Unexpected | Thankful Thursday

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I saw this side by side video on Facebook yesterday. It was something about how a rich kid gets ready for school vs. a poor kid. I found it on YouTube if you want to watch it.

While I know you’ve heard me go on about how I love my friends and family and I have the things money can’t buy today I was reminded in a very unexpected way that on the big bell curve of poverty I am rich.

So today, in a very real way, I am thankful for being rich.

This isn’t about love. This isn’t about how great my family is. (Even though they are.) This is about honest-to-goodness worldly goods and that damn hierarchy of needs. Seriously, check out just some of the stuff I’ve got:

  • I have clean drinking water.
  • I have fresh food, fruit, and vegetables in addition to other food.
  • Some of my food gets kept in a refrigerator.
  • I have a roof over my head.
  • I have shoes.
  • My daughters have thrift store clothing that’s Tommy Hilfiger and GAP.
  • One of my girls got a cavity filled at a high quality, much beloved dentist last week.
  • After my kids’ shoes wear down they get new pairs.
  • My glasses are the correct prescription.
  • Mr. Brickie goes to his job in new work boots.
  • I have a hundred dollar emergency fund. (WooHoo! I’m on my way to 1k!)
  • I have an iPhone, a desktop computer, a Kindle, a laptop, and an XBox.
  • I have Internet access in my house.
  • I live in a town with a fully stocked library.
  • I have underwear.

It doesn’t matter if some of those were gifts and some are on credit cards and some were bought by us. They’re the things we have. Things that are part of our everyday lives. I will make pasta salad tonight thanks to the government and the tax dollars you, me, and everyone else pays in. (Did you know just last week

Really, I’m not being crazy. I’m not even comparing myself to a third-world country (which I could do but feels a little “put them down to bring me up”) but here, in my country, there are homeless people without shoes and children without clean drinking water. There are children (and adults) who go hungry. Sure I may have had to put some of my food safety concerns on the shelf, but I would much rather make an intellectual sacrifice than watch my children suffer and become unable to learn because of chronic headaches due to near-constant gnawing hunger.

My perspective on being rich is not  something I’m doing to make myself feel better.

It’s a reminder that I am, in fact, doing so well compared to so many and that to deny or ignore that in order to cry into my coffee would be horrible.

It doesn’t take away my fear, but it puts it in perspective.

I just tried to do a Google search for links to maybe some hunger stats or the headaches kids get that keep them from learning in case you wanted to know more. I remember reading the article but I don’t remember where. It was a legit news source though, I almost always remember when my source for hard hitting news is TMZ or something that should never be admitted much less shared.

That also brings me to why I am afraid to do the things that would increase readership to this blog. I feel like the way we are now I’m inviting some people over to my house every day for a little brunch and talking. We have coffee and laugh and nod sagely and all have a good time. If I start doing things to bring traffic then suddenly it’s you, me, and the guy who wants to tell me I’m a wack-a-doo in the comments section.

A concern for another day, surely.

Today’s agenda is to clean the kitchen (again because it’s never ending), make BBQ chicken sandwiches and pasta salad for dinner, and maybe clean the bathroom. Before all that happens, however, it’s going to be time to get the kids out of bed and out the door to school.

I got up early today because the hour between when Mr. Brickie needs to get up (I set my alarm as his backup alarm) and when I need to get up is always plagued by the snooze button for him multiple times and then him coming in to kiss me goodbye at quarter till 6 and then just when I fall back to sleep my alarm goes off. So, today, I decided I would just get up at 5am with him. Maybe being up this early will yield better long-term blogging results. It’s certainly easier to write with no kid noises or husband noises. I know I need to get back to exercising in the morning and I’m going to see if maybe I can get both in during that hour and a half all to myself.

Right now, though, if I had to decide I would prioritize writing. I think it is important to make sure I”m not just recording the numbers and the increases we experience on this personal financial journey, but also the stress and the fear that will one day be a memory of the constant passengers during this part of the journey.

I feel better today than I did yesterday and the day before, so I think I’m coming out of all that mess. It felt like a thousand birds were flying into a thousand windows in my brain. But here on the other side of that it looks like Mr. Brickie will work a full week, which will make reaching our emergency fund goal a much faster process.

Have a great day and feel free to check out other posts from the Axis of Ineptitude blogging challenge.

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How We Spent It!

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This is probably going to be a short entry.

It will take much longer to write because I’m actively avoiding checking the bank balance.

I’m scared.

There is nothing more I can do. I have a long term plan and am sticking to it, I didn’t waste money or spend it frivolously. My decision to change from paying down debt to having an emergency fund was basically a perspective shift, nothing more.

