The Pendulum Swings Both Ways

 
a thousand kisses deep

Mr. B starts work again on Monday.

I get so excited when he starts on a new job site. The optimist in me blooms and I start making plans for how we are going to get ourselves closer to financial security.

The fundraiser I’m currently running will help with that for sure, because the uncertainty of all the ways the next few months could unfold is beyond even my most optimistic projections.

If this blog exited to give advice, it wouldn’t be super helpful because I’m pretty sure not everyone could start a fundraiser. I mean, maybe they could, but again, this was never about advice. This is just documenting a journey so some people can feel less alone and others can feel better about themselves for not being where I am and still others maybe can learn from what I’ve done (successes and/or mistakes) but that’s certainly not what I’m setting out to do.

I’ve always felt we have our own journeys and for me to take my experiences and try to lay those on someone else to tell them what to do in their life would be akin to making random people wear my clothing. They are great for me and I love them, but they will fit few others the way I do and even if they do fit someone else that doesn’t mean it’s a style they enjoy.

….and I think that’s okay. Different styles are what make us all unique and interesting. There are a lot of people who have made far worse decisions than I have and a bunch of folks who have made better decisions. I could have made millions of other decisions than the ones I did in my life. I can’t pick apart my life and think if I had done one thing differently everything would be better because that is something we can’ t know. There are too many variables.

So, back to Mr. B. He is going to be doing restoration work. The interview was amazing and they talked for a long time about the kind of company it was and the hours and how reliable the work is. A reliable job site that you go back to regularly is the brass ring. Every job site Mr. B has been on he has given his best and he has a great reference from every place he has worked so far. At first, we thought he was going to go to training next week M-Th and then start at the new job on Friday, but he got a call from the training center this morning and they told him they were giving him an exemption from this training and he could take the next one (which happens in winter, I think) and he told Mr. B to go to the job site and let the Foreman know he could start Friday or Monday. He did and they were thrilled to bring him on earlier.

Thank goodness.

Mr. B works so hard and always does his best. I always feel like I’m the loose link in the chain because I sometimes get confused or frustrated and I don’t have the stamina he does. I needed to take a break from all things fundraising today – only three or four days in – because I was making myself physically sick thinking about it non-stop and wondering if it was a horrible idea and if I’d somehow sold my kids out. I’m very bad at being a consistent optimist.

So he starts again on Monday and we will have a regular paycheck barring adverse weather conditions until, well, we’re not sure. According to the guy on the job site they work longer into the season than most companies and start earlier in the season than most companies. It would be a dream job in terms of steady work. Steady work means he gets his promotions faster. If we are looking at the Mr. B Promotion Tracker that had a promotion date of 12/8 last time we checked it’s changed because of him being out of work those couple of weeks and is now slated for 12/26.

Not bloody likely. So he will either promote to the next apprentice level at the end of this season or the very beginning of the next season. He’s progressing slowly than I would like but hey, we all know I’m impatient! You have to have hustle to succeed as a bricklayer. Okay, maybe if you have relative it’s easier, but from what I’ve seen everyone is willing to help Mr. B because he works hard and does his part to help wherever he can. It’s comforting to know you can succeed even if you don’t have a relative or some other “in” with the Union. You can make your own way.

It just takes some round robin action going through companies while they have jobs until you find one that sticks for good.

I really hope this one sticks for good. Not worrying about his job would be a huge load off my mind.

It would let me get back to worrying about where we’re going to live.

Sometimes I wish I could just hibernate until we get to the part where I get to go on shopping days with my girls and we can hang out in the bookstore and have coffee together and they can gossip about their lives and tell me fabulous stories about school and we can all just enjoy each other’s company. Heck, maybe Mr. B can even be there with us.

That will happen someday, right?

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Poor Little Sick Girl and Running A Fundraiser


If you are looking for the original fundraising request post
please click here.


 

feelin-betterThank goodness.

It turns out Big Sister had a wicked-bad bronchial infection.

I hate my husband being out of work (he should be on his next bricklaying job by Monday at the latest) but I’m glad he was available to take her to the Urgent Care facility to get a chest x-ray, a strep swab, and make sure she didn’t have that horrible virus that’s going around and putting kids in the hospital. Her breathing was affected terribly because her throat was so inflamed it was partially swollen shut so she sounded terrible and sad and so, so tiny. I cuddled with her on the couch for much of yesterday because how can you not cuddle a listless child who just wants love?

He actually started his day waiting in the half hour line at public aid to make sure our medical insurance was in place before taking her to the doctor. The last thing we could even bear right now is a slew of medical bills on top of everything else. We have enough fear of financial collapse on our hands without one more thing. If we could just say, “No more right now, thank you.” to the things happening that would be so refreshing. Since we can’t, we are doing the best we can with what we’ve got and asking for help from the good citizens of the Internet.

