Category: Hodgepodge

Bad Decisions I Have Made


Yesterday, a reader (Hi Kay! I appreciate you!) asked me if I was overpaying my car payment because it seemed high.

It got me thinkng … I started blogging about finances after I made a pact with myself to stop doing things that were horrible, bad decisions. I’ve still made bad decisions since I’ve been blogging. The big ones were last Christmas when I got more credit cards to use for one holiday and looking for that post made me realize I glazed over the truth. I see myself saying I got an Amazon store card, but I ALSO got a Walmart credit card at the same time. I paid them back off after Christmas last year with the tax return.

This year I got all three kids a group gift for Christmas and then gave them stockings that were donated by a friend of mine. The group gift took one of my credit cards from 0 to max balance! Luckily, it was the card with the $300 balance. I got them the Skylanders game and we wrapped all the little people individually so they all had stuff to open. While $300 probably seems like a lot it is also the least I’ve ever spent on Christmas for three kids. So it’s an improvement for me.

That leads me to telling you about the most recent very bad financial decision I have made. I got the two older girls Kindle Fire tablets for their birthdays in January. I realized it was never on my radar to blog about and then I thought about it a few days ago and told myself no one would be interested. This morning I realized it would be stupid not to tell you I bought my kids VERY EXPENSIVE gifts for their birthday.

Maybe it was becuase I wanted to wait and make sure they were “worth it” before telling you about them.  Maybe telling you about the reading and spelling scores going from Fs to Cs and Bs thanks to educational apps will make it sounds like a less-awful decision. I don’t know. Every time I look at them I feel a little sick but I know that my girls have benefitted from them immeasurably and then I try to tell myself, “Hey, it wasn’t laptops, right?” So then I’m rationalizing my decision. I don’t know if the Kindles were a bad decision or not. I do know I saved $70 on them because I was like, “Sure I’ll apply for the card I won’t get since I just foreclosed on my house.”

Then I was approved. It’s a fee-free card with 3% back in Amazon credit so if I do keep a credit card this will be the one. I set up all my bills that could be put on the card onto the card (Internet, auto insurance, cell phones, renter’s insurance) and have a line item for that amount on my budget that’s {$240 – Credit Card Bills} and it’s actually scheduled for next week’s unemployment payment.

The month we didn’t have food stamps (EBT, SNAP, whatever) was a hard one. We found the local food pantry so several meals were covered that way. We had rice and pasta and ate everything in the house until all that was left was a loaf of funny wheat bread (I just had a slice for breakfast) and ramen noodles (which we will have for lunch) and then tonight I am so lucky we got the food stamp card so Mr. Brickie can go out in this weather (ugh this weather) and stock us back up on our staples. I will be so relieved when I can get back to making real food from scratch but until then we eat what we have and we are grateful for it.

All this to show you what might be my worst financial decision ever. The thing is, when I look at my credit card statements there are very few things that I don’t remember buying and usually when I don’t recognize one it’s Mr. Brickie getting gas. When I splurge I get a $19.99 Whirley Pop to make popcorn because I don’t have a microwave and pop popcorn about four times a week for the kids to take for snacks or to have when they want a snack. Or I get a $10 8″ frying pan because that way we can make five grilled cheese sandwiches at once and eat as a family. I know, it could sound like I’m explaining but it could also sound like I’m just rationalizing.

It’s a fine line I guess.

Life Expenses In No Particular Order
Payment Total Owed Estimated Payoff
Car $495.12 $6,839.49 April 2016
Utilities $195.00 n/a n/a
Rent (Savings) $260.00 $2,340.00 by November 15th
Auto Insurance $88.38 $444.74 renews May 2015
Cell Phones $88.96 n/a
Internet $37.99
Credit Cards Listed In Order of Payoff
Payment Total Owed
Macy’s CC $25.00 $86.12
Target CC $25.00 $217.68
Amazon Store CC $35.00 $537.72
Walmart CC $25.00 $755.23
Capital One CC $35.00 $1,180.07
Amazon Visa CC $25.00 $2,328.11
$170.00 $5,104.93 <– embarrassingly large number
Cash $81.00
Checking $262.03
Rent Savings $260.10
Emergency Fund $214.88

So my emergency fund is looking a bit wrecked because of car problems, but also that direct sales thing where everyone gave me cash, I had to pay with a card, and that’s where the $81 in cash is coming from that’s on my desk.

The IL Tax Refund is going to pay off the lowest two credit cards and the rest will go back into the emergency fund. Then, when I get paid on the 9th from Scentsy that will also go back into the emergency fund and that will bring it back up to about$ 875.

I took my eye off the ball.

The joy of being you (the reader) instead of me (the writer) is you get to armchair quarterback what I’ve done and what I should do going forward. I wish I could go back and unpay those bills from Illinois and just let the gas and electric companies chase me and call me and have that $800 go toward the credit cards. I think, though, if I had I would wish I had done things the way I already did.

