and with each passing day, I grew more and more anxious. I worried about the "bad" or difficult call we always seem to catch around the Holidays as well as the personal struggles I knew I'd be facing surrounding Jack's absence. 

I wasn't in as dark a place as I've been in the past but I did manage to work myself into a pretty tight emotional knot. That word, "emotional knot" is fitting because that's how you feel … like you've just been kicked in or have a "knot" in your gut.  It's difficult to breath sometimes but I managed to push through.

I was worried about our "family get together". I wasn't sure I could / would "hold up" emotionally. I know I've talked a lot here on about how it's ok to have and show emotion but I wasn't sure I could "walk the walk". I didn't want to break down in front of everyone. It wasn't the show of emotion that worried me, it was the thought of evoking their emotion as well. I didn't want to turn the Holiday into a sad occasion because of how I felt. I didn't want to ruin the day for everyone else.

I noticed so many things. So many things that weren't there or that didn't happen because Jackson wasn't there. Then it hit me …. so many things WERE there… 

Wyatts first Thanksgiving 2013They were there, old and new. I was surrounded by family (some who I don't get to see as often as I'd like or should). Jackson wasn't there to eat a turkey leg or to get the wish bone but I thought about each. I remembered the ones still hanging on the bell in Granny's kitchen from when we were just kids. My sister made his favorite sweet potato dish just like our step-mom used to make. I waited every minute for him to bust through the door and do his little Thanksgiving Day dance / jig for the boys but this year, he would only dance in my dreams. 

We didn't talk about him … it was just too hard. This was our first Thanksgiving without Jackson but it was also our first with my little "Rascal" Wyatt.

That's what I'm talking about in reference to old and new. Many of our "old" traditions are now forever changed but we also have the opportunity, through all our children / grandchildren; to make new ones. I wondered if I could hold that thought through Christmas and the following month.

It was harder than I expected. I had that "lost" feeling again and couldn't seem to focus. Everything seemed to keep piling up on me and it felt as if I had the weight of the world on my chest. 

I tried to shop for Christmas gifts but couldn't. Before "The Buckaroo" and beyond Jackson, Pop, Rhett and my uncle Chuck, all I've ever really had to shop for is girls. Christmas shopping for Jackson was what made it fun. There was nothing fun about it this year. I couldn't get in the mood or find that groove.

Luckily, I have the BEST support team anyone could ask for. 

Rhetts fire shirt quilt Christmas 2013My wife and oldest daughter (Randi-Jo) stepped up to help me with Rhett's gift. I had gotten the idea from a good friend of mine from Roanoke Rapids, NC Michael Manning. 

I had seen where Mike had received a quilt made from his softball jerseys and thought it would be pretty cool to make one from some fire Department shirts.

My girls jumped right on it and the next thing I knew, the Wines sweat shop was in full operation.

I picked some shirts from places we've visited (Rhett and I) that stood out or held special memories for us. Of course all of our shirts are special to us but if I used em all, the quilt would have covered a tractor-trailer …LOL.

The final result is pictured above right (click to enlarge). She even made a matching pillow case and throw pillow. Rhett was pretty tickled (as was I)!

I had been traveling back and forth to UVA Medical Center as my Senior Firefighter is battling cancer and started his first round of chemo. On one of my trips home, I stopped by Granny's for a brief visit. For some unknown reason, my mini-bike was the topic of conversation. I had gotten the bike for Christmas as a child (at maybe 10 or 11 years old) and put MANY MANY miles on it before she threw a rod when I was just 14 (some 30 years ago).

That mini-bike is one of my fondest childhood memories. I rode it EVERY DAY. More often than not, Jackson, or my cousin Matt; was on the back of it, no matter where we went. It was still in the shed, in the exact place I parked it 30 years earlier. I decided to take it back home.

DSCN2028Before getting to the house, I stopped at a friends garage and we talked about the bike. I was excited to be bringing it home and that it was still in pretty decent shape.

It was emotional for me as I remembered the times Jackson and I spent on the bike. It was also mixed emotion because more recently, following his death; Jackson and I rode it around in my nightmares visiting the people, places and faces that haunt my dreams.

We decided to strip it down and rebuild it … even the motor. We kept as much of it original as possible. I had to buy a new clutch, throttle cable, rod and carb kit. The seat was undamaged and the tires still had air in them!

It all happened so quickly, I didn't even realize what we had done. She came together BEAUTIFULLY and looked as good as the morning I got it back how many Christmas' ago!

Smiley with mini bike Christmas 2013That was it! CHRISTMAS!!!

The Buckaroo had been wanting a dirt bike for Christmas and this would be it! 

He wouldn't know it wasn't brand new and when he gets old enough to understand, I'll explain to him where it came from and the history behind it.

I wasn't sure how I felt. Overcome with emotion … thinking of Jackson with every look but also hoping that the bike will bring the Buckaroo (and his little brother) as many happy memories as it brought us.

Again, I wasn't sure if I could do it. Would it be an everyday stab to the heart or a gentle kiss on my cheek?

Buckaroo and mini bikeIt didn't take long to figure that out.

I worked Christmas Eve to pay back some time I owed a Brother. When I got home Christmas morning, the Buckaroo wasn't there yet. I spent some time reflecting, looking at the bike under our tree.

Jackson and I always called each other first thing on Christmas morning. We loved hearing the stories of what time they got up and how excited our children were coming out to see what Santa had left. We compared the stories to the times when we entered that room together. There would be no call this year.