I have tried to make sure my routine with the girls isn’t affected by this constant laundry list in my head. Who can I ask to boost the signal? Do I know anyone on Tumblr? Who is going to care about my family’s story?

Running a fundraiser online is so much more than just putting it up and hoping for the best. I knew that going in, but even knowing what you are getting yourself into there are always the worries. Was that thank you email long enough? Was it too over the top? Will they think I’m insincere when I tell them how beyond grateful I am for the $5 donation? (Spoiler: I really am that grateful.)

As a person not accustomed to asking for help at all, the response and support have been absolutely overwhelming. It is a testament to my belief that we all end up in these horrible places every now and then. Maybe it’s not a house, maybe it’s a medical bill or a sick pet. My friend Jessica said it best that most people would go to their families in times like this. If only that were an option it is where I would have gone first.

I have cried a lot. Mr. Brickie has cried a couple times, too. The relief you feel when you get validation for something you were so scared about is very overwhelming.

Back to Big Sister. She has to miss her choir rehearsal after school tomorrow. She is very sad, but there is no way her voice is going to be able to sing tomorrow when she can barely talk today. She understands and her response is classic for a child somewhat accustomed to disappointment. She is resigned and slightly detached with just a hint of hope that nothing awful will happen before next week’s rehearsal. As long as my girls don’t lose that hope I have faith they will get through life beautifully.

Me? I’m overwhelmed at the love that’s been shown over the last few days. I don’t mean the money, I mean the emails and the requests for my children’s sizes and preferences and offers to adopt them for Christmas. I still need to put as much effort as I can into sharing my story and getting those donations because that is critical, but the other things? They are what keep my heart from drowning.

Please click here to go to the fundraising page and share the link.

If enough people see it and donate? I’m already so grateful for what we have received but I need to keep boosting that signal.

Now I’m off to fill wish lists and write up sizing and preference lists. It’s been exhausting with one of my daughters so sick she can barely walk to the bathroom by herself but knowing she will be on the mend when the antibiotics kick in has me feeling like a second wind might be on the horizon! Heck, maybe we can go for the gold and I will be able to sleep through the night! WooHoo! :)

If you have any suggestions for where I could get my message out, please let me know. I was hoping to contact Mike Rowe, because he’s always talking about blue collar jobs but I think there needs to be more education for when a grown person with a family decides what is best for their family is that blue collar job. The transition is hell. It will be worth it in the end but this system is set up for a kid who is living alone to survive for the first few years. There should be a better way to transition into these rewarding professions! So…if you know anyone who knows Mike Rowe and if you think he might care about our situation, let me know.

Thank you for being my readers. I love you guys.

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A Desperate Cry For Help

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Asking for help is the scariest thing I have ever done.

At this point (the point where you have to ask for help because you’re between a rock and hard place) you go back to sixth grade in your mind and wonder if you had just studied a little harder for that spelling bee and gone to nationals, would your life be that much different?

I love my family. They’re my people and I couldn’t have hand picked a better group. But I still wonder at 2am if I’m really the best person for them. If my husband had found a better second wife would he be happier? Was he just blinded by depression and the grief of losing his first wife and now he’s stuck with me forever and this is all my fault?

Did I fail my family? Should I have told my husband he should stay depressed and not change to a blue collar job that makes him happy? Should I have crushed his dreams to stay in a house made of brick and cement? Is a house more important than a man’s self worth?

I don’t think so, but then I put up a cry for help online and you don’t know from there, do you? You cry and you throw up and you want people to love you enough to give a dollar, you hope they can spare more but you don’t know what someone’s life is like beyond the screen no matter how many nice pictures they post. You do the mental math of if this many people or that many people  just gave one dollar how you would be able to stop being scared all the time. You could stop waking up in the middle of the night screaming because you had another nightmare where your children starved to death. You could feel safe for the first time in so long.

If I have ever helped you, listened to you, or made you laugh, please help me. Even when I’ve only had a few dollars I have almost always been able to donate a dollar to a friend or stranger in need. I give a dollar because everyone would rather have one dollar toward their need than no dollars. I do not judge a dollar. A dollar is an Internet hug from far away saying, “Hey girl, I feel your pain. You are not alone.”

This is a one-time 30 day fundraising campaign. I don’t think I could go through the stress of this again. I’m riddled with doubt and I’m sure everyone hates me (I am also sure that everyone does not hate me and know I’m overreacting but going back and forth between the dark feelings and the logic is exhausting.)

