The Long Term Career Plan (a refresher)

Someone asked me yesterday, “Why do you keep doing this when he keeps being out of work and you keep having to scrape and scramble? Can’t he go back to school and get a career that pays better, sooner?”

I thought hey, if one person is wondering maybe more than one person is wondering. If you aren’t wondering this might be a boring update. My apologies.

Also, as we struggle through another year of “sometimes working sometimes not but probably not come February” I would like to remind my dear readers and myself why this job is not the worst idea I have ever had. You are not the only one who needs reminders. I do. I probably need them more than anyone else, since it’s my job to save during the boom times and pinch pennies during the lean times.

Apprenticeships & Raises

When Mr. Brickie was first out of training and unleashed upon the world as a 40% apprentice he was making about $17/hr. At the beginning of the season this year he was bumped up to 50% and given a raise that reflects that percentage (about $4/hr.) Inflation and time will make the dollar numbers obsolete but not the percentages. It’s a smart system.

At the beginning of 2015 (if this job lasts that long and it should) the Mr. will have worked enough hours to be bumped up to the next level, a 60% apprentice and receive another raise of about the same amount as the last one. I’m sure you’re picking up on the pattern, so I’ll just stop walking through every ten percent increase. It keeps going like that until he reaches 100% and becomes a Journeyman.

But those are the apprenticeship bumps. The union’s way of “working up from the mail room” and paying you according to your skills. At 80% and 100% there is a skills test you have to pass to get the promotion/raise. Everyone does not get a ribbon and not every bricklayer becomes a journeyman.

As for run-of-the-mill job salary payment raises? Those are written into the multi-year contracts signed by the union and those raises go into effect during the summer sometime. So, on top of the apprentice bumps he also gets a raise every year. The raise happens at the same time for everyone and the apprentice promotions happen when you have worked enough hours, been to enough union meetings, and attended your mandatory training sessions.

So while things are super tough right now (that fundraiser money is only for moving so when I talk about finances being tight that’s because that money isn’t spendable)  but I’ll be fine with a partial paycheck in two years. I like to kind of just mention it now and then because I don’t actually plan on raising a family of five on $21/hr. long term. My calculations show that we will have some financial breathing room when he hits the 70% level.

Overtime

Usually, sometime after the season really kicks into gear, there is overtime. This is far more likely to be the case if you are working with a company that works on schools. Schools have to get all their work done in summer and have it finished before school starts.

Mr. Brickie has worked with a local, well-respected company the past two summers and both times he ended up working overtime. Overtime is a beautiful thing financially, but it turns Mr. Brickie into a crabby bear that I want to lock behind a brick wall to muffle the complaints. Instead I smile and I say, “It’s okay dear, you’re just exhausted, what can I get you?” and hope no one is recording video of me being so Donna Reed it would make me sick if I saw it.

We use overtime money to pad the savings account or pay off bills that need paying. Saved overtime money is what got us the second car.

Benefits

One of the big reasons we chose the profession he’s in is retirement. The retirement package of a union bricklayer in our county is insanely good. The few (painful, overwhelming) years Mr. Brickie was a (licensed!) financial advisor taught us that far too many people in this country are unprepared for being old and retired. We have found the solution to our family’s financial problems but it doesn’t happen overnight and we know we are getting a very late start compared to someone who did everything “right” and got that first job right out of college or started in a trade right out of high school, so the retirement package is huge for us. It allows us to know that in addition to regular retirement savings there is this other stuff he’s been paying into since the first day he started working on a job site.

When you start on the life you have always wanted as late as we have, you have to have to take that into consideration when you’re finding your dream job. Sure, things go wrong and retirement packages go bust, but so do stock markets and everything else. We have to plan with the information we have available and two pensions and an annuity (among other things) are an amazing perk. Sure, we pay into those things, but it’s nice to know we’re paying into something toward retirement.

Timing, Luck, and Hustle

Mr. Brickie started with the bricklayers during their worst year since they began. It was the tail end of the recession and there was no work. Then, he started working and we had the wettest spring ever since Jesus walked on water or something so there was really, really no work when work was supposed to start.

In theory, this is great because that means he started at the very, very beginning of what will turn out to be the next boom cycle (economically speaking) and that should last around ten years with a few years on each end of revving up and revving down. With the jobs not being there, neither are other bricklayers (at the meetings, at training, at follow up classes) and Mr. Brickie is standing out as someone that works hard, can be relied on, and someone smart. He is making a reputation by being a big fish of doing good stuff in a very small pond.

At least, I hope that’s how this is happening because I know he is working his tail feathers off, I know he’s smart, and I know when he tells me the things people tell him he is telling the truth. All that to say I know Mr. Brickie wants to do more with the union itself in the farther off future and this early exposure and his work ethic and attitude – that would have stood out anyway – have an even easier time standing out during a time of less competition.

Luck also comes into play in him getting the job in the first place. He applied and was tested for more than one union. The millwrights were also hiring and we were almost positive he would be a millwright for almost a year before the bricklayers called him in for training. He is still on the list at the union hall (as far as we know) to be called when the hiring freeze is over.

