It's Not That Ironing is Hard...

By Heather Haider

Preparing a uniform for a Line of Duty (LODD) funeral is never easy.

It's not that ironing is hard, it's all the emotions and thoughts that you are flooded with. 

Do you tell the 2 year old watching that you are prepping for a funeral? Or do you tell her Daddy is just getting ready for work? 

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Mixed Emotions
 

These past few days have been tough. Many tears and even some laughter.

Many moments that induced a perspective change.

Last Friday night, I laid in bed next to my snoring husband. Typically, I would have immediately pushed him to get him to stop. That night,  I thought how lucky I was to be lying next to my snoring husband, because another Minnesota police wife would never be able to again. 

I am so incredibly proud of my husband for his desire to honor the fallen and remember the survivors. I am also so very sad for a fellow wife. Her world has been rocked and I cannot help but think, "what if this happened to me?"


Death Packets & Unanswered Questions

Did you know that police families have "death packets"?  These pieces of paper contain the info that answer the questions that are asked after an officer is killed in the line of duty.  It is neither fun nor easy to put together, but it is essential to have. (Even if your agency doesn't require one, I highly suggest making one. A downloadable template is available though Minnesota Chapter of Concerns of Police Suvivors - COPS

Every time that there is a LODD, our packet gets a little longer. There are more decisions that I didn't know that I needed to make. I want to make them now instead of later. 

The most recent questions....How will they find me to notify me if I'm not at work? Do I allow our children to be photographed by the media? What pictures do we release? How will we cover the expenses? Who will be our family liaison? How will I tell the kids their daddy is gone? So many questions. 


Circle the Wagons


But for now, I will love my family a little harder and I will hug my LEO friends a little tighter as we police wives circle the wagons around Shawn and Wyatt as we grieve another loss together.

Please join our circle of wagons by donating to help with the unexpected costs associated with this tragic loss. All funds donated are tax deductible and 100% of the funds will go directly to the Mathews family.  Even if you can't donate, please consider sharing this link (https://www.youcaring.com/WPDMathews) to invite more wagons into the circle.  Every dollar, every share counts.  

How does your own tribe circle the wagons when one of your own is hurting?  Please comment below so we can learn from you. 

 

Heather Haider has been married to her LEO for 12 years. They have 2 kids. She is currently the Vice President of Backing the Blue Line.

 

Wife Behind the Badge

By Breanna G. 

My husband started his almost two-year career as an officer the day before our first son was born. Since then it has been an emotional ride with a few ups and downs. Usually when starting a new job there are changes and adjustments, but I never expected so many changes as my husband's career took off.

I find myself wondering

Often I will find myself wondering what he is doing when on shift. Is he helping an elderly lady, attending to a domestic violence victim, responding to a 911 call, helping a child find their lost mom or dad? Not only that, but I wonder what situations he narrowly escaped from to be able to come home to us that day or night.

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I struggle immensely

Being an officer's wife has been one of the hardest jobs, next to learning to be a mother, I have ever taken on. I like to think that my career as a child protection social worker helps me to be able to understand a little bit better what it is he goes through when he puts on his badge. I will be the first to admit I struggled immensely in the beginning, and still do with supporting him. I get short with him and hate that he isn't home on the weekends to play with his son. I get mad when he is resting after working a night shift when I come home from work and pick up our son, make dinner, bathe our son and clean the house feeling like he doesn't help. The thing is, I keep telling myself he DOES help. He keeps us safe, and not only that, but he keeps others safe as well. His job is demanding, and the most I can do is not be demanding at home and be understanding.

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My Favorite Sound

Being a wife to a cop takes an immense amount of patience and listening when needed and learning to read your officer. I have learned that when your officer feels supported at home then he can go out confidently and do his job and not have to worry about home. A few months ago I was randomly asked what my favorite sound was. While I thought this was a very strange question, I found myself thinking hard about it. I was stuck between two things: velcro and a baby's laugh. I went with the first one and the person asked me why. I knew they wouldn't understand because they aren't related or married to an officer, so I changed it to a baby's laugh. Below is my reason for why I picked velcro and also explains a little bit more what being a wife behind the badge can feel like at times: 

She is sleeping, not as soundly as she normally does, but sleeping none the less. She hears the morning creeping in with the birds chirping, trees rustling, and the sun beginning to peek over the lake. Then she hears his car pull up the gravel driveway and eventually his keys in the door. The locks turn and he quietly comes into the room. He thinks she is sleeping and he begins toremove his heavy belt and hangs it up, takes out his ear piece and puts away his radio. He then starts to take off his uniform and her favorite sound takes control of her ears as he rips off his Velcro vest.

 When that Velcro sound echoes in the dark room she can finally let out her heavy sigh and feels a wave of relief wash over her. She can rest easy now, knowing that the vest did its job. He is home safe. She can’t believe it until that sound takes place. The vest means everything to her. It is the one thing that determines if he lives or dies. To her that Velcro vest is more than just fibers being knit together, to her it is his protector. She often wonders just what that vest protected him from that shift. That vest will see him through both his best and his worst days.