The donation button will be removed at the end of the campaign and I will either cry tears of joy and thanks or I will slink back to my corner of the Internet to lick my wounds and rebuild my heart.

The choice is yours.

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How A Decision is Born


click-here-to-help-decki


 

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Who has ten fingers, ten toes, and stayed up far too late on the Internet?

I’ll give you a hint. The same woman who ran through about a hundred potential outcome scenarios based on different decisions we could make and their potential outcomes. While it may be pointless to live in the future, sometimes when there is a big decision it does not hurt to schedule a few hours to travel there and make your best estimates for most likely decision outcomes.

Big thanks to Annaleah because without her encouraging words I would not have had my “A-ha!” moment. She mentioned people being understanding of our circumstances and that made me think how understanding the man on the phone must have sounded and I asked Mr. B about it and he said that the man sounded more like a caricture of a used car salesman – pushy and excited – and not calm and reassuring at all. This led us to a conversation about what he said and we broke down what we thought it meant.

For those of you that have taken a moment to wonder how I slog my way through all these horribly emotional decisions, I present to you, “How Jenny deals with horrible decisions!”

First, you pick your top contenders. Because life is kinder that many people think, there are usually only three major things to choose from. This is one of those cases.

Scenario 1 – Chapter 13 and Refinance

In a perfect world, this would be our solution. File the Chapter 13 to buy some time, come up with the $2400 to restart the refinance process, begin paying the new $700 mortgage payment, and live happily ever after! Of course, the mortgage is probably 40 years and there’s a $30k balloon payment at the end of the 40 years and we are in a house we have come to hate because we wish we could go back in time and rent something instead.

Conclusion: It is a bad idea. We will end up paying almost $200k in principal and goodness knows how much in interest over the life of the loan. A monster debt that we just don’t want to be saddled with. Going through all that to sell it is also a possibility, but it would be sold for so much less than we owed we would be trapped again. The Chapter 13 would make us seem even more financially irresponsible and renting would be that much more difficult unless we were sure to find a place where people wanted to hear your story and not just see how you look on paper.

Scenario 2 – Chapter 13 with New Foreclosure

The “extra shady and morally bankrupt” version of the plan is to go through with the Chapter 13, get a modified mortgage, pay on it for a while and go through this whole thing again, buying us another two years of no payments while this goes through the motions for a second time.

Conclusion: Financially this might actually be the best decision. By the time we got through a second foreclosure Mr. B would be a Journeyman making twice as much as he does right now. We could easily pay rent and save money. Decisions, however, are more than just dollar signs and decimal points and it would be immoral and best and illegal at worst. I want to teach my children to make wise financial decisions and getting charged with fraud is not a good way to start that process. My foreclosure now was not an intended outcome of buying the house, I certainly won’t go into another two years of freefall and sacrifice what morality I do have for the sake of money.

Scenario 3 – Current Plan Continues

The current plan – wait out the foreclosure until the last minute while getting rid of every unnecessary item we own – still seems to be the clear winner. We are taking care of the house and the yard, the interior of the house is in good shape, and the house will be resold fairly easily once we are out. The six month eviction timeframe will allow us to get through Taxmas and have money ready to spend on a new place.

Other Warning Signs

Upon further inspection, the language in the letter we received was similar to the law advertisements. Once Mr. B talked to the man and he revealed he was an attorney with NACA, we realized it may be the case they don’t have to disclose the advertisement because they are not-for-profit and thus it is not an advertisement for profit.

2. The man would not further discuss the class action lawsuit with Mr. B on the phone even though he brought it up and asked for the criteria for plaintiffs multiple times. He did, however, whip Mr. B into a lather with the urgency of needing to get to the federal courthouse first thing in the morning to file the Chapter 13 and call him with the case number right away so he could stop the auction.

3. A Chapter 13 is a restructuring of debt that involves payments. The lawyer made it sound like they would take all the arrears and put them at the end of the modified loan in order to make our payment $700. This now adds a balloon payment at the end of the loan, which is an offer I already turned down because it is not feasable to pay a mortgage another 30 years from this point in order to have a $25k balloon payment on the end.

4. The only way this is actually a good deal is if we get the remodification, pay some payments, stop, and go through another two year foreclosure process. I may be a little hither and thither in the moral compass area but that’s really, really fraudulent stuff.

We have come to the conclusion that the letter was an option but not one in our best long-term interest. I don’t like solutions that only work if I’m emotionally desperate to keep a physical object. Financially it’s a bad deal, but it’s being presented like a Christmas present wrapped in golden paper. I don’t know what the company we would be working with gets or how they benefit but the pressure Mr. B felt says to me there is something beyond helpful people wanting to use their helpful organization to be helpful. While I can’t put my finger on it, I know there’s something wrong.