Mr. Brickie’s union meeting went really, really well. All indications are that people think he’s going to go places. His foreman on the job is teaching him about bidding and estimations because, “When you’re a foreman, you’ll need to know this stuff.”

Everyone assumes he has a bright future. I know he does.

I just wish the future paycheck could come a little bit faster. I always knew this was going to be a “down to the wire” situation and like I said yesterday, most days I just stay in the now and think about today because we chose this path two years ago and it has gone as planned (a little slower than planned, but you can’t predict things like Mr. Brickie’s first year with the union being “the slowest year in bricklayer history” for all the members.)

So I need to reel in my perspective from here, there, everywhere, future, past, alternate futures 1-458, and get back to focusing on today. Doing the actions I can today to move closer toward my goal.

I am nervous but it’s not like my bank account is Schrodinger’s Cat. What’s in there is in there whether I look or not.

Mr. Brickie’s current company doesn’t have direct deposit. He’s getting a paper check today and if the bank is close he may be able to cash it but otherwise we’re going to have to wait days for it to clear in the bank account.

So I guess looking did make it not be there.

I texted him to let me know the amount of the check and the bank it’s drawn on so we can plan our next steps.

$377.00 Check
+ $42.00 Already in Bank
- $200.00 Living & Tolls
- $95.00 Net10 (cell phones)
- $100.00 Emergency Fund
= $24.00 Leftover (To Credit)

I probably need to put the lines in the spreadsheet differently so the $40 in tolls per week is on a separate line because that gets paid to the credit card. Since the other auto-billed things on the credit card are the Internet, hosting, and domains I do need a little extra per check to go on the card and so even if Mr. Brickie has not used $40 a week in tolls that money still comes off the top and goes toward the credit card so there aren’t any accidents or “oops” moments that put us over limit or cost us a late fee.

Also, it turns out the bank is less than a mile from the job site he is currently on, but because we have Capital One 360 checking there is no way for us (in this area) to deposit cash into our account. Doing the “snap a picture of the check” method can result in days of the check being held.

I hate when he works for companies that don’t use direct deposit.

Is it worse to wait a few days for the check to clear through the online deposit system or is it worse to get the check cashed and use the cash to pay the Net10 (you can buy a refill card at Walmart) and pay the Tolls + Leftover money to the credit card ($1 fee to do at Walmart).

I get how people go through life without a bank account. It used to seem like a mind blowing concept and I couldn’t imagine. Now? I don’t have to imagine. It’s a legitimate choice. (I would consider getting a local bank but without direct deposit or a minimum balance I’m poop out of luck for an account that won’t charge me more in fees than Walmart does to pay my bills.)

We should really consider signing up with the credit union. I think we can join the AFL-CIO credit union which has sister branches everywhere but I’m not sure what’s involved in that and if the online banking is up to snuff since the website for the credit union looks circa 2003. Really, what’s the difference between taking a picture of the check and depositing the check in a local brick and mortar bank? Both are going to make me wait for the check to clear.

But if the bank of the company is local it can be cashed there and then the cash deposited into our local bank.

This whole thing is making me tired. Today’s batch of banana bread is out of the oven and I promised Little Sister – who is really sick right now – we would make cookies together today. You know, so we can get the rest of the family horribly sick. (Even though we will wash our hands she’s still gonna breathe.)

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Breathing In A Paper Bag

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I’m trying so hard not to hyperventilate.

Tomorrow is payday and it’s going to be a 21 hour check. If I was going to judge prior decisions I would say my decision to build an emergency fund is one I should have come up with a hell of a lot sooner.

Because I’m going to have flexible extra income tomorrow of about $20.

Even though there have been crazy, sky-opening torrential downpours the last two days, somehow Mr. Brickie has managed to get a full day in yesterday and today. Hopefully the trend keeps up, because the check after this one needs to pay utility bills and minimum credit card payments.

The threat of Christmas is starting to loom.

I’m having a bit of a fear-based week. As much as I want to be optimistic, as much as I want to have hope that from now until Christmas Mr. Brickie will work full time and we will be able to keep up with bills and save money and pay off all the credit cards, well, I’m just having  a week where that’s a little too much effort to keep up with.

But in times of crisis I try to look on the bright side no matter how dim it might be.

My numbers might be wrong.

I used an online calculator to project what tomorrow’s paycheck will be. Maybe I guessed low!

Maybe since I was sick over the weekend and am still feeling the trailing effects, I have somehow made a grave error and my math is wrong, leaving us with more money to spare and start our emergency fund with!

Positive solutions for other money issues.