Double Awesome Luck™ would have it that Mr. Brickie loves his job and is good at it. Two things you cannot predict until you’re actually out there working. So he makes sure everyone he works with remembers his name and he has a list (backed up in the cloud) of phone numbers and names of the foremen, schedulers, and supervisors he’s worked with. The list gets longer every year and it’s the list he turns to when winter is over and it’s time to get back into the swing of things at work again.

There are other apprentices who are still working at the same company they were with when they got out of training. There are apprentices who haven’t had a month off here and two months off there since they got out of training. There is a lot of luck at play in what companies get what contracts and how long/often they work. We have gotten a much rockier start than we anticipated but we are rolling with it the only way we know how.

The last luck feather in our caps is the car we bought from craigslist. It’s still putting along just fine with a strong engine and amazing gas mileage. Having two cars has made everything so much easier and allows my girls to be in after school activities. Since we don’t spend money on vacations or voice lessons or gymnastics or anything else you can enroll in? At least they have something extra and special to look forward to. I’m excited about moving because we’ll be less than five minutes away from the YMCA and I have it on good authority the Y is amazing. I’ll be able to go there on my own as well as with my family and participate in programs, pretty much like a park district, I guess.

The Y has a program for low income folks, so I’ll be able to join up almost right when we get there because the membership will be affordable even for my family during our transition from insanely poor to middle class.

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We looked at an apartment on Saturday

The town we are looking to move to seems to have a really small assortment of available rentals. There are even fewer listed on Craigslist, which is what I have access to during the day and so I know that even if I hit the refresh button every twenty minutes for nine hours the same eight houses are going to pop up over and over again.

Mr. Brickie did look at a bunch of other houses and apartments for rent last month but they all wanted November 1st move in dates and we weren’t in a place where we could do that because everyone wanted paystubs which we didn’t have until last Wednesday. It’s been stressful, but Wednesday we were finally able to start looking on Craigslist in earnest. (Why is moving your entire life something you have to do at the last minute? This is insane.)

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes an apartment building pops up. Sometimes a house that was up last week but was taken down pops up. There are one bedroom apartments and houses that come and go like tumbleweeds across the plains.

But housing that accommodates my family? Few and far between. See, it seems there is a town law/ordinance that you can only have two people per room. So I can’t look for a roomy two bedroom I can throw a bunk bed and twin into for three girls. Nope. I have to go for the cramped three bedrooms or get a fine.

I don’t know who issues the fine. I don’t know how much it is. I could risk going to a different town but we’ve kind of decided on this one so figure that unless a better option presents itself through divine intervention we’re going to suck it up and get a three bedroom for a year or two.

This one apartment Mr. Brickie saw the day he toured seven available houses and apartments for rent in the area was still available as of last week. Saturday morning I saw the listing update and it was offering a $15/mo. reduction on the rent for a two year lease. I was all, “Divine intervention!” (because we all know discounts and sales are the work of a loving, divine presence in the world) and had randy call for the whole family to check the place out.

We got there ten minutes late because there was an accident on the expressway, so I was nervous. I told Mr. Brickie I wasn’t going to go in all super friendly and was going to keep it calm. I told the girls they had to have on their best manners because they needed to act like kids who would never in a million years have a fistfight screaming match while playing Uno. Basically I told them not to act feral, they asked what feral was, I gave examples, and they seemed to understand. (This is not foreshadowing, they did fine, I don’t want to make it sound like a cliffhanger.)

The guy showing us the place was nice. I toured all the rooms and was unsure if our king size bed would fit in any of the rooms. Mr. Brickie (who forgot his tape measure, of course) swears it will. I don’t believe him but figure that having an argument or making him lie on the floor were both weird options that would look bad, so I let it go and checked out the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and mimed wiping my butt. (So gross, I know, but seriously I’m going to be using that toilet for two years and the sink was kind of close and I wanted to make sure my elbow wasn’t going to get dislocated whacking it on the edge of the sink.) Every room was small but not tiny. The ceiling was a drop ceiling but not so dropped it was claustrophobic.

It was a passable apartment I could see us living in for two years while we get through the rest of Mr. Brickie’s internship and move him on to the world of being a journeyman with double the paycheck of what he makes now. You know, a pit stop on the race of life or some other deep analogy that makes it sound romantic.

I handed over the application I had filled out here at home already just in case this place was passable and decent and when I asked Mr. Brickie to pull out the checkbook to write the check for the criminal background check he said they would need and mentioned during the tour in the form of asking us if we were married because then it would only be one payment instead of if we were not married where they would have to do separate checks or something … but he told Mr. Brickie to put his checkbook away because that’s the NEXT step in the process. First his Mrs. has to go over the regular application and decide if she even wants to do the background check.

I asked him if he wanted the copy of the paystub or the printout of the savings account.

He said no.

I asked him what information she would get from the two page application that asked where we banked and the names of our employers and he shrugged saying, “I don’t know what she does to decide.”

He said that his wife had already turned down a bunch of people for the apartment. The apartment has been on craigslist for probably at least a month, it’s true, but on that Saturday morning it had just been edited with the new lower rent price for a two year lease. So I’m thinking you don’t really offer a discount if people are knocking your door down trying to rent your place.

But I’ve never understood landlord logic (and I used to date one) so I didn’t question what he said and figured if we were going to get to the next step it would happen. In the meantime, I’ve been hitting refresh on Craigslist every twenty minutes or so since just in case something pops up.

