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From Firefighter to Author - The Inspiring Journey of a Trailblazing Woman
Episode 262nd August 2023 • The Fire Inside Her; Authenticity, Self Care, and Wisdom for Life Transitions • Diane Schroeder
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Join us on the latest episode of "The Fire Inside Her" as we embark on a journey of resilience, determination, and personal growth. In this captivating episode, our guest shares her profound yet turbulent experience of facing rejection, overcoming adversity, and carving a new path for herself, more than once. Linda's story will touch your heart and inspire you to never let others dictate your capabilities, and realize there is always a path forward.

Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ms. Strader moved to Prescott, Arizona with her family in 1972. In 1976, she became one of the first women hired on a U.S. Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, Arizona. Linda followed her interests when she took the job and was unaware of the challenges she would face. Standing up for oneself didn't lead to triumph, but there are many lessons Linda learned along the way. Tune in as we explore themes of self-discovery, triumph over obstacles, and the power of finding options that align with our true selves. Be ready to be moved and motivated by this incredible journey.

Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage was released on May 1st, 2018 by Bedazzled Ink Publishing. In September, Ms. Strader became a finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. Her second book, Uprooted, the prequel to Summers of Fire, was released December 1st, 2021.

In addition to writing, Ms. Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She resides in the same area where her Forest Service career began.

How to connect with Linda

Blog

Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/LindaStraderauthor

Twitter

@desertplant love

How to connect with Diane

www.thefireinsideher.com 

Diane@Thefireinsideher.com 

Instagram

@TheRealFireInHer 

LinkedIn

www.linkedin.com/in/dianeschroeder5/

Are you excited to get a copy of the Self Care Audio download that Diane mentioned?

You can get that HERE –TheFireInsideHer.com/audio

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Transcripts

We feel it is important to make our podcast transcripts available for accessibility. We use quality artificial intelligence tools to make it possible for us to provide this resource to our audience. We do have human eyes reviewing this, but they will rarely be 100% accurate. We appreciate your patience with the occasional errors you will find in our transcriptions. If you find an error in our transcription, or if you would like to use a quote, or verify what was said, please feel free to reach out to us at connect@37by27.com.

Diane Schroeder [:

ut a different kind of first.:

Diane Schroeder [:

In addition to writing, miss Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She resides in the same area where her fire service career began. This episode is a great reminder that the journey to authenticity is bumpy, and it does have potholes. However, if you stay true to yourself and stay on the journey, It will lead you to some of the most beautiful places you could ever imagine. Hi, Linda. How are you?

Linda Srader [:

Hi. I'm good, Diane. It's nice to meet you.

Diane Schroeder [:

Nice to meet you too. I am so excited that we get to chat today. You didn't know this prior to us chatting up just when we first met, but I come from the fire service as well. And when I saw that you popped into my inbox, I was really giddy because you are an OG badass wildland firefighter, and I'm so excited that we get to chat today. So thank you.

Linda Srader [:

Oh, well, thank you. And I think it's pretty amazing with you, Diane. That's for sure.

Diane Schroeder [:

I like to start with random questions. So the random question that I have for you is, do you sleep with your bedroom door open or closed?

Linda Srader [:

Actually, depends on the time of the year. In the winter, I don't heat the bedroom, so I leave the dark closed. And in the summer, just so the air conditioner works very I leave the door open, so it just depends on the time of year.

Diane Schroeder [:

That makes sense. Arizona can get really hot.

Linda Srader [:

Yeah. We're heading to a 111 this weekend. So, yeah, it's not here.

Diane Schroeder [:

Yes. But it's a dry heat.

Linda Srader [:

It's a dry heat. It is. And you just don't go outside when it's that hot. Just stay indoors.

Diane Schroeder [:

Exactly. Well, I would like to hear a little bit about your story and your journey on how you ended up becoming 1 of the first female pioneers for the US fire service in the wildland world. If you don't mind sharing a little bit about your story, I would really appreciate it.

Linda Srader [:

d I applied for the job in in:

Diane Schroeder [:

So you were with the forest service for how many years?

Linda Srader [:

Out of the 7 years that I've worked in that field, I would with them for 5, and I spent 2 summers with the Bureau of Land Management, Watson Durango, Colorado, and one's in Kenai, Alaska.

Diane Schroeder [:

I'm not sure about Alaska, but I know Durango is one of my favorite places in the world.

Linda Srader [:

It's a beautiful place. Yeah.