 Even though she will never fully comprehend what he does day in and day out his vest knows everything. That Velcro vest knows all of his worries, laughs, thoughts, fears, and best moments. That vest can feel his heart beat when he goes to a domestic call or a lost child. That vest feels how tense he becomes when he has to follow his oath and do everything in his power to make sure he is protecting his community. It protects as he runs towards the danger and not away from it. That vest coming off at the end of his shift means he is home, safe, able to be with his family. To you velcro may seem like an insignificant piece of material but to me velcro means I get to have another day with my officer, my hero, my husband.

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So Much More Than a Lawn Mower

By Jamie Cramble

My husband got a riding lawn mower for Father’s Day this year.

To some people, it seems excessive. But I don’t care what they (whoever they are) think. My husband works hard. He puts in 50+ hours a week most weeks to make sure that we can cover the extra expenses of raising a child with autism and invest in a good daycare for our three boys. He’s also solely responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of two homes - ours and his aging parents’ home.

The biggest reason I said yes

We currently live on a standard lot in the Twin Cities metro. So why in the world did I say yes to something so seemingly crazy and perhaps even a bit foolish? A tricked out mower that (pardon the pun) cuts his lawn care chore time by more than half so he can spend more time on his rare days off relaxing, playing with our boys and saving the wear and tear on his body that already gets a daily workout was worth the price tag and curious stares from neighbors. It’s also planning ahead so that when the day comes and we move north to our forever home on several acres, we have one less big expense. He’s a motorhead at heart and loves engines. He needs something to tinker a bit with. The biggest reason I said yes to this? It simply made him happy. As he lies asleep snoring in the other room, I’m awake thinking about how he will rise and shine in just a few short hours. He’ll suit up in his bullet proof vest, shiny 5 pointed star badge and don the other tools of his trade to protect a city that currently doesn’t want him, doesn’t trust him and thinks that it doesn’t really need him.

It’s too bad that the can’t see past the badge and uniform to know the man I love and respect. They don’t see: the horsey rides he gives our 3 boys, the Lego creations he engineers with our son with autism, the way he still holds my hand and flirts with me after ten years together. They also don’t see or hear about how he helped a single mom having a tough time with her elementary school son navigate getting helpful resources. They don’t see him hop out of his squad car to corral a horse that was barreling down a two lane highway during the busy morning rush hour. They don’t see him comfort a child who just witnessed a horrible domestic situation between his parents. They don’t see how he returns to houses a week after a 911 call to check on the family. They don’t see him give a woman a ride to the courthouse so she can get free legal advice on how to keep her housing. They don’t see him return a restaurant gift card to the citizen who wanted to thank him for finding his beloved German Shepherd. They don’t see the sadness in his eyes when the preschool aged son of our dear friend shies away from him when he is in uniform.

And if they can see past the inflammatory headlines meant to provoke and divide our communities, they will see a man who, in spite of those headlines, will continue to live up to the oath he swore over twelve years ago.

Again and Again

He will continue to be a beacon of safety and protection. And tomorrow, when a woman calls for help to leave a domestic abuse situation, he will answer the call with compassion and helpful information. And when a toddler gets locked in a 90+ degree car and starts to seize, he'll bust out a window and gladly cut up his arm to save the little one. When a young girl believes she has no options and perches herself on a freeway overpass to jump, he'll work in tandem with another officer to bear hug her until a rescue rig with ladder can make it to the scene. When a confused and scared person needs legal help and has nowhere to turn, he'll drive her to the free legal advice clinic at the courthouse. When a huge draft horse pulling a carriage throws off its driver and gallops through a city street full of people dining outside on a summer night, he will work cowboy style with another deputy to safely corral the scared animal with no harm to anyone. And the next day, he'll do it all over again. And again and again. No matter the color of their skin, who they choose to love, what God they pray to or who they voted for. He will do these things quite simply because they are people (and animals) who need his help.

Photo by melissasotophotography.com

Photo by melissasotophotography.com

And, if I’m lucky and my prayers are answered, he will continue to return home safely at the end of each shift. He’s got a houseful of sweet little boys, a loving wife and a tricked out lawn mower to come home to.

About the blogger: Jamie has been married to her LEO for seven years and together they have three young sons. She is a working mama, writer for Twin Cities Moms Blog, professional photographer and loves raw cookie dough. For the record, she always uses a clean spoon.

Blue Line Ball 2017

As I stood in the 27,000 square foot William Morrissy Grand Ballroom of the St. Paul River Centre a week ago, at roughly 2300, just an hour before the end of our fourth annual Blue Line Ball, I couldn’t help but take it all in. The dance floor was completely packed, the prizes had been won, the silent auction had been seamlessly closed out, the smell of delicious pizza filled the air, and the “best ball yet” comments were flowing! It was one of those moments in time where you remember your “why!” You remember why you’ve sacrificed sleep and stress for months; pounding the pavement asking for donations. The heroes that mean everything to us, safely engrossed in enjoying themselves in an environment where they knew how incredibly appreciated they are, were able to; if for just a moment, let the stress of their world go unnoticed. My own law enforcement officer (LEO) said to me the next night, “I needed that.” I knew he meant that with the current negative climate that whirls around our officers on a daily basis, he needed that night. He needed to get away, to be with his brothers and sisters in blue and to remember who he was and why he does this. I told fellow Backing the Blue Line (BtBL) members the following day, “If we didn’t raise a penny, but every officer walked out of there knowing that they are appreciated and we have their back, it was worth it!” However, it was even better than that, we raised a whole lot more than a penny, we raised 6,800,000 of them, $68k raised to reinvest into our MN LEO’s!  