The birthday cake Little Sister wants would cost over a hundred dollars if I get it done professionally, so I’m going to buy some colored fondant and squeeze tubes of colored buttercream and make her dream cake myself. I’m not sure exactly how but it’s a cat face on top of a round cake so I’m just going to figure it the heck out.

I’m exhausted and I need to go back to exercising in the morning. When I do, I don’t feel this pit of exhaustion in the core of my soul. I wish I didn’t forget that’s the solution so often.

Part of me wants to be proud of how we have come and how stable our situation is considering how bad it could be by now. Most of me just wants to hide in my bed, deep under the comforter for about two years until we are in twice the financial position we are today.

See you for the regular budget update tomorrow.

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When Is It Time To Stop Paying Off Debt?

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We are big fans of the Dave Ramsey seven simple steps to financial freedom. We have been in:

Baby Step 2: Pay off Debt

But, you see, we aren’t actually there yet. We think we are, we pretend we are, but I had a total crisis last night about Mr. Brickie’s next paycheck (it will be about $340 because he only worked 21 hours this week. Maybe less, I used a calculator again.) and how we were only going to have $20 to put toward the snowball.

Unless…

I could use the $100 we put aside this week in case of emergency plus the $20 on Wednesday and pay off the Old Navy card.

Leaving us with no buffer. No emergency fund.

Which reminded me of something really important.

Baby Step 1: Save $1000 in an emergency fund.

“$1000 will change your life. 90% of life’s emergencies will be covered by having a $1000 emergency fund.” – Andres Guiterrez

Whoops. I’m trying to decide between a $100 emergency fund or $0 and it’s no wonder I’m so damn stressed all the time.

I keep thinking that if we could just pay off debt and get to tax return time, but I tried that last year and ended up with no cash and put Christmas on credit cards and started the whole damn cycle over again. I paid it off with the tax return but then we had to replace the tires on the car ($800) and pay for health insurance ($2k) and paying off the credit cards, and finally paying off a debt I owed to the government from a long time ago we were cleaned out.

That is not going to happen again this year. It can’t. We need that tax return money for moving expenses and possibly rent depending on how the season goes and how work goes.

I will not – under any circumstances – allow my family to end up homeless. (Which I’m sure has been said  by many a homeless family’s head of household. Don’t remind me.)

A 21 hour work week is a setback, for sure. But last year he didn’t work from 7/26 – 9/23 so this year is already far better at this stage than it was last year. I could decide to freak out or I could look at the information I have in addition to hearing what the industry is saying which is, “Last year was the worst year in the history of bricklaying. This year had a freakishly late start. Things are getting better and in about ten years it’s going to be boom times again.”

Why would I believe the fears in my own head over people who have been in this industry 20+ years other than a horrible anxiety problem there is just no logical reason so I’m going to try and knock it off and focus on reliable opinions.

In the meantime I’m going back to the budget drawing board for real and getting a legit emergency fund of $1000 in place.

Which feels entirely impossible.

Of course.

So, the answer to the question in the title of this blog post? Stop paying off debt when you don’t have an emergency fund. Pay minimums until you are in a position where paying off a consumer credit card won’t put you in a dangerous position if an emergency comes up. Old Navy doesn’t sell milk.

Get an emergency fund first.

It’s almost like someone already knew that. Oh well, better to get back on track all the way at some point rather than keep stressing myself half to death overpaying bills without a safety net.

If you don’t know all the baby steps you can check them out here. 

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How We Spent It

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Thank you for your feedback on yesterday’s How Should I Spend It? post.

I obviously love Wendi most for giving her advice publicly. People are going to think only, like, two people read this blog when I think it’s obvious I have at least ten readers.

Consider your minds blown. That’s right. Double. Digits.

Okay, I’m done mocking myself. Let’s get to the money stuff.

Thank you all for your advice, however you chose to give it. This includes Mr. Brickie. I know, it seems like I never bring him in on anything but I assure you that’s just because the conversations would be excruciatingly boring. They all go a little something like this…

“Hey Mr. Brickie! How do you want to allocate this money?”

“What are my options?”

“You can choose Option A or Option B or maybe there’s another Option I haven’t thought of.”

“Either one sounds fine.”

End financial conversation.

This might be a problem but he hasn’t been a jerk the few times I’ve made a mistake and chosen the wrong option. I wouldn’t let him get away with it if he just did it to try and abdicate responsibility for fear of being wrong. He just trusts me. It’s a lot of pressure, but we all have our row to hoe.

I just want you to know I did talk to him in addition to asking everyone else.