Diane Schroeder [:

It is gorgeous. So after 7 years, we're still in the eighties at this point.

Linda Srader [:

Yes, where it's 82 was my last summer.

Diane Schroeder [:

What happened next?

Linda Srader [:

rsity of Arizona graduated in:

Diane Schroeder [:

eriences, I'm brought back to:

Linda Srader [:

nd for:

Diane Schroeder [:

Well and the other theme that I hear is your authenticity. I mean, it sounds to me that you have always remained true to who you are and have done what you wanted to do. And that seems easy to say and their words come out, but I can't imagine that it's always been an easy path to be your authentic self and stand up for yourself and advocate for yourself.

Linda Srader [:

You're right. And I certainly never thought I was gonna take that job and have to stand up for myself. That's just not who I am. I mean, I will do it if I'm forced to. But I was just there thinking, oh, this will be a great job. And all of a sudden, I'm fighting for it. You know? And I'm having to put my foot down. No. I will not tollry. You're talking to me like that, or I would just walk away and say, oh, you're such a jerk. You know? And my second summer there changed me a lot from my 1st summer where I was extremely naive because I didn't find out how much the men resented me until the end of the summer. when they let me have it. And I went to a federal woman's program workshop and I didn't know that women were allowed before service at that time. That women's program was to help women learn how to survive in the forest service because they were not welcome. And so what is the a assignments after the week program of assertive this training and all the heck is assertive this training. You know? So it's like they'll stop all over you. You know? We learned about the EEO rights and all that stuff. So at the end of the meeting, the woman that was running the seminar says to us, I want you to go back to your respective workplaces and talk to the men on your crew and find out from them, exactly how they feel about you being on the crew. And I'm thinking, oh, this will be easy. Everybody likes me. And know, other than the few that give me a hard time, oh, this will be a piece of cake. I'm gonna go back and everybody's gonna say, oh, yeah. We think you're doing a great job. That's not what I heard.

Diane Schroeder [:

Oh, man. That's a loaded question. That's like, you never ask a question you don't really wanna hear the answer to.

Linda Srader [:

Silly me. He's thinking, oh, I can do this. You know? And You know, there were four people, four men that my supervisor, the guy that I went to my first firearm, who I ended up marrying, and 2 others were actually on my side and thought, oh, you're doing the great job. And one of them had the most unique perspective. He said, I don't understand what the big deal is. I love having women on my crew because they're always working twice as hard to prove that they could do the job at all And men are working twice as hard because they are trying to impress her, so more work gets done. So what's the problem? And I thought that was great. The ones that I thought had accepted me, just let me have it and said, you don't belong here. You should go home.

Diane Schroeder [:

Wow. That's really hard. I know it fueled you to come back to say, like, can't take me down.

Linda Srader [:

Yeah. I want this job. So --

Diane Schroeder [:

And I love that. How did it shape you? Did it inspire you to try to get more women to come into the fire service?

Linda Srader [:

No. It didn't. It just taught me. Don't let your guard down. It's actually what it taught me. because I spent that whole summer thinking everything was okay with the exception of a couple men who were really vocal And and I just laughed them off. I mean, they were such jerks. See, I tell them that. Oh, you're such a jerk. So I expected it from them but it was the ones who didn't say anything to Mitch at the very end that blew me away, and I thought, how did I not see this coming? So the second summer, I was really changed. Now I'm like, you know so you say that you like to work with me. Do you really mean that? Or you gotta come back later and dabbed me in the back, and it did change me. It changed me forever. But then eventually, I relaxed into and realized, you can do this. You've been doing it. But it it was hard to hear, and I lost my night activity. And I've had a few of the guys I worked with the summer before telling me, you've changed. I said, well, yeah. You know, that was pretty painful to have someone say that you're patient. You don't belong there.

Diane Schroeder [:

I mean, you're still young. Like, I think of back to twenty, twenty one year old me and even twenty three, like, there's a lot of feedback that I got back then that I really, like, hard to hear because I didn't understand myself enough to realize that that issue was a them issue, not a me issue. How long did it take you to figure that out? But all that hate and negativity was their problem and not yours.