We listened

Planning for this event started back in the fall of 2016. We knew that we had to pick a different venue, due to overwhelming feedback about the rotunda being open to the public at the prior venue. Officers felt it was a safety risk and it greatly inhibited our desire to provide a secure evening for everyone. However, that wasn’t the only feedback we heard loud and clear from previous years. Attendees also voiced the need for an improved sound system, the silent auction check out needed to go more smoothly, the music needed to be better, and people were hungry halfway through the evening.  

You let us know, and we got it fixed! We went with a new, safer venue, a greatly improved sound system, splurged on mobile bidding, spent more money on a DJ, and who doesn’t like a fourth meal of pizza? With those additions (focusing mostly on the sound) we had to inevitably increase the price of tickets, and while we did hear some negative feedback regarding the price, everyone overwhelmingly said the night of “it was worth it!”  

The event had some of our tried and true traditions like the pre ball raffle, which we started selling back in December 2016, and ended up selling 6,497 tickets by night's end. Prizes in the pre-ball raffle included a cruise, two different Springfield 1911 handguns, a guided fishing trip, a signed Wild hockey stick and much more. This raffle was open to the public and non-ball attendees as our way of including those that cannot be with us at the ball, but still want to support our cause. Other things that we brought back from previous years was Jedd the caricature artist, the psychic, a formal step-and-repeat photo opportunity, ten large table raffle prizes (things like a fully stocked wine fridge, his and hers backpacking gear, and a at-home dry cleaning system) and the prize pull (think pull tabs, but with hundreds of opportunities to win everything from a $25 gift certificate, another handgun or $500 to Northern Tool!)  

Not forgetting the Emerald Society pipe band, presentation of the flags by LEMA and the memorial table. We would never dream of getting rid of these points; moments that have made the event The Blue Line Ball which everyone has come to love.

New things this year were a state of the art sound system, professional decour by our very own Wendy Johnson from Repeat After Me Bridal (who does all our blue roses), mobile bidding by BidPal, a professional event planner from Do Good Events, and 2230 pizza!

What does BtBL do for the LE community?

Being an organization that is willing to step up to the plate and do whatever is needed for our law enforcement community, a lot of times we hear from people that they’re not exactly sure what it is specifically that we do. So another thing that we did this year was hire professional videographer Heidi Cullen with Flashback Productions to create a short film for us, highlighting exactly who we are. But why have us tell you, when you can hear it from those we serve yourself, so we interviewed some of our BtBL families, and had them share what BtBL means to them! See the video for yourself at http://bit.do/BtBLVideo. Other new things this year were our professional emcee, Leah Beno from FOX9 News, as well as our guest of honor, Sophina, an 8yo little girl with Down's Syndrome who just adores police officers! Sophina stole the show, and our hearts!  

With all the fan favorites returning and the improvements that you all asked for, we walked away from the night with 89% of our guests saying that they were very likely to return and so many who weren’t able to be with us saying it’s not something they will ever miss again. It was by far the best Blue Line Ball we’ve ever put on, but we still feel we have room for improvement.

While our average rating of the event space and the hotels were well over satisfied, we’re still going to just poke around to see what else is out there as we did hear some say the four block walk at the end of the night was not their favorite part. The River Centre has assured us that if our event was held there again they will do a better job of stocking the bar and keeping more open. They did share they’ve never held an event that size with that many bars and ever had a problem. We definitely gave them a run for their money, selling out of our delicious signature drink, The Breathalyzer at 2200!  

More than we ever imagined

While all of the above is fantastic and exciting, the most exciting part of this is that because we were able to raise $68k dollars, we have ensured that BtBL will be covered for three full years of our operating budget! After our successful 2016 ball we almost doubled the value of all of our support levels, adopted eight 2016 Not so Blue Christmas families, added a scholarship fund, and have adopted a Christmas in June family that we will be blessing with specific needs of their family as their LEO battles cancer. To see all the levels of support BtBL offers, visit our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) document found at:  http://bit.do/BtBL2017SOP. At the end of the day we love putting on a very lovely event, but it’s not our why, our why is our officers and our vision, to expand our reach to all Minnesota counties by increasing our supporters, volunteers and means to assist. We want our interactions to drive a high standard for how law enforcement officers and their families are treated during times of crisis and need.

We hope that you will join us in 2018 when we continue the tradition of our Blue Line Ball to help us support those who BACK the blue, and honor those that ARE the blue. We wouldn’t be able to do this year after year without our incredible LEO’s, our members, supporters and last but not least, our donors! So again, from all of us at Backing the Blue Line, THANK YOU for your continued support!  