We decided to pay off the Target card and the Macy’s card, put aside $100 in savings, and put the rest toward the big credit card.

We picked $100 as the savings amount because he’s missed two days of work this week already and the next bill that needs to be paid is our cell phones which is about $90 for the two phones. The buffer means if we don’t make enough or if there is a rain day we already have the money set aside for the next bill.

The house won’t go to auction for the next 60 to 90 days. Then the mortgage company will regain possession of the title and it usually takes about three months for them to start eviction proceedings which take another three months.

Our 9 month plan is still (mostly, sort of, hopefully) in play.

I just want to get the kids through this school year and deal with moving in the summer. That’s it. Okay, wait, I’m lying. I also want to get the tax return so we can easily afford to move. That’s a big deal and I really shouldn’t be forgetting it.

After Bills and Coffee Update: Well, it looks like setting aside that $100 was a great idea. It turns out today is a rain day and a rain day = no pay. It does look like he will be working on Saturday, as long as the weather passes. Stay tuned…

 

What Should I Spend The Money On?

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When you have some money but not enough to make a dent you end up, well, where I am right now.

The car payment is paid, next weeks check will be short two days from Mr. Brickie not working Monday/Tuesday, and I have $444.00 after the car payment is paid.

$160 has to go for gas and living expenses.

$40 has to go toward the credit card for tolls.

That leaves me $244 (I know, not a King’s Ransom or anything) and I don’t know where I should put it.

I could pay off a credit card or two.

I could put it into savings.

I could put it all toward the big credit card (we had paid this down a lot but the balance went back up when the six month auto insurance payment went through).

$16.13 is the Target payoff balance.

$56.98 is the Macy’s payoff balance.

If I pay off those two cards then I would be left with $170.89

I could put that all toward the big credit card or I could put part of it into savings and part of it toward the big credit card, leaving me a mini emergency fund.

What do you think?

How should I allocate my small but important pile of dollars?

Need a cheat sheet for the credit card balances to help you decide? No problem!

Walmart $584.63
Amazon $533.00
Capone $1,128.70
Kohls $157.97
Old Navy $150.35
Macys $56.98
Target $16.13

If you want to keep up with the dramatic work changes as they happen, make sure to click that link to the right and “Like” the jennydecki page on Facebook. Sometimes things just aren’t long enough for a whole post and when they aren’t, I put them over there.

To see how we spent this week’s flexible cash, click here!

The First Foreclosure Moving List

We risked everything on the potential that our foreclosure would drag out and there would be an auction and the house would be bought back by the mortgage company.

That might still be happening, but I don’t think so.

We received paperwork in the mail today from the attorney’s office of our mortgage company. It says

Within 60 to 90 days title to the property is expected to be transferred to citimortgage. Sometime thereafter, ownership of the property will probably be transferred to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD generally require that there be no one living in properties conveyed to the Secretary as a result of a foreclosure.

If you are not entitled to remain in the property pursuant to the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (we are not because we are the former owners, not tenants) or state or local law, you may nevertheless be eligible to remain in the property upon conveyance to HUD, if certain conditions are met, as described in Attachment 3, Conditions for Continued Occupancy.

Attachment 3 has a list of things like avoidance of vandalism and how much inventory HUD has. You also have to agree to one month’s advance rent as well as signing a month-to-month lease with “fair market rent.” Now that you have rented your former home you have to be willing to allow access to the property during normal business hours to HUD representatives, HUD contractors, and real estate brokers and their clients (all with two days’ advance notice).

Not to sound petulant, but if I’m going to live in a house getting electrical and other work done to bring it to code and let everyone who wants to be in my house into my house I’m renting with two days’ notice I certainly don’t think that warrants fair market value when I’m not actually going to be living in a house where I can expect relative privacy.

At first, we hyperventilated thinking something had changed, that having an FHA mortgage meant there would not be an auction and our timeline was wrong. It still might be. The one thing I am pretty sure of is that if we are receiving mail from the mortgage company’s law firm it’s something we want to be very wary of filling out because it may not be in our best interest.

After much Google searching without much actual result we think the bolded sections in the quote up there are the important bits. Lawyers do not use words for no reason, right? When do you see lawyers throw around b.s. words like expected and probably? I’ve seen other letters from this company and they’re no joke.

It reads to me like, “Since we know no one will buy your house at auction it’s expected to go back to the mortgage company because duh!” If you fill out this paperwork to bring your foreclosed home under some HUD arrangement and pay them (which why wouldn’t you we sent you the paperwork, amirite?) it will probably be transferred to HUD.”

