Flame Fest. I am still trying to find the words to say to describe this weekend. First off, it was a marriage conference for fire families. Well technically for fire wives, connected through the group FireFighterWife, but we wouldn’t be in the group without our firemen, and they were encouraged to come to, so it’s easier to just say marriage conference for fire families. Rhett, the Fire Critic, wrote a great review of the whole weekend, it was especially great to hear a husband’s perspective (and Matthew and I greatly enjoyed getting to know him and his wife over the weekend). I was going to try and scatter the pictures throughout this post, but they’re way out of order and there are too many. So the text will be somewhat short, and then there will be a giant photo dump at the end. You’re welcome. lol
So this weekend started a few weeks earlier for me. I volunteered to help with decorations (woohoo!) and social media (I was dubbed the #hashtagqueen and #socialmediaqueen). I made a fun little video explaining hashtags, and also setup a mobile photo booth. People loved it and we got some great pics, so that made me happy! Matthew also posted on his instagram about how much people loved the photo booth. He’s such an encourager!
We arrived at midnight on Wednesday and had an eventful cab ride to our hotel in the burbs. We stayed at the Hyatt McDonalds Lodge in Oak Brook. It was beautiful, but kinda weird to see pictures of Ronald McDonald everywhere, or rather Ronald McDonald inspired art. And a lot of things were not included in our stay, like breakfasts or the gym (which we could purchase at an additional cost). The rooms were nice though, and I was grateful for my own coffee pot! Thursday was spent greeting old friends and meeting new ones, eating Chicago hot dogs (omg I want another now), and finishing up those decorations! We had a welcome reception that night, and I told everyone how to use #flamefest14 and gave away a prize for the best pic at the photobooth that night. I stayed up way too late (about 2:30 am) chatting with my twinsie and some other new (well new in person) friends.
Friday was filled with awesome seminars and sessions. We heard from Tony & Alisa (somewhat local, San Diego based!) from One Extraordinary Marriage on how to make our marriage extraordinary. I really loved their session and felt like we gained a few tools for better communication. Lori, our chief fire wife, and her husband Dan shared their story. And a panel of couples shared how they have made their marriages work in this industry. Some great wisdom was gained from that as well. After lunch we split into men’s and women’s sessions and were able to get into some of the nitty gritty stuff. We heard from Crystal Paine (yes, the Money Saving Mom, I was kinda fangirl for a moment!) about cutting our grocery bill without clipping coupons. We also had a great conversation about intimacy with Alisa. Lastly, we presented gifts that our local groups had made (California girls made the coins)! That night was the ball. I have wanted to go to a fireman’s ball ever since Matthew made this career change. This one did not disappoint, and I was so grateful to have my husband suited up, and to be wearing a gorgeous gown (which I happened to pickup for $5 at Ross!!). I also was given a custom made bag with out last name on it for helping out. I loved it!!
Saturday was a fun day! We (overslept and got ready in 10 min and ran down to the shuttles) and took the Metra (train) into the city. It just so happened to be POURING that day, but still hot. So weird. It changed the scavenger hunt, but we still had fun wandering around downtown. And we had more hot dogs. Mmmm. You can tell I’m all about the food! That afternoon (after a delicious lunch provided by FireHouse Subs), we got to go play with fire trucks! Well, not really, but we got to get all geared out and “put out a fire.” Lori has some great pics of that Touch a Truck event over at FireFighter Wife. And those blue eyes in the mask in the last pic. Those are mine. lol It was super sweet seeing all the husband encourage their wives and take pictures of them. That night was a visit to downtown Oak Brook to a local bar for Dueling Pianos. I expected to be completely out of my element (I’m not the biggest fan of bars these days, I prefer a wine bar where I can talk to someone), and I was out of my element at first. But then I got to singing. And I love singing (not karaoke, just along with the music and everyone else). And we had a blast. I worked the room during California Girls, the husbands took selfies on their wives phones, and a random couple donated money to our organization (it was their 30th anniversary and they wanted to honor us supporting marraiges, so their donation went to a lucky couples ticket to Flame Fest next year)! There was even slow dancing at the end. And my Matty actually asked me to dance. It may not have been 12 years, and he has danced with me before, but this post somewhat conveys the feelings. I loved my dress that I got for $8 (I’m all about the deals) and have no idea how I managed to not fall over in the stilettos, but I stood and danced tall all night! Matthew and I drove home a bunch of our friends who prepared us for kids by asking if we were there yet every 5 minutes and whining. It was pretty comical.
Sunday morning was the end of the official event. We had a farewell bunch with a bunch of friends, and then went back downtown with a smaller group for the day. We had real Chicago Pizza (nom nom nom) and saw more of the sights. We missed the 6:40 train and had 2 hours to kill, so Matthew and I went to the top of the Sears (Willis) Tower. We got to the top right at sunset. It was perfect. We caught the train with the Beves’ and Fleitz’s and made it back to the hotel for a late dinner at the bar. It was so great slowly saying goodbye to friends. It kinda made the trip last longer, in a way.
Monday we packed up and headed out, in the midst of tornado warnings. We kept hearing the sirens, and were trying to figure out if we needed to go hide in the bathroom or something. haha We talked about what we learned this weekend and the great friendships that we made. We left excited about our marriage, and I think Matthew left even more excited about his career. He’s taking the big jump into paramedic school next year, something that had been put off for awhile, and starting his Anatomy & Physiology class this month. I’m so proud and excited. And too full of happiness to think about the craziness that will be next year’s medic school! At the very least, I know I’ll have my Fire Wives to turn to for support!