 *All photos from our event can be found on Facebook @HoneybeePhotoMN

Strong Blue Line Women, We Need You

“You should have asked her if she wanted peanut butter and jelly instead of ham and cheese!” It was another silly argument. Sure, I could have asked, but I FINALLY remembered to actually make her school lunch the night before so I’m not scrambling to make it the next morning in the midst of getting three kids ready for school, getting myself ready, making sure the dogs are fed, baseball equipment is in the car and we aren’t 10 minutes late. So the fact that it was ham and cheese and she really wanted peanut butter and jelly was very low on my priority list. I’m in a better place. I realize now that this is an argument about peanut butter and jelly and NOT that he doesn’t love me, that I’m not worth it, that I’m a horrible mom or that he’s going to leave me. That was me a year ago.

PTSD is a tricky criminal

Let’s go back a little bit. I met my husband in 2010, six years after a horrible divorce from an abusive husband. I thought my PTSD was gone, but I was wrong, way wrong. Drew and I met in 2010 through Match.com. It was a whirlwind of getting married, getting pregnant, selling two homes, transferring his job and buying a new home all in the next year! Another pregnancy soon after our first was born left us with a loss of a twin and a beautiful baby girl. We tried and we struggled for the next three years to get pregnant again. Finally, in 2015 we were pregnant and again with twins! Unfortunately, three months later we lost both of them. It was heart-crushing. The pain was so unbearable it made my chest feel like it was caving in…..and then it happened. One sunny day, just like that it happened. One small silly argument about who knows what sent me into a downward tailspin. I got in my car and left. Crying, driving with all those horrible thoughts in my head. He hates me, I can’t do anything right, I’m worthless to him, I’m a horrible mom. Thankfully, a phone call to a friend and three hours later of sipping coffee, crying and talking I was on the mend. But, I never really got 100% better, even though I thought I was.

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Skip ahead four months later, and my husband calls me from the Sheriff’s office; “It’s Steve (Sandberg), he’s been shot….and he’s dead.” Again, that pain. Heart-crushing, chest-caving pain. I felt guilty for thinking "Thank God it wasn’t Drew.” The next few months were up and down with emotion and trying to understand each other and when we needed space and when we needed love from each other. Many silly arguments occurred. Small downward spirals each time. Then it happened again. Mother’s Day weekend 2016, another silly argument. But again, the thoughts, the feelings came rushing back. “I shouldn’t be thinking this. I have a beautiful family, wonderful husband, my dream house and a great job. Why am I so unthankful? Again, in my car, key in the ignition…but I couldn’t leave. I knew if I turned that key and left I probably wouldn’t see my family again. The steering wheel would find itself turning off the road and into a tree. I stopped, I felt weak, I felt out of control. I called the suicide helpline.

A turning point

After 20 minutes of talking I handed the phone over to my husband. “You know I should be taking you in right?!" For the first time in our marriage I don’t think he knew the answer. He didn’t know how to help me. I didn’t know how to help me. I made an appointment to see a counselor. She continued to see me as I met with a therapist who would soon help me through the process of EMDR therapy. Four sessions later, 300mg of depression medication and I’m finally the person who was lost so long ago. 

By July of 2016 I was in Hawaii with my husband and with my true self. Someone I hadn’t been since before I met my ex-husband. PTSD is a tricky criminal. It comes, it goes. There are triggers. I had re-triggered PTSD symptoms by being in a happy, trusting marriage. His career and my miscarriages had triggered past memories that had been blocked by PTSD. Emotions, memories, triggers exploded into a deep traumatic PTSD depression. I had to finally accept that I needed help to tackle this problem. The EMDR sessions were nothing less than miraculous. Each session instantly fixed any emotions that were tied to past traumatic memories. I remembered what it felt like to be TRULY happy. Those silly arguments are now just that, silly. I shake my head, walk the other way and move on. No more horrible feelings. No more negative thoughts. I’m free. Free to be happy. Free to enjoy my marriage, my family, my job and this beautiful life we have built.

You are not weak if you need to ask for help

What does this all have to do with a Blue Line marriage? I wanted some of you to reflect on the ‘silly arguments’ that you have with your spouses. Don’t let the ‘silly’ arguments be more than just that, silly. If you can’t shake it off, walk away and move on don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are strong women and our husbands need us to be strong for them and for our families. Take care of yourself. You are not weak if you need to ask for help. Only the strong realize when they need to ask for help. So please, help each other, be there for each other and take care of yourself. Your kid needs you to make the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or the ham and cheese, whatever.

Just another day as a police wife

Often times you hear about the serious side to being married or in a long-term relationship with a police officer. The late nights, the worrying and the unpredictability of their job that can dominate our thoughts from time-to-time. While those things do happen, there is also many humorous and exciting things we hear about and even experience ourselves. Often times the stories from my husband that I pass on to my family and non-law enforcement friends are met with the intense stare followed by many questions. Being a police wife for over ten years has given me many memorable experiences and stories to tell, but I’m going to narrow it down to a few random ones to hopefully bring a little humor to your day. 

The Ride Along

One night around bar close a call came out of a group bar fight. My husband hit the reds and we made our way to this bar on the East side of town. There were a group of guys shoving each other into tables. My husband and the other officers that were following close behind got out of their cars and broke up the shoving match. One of the fighters was placed in the police car that I was in while my husband went to help the other officers. The seats in the squad cars are pretty big, so I was able to go unnoticed while Mr. Fighter sat in the back mumbling to himself. After a few minutes, I turned around greeting him with a friendly, “Hi!” I think I scared the heck out of him. After the “what are you doing in here?” questions he asked me, we had a nice, but short conversation while we were waiting for one of the officers to come back. He was eventually released after it was determined no one wanted to press charges. I'll never forget that brief moment, and I'm sure he won't either.

Wife Right-Of-Passage

Like a moth to a flame, it is pretty inevitable that when my husband stops at home on duty to pick up some lunch, I feel the need to knock on his chest, right where the trauma plate sits. Why do I do it? Probably for the simple reason that I can. I don’t see him in his full uniform very often because he usually leaves it at work, so it’s just one of those right-of-passage things that I do as his wife. If I were Jane Schmo off the street and did that, I would probably be in quite a lot of trouble. Did I mention that it annoys him? Because that is a good reason too.

The Off switch

I always try to encourage him to talk about his day, because when anyone sees what officers see on a daily basis, it’s good to talk about it. One night after work he was telling me about the amount of suicide calls that he has gone to in the last couple of weeks. As you can imagine, these types of calls would shake up the average person for a quite some time. However, once he finished telling me about his day, he leaned over, kissed me and fell asleep. How can someone go from talking about these types of calls, and 2 minutes later go on with their night like normal? I would be up watching some feel-good Disney movie with butterflies and talking mice to shake the images in my head. It’s not that he’s cold-hearted or doesn’t care; it’s that he has to turn off those parts of his day or it would eat him alive. As his wife I know this, and therefore it’s just another story and another day in the life of a police wife.

Jail time for our kids

One Saturday evening my kids and I were close to my husband’s PD, so we decided to stop by the PD to say hi. The office was pretty quiet because it was the weekend. His shift was almost over, so he took them on a little tour of the office and asked my oldest what she’d like to see. “The jail!” was the first thing out of her mouth, so we visited the holding cells where no one usually is. It’s a fairly small area of the PD with three rooms that temporary holds those arrested for a DUI. As usual, the room was empty, so he let them go into one of the cells. He shut the door, and we both waved through the door window at them. After they decided they had had enough, he went to unlock the door and realized the jail staff had changed the locks. My two little children were locked in a jail cell. Oh how many times I would have loved to do this during a tantrum, but now that they were ACTUALLY locked in the jail, I wasn’t as amused. After a few minutes of fumbling through drawers at the desk, my husband found the new keys and we were able to let them out. Parents locking their own kids in jail is probably an experience most kids will never have.

What just happened?

My husband was going through Skills training when we were engaged. One weekend afternoon he put a DVD in and sat down. I thought we were going to watch a movie, but he had another idea. The video started with him in his training shirt and two guys holding onto each arm. Just then the taser went off and down to the ground he went. I really wasn’t expecting that, so it kind of freaked me out. After he explained what the process was, I was more at ease with it all. I should have known that this was the beginning of many years of crazy stories and experiences just being married to a police officer. I wouldn’t change a single minute of it either.     

Never stop trying to teach

I remember, so clearly, the first time it happened. 

I come from a very close family. My LEO even calls it “unhealthy close” at times. So how is it that I had been in a relationship with an officer for 7 years and suddenly I felt like I was a stranger to my family? 

November of 2011 is when the University of California-Davis saw a protest from students as part of the Occupy Movement. Most people know exactly what I’m referring to: “the pepper spray incident.” The popular story says that "peaceful protesters" were pepper sprayed by militarized police officers. Naturally the headlines piqued my interest. I had just married my LEO and decided to watch a cell phone video of the protest. 

What I saw horrified me. How could anyone ever call this peaceful? Through my eyes I saw men and women, just like my husband, standing in uniform in a circle as protesters shouted, chanted, and formed a circle around them. They were so outnumbered. Their shields and masks didn’t seem to be enough protection and I remember feeling a knot of worry grow in my chest. Had the mob decided they wanted to take the officers down, they easily could have. I pictured my own husband and thought about how I would fear for his safety if he was ever in their shoes. 

 

I was so effected by the emotions that I felt, I naturally brought the topic up with my family. Again, we are close; we talk about everything. Imagine my surprise when our discussion had suddenly dissolved into a full blown argument with my parents and siblings on the side of the protesters and media. How could they not understand? They had known my husband for 7 years. He had been in law enforcement that entire time. How were they not able to put this into perspective?  

I lost it. I ended up in a ball of tears asking how they could ever wish that upon us. Trying to speak rationally was no longer in my grasp. For me, it was like my LEO had been on the front lines that day and my family was ready to vilify him for it and me for supporting him. I thought they knew the person-- the family-- behind the badge. How was I so wrong? My own family, the closest people to me, didn’t understand this life. What chance did we stand if they couldn’t even get behind us? 

I’m pretty lucky. I don’t think most police spouses get to go 7 years before having their first taste of how different our lives are because of who we love, especially these days. As jolting as it was to feel like my family didn’t know me at all, it was a really good lesson for me to learn. I had grown away from my family within my relationship. I never really voiced my growing concerns for my officer’s safety and the growing movement of people who hated him for his uniform. I just assumed that my family knew me well enough to know how I was feeling and to supports us through this. 

Sure there was a while when I drew into myself. I joined police spouse support groups and enjoyed every moment of having a community that just gets it, where I don’t have to explain myself. But at some point, it dawned on me-- I can’t ever improve anyone’s opinions of officers if I don’t find the courage to talk about it with people who most likely don’t share my opinions. 

Most people don’t know that I make a conscious decision to tell stories about officers doing good. I slip stories into conversations about really terrifying situations on the job and how the officers probably felt in the moment. I ask people to imagine themselves in these situations and ask what they would’ve done differently. I teach them about what kind of training my husband has gone through and about what they can and can’t do on the job. I try to be open to their questions, even when they are rude or the person is looking to argue. 

It’s tough these days. I know most things in life are cyclical and I am waiting for the day when the public seems to mostly support our officers instead of mostly condemning them. I dream of the time when my husband can be seen as a beacon of hope to those in need instead of being filmed every time he shows up to a call. Maybe sometime soon, the general public will see that he is a force for good and deals with things that many sweep under the rug as they make their assumptions about him. 

Talking about how we feel

It’s easy to feel like one person can’t change anything, but it’s important for each of us to realize that we have so much power. We need to talk about this life and this job. We need to talk about what we see and how we feel. I had many conversations that didn’t go as I had hoped and left me feeling frustrated but all it took was one conversation with a woman who did not support police for me to realize that I can impact change. Days after our conversation, she thanked me for showing her the other side of law enforcement. She explained that it took her a while to process what I had said, but that it had really made her think differently about police officers; specifically their training. Will she ever back our officers like I do? Most likely not. Will I ever have another situation play out like this? Most likely not. Is it going to stop me from trying? Definitely not. 

It’s been 6 years since the first incident with my family and I still struggle every time we don’t see eye to eye on issues that effect my husband, which then effects our family. But the major difference is that we have the tough conversations now. I constantly bring our personal side of this life to light for them and I know our relationships would be different if I had just given up. 

ALWAYS MAINTAIN RESPECT

The key to making these conversations effective is maintaining respect for the person you are talking to and to tap into their emotions. In the days of social media, I think people find it acceptable to be openly rude and condescending to others. I always try to think about how I would see the situation if I hadn’t ever been with my LEO. Would I feel like the police were being too heavy handed?  Would I be horrified that peaceful protesters were pepper sprayed for seemingly no reason? Would I hang on mainstream media’s every word? Knowledge of a subject generally happens through experience, but what if no part of your life touches the human side of law enforcement?  That’s where we come in. We can share our experiences and
our emotions. It easy to scroll past the latest social media post about how tough this life is. It’s a lot harder to ignore me in a conversation about what it’s like to worry about sending my husband out the door every day or how it feels knowing that some day soon I will have to explain to our son why some people hate his father. 

When I hear about the kids my husband works with, I overwhelmingly feel like a decent education is what could improve their situation. Sadly, most are not taught to place value in it. It usually takes at least one passionate teacher, mentor, or parent to help them see the value in learning. The same can be said for anyone of any age. If we think of ourselves as passionate teachers, our mission becomes quite clear: show others the value in law enforcement. Never stop trying to teach. 

About the blogger:
Kristin is the proud wife of a Minnesota officer and proud mama of a son and two pups! She enjoys writing, crafting, and creating in her spare time and is a recent member of Backing the Blue Line.

Strength in Numbers

The internet is such a wonderful place to turn to for answers to trivial questions, the latest news, for spewing your heart out and in my case, finding your heart! My husband and I met online through a dating site and I was apprehensive because his job title said “Police Officer.” It wasn’t that I didn’t like police officers, it’s more that I’ve always been a rule bender per say.

Either way he had a smile that got me hooked. It wasn’t until a few months later I actually saw him in uniform! Ladies, you know what I’m talking about when I say “SOLD!” I’d never dated the law before because I spent most of my teen years trying to avoid it! It wasn’t until I joined the military that it all started to make sense. The camaraderie, the sacrifice, the dedication, the pure joy and love of giving back and being that strength for your brother or sister in uniform. There’s a strength in numbers in uniformed careers that just can’t be explained. One thing I have also noticed is the strength that comes with the fellow LEOWs who get it. They know the struggle is real. Managing a household, careers, school, after school activities and keeping at bay that fear of your spouses’ job.

It’s a new year and I am hopeful that with that comes a new view on how society feels about our LEOs. I wish they would realize that we are people too just out there trying to support our community. Sometimes you want to believe your spouse is invincible and unstoppable and that’s really what gets you through every shift they go on without letting a tear fall. The truth is we all know they aren’t. You prepare yourself for the worst and hope and pray for the best. I think every spouse understands this concept and again that’s why there is a strength in numbers.

A lifestyle far from ordinary

The strength doesn’t only come from those that share the uniform but those that share the lifestyle. A lifestyle is indeed what it is. I never saw it coming, falling in love with a cop and showing up to events alone or without that extra set of hands for our daughter. I always envisioned a cookie cutter lifestyle where we went to family functions as one unit and matching shirts! I do still make him match us for photos and he’s always so excited about it (insert sarcasm). He will appreciate them one day I’m almost certain!