When we were in the town, we stopped by the realtor that has a rental listing for the town as a courtesy, but they closed early on Saturday so we weren’t able to pick one up. I think that is where most of the local listings show up first, because it’s a small town and they all kind of have this word-of-mouth mentality where they’re trying to keep a small town vibe or something. Honestly I’m not sure.

When we told the girls it was time to leave they went through the apartment and shut off all the lights. The potential new landlord noticed and said, “I wish my kids had done that at that age.” I said, “They’re good kids.” He said, “I can see that.”

So hopefully my non-feral kids sold the deal for me. We will see.

I’m really nervous about looking for a place during winter. Like, no one moves in winter. Everyone in the  midwest is going to be on cold weather lockdown soon. We need to get into a place and be done with this transition stuff. It’s too stressful.

In addition, the polar vortex or whatever is going to start messing with paystubs soon, so having an almost 40 hour check (minus the two-ish hours he missed when the cement truck backed into the main power line last week that one day and he came home early because no power = no work) is kind of imperative to these places that want a paystub as proof we can afford to live there.

We are not so set on this place that we will all perish of disappointment if we don’t get it, but I would really like it if we could just get it and I didn’t have to think about it anymore. If I could stop hitting refresh on craigslist. If I could know what comes next for sure.

The fact that it’s a block and a half away from a park with a stocked fishing lake, a block and a half from the library, and a block and a half from a $3 movie theatre sure as hell don’t hurt, either. Oh, it’s also in the school district we really want to be in. So I would be lying if I said I wasn’t spending my time hoping we get it. We are hoping we get it. For sure. But I’m also trying to be realistic and mature. Or whatever the word is for not letting myself get my hopes up too, too much.

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How We Spent It! (10/5/2014)

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This is how we spent it – partial paycheck edition.

Mr. Brickie has gotten paid (first check direct deposited!) and so it becomes time for my favorite time of the week which is the How We Spent It! post. For his 29 hours of service he was paid $420.13 (personally I think something is wrong with that number. I projected $467 and my numbers tend to be low but okay, alright, we’ll figure that part out later and for now let’s deal with the monster in front of us. The bills.

November’s List of (not gas/not tolls/not toilet paper) Bills

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Two Hours Later….There was already a hundred dollars in the account that had not already been spent because we just leave money alone for the most part. Right now we’re starting with $550.43 in the account. Here is how we are going to spend it.

Okay, I’m having trouble deciding. I could either pay off the two credit cards with sub-$100 balances or I could pay minimums and pay right down to the water bill. Mr. B has worked solid since Monday and weather doesn’t look like it’s going to get ugly (he can’t work if it’s below 32 degrees) so he should have a full paycheck next Wednesday ($680) which would allow for the water bill, the Internet bill (it’s an autopay bill so that money would actually be paid to the credit card) and most of the car payment would be set aside.

I think it doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t matter than paying off credit cards to get rid of them is going to be the smart play. Right?

So, the How We Spent It will look like this:

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The Internet bill is an autopay that goes on the main Capital One CC so I will pay that 75.00 to the card even though it is listed as Internet because that’s just how I do the accounting for now. My goal is to have my gas/electric/internet and whatever else I can be billed automatically to a credit card so I only have to look one place and make payments one place. Since I will never, ever feel comfortable having money directly removed from my debit card for the iPass (for tolls) there will always be one credit card out there to be paid and I’m okay with that. The goal – of course – is to make it a bill-collection card and not something we use to buy stuff we don’t have money for.

So that’s how we spent it! Or how I will spend it by the end of the day. I still need to sit with it for a few minutes to make sure I”m not forgetting anything or making a mistake doing it this way. I always try and sit with my decision for a little bit to make sure I haven’t forgotten something important. There is one $20 check out in limbo for the dentist and we do owe some money for a couple of medical bills that Mr. B incurred when he was really sick and we didn’t understand how a PPO worked yet. (You pay 20% so when hundred dollar bills come in the mail – not the green kind, lol – you have to pay them and you don’t resubmit them to insurance.)

But other than that there are no hidden costs or expenses.

I think I’m going to just pay off those two cards. It’s all going somewhere and as long as it’s not being wasted or going toward something frivolous, that’s all that matters.

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General Updates, Wicked Sick, & An Easy Beef Stew Recipe Link

I keep wanting to think my stomach hurts from stress. If it was from stress I could just convince myself to not be stressed and that would solve the problem, right?

I’m pretty sure it’s actually a virus. Which in a week will be better because it will be a distant memory. If it were stress and I couldn’t convince it to go away I’d be in this mess for as long as it took which could be forever.

Halloween was wonderful. An unstressful holiday where my kids had a blast and got out to trick or treat and I didn’t have to deal with doors or candy handing out or going door to door. It was pretty much perfect. Easy and laid back. Plus they got more candy than I think they’ve ever gotten before. They felt like they won the candy lottery for sure!

Legal Moving Update

The court date to finalize the sale of the house is 12/30. We will have 30 days from that date to vacate the property. We will need to move sooner because paystubs may become less regular as it gets colder. This is the time of year when we are beholden to the weather for sustenance. If it is below 32 degrees, he cannot work. That shouldn’t happen for a while but I’m becoming quite the weather watcher in the meantime.