The Buckaroo arrived and I knew I'd made the right decision. HE WAS THRILLED!

Family at Christmas 2013As excited as he was, the best gift I received was simply having my family here with me.

Obviously, my wife Donna was by my side. The Buckaroo is old enough to really enjoy being a kid at Christmas plus it was Wyatt's first. Reba and Cody (the Buckaroo and Wyatt's mom) were here along with my oldest daughter Randi and Kevin. Pop and Robyn (my step-mom) continued the tradition of being here to see the Buckaroo come to the tree.

We opened our packages and then shared a large breakfast prepared by the girls (usually me and Pop cook).

Again, we didn't really talk about Jackson that morning but he was heavy on my mind / heart. Actually, I think (or hope) he was somehow there … watching over us and thinking back as I was on the days and miles we spent / put on that mini-bike. If he was … I know he was smiling.

Shadow box 2013Christmas is not about presents or gifts but I do want to mention a couple of cool ones I received.

First off, I need to say THANK YOU for all the Christmas cards, and messages I received. I personally read each of them and can tell you that they helped lift my spirits (sorry I haven't replied to them all) . I cried every day after coming home to see the fresh stack awaiting me on the kitchen counter. It is very humbling to know that so many of you out there are thinking and care so much about me and my family.

So I got some really cool camping stuff, a new lap top, an electric blanket and some much needed cloths (among other things).

My mom also got me this really cool shadow box (pictured above left) that will fit nicely in my "man cave" along with the rest of my collection.

DSCN2065Rhett had been fretting me all week about a gift coming in the mail. It was due to arrive on Christmas Eve but, thanks to UPS didn't make it on time.

It didn't matter because we had it on 26th and it was worth waiting for!

Our good friends, from Phenix fire Helmets (link) sent us brand new TL-2 Miller 1884 Helmets!


This helmet has all the "old school" original looks of a ribbed helmet with all the modern quality, comfort and conveniences built into every PHENIX HELMET!

I can't wait to get a custom front for this baby! The only problem then will be what to do with it? I like it so much, I almost don't want to wear it on the job. Then again .. I like it so much that I WANT to wear it…LOL. I don't know …. we'll see what I decide but until then, if you're looking for the best helmet on the market …. BUY PHENIX!

Find, "LIKE" and Follow Phenix Fire Helmets on Face Book. Click HERE

Custom build and buy your own Phenix HERE

Phenix Web Site HERE

print by Sylvia CookAnother Christmas gift I received was that my Senior member got to come home from chemo for Christmas. That was actually a 2 part gift in that it took several / people to make that happen.

First off, the Department allowed us to use an ambulance to bring him home. It wasn't as much due to his medical needs as it was to comfort but I was glad we had it and that Boots was able to lay down on the 2 hour ride home.

The second part was that I took some younger members with me to help out. Many of you will remember "Rookie Randy" from the pages of (if not, just type that into the "search" at top right of the page). Little Randy was our driver. Famous from their days as "Melrose Misfits" Travis Meador (aka "Wheezy") and Brad Glidden (aka "Opie") rode as the Medics. My dad also went along to drive Boot's mom home. 

It took more than 12 hours to get him released and back home in his bed but we did it and just in time for CHRISTMAS!

Unfortunately, Boots had a rough day on Christmas Eve and then again on Christmas day. I got the call about 1pm and met the Brothers from B-Shift Engine / Medic #2 at the house. Boots wouldn't go to the hospital that day but the boys took VERY GOOD care of him at home in his own bed.

THANKS to Captain Trussler and the members of "The Deuce" on B-shift as well as to Wheezy, Opie, Randy and my Pop for making Boot's Christmas possible!

Todd has since been to the Doctor and we leave today (Sunday) to head back to UVA for a few more procedures (in the morning) before his next scheduled chemo on the 7th. Please continue to keep him (and his family) in your thoughts and prayers as he continues his fight. Use the link below for a Face Book support page where you can leave messages etc..

Support Todd Harris (aka "Boots" ) on Face Book. Click HERE

JacksonSo, I've got all of that behind me and / or going on while tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of Jack's suicide.

As you can imagine, I'm a mess. I'm glad to be spending the night tonight and day tomorrow at UVA. I'm hoping that it will be the distraction I need. 

That's why in the title, I say that my "situation" is "doubtful". I'm sure I'll need your continued support and prayer and may even need to strike another alarm. 

I'm not sure how I got this post written this morning but I'm glad I did. I hope (and need) to get back to regular postings. It's therapeutic and it keeps me busy. I'm not gonna tell ya when I'll be back because it all depends on how the next few days go. If I make it through tomorrow, our Birthdays are in early January so there's another hurdle / obstacle I'll have to get past. With your continued support, I'm sure I will.

As always, when I post / talk about Mental Health / Wellness; I'll include some valuable links for those of you out there who may be looking for some help or simply someone to talk to. I TRUST these sites and hope you'll use them is needed.

5 Questions on Department Mental Health EVERY Fire Chief should review

Safe Call Now

First responder Treatment

North American Firefighters Veteran Network

I hope you all had a safe and Merry Christmas (or Holiday Season as it may be). I also send wishes of a joyful and HAPPY NEW YEAR. I'm looking forward to getting back in my boots and on my feet for 2014. Rhett and I have a FULL SCHEDULE so chances are I'll get to see ya somewhere out on the road!

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines