Two years ago, I was lying in bed after yet another surgery, approaching my 10 year wedding anniversary, about to be laid off from my job of 15 years and very lonely. I was seriously questioning my lifestyle and my marriage. It’s not that I didn’t love my husband, I did and I do, very much. But suddenly, the kids seemed older, there was more to do and I noticed his absence more profoundly. None of my friend’s husbands worked nights, they were always at their activities, they were home on holidays they didn’t have places they refuse to go for fear of the clientele or walk out of the mall in the middle of a shopping trip. I started to wonder how much longer I could take it and whether or not he was just plain crazy.
I wasn’t sure my friends would understand about the job and I really didn’t know what to say anyway, so I looked online and found PoliceWives.org. I joined thinking that maybe I could find like minds but I was very skeptical – what I found was more than I could have hoped. I found a group of women that support each other, love strangers like family and welcome new members with open arms. I have found myself laughing til my face hurts, crying sad tears over their heartaches and taking some of their advice to heart. No longer do I question my marriage, my time alone or my choice to marry a police officer.
When I came to the site, I thought it a bit flighty that they so easily call themselves sisters. I wondered how I would ever feel that close to someone I never met. But I do. I wish I could get in my car and drive around to their houses and meet them all, hug the ones that need it and laugh hysterically with the ones that crack me up. I want to meet their significant others and hug them too. Tell them how lucky they are to have these women in their lives. There are some I am closer to than others, of course. I talk to some on the phone, text others, PM some and had the pleasure of meeting a few of them. There are days that go by that I don’t shoot off a text and worry that they will think I have forgotten them. But they are always on my mind. In the last 2 years I have had 3 surgeries, lost a friend, my precious grandmother and my father-in-law. I have lost a job and gained a new one and lost that recently. I have had other ‘course of life’ incidents and can honestly say that they have been the absolute worst months of my life. The emotional pain I have borne has been utterly unbearable at times. But never once did I feel alone.
I still cry when another officer dies, I cry worrying about mine, I live with fear for my children and how I would ever explain if their father ever became a name on the Officer Down Memorial Page. But I don’t cry or worry alone. I do it with my sisters. And truly, they are. I have shared thoughts I haven’t shared with others. And I don’t need to share them with the whole site, I can share them with sub groups or individuals. PW has become my emotional outlet in many ways. The site has filled my time and my heart.
It’s the 11 year anniversary of PoliceWives, eleven years. That’s a long time. Most people don’t hold the same job for 11 years anymore, let alone a volunteer job. Although it’s not really a job for her, I think it has become part of who she is. Having been a Moderator for 1 year, I can tell you this – it’s a LOT of work. You have to schedule time for it, you have tasks to complete – the site runs because there are people running it. She runs the site and the people. I am not sure she sleeps much given the times of day she e-mails us.
When I first joined, I was kind of scared of her. She is a presence on the site but she is not on the boards interacting all the time and pouring her heart out. But she’s there. She’s in charge and she makes the rules. While I was a moderator, I’ve seen another side of her. She is funny and creative, smart, caring, and driven. She is also human with her own set of personal issues just like the rest of us. But most PoliceWives don’t get to see that side too often, because she is so busy keeping the site going. I know she didn’t create the site alone, and I know she doesn’t do it all alone. But she keeps it going. She truly does.
One thing she is, is very modest so I am going to tell you what I know about her. She has a full time job, children and grandchildren. She has wonderful ideas and a sense of who needs what without needing to ask. In addition to being on the forums, she is in the moderator board throughout the week encouraging, asking, telling and monitoring. Each Sunday she reviews the “Weekly Updates” to ensure moderators are keeping up with their work and to see if we need to do more. Each Monday she sends out her thoughts on what is being done, what needs to be and ideas for future events. She has another life outside PW, but you’d never know it. She understands the value of what she has created but remains humble about its origins. More financial help and volunteers are needed for the site but she would never question whether or not people can give or do more, she accepts what is given without critiquing. Once you get to understand her investment in the site, you want to be better at what you do to thank her for all she does.
It’s not a grand site with thousands of member and thousands of dollars. The core of the site is support. Emotional support. Friendship. There are not words to express the gratitude in the hearts of the women who rely on the site for their sanity, for the understanding of the lifestyle and for the connections they have made here. There is a word, however, for the one constant throughout the 11 years and that is Angel. In her words:
“PoliceWives was started by members of the Yahoo group CORE LEO Wives. At the time, while there were email support groups for wives, there was no real community or place for resources. Sidney purchased the domain and the space for us and we began with a small member board; some of the original founders still visit us.
I began doing some web design; had done simple forums for a few departments, individuals and had been an AOL community leader for many years. In doing this, I had experience with online communities, moderating boards, online forum gaming, resource research and things like that. Sidney asked me to begin on the initial site and it began as more informational then interactive. Articles were donated by many places and the forums at that time were a very small part of the site. Sidney paid the server fees the first 2 years and for the domain until 2009 when she transferred it to us.
As it progressed, we found that we had an insane amount of hits, but no interaction from those hits. So we had accomplished part of our goal, but not all of it. It was not yet a community. In researching, we decided to change to format to focus more on the forums, get them there to read the articles and get help, but keep them there with interaction. I began redoing the site around the middle of August 2002 and launched it on October 1st. The change was almost instant. Many of the founding members spent time posting so that there would be something for visitors to read & respond to, I did forum games and it grew from there. By the end of the month, we had about 75 active members and it went from there.
The third year, my husband left, I was alone with my 4 kids and could not afford internet access to keep the site up. Luckily my town was very small and I was able to go to the library every day to check in. The librarian was very sweet and even let me hook up my portable hard drive when I needed to upload files. This was in August and through the end of September. I got a job and by October 1 had internet again – dial up but I had it.
I never thought we would make 11, especially now with social networking being so popular, forums are just not as popular as they used to be. I see people come and go and every year I wonder how much longer we can keep this up before Facebook or something similar makes us obsolete. I think that will be a very sad day. While a big part of what we try to do is outreach, and money is needed for that, if we never raised another penny and kept our sisterhood, I would still be proud of everyone. The member who donates money and time is no less a sister then the one who comes in now and then for a hug or only to read and get support. Some never post, some can’t stop! And each and every one of us is as significant as the next. “
To Angel and all the other women that make PoliceWives great, a heartfelt thank you from all the women that benefit from your time and love.
Check back on Saturday for more information about the organization and how they use the money they raise.
Are you a member of any forums? Have any online friends you love but have never met?