It is possible Mr. Brickie could go into the court date on 12/30 and ask for more time to move since it’s winter and all and with the pastubs being such a big deal (it seems obvious now but I still feel stupid for not thinking of it sooner.) he could probably get 60 days vs. 30 days which would mean the end of February but, again,  he can’t work if it’s below freezing and we’re in the midwest and we have to have paystubs to prove income to move so a half a week’s paystub isn’t going to get us anything.

If we don’t move the minute we have two paystubs that show income we are taking a dangerous gamble.

Practical Moving Update

Wednesday Mr. Brickie will get his first paycheck so we can start looking for a new home in earnest. It will only be for 37 hours, however, which could pose a problem for income requirements if he does not work 40 hours this week in order to show a full paycheck. It makes me nervous if I think about it too much so I try not to. Not because I’m avoiding it but because if there is nothing I can do to change it, worrying is pointless. I try to reserve my copious amounts of worrying for things I can fix or solve.

To be clear, his first week of work was 37 hours because he started on Tuesday and a mixer broke so he only worked five hours on Friday. I would hate for anyone to think he chose to start late or leave early. He hasn’t taken a sick day since he started the apprenticeship. Even with a partial paycheck we’ll try to talk to some landlords and see if that’s okay, see if those two paystubs have to be full 40 hour weeks. We will always try.

Money Update

I am so happy the fundraiser is over at midnight tonight. It’s really stressful to think about begging for money from friends and loved ones for thirty days straight. Am I begging the right amount? Am I begging too much? Am I begging enough? Is this getting enough reach? Why am I not going viral? Thank goodness people are actually seeing it! Too many thoughts that never stop.

The final update as of this post is $3,315 in gross donations on the website and $3015 in net donations after fees. I honestly can’t believe I surpassed $3,000. Most of the time I can’t believe I passed $20. I am so humbled by everyone’s help.

I have an excel spreadsheet with a list of everyone who donated and the amount and I’m going to use it to create a Pay it Forward journal. Every act of giving and goodness that has been done for me I am going to pass along to someone else in need. That includes the care package and the box of clothing my kids loved. It will take a while, for sure, but I don’t mind and it will make me feel good to know that I’m less a beggar on the corner with a tin cup jingling change and more a conduit that receives and then turns around and is able to give as well.

We did get unemployment ($320) for the two weeks he was off work and this Wednesday he will get paid for the 29 hours he worked last week and I don’t know if it will come in check form or direct deposit because it’s his first paycheck with the company. (We have had first paychecks go straight to direct deposit or I wouldn’t even consider it an option.)

[Note: An earlier version of this post stated Mr. Brickie was going to get paid for 37 hours this week. Since he started on Tuesday and only worked 5 hours on Friday I think it's fairly obvious I can't do simple addition when I'm sick. The number has been changed to 29 to reflect the actual hours he will be paid for.]

The Work Situation

I am personally still kind of bummed out my honey didn’t get to work on the churches like we thought he would. At the union meeting there were more than a couple grumbles on his behalf because it’s super bad form to promise a job to an apprentice and then lead him on for two weeks with nothing. So he’s at the new company and it’s a big company doing a lot of work. The current job should go through January 15th and after that there may or may not be work until spring. We will have our tax return by then so that is how we plan on getting through to spring.

This spring he will have even more companies to call for work, but I know his preference is the company he is with now. They have really up to date equipment and an eye for detail. That would serve him really well as he rises through the apprentice ranks, because he has to take timed skills tests to get his 80% apprentice promotion as well as his final promotion to Journeyman. At that time he will look into doing something more specialized like restoration work (church company) or refractory work (friend of a friend referral) but if he’s not working and either one of those opportunities come up you can bet the plan will change! He goes where the work is and for that I respect him deeply.

Beef Stew Recipe

I decided to make stew last night because I’m sick and wanted soup but I’m also weak and wanted protein. So I made this super easy soup and realized I’m so broken when it comes to nutrition I don’t even know if it’s healthy or not. Please, feel free to not tell me. I honestly don’t care. Oh, and I skipped the allspice because I find cloves offensive.

You can find the full (easy) recipe for easy old fashioned stew here on the food network blog. Basically you brown some stew meat in oil and then add stuff and water and simmer for an hour-sh then add veg and simmer longer. It’s really a great one-pot stew that you can even make when you’re sick and in pain!

I just want to let you know, I’m so happy it’s back to being just us again and not us and a fundraiser. I can just write again without being worried it’s going to be seen as a hook or something. Seriously, a load is off my shoulders not just because I have moving money now but because that whole thing is over. Thank you all for putting up with it and I won’t forget your kindnesses.

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The Great Decki Fundraiser of 2014

This is the page where I’m keeping all the updates I did for the fundraiser I ran for my family in October of 2014. All information on this post was accurate when written to the best of my knowledge and it has not been updated for accuracy. I want to save this all before I go delete everything off the fundraiser website. fundrazr header image

Original Messaging

EDITED 10/13/2014: We are moving in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The worst case scenario has happened. Please help & share.