I keep thinking of that lawyer at the legal aid place. When I asked if she ever saw a circumstance when keeping the house was in the best financial interest of the client and she reluctantly said, “No. Not in my experience.” When a woman who sees hundreds (thousands?) of people doesn’t see one who is making a smart financial decision, it’s my responsibility to make extra sure I don’t make the same mistake if I want my family to thrive.

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Bankruptcy and a Citimortgage Class Action Lawsuit?

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I receive a LOT of junk mail.

Most of it is advertisements from law firms who want me to call RIGHT AWAY to SAVE MY HOUSE. I sigh, because wouldn’t it be nice to actually be able to make a phone call and have something of substance happen? Going through this process has been awful. Even before foreclosure was looming or processing there was the FHA streamline refinance that we tried to do. We couldn’t because there was a HUD partial claim from a 2005 refinance and Citimortgage denied ever helping to process that and did not have the paperwork.

Bummer for us, we have only become people that save things in the last seven or so years, so we didn’t have that paperwork to prove anything.

Our FHA streamline refinance that would have kept this whole foreclosure thing from happening by lowering our payment by almost half? It didn’t happen because we didn’t have the paperwork AND we had no way of getting the paperwork from Citi. It was a bad deal all around, really. I didn’t talk about it too much because it’s a thing that happened and I tried not to focus on it too much since it was water under the bridge and I try to deal with the now, not the then, in order to stay sane and not spend my whole life second-guessing myself.

So when I got this green sheet of paper in the mail it kind of felt like junk mail but it didn’t say anything about advertising on it. The law states you have to state communication from a lawyer is an advertisement on the envelope, I think, because if not I’m sure these law firms would use all the shady tactics in the world. They still manage to imply all kinds of things even when you know it’s an ad.

I handed it to Mr. B and asked him to give them a call and see if it was just another paper for the round file and he asked me if I remembered the number you type in to block yourself on caller ID. (It’s *67 in case you’ve forgotten.) He talked to a lawyer from NACA for almost a half hour and the man gave us advice he said, “…would cost $2000 if you went to one of those places that promise they can stop your auction before it’s too late.”

The advice? File Chapter 13 bankruptcy. I had heard of this technique but thought it was too late for us to do it. I thought it had to be filed before the official foreclosure process started.

Filing Chapter 13 would buy us two more months for NACA to work with Citi and get a modification worked out. They would need two months of the previous mortgage ($2400) at the end of the two months, but if we did that we would be current on the mortgage and our new payment would be $700. A far more manageable sum of money to come up with every month than the $1200 we were paying. (Yes, the $700 includes taxes and insurance and yes, I’m pretty sure it’s too good to be true.)

I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do. I’m not sure if we could even come up with $2400 in two months. I don’t know how much it costs to file a Chapter 13 in my county. Okay, I looked it up. It will cost $281 to file the Chapter 13 at the courthouse.

So, worst case scenario, we buy two more months by filing the Chapter 13 and it costs us $281. Other case scenario, we come up with the $281 to file and the $2400 for the bank and we get a refinance that keeps us here for the low, low price of $700 a month. (It’s not really a “low, low” price. It just sounded good when I said it out loud as I typed.)

Also, we pretty much qualify to be part of the class action lawsuit. So we’ll get a couple grand and a lawyer will get a shiny new private jet because tort law.

What the hell am I going to do?

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How We Spent It! (car edition)

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This has been a difficult week.

Mr. Brickie’s last day of work was last Tuesday so we are at a week of no work. I received a super helpful phone call from someone I adore alerting me to the Public Notice Illinois website to verify the 11/13/2014 auction date. Even when you’re expecting the ax to fall there is a certain horror/relief cycle that plays out once you know and that cycle is exhausting.

So our goal date for the move is six months from that November date. The six months is based on a six-and-a-half-month timeframe a friend of mine is at the end of. I have no reason to think it is inaccurate. Also, it fits with the original timeline the lawyer gave us. “You will have at least nine months from the date the judge approves the foreclosure.” Okay, that date was 7/11/2014 so there were 90 days until an auction (which is the 10/13/2014 date) and then the six months until eviction. It comforts me to have the same timeline from two places because it raises the chance of my timeline being accurate which is very important in this case.

If you read my last sad post you might remember we are looking for a car in the $500 or less price range.  Since Saturday we have been looking on Craigslist whenever we were not cleaning, planning, donating, and decluttering. We finally found the unicorn on Monday night. I shouldn’t really say finally…we weren’t looking forever and a day. We went an hour-ish away to pick it up last night. I was so scared. Craigslist can be so hit-or-miss and a great story is just as likely to be a con as a genuine kindness. I’m 98% certain the car we have now is a true diamond in the rough and the guy who sold it to us did us a true favor giving it to us for $300 less than his CL asking price.