Linda Srader [:

It took me a couple summers, and and then I thought, like, I had it under control, but it was 78 when I was told by a supervisor that he wouldn't hire me. So that changed everything. because before, I was just dealing with the guys at my group. And like I said, after a while, I just told him to go away. It can just leave you alone. and I'm doing my job, and you've never carried the load for me. I've always carried my own load, and I've always done my own job. I don't need you. So That also changed my perspective. And when I was blacklisted, that's what I thought the hell with the forest service. It's time to change. You know? BLM was not perfect. It wasn't the solution. To be honest, the Viewer of land management doesn't have a whole heck of a lot of forest other than in Alaska. When I worked in Durango, I actually ended up on a timber crew. And I did go to a couple fires, but they have this hunt forwards. Most of the forest they manage are very small, and they're mostly surrounded by private lands. So I liked working in the forest, and that's what I wanted. So I ended up back with the forest service in 82. And by then, There was one other woman. That was my first hotshot crew with 72 because the other crews I was on they were just considered fire suppression crews. There's no difference between the two. a hotshot cruise. There's 20 of them, and they travel to wherever fires are all over the country. A fire suppression crew is typically working at a particular district. And we did still travel. We still did go to fires if we were needed, but we weren't considered the go to if a big fire breaks out hot track, trees from all over the country, get on a plane and go to it. So that's the only difference between the same work. But to lose by job because of an injury, I mean, that damage myself astain seriously for a quite a while. That was a hard one.

Diane Schroeder [:

I'm sure. How did you learn because you're still young at this point. How did you learn to take care of yourself and kind of recover from that experience of having to leave a career that you fought really hard for to stay in through all the adversity, and now you're injured and you can't go back. So how did you take care of yourself to stay true to who you are so that you could continue on?

Linda Srader [:

Well, and I went through a real rough path. and I spent a lot of time in therapy because I just didn't know what I was gonna do. What I wanted to do was taken away, My husband still worked for the forest service, so I watched him go to fires and I couldn't go. And I'll never forget the counselor who said to me, Well, you know, you could go to college and get a new career. And I said, yeah. But I'll be 34 by the time I graduate. And he says, well, you're gonna be 34 in 4 years whether you go to school or not. Oh, okay. He's right. And once I started college, I dove into that. It was my life. College was my life straight a student. I really put 100% into it, and I and I to my new career. It was always, for years, very hard to see fires and I can't go. And my husband was going off to fires, and I couldn't go. But My new career is not the same thing, but, of course, I'm proud of my new career. And I teach classes in my community. Now I have my own business. And the book never would have been written. Had not all those bad things happened. I hadn't gotten laid off. And all of those things, my book never would have been written.

Diane Schroeder [:

I love that. And it's a great segue because I believe that sometimes the universe gives us a width spur. Sometimes, you know, it taps us on the shoulders. And sometimes it just knocks us upside the head to lead us to a different path that we may not have seen had we done different things. And I think sometimes it's the adversity that pushes us into uncomfortable places. I went back to school in my thirties and finished my degree as well, and then just got my master's degree a couple of years ago.

Linda Srader [:

You know, it's awesome. You know? And it's so hard. I I don't know about you, but I was walking around with all these teens and everything, and All they're talking about is, you know, boyfriends and and we're thinking, I'm just focused on school, and they hated me because I ruined the curve because I got straight days.

Diane Schroeder [:

That's awesome. I did all mine in online, so I didn't have to interact with people, which was great.

Linda Srader [:

Yeah. I didn't have that choice.

Diane Schroeder [:

What I loved about going back to school as an adult was how much I enjoyed it and absorbed it and was like, I really felt like I was learning. I would not have done that well right out of high school in college. I went and got my associate's degree, but I think that, you know, even though everyone's path is a little bit and it wasn't how you expected it, look where you are now. And how has your community played into that? Like, community in the fire service is a very unique community, and I'm sure that you had great times and experiences because you kept going back for a while. There was a draw there that had to be stronger than proving everyone wrong, I would assume, that you loved it. So there's that community. And then finding a different community as you transitioned out of Wildland into a different career. And then now as an author, how has community played a role in your life?

Linda Srader [:

Yeah. I mean, everything has changed, and, you know, I'm the only landscape architect in my community. I also teach classes. And I run into people at the grocery store, and they say, oh, I took your class 5 years ago. It was great. You know? people look up to me, and I appreciate that. But sometimes it's like, I feel like Donald was making too big of a deal out of it because I have just me. You know? And I'm doing the best can. And I have a passion for desert plants. I have a passion for teaching people in my community how to take care of those plants. And So I found a new way to apply the passion that I have to things, and I certainly feel very strongly about what I teach. And people tell me, you know, it shows in your classes. For the longest time, it took me a while to not miss going to the office and having connections with your coworkers and because they don't have that anymore. And, you know, if you've got a pain in the neck claim, you got people you could share it with. You know what? And so I don't have that. So it it's been hard to get used to that. I mean, I've been doing it for 12 years now, so obvious to it now. But at first, I really missed my coworkers even though I didn't like them all. You know, I still missed having, you know, go to to work on Monday and they say, what would you do this Daniel, and you and that was all gone. So you just have to learn how to adapt and change, and it's been okay. Yeah. What's the challenge?