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My family needs your help. We are going through foreclosure and need help with moving funds. How we got to this place is a long story, much of it mine, so Jen hasn’t shared it on her blog. My name is Randy. It is time for me to share.

I suffer from depression.

Our first two years of marriage, Jen worked and supported me while I finished my degree. I thought that would be my ticket to a good job that would allow me to provide for my family. It was not. I moved from licensed financial advisor, to coffee barista, to painter, to online marketing, to pay per click advertising in a marketing agency.

My depression ate away at me.

Jen noticed how happy I was when I worked around the house. She compiled a list of local unions and asked me to go talk to some people. The bricklayer apprentice program sounded perfect for me, but it was an unpaid 10-week course that led to a tiered apprenticeship program. It will be about two years before I make the prevailing living wage for our area as set by the Department of Labor. Our lifestyle is so frugal, I only need to make 70% of that living wage to easily support my family of five. The choice to become a Union Bricklayer was – and continues to be – the best job decision of my life.

Great decisions don’t fix things immediately.

We have made good decisions. We are frugal. We don’t go on vacations and we haven’t had cable television in years. Give us a hand up so we can finally stop drowning in poverty and gain the traction we are so desperate for.

Our immediate need is money to move.

1. Actual Moving Expenses

2. First/Last/Security at new place

3. New Drivers Licenses, plates, registration in Indiana

4. School Registration Fees

5. Other moving expenses I haven’t thought of yet, I’m sure.

October 5th

Thank you all so much for your first day contributions. I consider you all early adopters to my success and will never forget your kindnesses. I know it sounds over the top, but you know me, I give big hugs and have big feelings. 

If you have any suggestions where I could share this I would be really appreciative. My brain still isn’t firing on all cylinders and I’m taking the girls to the park today to get out some of their kid energy as well as some of my nervous energy.

A couple people had donation issues. If you have the second security layer on your PayPal account (where it texts you a verification code to log in) you’ll be stopped from donating. You can either donate as a guest with a different email address than the ones hooked up to your PayPal account or you can turn off the second layer of security temporarily. 

If you are uncomfortable donating online, email or PM me and I’ll send over the address where you can mail something. Considering the address is our home address, this option is limited to friends and friends of friends that don’t mind me checking with our mutual friend to make sure you won’t come kill my family. 

October 6th

My oldest (in green in the picture above) started talking funny last night. A scratchy-warbly voice change. I asked her all the questions (does it hurt? are you hydrated?) and she was acting listless. 

This morning she sounds like a frog (or something from a halloween fright house) with a slight fever and a sore throat, so I have two out of three home with me today. 

There are several emails I need to respond to today with the girls sizes and our address and I promise I will get to those. I just wanted to do a quick update while the chicken noodle soup was heating on the stove. 

Yes, she requested chicken noodle soup for breakfast. They all do. Heck, I even do when I’m sick. It’s one of those little family quirks. I hope they remember it when they get a bad cold in their 40s and smile thinking about their mama making them chicken soup when they were young. 

Thank you SO much to everyone who has shared so far. If you have any other ideas of where I could share it or people you know that are feeling in a giving spirit, please….let me know. Do you have a pastor you could forward it to? If you would rather I email your pastor, that would work too, let me know the email address. Is there a FB timeline you’re surprised you haven’t seen it on that you think it would be a good fit for? Let me know and I will send them a message. 

Let me know what you think my next steps should be to make sure the momentum doesn’t die off after such a strong start. 

Thank you!!

(If I don’t respond to emails right away it’s because I’m snuggling. I love when one of them has a cold because they don’t squirm everywhere and try to get away and just lean into the love.)

October 7th

Good Morning!

My sad, sick child’s fever peaked yesterday at 102.6, but after some Ibuprofen and a good night’s rest she was at 98.8 this morning! She is still listless and barely has any voice but her eyes have a little sparkle back in them. A great start to the day! 

Today’s (Hopefully Helpful) Tip!

If you want to make a 100% anonymous donation, sign into PayPal as a guest and use an email address you made up special for the occasion. Or use an email address you only use for junk mail. Whatever works, as long as it’s not attached to your current PayPal account. 

There’s nothing wrong with the person running the fundraiser knowing who you are. I love sending the thank you emails (some of you received emails from the Mister because he wanted to say thank you as well) because it’s a way I can put in a little effort for every person who is putting in effort to help me. 

I wish I could give everyone a hug.

October 10th

We got some great news today. A company that has the contract for the Archdiocese of Chicago has hired the Mister on! The company is known for employee loyalty and steady work every year. I could not be more excited for him. He still has to go to unpaid training next week but he starts on Friday and is very excited for the opportunity.

So am I! Thank you so much for your donations so far, I am amazed we are a third of the way there and it truly gives me hope we’ll get to the finish line on this fundraiser. 

We celebrated the third-there mark by cuddling sick on the couch because my Big Sister is feeling better but still resting with a low-grade fever, Little Sister is coming down with it, and I’m either coming down with it or experiencing horrible eye strain and fatigue from trying to post this all over the Internet AND not spamming anyone…at the same time. 

Middle Sister and the Mister both seem to be doing great still. I hope they both stay well. Thank you for your continued support and sharing, it means so very much to me and to my family!