The same way the mortgage company keeps sending us these packets talking about going and finding out about our options which mean Cash for Keys or a Short Sale. The letters always imply we could stay here but in no way does it actually mean we have that option.

Understanding Came Later – First We Panic

Reading the paperwork we started really freaking out like maybe we weren’t going through the same process we thought we were and everything we thought we knew was nothing and we were about to be evicted and homeless in a minute. (Don’t get me wrong, we’re not paying money to live here right now. I’m not saying we feel entitled to live here. We do not. We are so lucky every month we are able to rebuild a little bit more.)

So I called my cousin to make sure we could stay with her if it was a true emergency. Of course she said yes because she’s pretty much the nicest person on the planet. I just needed to hear it and I think Mr. Brickie did too because the #1 thing you want to make sure of is that you won’t be taking your kids to a homeless shelter if you can possibly avoid it.

So the worst case scenario phone call was made and our worst case scenario is one rung up from there.

Mr. Brickie Was Surprised

You guys know it. He knows it. I’m sure my mailman knows it. I’ve been saying it for a while. Things are going to get worse before they get better.

One moment while I quote myself from a previous post:

There is a little secret I want to share with you about my life. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. There is going to be a gap between where we are now and being “okay” and that gap is steep and dark and it has spikes and water on the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to look like it’s getting better and that won’t be fake at all. But then… well, we’ll get back to that. <– This is the “BUT THEN” I was referring to! Right now!

We are not going to be “okay” in any kind of a baseline traditional sense until Mr. Brickie’s next raise that puts him at a 60% level apprentice. It’s just not going to happen. The money won’t be there. He has been nodding and telling me he understands for a year now, but I think this letter just hit him in the brain and cracked it wide open and understanding just poured in and it was almost too much for him to take for a minute there.

He looked – for just a moment – like he might crumble.

But he didn’t!

We Assessed the Situation

I showed him that, if we needed to, we could become Fast Move Ready without sacrificing a whole lot of our daily living. We have two crockpots, a toaster oven, and a little George Foreman Grill. All we would need to be able to sell our refrigerator, oven/stove, and standing freezer is a mini fridge for milk. That pretty much takes care of the big things to worry about in the kitchen.

I would also want to bring with pots, pans, baking sheets, dishes, and cooking gear. Maybe the shelves we have on the wall. Probably the bars with the hooks that I keep all my hanging spoons and things on. Of course all my spices.

The Living Room

The desktop would be a problem if we had to move fast and did not have a place to move to.  We have a chair that won’t be moving with us and some TV trays that need to be replaced. Really, the only things coming with us from the living room are the kitchen table, turtle tank and stand, desktop computer and a little IKEA laptop desk. Everything else can get tossed into a bonfire.

The Office

Only things we need are the TV, the xBox, and maybe the filing cabinet because it’s all tall and useful and we use it as the gift cabinet.

The Playroom

One bookcase filled with books, two chickens, and his grandmother’s china.

Our Bedroom

Pictures, the bed, clothing.

Their Bedroom

The beds, clothing, assorted toys and electronics. We have gone through their toys once this year already and weeded out broken toys for the trash and toys they do not play with anymore for donation. We could use to go through the clothing again for things that do not fit or do not get worn for donation.

Other Stuff

Blankets, sheets, towels, the contents of the one closet outside of my bathroom. We would take a bike for little sister but the other two sisters have outgrown their very small bikes and need new ones. We would take everyone’s scooter, of course. Mr. Brickie’s tools and beer making equipment, too.

School Worries

The biggest problem we would face if we have to move before next year would be school. Potential residency checks aside, we would have to be able to get Mr. Brickie to work (assuming he’s working which is a valid assumption) and the girls to school from wherever we were. That would mean two cars. Even though we have two cars now one of those is only on loan until the kids are back in school, which means it has to be returned soon and we will be back to a one-car family.

We Continue to be Vigilant

We will continue to monitor all incoming mail like hawks to try and keep from being blindsided. Mr. Brickie finally having the full soul-deep knowledge that this is really happening means he’s going to step up his game and start getting rid of things we don’t need and selling things to pile up cash for a security deposit and first month’s rent somewhere new. Maybe we could sell enough big stuff we could even buy a beater car for him to commute to work with.

Mr. Brickie started talking about the shelving units we have in the garage and how he wants to use them for a “Staging Area” and I had to shoot it down. I told him that we are beyond quaint, long-term ideas like staging areas and system creation. We are now in the land of chaos and that is where I do my best work. His job is to follow orders and get rid of everything we don’t need.

As you can see, I have a very short list of what we are keeping. Things like the china are going to live in a storage unit until we are sure we have found a place we are staying a while.