But, what do you say when the kids ask, “How come daddy isn’t here?” or “I thought we were a family?” There’s a constant reassurance to our kids that the other parent loves them very much and assurance that they will see them soon. But, as you mutter those words your heart skips a beat because on any given day, it could be a lie.  No one wants to lie to their children unless it’s about Santa, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. We tell little white lies as parents to keep the wonder in their eyes, but day after day we take a chance on a lie that would have a greater impact on them than finding out Santa isn’t real. That instead daddy or mommy picked up an extra shift to make ends meet… and maybe that was the shift that they don’t come home from. It’s heartbreaking to think about but it’s a constant on our minds. The strength we find in each other; the fellow LEOWs makes all those worries stay subdued because should tragedy ever strike, we know we’ve got strength in numbers there to lift us up.

Much is true about this strength especially for us this past year. As wives we prepare our hearts and minds for injuries, close calls, and the heartbreaking possibility of it being the last kiss goodbye. With all of that worry, I personally, never once thought about illness. I never prepared myself for the other side of worry, the other side of uncontrollable circumstances.

"They think I have cancer"

Police officers are always told “there’s no such thing as routine” and how true that is in their job and in life. He could have a set schedule but even then things can change. Every call is new and they learn to be prepared and we as wives learn to be prepared as well but on June 4th,  2016 he called me with news I never saw coming.

“They think I have cancer.”

Cancer?! How on earth do you prepare yourself, your kids, and your family for that?! How do you take your pillar of strength out of uniform, shave their head and watch them struggle to survive? It’s an unimaginable feeling of loss of control and an unknown future. You can spend countless days being angry at God and wondering how you’re going to get through it or you can strap on your big girl panties and jump into the pillar of strength role when your spouse needs it the most. I chose to buy a few pairs of big girl panties because there were days so terrifying I may have peed a little… ok, so I didn’t actually pee myself but the fear was very real and what choice do you have as a parent, sister, LEOW other than to buck up and manage this situation like you’ve managed this lifestyle for years. The lifestyle is tough and cancer is tougher but together we are toughest. He was always my strength when I needed him and now the roles are reversed. I have a team of wives I know I can look to for help and guidance and he has brothers and sisters in uniform rooting for him all over the state.

His partners have even reached out to me and been there for me as well. It’s not just his department that has reached out, it’s the entire state of law enforcement, the community in blue that has your back through every expected and unexpected scenario. I don’t know where else someone could find that support. People I’ve never met before coming to my aid in our time of need.

My husband has always been a man of few words and heaven forbid he has to ask for help. Being in such a vulnerable state is not easy for him, for me, or any of us but there’s a special strength that comes in knowing even the smallest request will be fulfilled if only we ask.

I was reminiscing of a time I chose to ride along with my husband and we had a chase; he was behind the wheel, lights and sirens going and foot heavily on the pedal. He was so calm appearing and ready for the up and down and curving streets. I, on the other hand, was petrified by the speed and probably left nail marks in his passenger seat. He was in control and I think that alone was enough for him to be at ease even if what followed would be anything but routine. I was proud to see him maintain composure under such stress but also chose to never ride along again! I can’t hang out with stress by choice! It’s just not for me!

This fight is different

Watching him fight back against cancer knowing he doesn’t have control of the wheel has been a rollercoaster. There are even more ups and downs, a few dark tunnels and some days it feels like we are going 100 miles per hour while on other days, time stands still. Even on a rollercoaster, it’s more bearable with other people, some you know and some you don’t, but you all hang on and ride together. I feel like we are front and center in the first car and our family is riding behind us. We may not all fit on the same ride at one time but there’s complete strangers waiting in line to jump on board and be waiting there before, during, and after this ride is over. Strength in numbers.

I think our lives were a small rollercoaster even before the diagnosis. Being married to a police officer is always an ongoing challenge full of ups and downs but it’s a choice to stay and continue to be by their side even on the toughest of days. A choice that is not always easy, but in my opinion, is always worth it. Cancer has brought us closer together because he sees my strength and dedication to him. Before I think he never acknowledged it because he would leave for work while I stayed back to tend to our daughter and be the quintessential “house wife” while still managing school and work. They sometimes forget how very dedicated we are and the sacrifices we as wives make to stay by their side. It’s in their forgetfulness and our need for gratitude that sometimes needs get missed. However, we have grown to be more vocal these days and to make sure the other knows wholeheartedly how we feel. Some couples are both in law enforcement and that’s a struggle I can’t even begin to fathom. Cancer has also given me a better understanding of my husband. Never before had I seen him so vulnerable. I had all but forgotten that behind the uniform there is weakness too. So often I saw him as a pillar of strength never thinking he could be so weak. Never did he cry in front of me when things became too difficult to bear. But, here we are, eyes wide open and tears streaming down in a fight we never saw coming.

We were in the prime of our lives building our first home, having our first child, getting our dream jobs and really beginning to enjoy everything we had worked so hard for. In three small words it all changed, “You have cancer.” We took the bull by the horns as we had with many tough times before and chose to move miles away from our family and friends to receive the best care possible. We didn’t waste time being angry with God or feeling sorry for ourselves. We instead chose to make plans to overcome this obstacle as we had many obstacles before. We leaned heavily on our faith and the knowledge that it takes a village to raise a child. We have family and trusted strangers watching after our daughter and our family picks up after work hours. We have family and neighbors looking after our home and family watching our dogs. We have friends and strangers helping and an entire community praying for a safe and healthy return.