Part of their conversation was the seller telling Mr. Brickie he could afford to drop the price and pay a kindness forward because they became debt free a few months back. They talked about Dave Ramsey. For real. When I met him he seemed very normal/regular/dude-about-town and I didn’t get any hinky feelings. That doesn’t mean much right now because at a certain stress point my hinky-meter becomes not so great. We will know for sure after we get the car checked out by Mr. Brickie’s friend who knows about cars.

This means my kids don’t have to be pulled from activities.

This means I will be able to drive them to school if we move before the academic year is over.

As long as the car checks out, this means everything is better than it was a day ago.

I did take it for a drive and it seems very, very solid. I was the one who identified the broken frame in the Ford Taurus that turned out to be a death trap. I am the one who knew there was a rotor issue beyond the brake pads in the car that we were loaned. I’m good a hearing things that are wrong in a vehicle. I’m as certain as I can be on my own without a mechanic that we did good.

I really hope it checks out with the mechanic.

The Numbers

After last week we had $626 on hold at the bank as well as $150 I transferred to savings to go toward the car payment. We used $500 of this to pay for the Craigslist car and the rest ($276) was notched out by the cell phone payments ($88.96) and putting gas in both cars ($45) and putting more money on the iPass ($20). His last check for $289 is on hold, probably until next Wednesday.  That leaves us about $120 until next Wednesday.

It’s enough money if Mr. Brickie is not working but for the love of all that is good and holy I really want him to start working ASAP!

Job Troubles

Mr. Brickie talked to the apprentice coordinator who talked to a guy who said he’d put Mr. B (I have become too lazy to type out Brickie. Consider me a winner!) on a job. He has been waiting for a callback with a start date and address for a week. I know this happens but it’s not easy and it’s very scary every time. When he is a journeyman I will be happy to save enough money for these weeks to not be the drama, but for now when every penny counts and we have to move soon it is overwhelming and scary.

The Bottom Line

I know things are going to work out okay. I have friends and family looking out and I trust them to help us get to our next place with as little drama and fear as possible. This is a hard time for my family, but we know the only way to get there is to be here and keep on keeping on.

I’ll let you know if the car tuns out to be as much of a peach as we think it is!

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So Many Words, Then There Were None

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I have a few drafts written.

One is about how throwing out all the food in my pantry – all the things I cook with from the room I spend the most time in – caused a loss of identity that made me feel completely lost in and worthless.

There is another one that’s about the bare minimums a person who likes to bake and cook needs to buy in order to have a functional kitchen.

I wish there were more half-written drafts so I could feel like I was about to be terribly productive. Unfortunately there was a lot of research into hosting and when I have the hundred dollars to spare I’m going to drop it on three months of hosting from WHGeeks. As long as I can figure out which database in my current backend is the one for this blog.

Then the second car that was loaned to us by a very, very kind friend needed to be returned. This creates a problem where I’m not going to be able to get my kids home from activities and I might have to pull them from after school activities. Again. That’s right, we did this to them last year when our second car we purchased from a family member broke down completely. I pulled them from Girls on the Run and Spanish Club. This year I might have to pull them from Choir and Chess Club.

It will break my heart if I can’t take these poor kids to free activities after school. I have considered walking but the viaduct in between my house and the school scares me deeply because it’s pretty unsafe. Plus I can’t figure out how to get a child and a preschooler three miles to pick up a third. It would involve buying bikes, teaching them to ride the bikes, and then safely getting them under a viaduct with low visibility.

So Mr. Brickie has been scouring Craigslist for the last days looking for cars in the $500 price range (It’s what we can come up with on our own, I know it’s not a good number but it’s what we have available) and going to check them out. So far we’ve said no to a broken frame, a missing motor that wasn’t mentioned in the ad, a leaking transmission, and a car that had to be towed home. He has one more to check out in about fifteen minutes. I’m hoping it will go well but I fear it won’t because it’s Craigslist.

It’s a mess.

Today I decided to open a piece of junk mail from a lawyer. Dumb idea, for sure. I figured it might have some publicly available information about the auction date for the house that I did not have access to. It did have a date, but one I could not confirm anywhere else. The date is 10/13/14, so right around the corner and completely panic inducing. I dove right into those panic feelings and kind of wallowed in them for a while. Wondering how fast I would have to pack up my things, where I would store them, where I would stay, where I would get first and last month’s rent. So many questions swirling in my mind. Okay, maybe not swirling so much as slicing and cutting and poking and stabbing. It was much less gentle than poking.