I’m glad he is on board. Now we can really start clearing out, cleaning up, and getting ready to streamline our lives and keep forging forward.

Days like yesterday, though, are the ones where you really question if you made the right decisions. If you did the right thing. The days where you know you will only know if you made the right choice years later when you look back and assess the situation with the benefit of hindsight.

Either way, I hope you’ll stick around to see how it unfolds.

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I Think I Have Mental Whiplash

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Three Weeks Ago: WORK ALL THE OVERTIME

Two Weeks Ago: I think overtime is done for the season.

Last Week: Overtime is back!

Sunday: Phone call from Mr. B (the guy at the company who tells everyone where to go) saying work has skidded to a halt, tells Mr. Brickie to start calling around for work.

First, I’m about to dislocate my shoulder trying to pat myself on the back for not freaking out. Mr. Brickie wrote a list last night and is making calls right now to get on another crew. I know from last season and this season that it’s nothing personal and he did nothing wrong. I’m feeling okay and my hope is at a solid 9.

Second, he got this call while we were driving to an amusement park. Since he worked another 52 hour week last week we decided we could do a small splurge for the kids the weekend before school. While it did cross my mind to skip the amusement park and save that money, I realized that would not only break the kids’ heart it was also not totally necessary and might be an overreaction.

So we went and had a blast and the kids had so much fun.

The car insurance payment went through on the credit card, so while it’s great that I paid it down so there was room, it also feels like we worked really hard for not much traction. It’s just a perspective issue that, I think, will get better with a little time.

Today I’m taking the kids in to the dentist (they’re very excited, they LOVE their dentist) for a checkup appointment scheduled six months ago. I’m feeling great we will be able to get it in before we lose our insurance for three months.

The kids have been flossing but can’t reach (or can’t get the floss between) their molars. We’re going to ask the dentist about it.

Oh, speaking of the kids, I had the phone connected via bluetooth when I played the message from Mr. B. I did it so I could write down the address I thought he was going to give Mr. Brickie. Having it on speakerphone means the kids heard the message. They didn’t seem bothered but I had a feeling they might worry, so I explained what it meant and how daddy wasn’t unemployed, just between gigs, and they asked questions about how daddy’s job is different from having a job at McDonald’s. (I don’t know why but my kids always use McDonald’s as their job analogy. They used to want to work there as their first job so I just kind of roll with it because it makes for some great compare/contrast moments.)

Today will most likely turn into kind of a relaxed day for me. I can’t get much done with everyone home because they always get under my feet and I’ve kind of given up on trying to improve the house before the girls go back to school. I have clean kitchen counters and can maintain it but I am at the end of my 24/7 sandwich making, mess making, arguing, fighting, summer rope. Even though they read for an hour every day and do writing practice an hour a day and play outside and we go to the park and we go to the library there are just so many hours in a day.

Middle sister said last night, “Mommy, I can’t wait until school starts because you’re going to wake us up with the morning song again.”

Big sister, “Oh! I love the morning song! Yes!”

Little sister, “Morning song, morning song.”

I just smiled and said, “Of course I am.”

They cheered. I kid you not, they actually were like, “Yeaaaaaaaaaa” like the Muppets.

So there, at least, is a reminder my girls have something they love I have given them that didn’t cost any money at all. I guess I need to take some more time to remind myself that giving my time is what I do and, like everything else, you give money or you give time. (Yes, some people can give both and that’s fine, too.)

I’m going to go eavesdrop on Mr. Brickie’s phone calls and see how things are going. He always goes and sits in the sunroom to make calls so if the girls do start making noise there are three doors shut in between them and his phone calls. He likes to keep it professional, but that means I have to sneak behind door number 3 to hear what’s happening.

I hope he’s back to work soon.

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Realism ≠ Negativity

Warning: Possible incoherent rambling ahead due to frustration. I should be participating in Come Play in May but I am not right now because I cannot stop thinking about this. At first I was wondering if I should share it, but hey, self-improvement is the reason we’re doing everything we are with our lives and the finances so I guess this counds under that umbrella. Or something.

I managed to see a therapist three times before swearing off of the whole thing forever. Again.

My biggest problem? She had me journal and then insisted (I really mean INSISTED) I read her everything I wrote. I told her if she wanted me to read everything how was that different than her just reading my blog (because audience) and she said, “Because of the interaction inherent in the Internet.” <– you saw those quotes, right? I asked her what that meant and she said that I censored my thoughts because I have an Internet audience and I said, “But I don’t know you, either, so if I know you’re reading everything you know I’m going to censor that even more than I do my blog. I mean, I know most of my readers. I LIKE them.” Or, I would have said that if I wasn’t trying to process what she said and how those words seemed to mean something to her when she said them but I would be damned if I could figure it out.