It has been a humbling experience to say the least especially after those three small words rocked our entire universe. But in the face of fear and in our eyes our own tragedy; love and faith prevail and we found an inner fire we never knew by leaning on three words we’d always heard but never truly realized until it was our time to face the unthinkable, “strength in numbers.”

Support like no other

It’s the strength in numbers only the blue community can explain. Those three words bear so much more. They bear faith, hope, and love; they show kindness, empathy, and encouragement; they live by loyalty, duty, and respect; and they show us what it means to serve others. In sickness and in health their love for their community, friends and family shines bright and when they are weak, they are uplifted by those around them who support the badge. Brothers and sisters together with their families come to the aid without ever being asked because we, as a community in blue, uphold the standards that our spouses chose to serve under. We feel our responsibility lies in following that same code of ethics and it makes us better parents, better partners, and better friends. We may not always understand the pain but we always understand the need for strength and when we band together to give such power to those needing to be uplifted, it’s an indescribable feeling from both sides. When we are on the receiving end, we feel so loved and not enough thanks can be given and when we get a chance to give back, there will be no words to describe the feeling because the support is beyond words and we can only hope to give that same feeling back.

Being a LEOW was never in my plans, then again, neither was cancer but we’ve found a way to stay devoted to our life and each other and stay strong when the other is weak. One cannot simply be strong 100% of the time although we try very hard to be. It goes without saying the dedication the thin blue line has to each other and their families and it is through that unspoken bond that we find strength in numbers. 

About the blogger:
Natasha is a proud Trooper wife, mom of 1 and has 2 dogs. She loves singing, coffee and brownies. She has been a member of Backing the Blue Line for a year. 

When the rumors become dangerous

It was Monday evening and I just got home from picking my kids up at daycare. They were sitting quietly on the couch together playing with their LeapPad and I was checking Facebook while the oven was preheating. My husband was almost done with his 12 hour shift. Today was a tough day. By 8am I was already emotionally drained because less than 24 hours before, five police officers across the country were shot. Five in 24 hours. Three of which were targeted while sitting in their patrol cars or at a traffic stop. These senseless acts of violence were committed just because of their profession. Because of the badge they wear. Off and on all day my mind would go THERE. My husband, the father of my kids. What if? That familiar pit—the one I feel every time an officer is killed--would develop in my stomach and I would try and force myself to concentrate on something else. Anything else. 

This has been my reality for 10 years. I fell in love with a man who was called to be a police officer since he was a little boy. When we started dating, he was working as a Community Service Officer for a large suburb Northwest of Minneapolis. A year before we got married he was sworn in as a police officer for a North metro Minnesota county. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. No idea. 

When it becomes real

My husband and I were lying in bed one morning and I noticed a small bruise had developed under his eye. He had underplayed the extent of a call he had a few days prior where he fought with a man that was threatening people with a large knife. In the end, he was ok, the bad guy went to jail and the family who called the police that day were grateful that they were no longer in danger. We know about these good things that the officers do, and they do them every day. These good acts rarely make headlines, and frankly, the officers wouldn’t want them to. Most are humble and do this job because they were called to do it.

Over the last couple of years we have seen a change in how law enforcement officers have been portrayed in the media, on social media and even in talks around the water cooler. The protests came, tempers flared and suddenly the general public became experts on police tactics and believe they knew exactly what happened on each incident that made the news. Monday morning quarterback: Law enforcement edition. Hearing and seeing the criticism constantly was hard. Very hard. However, I can deal with that. One thing I’ve grown over my 10 years as a police wife is emotional armor. You rely on it every time they come home and tell you about a death they had to deal with, another abused child, a suicide or when you see that social media post from your friend about how the police are racist as*holes.

When the armor cracks

Each time I hear about a police officer killed in the line of duty my armor breaks a little. Over the last couple years, a lot of cracks have formed in it. Too many officers have been ambushed and shot. Too many have become targets of the false narrative that police are the bad guys. I’ve cried alone several times so that my kids, even my husband, don’t see my armor crack. The law enforcement community feels and mourns each death because we know that we could just as easy be that next family. We even plan for it. Each officer needs to fill out an End of Watch packet. When you die or are injured in the line of duty, what are your final wishes? “Well,” I’ve read, “that’s what they signed up for.” Wrong. They signed up to make a difference in their communities, and they do everyday. That is what they signed up for. 

To say that the law enforcement community is one big family is an understatement. In many ways the support is out of necessity, and even sometimes sanity. Police officers deal with a lot of darkness and evil in this world so you don’t have to. As the Lino Lakes, Minnesota police department said in one of their social media posts recently, “Unfortunately not everything that we do is fun, and many times our interactions with people happen to be on their darkest days.”

Dear public

I don’t ever expect the general public—those not connected to law enforcement—to understand all that is involved in police work. However, my wish is that you will stop before posting or passing on that hateful or unconfirmed article about law enforcement. Like any rumor, take a little time to think critically before rushing to judgement. There is a real person behind that badge with a real family, and their life may just depend on it. 

About the blogger:
A proud Minnesota police wife, mother of two kiddos and one sweet golden retriever. Jennifer draws her strength from God, loves chocolate and has been involved with BtBL for 5 years.