I’m really scared.

Mr. Brickie left a message with the Cook County Sheriff’s office to verify the information. I’m sure this is one of those stories where if I heard that it happened to someone else (10 or so years ago when I was less understanding of bad decisions) I might have judged the person. People who listen to junk mail are stupid, right?

The thing is, when you’re desperate for information and you’re searching for the light of knowledge anywhere sometimes you’re going to find an oncoming train where you think you see a bright beacon of hope. You are going to read something and be completely torn on whether it’s true or not but no one is immune from seriously considering acting on the information.

I’m not going to call the shifty lawyer sending me the fear-mail, but I’m going to use the date as a potential timeline.

Mr. Brickie’s last job ended last Wednesday and he is supposed to be hearing from a guy today about starting tomorrow but so far he’s called the guy once on Friday, once on Saturday, and twice today and hasn’t gotten a firm answer and has mostly gotten voicemail. It’s not looking good for him going to work tomorrow.

On the bright side Little Sister’s birthday party was a hit and everyone had a lot of fun. We went apple picking on Sunday and the girls were well-behaved, happy, and had a wonderful time. I’m so proud of my girls. They are bright and loving and caring. I might have been a good mommy blogger if I felt their stories were mine to tell.

I’m going to go watch a movie with them and try to distract myself long enough that the nausea goes away. Even if I get some relief for a little bit that will be a start.

How We Spent It!

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It has been a rough week.

I have this long winded, half written post about moths, flour, and a temporary loss of identity. Yeah, it sounds like mush in my drafts section, too, but I feel like there’s something important in there so I keep pounding the keys and trying to find the lesson in losing food and myself and how tenuous our identities are and how to find an anchor that is not external.

It will be so deep you’ll want your hip waders, for sure.

We’ve been having some issues with checks depositing in a timely manner at the bank. The bank likes to keep the photo-deposited physical checks for 5 business days if the amount on the front of that check is over $500. That means even though Mr. Brickie got paid today yesterday the funds will be available next Wednesday. This means budgeting for the week with money leftover from last week. (You can see that update here.)

Due to having a bleached all-to-hell-and-back kitchen that reduced me to tears every time I went in, Mr. Brickie took it upon himself to decide we were going to eat out for a few days. Just some local take-out. Nothing fancy. Nothing expensive.

I did forget to add in my Internet bill last week. It was being charged automatically to the credit card (because I kept forgetting to pay that one bill and got really tired of late fees, ugh) but then my credit card expired and I couldn’t find the “very super secret safe place” I put the new cards so I had to order new ones.

I recommend getting a new credit card number every few years. I might start getting one every year. It’s another layer of protection that doesn’t cost anything.

As of this morning I started with $350 in my checking account.

$350.00 In Bank
- $2.00 Macys Payoff
- $198.00 Living (&40.00 tolls)
$150.00 Savings (toward car pmt)

Living expenses is for gas, extras like toilet paper or whatever, and if there is any left over it gets rolled into next weeks living money and that’s more to go toward savings/bills.

I’ve switched into full-on Christmas paranoia mode. Even though most people know they’re getting banana bread there is no way I’m going to cancel Christmas for the kids. It’s my line in the sand. Lucky for me we have never done the, “Santa brings big gifts” thing. Santa brings the stockings and a couple little things and the big stuff is provided by the parents. I did this because I’m a selfish person who wants my kids to know I splurge on them for the holiday, but it’s coming in really handy to explain the ebb and flow of present quality based on our current financial situation.

So I’m swinging between wanting to get the brakes fixed on a borrowed car for $150 or keep hoarding money until the holidays.

When the $626 that’s currently on hold is released next Wednesday I’ll use it to pay the car payment. If that money (via some miracle) becomes available sooner, same plan applies.

Next week Mr. Brickie has training so instead of a work paycheck he will get a stipend from the training center for M-Th.

I’m still all over the place in my head. I am confused and want to bake something now that I have flour/sugar/baking powder in my house. I can’t make banana bread because I don’t have baking soda. Guess I need to add it to the list.

At least I have bananas.

That’s my bright side.

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Minimalist Progress Halfway Through September

Emotions have been high this month. Something about doing the Minimalist Challenge has really brought home that we are going to be leaving this house. I am not sad about donating things we have had for a long time, I am so nervous about how the move will affect the children. I don’t want them to have the same experience I did moving back and forth between locations as a child leaving me forever feeling like I’m not anchored to any place I may be.