Diane Schroeder [:

I'm sure. So what advice would you give to, I guess, the transitions in life, the challenges, the being flexible and adaptable to whatever life may throw you. Some people, it's easier to adapt than others. So what would you tell people about the journey? Like, what advice would you give?

Linda Srader [:

So I have to go through these stages of No. I'm not gonna change. No. No. No. No. No. No. And then I realized, okay. You know? So you're gonna have to and then I start to realize, once I've accepted the change. I mean, not, like, okay, darn it. I'm gonna have to do it this way. It's like, okay, it's not this is what's gonna happen. And then I look far away to make that change that works the best for me. In other words, I make the changes with my best interests in mind. I couldn't find work. I could've sold the home I just bought, move to Tucson, worked in a factory. I don't know. I could have. I decided, no. I don't want to do that. So how can I stay in my home still make a living, and I didn't share that with anybody. It was an internal conversation. How can I do that? And then I thought, well, you know, they say if you can't practice what you know, maybe you can teach what you know. So I reached out to an organization here that holds classes for the seniors in my community. Pitched a class to them. They said yes. I started teaching, learned that I love to teach. And then from that class, People started asking me, will you do with landscape design? I said, of course, I do. And next thing I know I have a business. I survived because I decided, if I'm gonna do this, it's gonna be my way. And so if I'm not gonna sell my home and move to Tucson and do something I don't wanna do that I'm gonna have to figure out a way to get it by, and I paid off my house. I survived it. It was tough, and it took me a while to get used to it, but I did it on my terms. It had to be on my terms because otherwise it felt like I was giving up if I didn't do it.

Diane Schroeder [:

Wow. That gives me goosebumps. So thank you for sharing that. And correct me if I'm wrong, but what I'm hearing and I've heard this a friend of mine said this before, if you bet on yourself, you can't go wrong. And you believed in yourself and you put in yourself. And I think You took care of yourself. You put yourself first, and that's really hard for most people to do. I think it's even really more challenging for women to do because of all our conditioning and baggage that we bring along. but through your experiences and, you know, your grit and you've done the work on yourself to figure out that you can figure it out, you bet on yourself. And now look at you how happy you are.

Linda Srader [:

And then I think a lot of people focus too much on, well, I can't do that anymore. But what can you do that's on your terms? When I started feeling like I'm being forced, if Saba told me You have to sell your home and you have to go work in Tucson. I would have put the brakes on, and and it would have been terrible if I had said, yeah. You're right. I'm gonna just tear up my life and give up my house, and and I would have regretted it forever, you know, because It had to be on light terms. I had to figure out what am I gonna do on the terms that I can live with. And who knew? I didn't know I like to teach. and the people love my classes. So I have nineteen people in my June class, which is very big for summer. It's pretty quiet here in the summer because most people leave for the summer. So and it's all word of metals. You know? So I say, oh, my friend took your class. Right? They even took your class. I was hiking one day and someone looked at me and said, I took your class. Out of context too, you know, because you think about it. You see people that you know you know them, but you don't know from where, you know, because If you're used to seeing them in fire clothes and then you're seen with the grocery store. Yeah. Yeah. How are you? Oh, I know you. Well, that's right. You know? So so, yeah, the fact that these people wreck hidden basically, just floors me. That's why.

Diane Schroeder [:

tion. If you could go back to:

Linda Srader [:

e things? I needed to be from:

Diane Schroeder [:

That might be the best answer I've ever heard from that. So Thank you. Thank you so very much, and I will link your links to your book and how people can find you. If they have any questions and I might look you up. If I have any questions, we don't have desert planning up here, but I'm sure you understand houseplant, so I might ask you a couple. Yeah.

Linda Srader [:

Okay. Yeah. Nice to meet you, Diane.

Diane Schroeder [:

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to listen to this episode. curious on what to do next? Go ahead and follow wherever you're listening to this podcast so you can get updates each week when new episodes are released. and head on over to the fire insider.com/audio for a free audio to help you get started on yourself care journey. Until next time, remember, you are a badass, and you are not alone.

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