October 13

Our House Was Auctioned Today

The best case scenario for us would have been the house being bought back by the mortgage company but that is NOT what happened. A third party investor bought the house. This means our worst case scenario timeline is now the most reliable timeline.

I am so thankful I started this fundraiser because without it we would be homeless in a couple months. Holy crap. 

So, now that the house has been purchased by a third party, we will get a notice to appear in court for the approval of sale in about 30 days. At that time we will find out what our moving timeline is and from what I’ve read so far it looks like a month from that date will be generous. 

Please keep sharing this fundraiser. Thank you for sharing where you have already because this is going down much faster than we hoped for but about the exact amount of time we feared and prepared for. 

I’m going to spend the next couple days nursing my other two sick kids (that was inevitable, it’s the round robin of family sickness) and reminding myself of all the non-material things in my life I am thankful for to try and stave off the panic I feel weaving inside my chest. Ice cold threads making me feel like I’m sinking. 

I’ll stay positive if it kills me. 

Prayers are always appreciated, too. Thanks!

One Week Ago

I was trying to wait to update when I had awesome news. Randy was supposed to start work again today but again there were issues with the equipment not being delivered when it was supposed to be. 

Even though I know it is a legit concern and Randy can see with his eyes the equipment isn’t on the job site (he showed up there this morning when he didn’t hear back from the foreman because he would rather show up and not be able to work than ever not show up when there was a chance to work). I still have these awful worries that pop into my mind like, “What if they’re stringing him along? What if it’s not real?” 

I’m sure those fears are because I am not the one that sees the job site with my own eyes. 

On the bright side, he has been working 12 hour days Sunday, yesterday, and today. He is working a side job that isn’t bricklaying and doesn’t give him a paystub so we still don’t have any proof of income that a landlord wants to see. 

It’s really difficult to be scared all the time. It wears you down, you know? 

But the equipment will come because there’s a contract and this church has to be parishioner ready by Christmas. I do find it really kind of sweet that his job is going to be with churches. I love churches. They’re so peaceful and strong and they last a really long time. They’re a great symbol of faith and renewal.

We really need some faith and renewal right about now. 

Thank you so much for listening!

October 22nd

paypal-balance-fundraiser-10-22

I’m going from no updates to daily, but Leslie gave me a great idea yesterday. I worry that when people give a small donation they feel like they aren’t doing enough. If I were spending the money we are collecting that might be the case, but it’s all just sitting there, accumulating, waiting for when we move. We are not using these donations for living expenses or bills (except one direct donation that did not go through the fundraiser and we were asked to use part of it to go on a date night). Randy finished the painting job he was working on and that is going to take care of our car payment for the month and might be enough for November’s utility bills. The “barely scraping by but getting it done” part is something we are used to and familiar with. This fundraiser is just for the move.

I thought it might be helpful to show you my PayPal account so you can see that I am being honest. I have not had anyone accuse me of NOT being honest but I feel like if you are going to trust me enough to donate to my move, I want to be open and honest and show you that is what your money is going toward. (Or will be going toward when the time comes.)


Thank you for your support and please keep sharing. I appreciate it with all my heart. Two things. When the fundraiser started I had five bucks and change already in the account and one autopay for web hosting came out. Other than that, all transactions are from Fundrazr. Second, I did not use the default PayPal screen because I wanted to show the date along with the PayPal balance as well as show the fees that come out of every donation. If I just showed the main screen you might find yourself wondering why there is a two hundred dollar difference between what Fundrazr shows I’ve raised and the amount that ends up with our family. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m trying to basically be transparent like saran wrap because I am so grateful for all your help so far and hope you continue to support the cause until it’s over! Thank you!!

October 23rd

Today a car slowed down in front of the house to take pictures. They never stopped. It made me wonder if they started out buying foreclosures and getting out of the car to take pictures until some angry former owner in a lot of pain and probably holding on to a lot of shame came out and did goodness knows what that these people don’t even stop to take their pictures now. 

While I would not invite anyone inside, I have no problem with someone who just got such a great deal finding out what, exactly, they purchased. 

Today Randy got a call from the apprentice coordinator. The coordinator was on a job site and telling Randy it was where he was going to start working in the morning. Randy drove an hour North to give the company all his cards and certifications and watch an hour long safety video. 

The people at the office were beyond impressed. It seems that Randy is the first person in almost ever to bring everything necessary to fill out the job paperwork on the first visit. I made the choice not to judge how others have done things but to focus on the flip side and be happy for my husband and his way of choosing to do things. 

It created a great first impression.

He starts at 7am tomorrow. The job is downtown and even after we move it will be a relatively convenient commute. Long and a bit expensive (the Indiana Skyway is $6 a day) but it’s almost a straight shot from the town we will be living in. 

The paychecks will allow us to finally fill out and submit applications for rental homes. I keep hoping the 4 bedroom he looked at two weeks ago is still available. It’s 1200sqft and $850/mo. It would be great. I have hope, however, that if that house is not available we will at least be able to find something else at a decent price.

Conclusion (Not from Fundraiser)

It was really helpful. Well, I’m sure it will be helpful when we move in a couple weeks.

I was overwhelmed and amazed by all the help we received. I cried about a hundred times. Thank you for being the family I came to with my emergency.
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Cautiously Hopeful (peeking out from under my bed)

The fear is constant.