I am not sure if you can see the actual progress made between the “Before” picture on the left and the update pictures on the right. In addition to three Rubbermaid bins full of donation items there were also four trash bags of broken items or things that will do no one any good. Thankfully, there was no actual trash in the area. We seem to have a lot more fabric than any person has a right to own.

The most exciting find? A bin full of bras. I had no idea I actually owned more than my 4 Aaah bras (that are falling apart because I have worn little else for the past five years) and my 4 Lane Bryant super push-up bras (for special occasions, purchased on clearance, very uncomfortable but very effective) but it turns out I have more than a few very comfortable t-shirt bras that I’m excited to start using on a regular basis. They are comfortable and fit well. It was like going shopping in my own closet.

 

9-10-to-9-14-progress

I have high hopes we will be able to finish this project by the end of next weekend. Saturday is Mr. Brickie’s birthday and a friend of mine is going to watch our children so we can attend the Brews & Blues fest (Mr. Brickie loves beer. This will probably give him some great homebrew ideas.) The tickets to the event were his birthday gift from someone I adore to the tips of my toes. She is the best gift giver I know. Whenever I shop for someone I think about what she would do and that guides my decision. It has made me a good gift giver, as well. (Or so I’ve been told. People might be lying to make me feel good.)

All the money that was on hold has cleared in the account and I’m not sure how much is in there right this second. I made the payments I needed to make and am leaving the rest alone until this week’s paycheck where I’ll pay the car payment.

I’m praying there will be some left over. Even though I know we will get the bulk of our moving money at Taxmas, it would be nice to have more of an emergency fund before that time.

I have to tell you, I’m also a little nervous about having to prove income. Paystubs in the winter/early spring months aren’t easy to come by.

There is a lot up in the air about 2015 and I try not to think about all the aspects I cannot control. Sometimes I find myself slipping into a horrible daydream of “things I could have done differently to make this not be happening” and go further and further back trying to find the big mistakes and determine how I could have lived those times of my life better until I’m thinking things like, “If I had just gotten better grades in high school….” which is pretty much how I know my train of thought has veered into coocoolococrazytown.

There are a lot of things I could have done differently. There are a lot of things I could have been better at. I could have been more dedicated. I could choose different priorities right now that aren’t my kids and their education and the care and feeding of this house and its occupants. I could get a job and put the kids in daycare. So many alternate realities are out there and I could step into any one of them tomorrow. Hell, I could step into a few of them right now.

But the reality I have chosen, the one where my husband is the breadwinner and I am the housewife that focuses on the children’s education? That’s the one we all like the best. It’s not just my choice, it’s everyone’s choice. This weekend one of my girls made chicken nuggets and one made instant mashed potatoes. They won’t be on Masterchef Junior next season, for sure, but they know how to preheat an oven, set a timer, use oven mitts, measure, mix, and serve. We talked about fractions, serving sizes, how things cook, seasonings, and food safety.

If my kids go away to college and live on crap food it will be a choice, not because they don’t know how to prepare basic meals.

Another minimalist win (but also sad times for the homemaker’s kitchen) is our discovery of Pantry Moths. We thought they were just in the rice and so we dumped all the rice and cleaned the container the rice lives in and got new rice. They’re back. That means they’re in something that’s not the rice and I have to dump most of my pantry. If we weren’t still getting food assistance I don’t know what I would do. I have to buy more flour, sugar, powdered sugar, rice, cornmeal, cornstarch and containers to store them all.

I didn’t have containers already because I didn’t know about things like Pantry Moths and thought containers were something people bought because they were stylish, not because you need them to keep bugs out. I thought folding down the top of the flour bag was good enough. Take it from me, it’s absolutely not good enough. *shudder* Containers are a lesson that trying to be frugal with everything all the time can have negative financial consequences.

Part of me feels good about having this excuse to get the cabinets all cleaned and knowing I will be able to get rid of everything in there we don’t need, but I’m also sad because buying containers for new food because mine was contaminated is something we can ill afford to deal with right now. Every penny is allocated toward moving at some unforeseeable time in the future. We are still hopeful it will be next summer but know it could be as early as February. The not knowing is something that affects me in waves. For a long time it will be calm and sometimes there is one of those little waves of anxiety that lifts you up a little but then you float back down. Once in a while, though, the undertow gets me and I’m sucked down into a very dark place where I find breathing impossible and the only outcomes involve shelters and living in the car.

It takes a long time and a lot of tears to get through those undertow times.

Plus the occasional article I read about people who get foreclosed on and how they should have known better. How commenters join in to say the people this happens to are bad and stupid and how they are all fools who don’t deserve to own a house in the first place. I wish I could get them all in one room to tell them that I wish they had been there before I owned this house. To tell me what a waste a mortgage is. To tell me that no house is worth the four times you’ll pay for it with a decent flat interest rate once you take interest and 30 years into consideration.