That’s okay. I realized through the relaxation therapy we did together (even though I told her I do guided meditation every night before bed and am well versed with relaxing breathing and do it every day) but she just ignored me and then took me on this awful “meditative” journey to the beach. (I find that the beach is very romantic to people who don’t GO to the beach. I’m sure I’m wrong, but it feels that way to me because when I walk through the sand I look like a land hippo with gorilla arms trying to wade through unseen jello.)

Plus, her overwhelming desire to talk about my husband because she seemed absolutely incredulous that I could be happy and calm about him when I was an anxious wreck about other things. She asked me why I didn’t want to talk about my husband and I told her, “Marrying him is the one decision I have never regretted.” I even thought right after I said it, “I should write that down. That was a really cool thing to say!” It’s also true. She just gave me therapist-nod-half-smirk and I was like, “Whatever.”

If we are talking about the cause of my anxiety it certainly isn’t Mr. Brickie. He has been a calming influence in so many ways and I adore him for that and many other things.

The other thing she just kept bringing up was how negative I was. “You have to be less negative. It’s bad for you. Being negative is going to kill you.” When I responded, “Then how do you explain so many crabby old people?” She smiled her therapy smile and responded, “See, there it is again.”

THUS BEGAN A TWO WEEK PARANOID-MADNESS-FILLED EPISODE OF ME TRYING NOT TO BE NEGATIVE AT ALL.

The reason this is more difficult than you might immediately think is that I’m actually not a negative person. I’m a realist. My motto is, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” (Thank you Maya Angelou for that last part on the end. I really love that part.)

Preparing for the worst, however, means running all scenarios … including the negative ones. I’m very optimistic, I mean, have you read my blog? You all know I think I’m coming out of the other side of what we are going through right now and into a much better situation for my family. I really do. I mean, find me a percentage of people who are where I am at right now that are happier or more carefree.

This woman, though. The hubris of grinning at me ear-to-ear at the end of our first appointment to find out during the second appointment she has decided she’s figured me out (or something) would have been unbelievable if she hadn’t been doing it to me. I tried to go along with it and trust the system. I asked her what a positive person sounded like so I could model the behavior. She couldn’t come up with an example. She just kept telling me to focus on the positive because anything else was, I am not kidding, “BAD FOR YOUR ORGANS.” (not the musical kind, I have to assume).

I am jealous of everyone who has a therapist that helps them. One that gets you through things and lets you vent. I was hoping to get one of those, but obviously, I did not. I have no ill-will toward her but she was – for me – a very bad therapist.

She kept getting me in a catch-22. She would call me negative, I would try to explain why it wasn’t negative, and then she would gently chide me for overexplaining.

Now for all of you smart people or psych majors or both (they’re not mutually exclusive or inclusive categories, natch) I’m thinking she was just doing some basic cognitive behavioral stuff. But causing a traffic jam in my brain because you tell me I can’t have Option A or Option B but there is no way to learn what Option C is and there are no examples to be found but you have to have Option C or you will die from organ failure is nuts. To tell a person who is in therapy to only talk about things in a positive light and not talk in a negative way during sessions and the rest of your everyday life – including your thoughts – is nuts. I’m thinking to myself , “Are you sure you don’t read ALL THE BLOGS where people are doing that and how utterly unhelpful it is or maybe FACEBOOK where people are only sharing the most positive things for the most part?” Being fake does not make a person positive. It makes them fake and just crushes the negativity down.

But I didn’t say that because I wasn’t being negative.

Instead, I did the most positive thing I could think of and I cancelled my next appointment because the amount of negativity I felt after the last one is something I would like to never ever ever repeat again in this lifetime.

If you’ve read my post from a while back about not being allowed to try new churches anymore because of the disappointment I feel when they inevitably let me down? This was very similar. I guess churches and therapists are things I just don’t have good luck with.

My husband – in one of those rare moments where he just amazes me with his insight – said, “Of course if you look for someone else to fix you, to give you community, or make you someone you are not you are going to have a problem. Every church or therapist you have gone to was because you wanted something only you could do for yourself.”

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Take A Break for Thanks

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I make spreadsheets, pay bills, and write up financial forecasts.

I buy school clothes, supplies, and do Internet research about the school my girls will attend next year.

I cook dinner, keep the house passable, and spend time with friends.

I spend my life waiting for the next paycheck to make another small dent in the wall that blocks the here from the there.

I am focused. I am intense. I AM TIRED.