It’s not a big feeling. Not like hearing your doorknob rattle in the middle of the night no matter how old you are and no matter how many times it happens and no matter how much your brain really knows it’s one of the kids trying to get in because they had a nightmare. My lizard brain always knows for sure that whatever is on the other side of the door is going to kill me. Which makes getting out of bed to help the poor half-asleep child open the door and carry them to the bed one hell of a moment of cognitive dissidence.

It’s a little feeling. Little like the feeling of someone breathing on your arm. Which, if you have someone who manages to breathe on your arm – making your little arm hairs sway just a little every time – starts to drive you insane after a while. I will occasionally find myself covering my arm protectively and snapping, “Stop. Breathing. On. My. Arm. You are driving me insane!”

Of course he responds in the only way I would expect. He looks at me like I’m insane. Who yells about breathing and arm hairs? That’s right. Me.

He’s so lucky.

Job Update Finally My Goodness That Took Forever

Mr. Brickie is at the job today.

Let’s all take a deep breath and have a moment.

MR. BRICKIE IS ON A JOB SITE WORKING RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

*rapture collapse*

I told you about needing paystubs right? How we have to be able to prove income with paystubs in order to move? If things got really sketchy we could also do a letter from a friend or other professional person saaaaaying how much we had made working for them during the course of the year but the woman we really want to be our landlady? Yeah, Mr. Brickie talked to her when he thought he’d be back working in a minute. When our timeline was longer and the house we bought for a steal at $125,000 wasn’t sold for $35,000 last week.

Isn’t it amazing and wonderful and horrifying how fast things can change?

So we can’t go back to this landlady with a different story without looking shady as hell and no one rents to people who seem shady as hell. I haven’t looked on Craigslist to see if the four bedroom is still available. If it was it would still be two weeks until I could apply to rent the property so it wouldn’t make me feel better. I’m going to wait and when he has a second paystub we are going to call the nice lady and tell her we have paystubs and an application and we would love to move thank you so very much.

He will get his second paycheck on November 12th. I’m not sure if we’re still aiming for a December 1st move date.

Court Update

The same paperwork that let us know how much the house sold for at auction (and convinced us this is the only way to buy a house ever from now on) let us know our next court date is 12/30/14. It’s the date where the court finalizes the sale of the house to the investor. The one that starts our last 30-day “time to move now right now” alarm clock ticking. It’s possible if Mr. Brickie goes into the court he can get that date extended a month to 2/28/14 but here’s the catch….

Paystubs for renting a house must be the last two most recent.

So we could decide we weren’t moving until the last possible minute but if weather stopped cooperating and Mr. Brickie was out of work for two weeks due to a blizzard we wouldn’t be able to move.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? No way, not going to happen. This paystub thing is going to be a problem ONCE. That’s it.

Our proposed moving date is still December 1st, but it might be earlier. It depends on the deal and the potential landlord/lady, and everything else. Each deal is unique and even though I will sigh wistfully over four bedrooms I’m not married to a house I’ve never stepped in.

I just wish I could give my daughters each a bedroom. It seems it would be an amazing way to take the sting out of having to leave everything familiar. Having one’s own room would be such an upgrade, wouldn’t it?

But even if we have to move somewhere cramped and small for a year, that’s okay.

Changing Web Hosting When I Figure Out How to Not Be Stupid

I’m going to switch to A Simple Orange but I’m trying to figure out the actual switching. I keep reading about ftp and blah blah and I used to be able to work with files but I’m not in that place right now. The breathing on my skin that is the thoughts in my head won’t let me focus like that. I try, trust me, I try and fail many times a day. I get mad and tell myself I WILL get this or that done. I cajole, order, make promises…I’m more stubborn than even I thought.

What I really want to do is just start the new blog and rename this one temporarily so the other one can have the blog name and backdate old entries into the new blog with this name. It seems like it would create a very clean database with no extraneous media or other things and bits that it could live without forever.

A Different Kind of Job Update

A family friend talked to someone at her job who is a bricklayer. He’s a specific kind called a refractory worker. They travel a lot and work a lot.

Today’s downtown job started first so that’s what’s happening now, but Mr. Brickie is still giving the guy a call that the refractory friend of a friend told Mr. Brickie to call for a lead on a job. No one in this house would love it if Mr. Brickie traveled but we are all very good at sucking it up and moving forward. We will give him all the love and support and Skype calls he needs to feel we haven’t forgotten him and we miss him terribly.

That is in the future, however, no need to borrow trouble. A quick story about borrowing trouble would be good here. The way the information was conveyed to us this guy our family friend knows just came back from Williston, ND (the oil boom town) and he was talking about ten guys to a single-wide trailer and other horror stories of the need for workers and the lack of space.

First, HOW have I not heard about this place prior to this?? I read news sites in addition to blogs and games. Lots of them. More than anything else. News is my bread and butter. It is what gets me through the day. Boom town? Nowhere on my radar.

So this whole refractory thing? It’s more of a long term goal after his apprenticeship is over. He is going to ask them if he can work weekends for them in the meantime. It probably won’t happen but they’ll be amazed he asked and that will help them remember him. To get your 80% raise and your 100% raise you have to pass a bricklaying test. If he just went and did refractory work he wouldn’t be learning the skills he needs to pass those tests and become a journeyman.