I wish I had listened to those people eleven years ago. Too bad they were too stupid and shortsighted to know I would need their advice. (That’s a joke.)

One of the things I tell my kids is, “Don’t tell people what they should have done. You can’t be the quarterback of someone’s past, not even your own. You can only use the information you have to give someone advice about what to do in the future. Anyone who tries to tell you what you should have done in your past is only doing it to make you feel bad and you should not trust them.” This is something that my husband and I are working on in our marriage. You should have asked this way. You should have said that. You should have told me sooner. Those are all based in the past and used only to make the other person feel bad. We are both learning to change this and want to make sure the kids are on board so they can recognize this trait in themselves and others.

I try to pay attention to people who do this kind of thing in a seemingly effortless way. Sparkling Adventures has more kids than I do and travels all the time. Maybe you become immune to the fear of change if you face it often enough. I’ve faced change so many times in my life – giant, upheaval-sized change – I would have thought I was already immune. Maybe being eleven years in the same place has made me weak. Maybe having a non-upheaval-style marriage and family have allowed me to become vulnerable to the pain of change.

Wherever I go, whenever I go there, I will get there in the most minimalist style possible for my family.

That is a huge positive.

 

Happy September Paycheck Update

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It’s been a while since my last paycheck update!

Last Wednesday (not yesterday but a week and a day ago) Mr. Brickie got his paycheck and it was for a full week and he deposited that paycheck into the bank and they decided it needed to be on hold until today.

Thank everything that is good and holy I stopped paying down debt and started an emergency fund! It was that $100 that made all the difference. We fell asleep last night with $19 in the bank and woke up today with some wiggle room.

Not for long, though, because Mr. Brickie has training coming up in a couple weeks. Training is M-F, 10 hours a day. I am not sure how to budget when a week of income is going to be gone. Well, not gone, he gets a stipend and that’s great but he gets the stipend during the week of training and if there is work he will work on that Friday and get paid for that day the next Wednesday. So I have to account for living expenses for both weeks without knowing how much he is going to work in between now and then.

I’m glad math doesn’t make me squeamish. How do people who hate math even budget? I mean, seriously, I love math and this stuff gets overwhelming sometimes. Maybe people who hate math are better at not having to make huge, giant career life changes that result in potential homelessness and a metric ton of math.

We all have our gifts and talents.

The bills that I need to pay are a couple credit card minimums, the car payment, and two utilities. I’m not sure if I should pay the car payment first and then the other bills, or the other bills and then save for the car payment. The car isn’t due until the 24th.

I guess the best thing to do is pay what’s due.

Finances This Week

$700.60 In Bank
- $200.00 Living & Tolls
- $30.78 Gas Bill
- $121.86 Electric Bill
- $50.00 2 CC Minimums
= $297.96 Leftover
+ $186.14 Still on Hold @ Bank
== $484.10 Total Leftover

As you can see, this leaves either two weeks of living expenses with $84 left over … or it puts me within ten bucks of the car payment. Really, it feels like it could go either way at this point. Oh, there is also the $150 we need to pull out of the budget for the car we have on loan. It needs new brake pads and rotors. Also, I have no idea how long the bank is going to wait to release the rest of that money since they were kind enough to wait over a week to clear the last check but release most of yesterday’s check today.

I’m going to call and find out what the difference was. I think it has to do with the check total being over/under $500 and even if I do call it will help my curiosity but it won’t change anything. Checks clear when they clear. Unless I want to start paying Walmart a dollar every time I want to pay a bill in cash, this is how it’s going to be. Sometimes Mr. Brickie works at companies that have direct deposit, sometimes he doesn’t. So we have to have a bank that does not charge more for no direct deposit. It’s best in the long run.

He missed a day of work yesterday because of the weather, but also had a chance to talk to a work buddy who thinks he has a lead on winter work with a big company. So the career giveth and the career taketh away. Sometimes on the same day.

I’m really glad I started working on living in the moment before all this. If I hadn’t I can’t imagine the fetal puddle of confusion I’d be in on a near-constant basis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m scared out of my mind some days but I would rather be scared than confused. I can put one foot in front of the other no matter how scared I am. I can breathe and keep going. When I am confused I don’t know which direction to go so I stand defeated without movement. I become stagnant and hopeless while descending into distraction and lashing out against anyone I can to try and dispel some of the pressure and pain.

Fear is a much more manageable emotion.

Mr. Brickie Promotion Tracker

Hours to 60% Days Projected Date
447.5 56 11/28/2014

Projected Date does not include holidays. It is only an estimate. 

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