The thing is, the silver lining on my cloud is thick and bright. So I’m going to take a break from finance for a second and share why it’s worth it to drive myself into the ground focusing on every single penny every single day. My silver lining is my family.

My Girls

I want to do the things I see other moms on Facebook and Twitter do. I want them to go on horseback rides and take them to museums. I want them to go to summer camp and make lifelong friends.

But today? One turned on the Keurig when I woke up so I could make coffee. I got out yogurt and bananas and grapes and orange juice for the girls and we all sat and had breakfast together. They laughed and told me what they had built in Minecraft today. It’s this giant person with a sword that is entirely hollow and they put a spawn point in it and it’s entirely filled with cats. Probably ten thousand cats. We took a breakfast break to look and she had made nose holes for the cats to fall out of.

It was hilarious.

They are very good about their end-of-summer routine where they each get an hour and a half of gametime and then everyone reads for an hour and a half. (The older girls each spend 45 minutes reading to their little sister for her hour and a half.) This takes us to right about time to make dinner and then they help me make dinner and we sit and eat dinner as a family. I make lunch on demand when a kid comes and says they are hungry.

We have blueberry picked this summer and we have gone to the splash pad and we have gone to the beach and we have gone to parks and the library.

They do not complain about the places we do not go. They are always happy when we go places.  They are not demanding or spoiled or entitled.

I am so thankful for my flexible, loving children and I want to give them everything in the world, but I know that when they are old they will know I did the best I could with what I had and they will always know that there is not a moment where I do not love them with every bit of my heart.

Except the part of my heart reserved for loving…..

Mr. Brickie

I have a husband that is perfectly happy being the (mostly) sole breadwinner of the family. I have no pressure to get a job, there is no resentment that I stay home and take care of the kids and blog and make dinner. My house is messier than it has been in a year but he understands without me having to explain that it’s the end of summer and I’m exhausted and the kids want to go back to school and I’m getting them out of the house more to get that energy out because they know it’s a week until school starts and the countdown is on par with the Christmas countdown for intensity and fervor.

He was unemployed on our wedding day. I supported him while he got his degree that we thought would be the key to our success. It was not and he did everything from working at a coffee shop to becoming a licensed financial advisor and everything in between to keep our family afloat. He did not resent me when I was the sole breadwinner for our family and he did not mind if I made more than he did.

We do not have a perfect storybook relationship. We argue. We yell. When I yell at him he has a tendency to sometimes yell at the kids and then I have to call a family meeting and air out what’s happening so the kids can understand what’s going on. I make sure if the kids see the fight they see the resolution and he goes along with it because he gets that he’s raising girls who will be women and they will marry a man like him more than likely and so he needs to be the man he wants his daughters to marry. (Don’t get skeeved out, you know what I mean!) When he was in the room and the kids somehow asked about Ellen being married because we were talking about marriage and one of them pointed at Ellen on mute on TV and asked who she was married to he did not bat an eyelash as I explained about Portia and googled the wedding pictures.

He takes that pressure and tries to be that man. Which is great because that man I want my girls to marry? It’s not the one I married. It’s the one he has become.

I know to the tips of my toes that there is no more perfect partner for me on this earth. He is smart enough to keep up with me without being so smart he becomes smug and unflexible. He trusts me. He listens to my stories like a girlfriend (even though sometimes it’s tough for him to stay awake) and comforts me with hugs when I am sad.

He is the most optimistic person I know. While I run around yelling about the sky falling he just does what he can and knows its enough. He falls asleep in about 30 seconds at night. Wait. I kind of hate him for that sometimes so I guess I’m not thankful he falls asleep so hard and so fast it’s more I’m thankful that he isn’t up all night worrying because that makes for not great work performance. Or something.

He rarely reads my blog because he already knows everything in it. He acts as interested in stories about my day as I am about stories of his day.

Finally and probably most importantly he let me change his mindset. He was raised in a white collar family and learned that a degree and a job with a suit was the goal. When I sat him down and showed him the evidence of what made him happy and floated the idea of a blue collar job he listened. When I asked around and learned more about it he listened. He went to every Union Hall in a 50 mile radius and applied. He followed up.

He still occasionally thanks me. (Not for getting him the job because he did that all on his own. He thanks me for paying enough attention to see what made him happy and finding a way to make that happen in the world. He doesn’t say all that, he just says, “Thank you” with this one look on his face but I know what he means.)

So while my blog is mostly about being poor and struggling and trying to claw myself out of the pit we are in, I have so much to work for. Museums and vacations and horseback rides with people who love me.

I am poor but I have so much.

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