But we aren’t saying, “No.” for sure and forever to anything. One of the most important things about this part of the journey is being flexible.

Like olympic gymnast flexible.

I am – mostly sometimes every-third-wednesday – up for the challenge!

Is This What Pear Shaped Looks Like?

I hear people say, “Things are going pear shaped” and I know that means something bad but how bad, exactly, does something have to be in order for the term pear-shaped to actually be used?

For example: Mr. B had an interview for this new gig, it’s going to be great, so much work. A third-party scaffolding company doesn’t come when they’re supposed to and my Mister’s start date is now Monday if we are lucky.

A secondary gig had Mr. B painting a house this weekend for a lot of cash (more than $400 less than $1000 I don’t post cash money in hand until it exists because I’m a bit superstitious) and something happened to the floor of the house and so he can’t work on that project until tomorrow. If it goes past Sunday they will work on it in the weekday evenings, but that means he won’t get paid on Sunday night when the job is done like they originally planned.

I’m doing my best to be an optimist but it’s getting difficult.

The fundraiser money is still tucked away in PayPal for the move, but we can’t even apply for places until we have a pay stub so Mr. B needs to start working because a cash painting project (if nothing else goes wrong, of course) doesn’t count. So getting a rental just became a bit more difficult than we thought it would be. Which stinks because we found a great place at a great price right where we want to be in the town we are moving to. Again, I’m not sharing yet because I’m feeling superstitious. I will say it’s a nudge over a thousand square feet, four bedrooms, and eight fifty a month. Can you imagine decent rent and my kids each having their own room? That would take the sting out of moving.

I have had multiple conversations with the kids about leaving their friends and having to make new friends. There have been tears and hugs and fear. I have done my best to make it better but how do you cushion a blow like this? How do you explain to the kids that this move might not matter at all in twenty years or it might be the moment they remember forever as the best/worst moment that ever happened and caused everything that came after?

One of the surprising things for me through this process is watching as we move the hands of fate. What happens after this is a direct result of this choice. It’s a lot of pressure because you can’t identify if it’s a good idea or a bad idea but it’s this thing that is happening and in retrospect it will be the best/worst decision for all of us and Mr. B and I will have to shoulder that burden if it culminates in something horrible years from now.

The newest job update is that Mr. B should be working on Monday. Trust me, you’ll know as soon as he is on the job because I’ll be hollering it from the rooftops.

He showed up to the job site every morning this week so even though he didn’t work he did get to bond with the foreman on the job and the guy knows Mr. B really wants to work and is ready to hustle. When there is work it will be his to do. The third party company just needs to get the stuff where it needs to be so he can climb on up and get that steeple fixed!

Here at home, I fluctuate from feeling detached and distant from everything to being way too close and feeling too much all at once. The balance in between is difficult to find. I really believe in my deep-down heart that everything is going to work out but the voices in my head tell me that I’m an idiot that needs to get a grip and deal with reality. Then the other voices in my head argue with those voices about benefits and how this is the life we signed up for and once he’s a journeyman it will all be okay. The voices argue with each other a lot.

Every day I mentally pat myself on the back for not taking my stress out on the kids. Mr. B isn’t always so lucky but even then I’m not being loud or rageful, just snappy now and then. I’m doing my best to keep myself in check because I know we are all hurting and scared right now. Even those of us *cough cough Mr. B cough cough* who don’t show it.

My only refuge is sleep. I am so lucky my sleep is not affected too often by all the noise in my head. I’ve even tried meditating but getting my mind completely empty right now is a losing battle that takes more energy than I have to give.

Tomorrow morning I’m having a guest over! A friend I have not seen in person since 2005. So long ago! I’m a person old enough to not see someone in almost ten years and we met when we were adults. It makes me feel very grown up. I’m sure at my age a lot more things should make me feel grown up but they really don’t. The fear and the uncertainty make me feel very young because adults have all this financial stuff sorted out, right? I know that’s not really true but I always believed it was when I was young so I can’t quite shake the feeling that I am not really grown until I have my finances sorted.

For now we are broke and in limbo. I hope to have a better, more positive update soon. Like I said, this is the part the blog was created for. The dark part. So even though I don’t have a lot of stuff to report and what I have isn’t great, I still need to share it so I can look back once I’ve forgotten how painful this is and remember. I want to show my kids what was going on when they were young. I want an accurate before picture for the beautiful after that I know is coming someday.

Deciding to change our lives from the ground up was a dangerous, scary decision but we did it the best way we knew how and it’s odd to be blogging during the part that I’m praying is really the darkest before the dawn.

All storms pass.

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The Pendulum Swings Both Ways

a thousand kisses deep

Mr. B starts work again on Monday. [updated 11/14 to add: he did not start this monday nor the next monday it was the tuseday after he started working it was a mess.]

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 ran in Oct 2014 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 existed 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

Thank goodness.

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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.

(Link to fundraiser from October 2014 removed)

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.

bottom-flowers

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.

[Edited to add: Tears of joy happened multiple times during the course of the fundraiser and it was absolutely a success.]