Sometimes choosing a path doesn’t mean choosing the better path it just means moving forward.

I am going to get through this. The kids are already signed up for an activity this summer and that’s paid for thanks to their amazing sponsor who I am a huge fan of. I will spend my time and energy on that with the three girls and every overtime check Mr. Brickie gets this summer is going to pound out those debts because we are THIS CLOSE to being out of debt. Overtime checks at his new 60% apprentice level will be big and I LOVE paying bills.

So stick with me through this mucky, dark, gross winter of discontent and poor decisions and you will be able to watch me make good decisions as soon as I can actually afford to.

Also, Miss Kay reminded me of something I want all of you to know….I welcome questions and don’t mind answering them. If you’d rather keep it private than put it on blast in the comments just shoot me an email at jennydecki at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it in a post.

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Patience | I Am A Strongman

Patience is a muscle.

We are born with no patience and squall the moment we have a need. Lucky for most of us there was someone there to provide for those simple needs. Food, clean diaper, close contact, sleep. We cried for these things and they were magically delivered.

As we grew we learned patience. It was a hard lesson to learn because young children want everything right now but eventually begin to understand caregivers have needs, too. The muscle begins to get toned and defined and we are able to wait in line for lunch without running madly to the lunchlady and insisting on being served first. We wait our turn.

I think the most difficult part is when we realize patience is a choice. We can get a credit card and buy something we want right now, or we can save up the cash and buy it in a few days/weeks/months. We can date someone for years or we can get elope in Vegas. Almost every decision we make has an opposite choice that can be made and in many cases one of those choices requires patience.

When Mr. Brickie and I realized we hated marketing and couldn’t participate in an industry we disliked so deeply, we realized it was going to causea huge problem financially. In order to come out the other side unscathed, we needed a plan that involved years of patience. I don’t think either one of us had ever done anything before that required YEARS of patience. It takes years to go from a 40% bricklayer apprentice at about $17/hr. to a Journeyman at over $40/hr.

Years that would see us lose our house and move to a new state. Patience, we learned, does not mean sitting silently in wait like a crouched tiger ready to strike. It can also look like chaos and failure and fear. Patience can involve transition after transition and you weather them all, knowing the goal is still farther down the path and requires still more waiting and breath-holding and furious scribbled charts and lists of incoming and outgoing cash.

In the middle there are other decisions that require patience as a choice. I have not always been successful in flexing my patience muscle. I still have $200 in the savings account from the fundraiser but I signed up for a credit card because after a cash-based low-cost Christmas I had no spendable cash and couldn’t look my kids in the eye and say, “No birthday gifts for you guys, sorry, maybe next year.”

Should I have been patient and made my children understand low budget Christmas AND low budget birthdays? Yes. Very much so. Am I happy I got $70 off my Amazon purchase and now have a credit card that gives me 3% cash back on Amazon purchases with no annual fee? Yes. Very much so. It means the other credit card will get paid off and put in a drawer somewhere because it only has 2% cash back. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m rationalizing my decisions so I can sleep at night or if I actually make good choices. Patience can sometimes leave you feeling like you’re sitting alone in the middle of nowhere and the only voice you hear is your own echoed back to you in distorted, low tones on the wind.

Patience is lonely, sometimes. I can’t go to fun events because my money has to stay in my bank account for rent or a car payment or gas and electric. Now that we are in between states and cancelled our food stamps (SNAP) in Illinois we don’t have an appointment until February 9th with Indiana and we might not even qualify because I’m just not as well versed with the public aid system here in a state I didn’t grow up in or become poor in or live poor in. In the meantime there is the food pantry we can go to bi-weekly and we are grateful, but nervous.

Patience is anxious when you start to make six quarts of tomato sauce with a pound of ground beef so the flavor is there without the expense. It is anxious when you want to sign up for the low-income YMCA membership but have to be patient because you won’t be able to afford even the drastically reduced rate until after the tax refund comes.

It might sound like I hate being patient, but I don’t. It is an active form of meditation. It is a chant in the back of my mind, “Good choices now will give my children a better life later.” If children learn what they live, mine will learn that losing everything does not destroy you. Starting over is not a curse. A budget is like a bonsai tree – shape it and gently guide it but do not be hasty or make large changes suddenly. I keep my budget taped to the wall next to my computer.

Patience is an antidote to financial shame. Spending money I don’t have to go out with friends and family might feel good in the moment but will create shame later because something else will have to be ignored or skipped because I made an impulsive decision. If I keep everything open with my family and even with you, my dear financial friends, then there is no shame because you can only shame me for my secrets. You could judge me if you wanted to, that’s okay. You can even take a moment to exploit my situation to make you feel better about your own. (You know, that whole I appreciate my legs because some people don’t have any. As if a person can’t appreciate legs without someone legless having to help a girl out.)

I’m fine if my situation makes someone else feel better. I’m thrilled if my stories help another person to make a budget for the first – or fiftieth – time. I have to tell you, though, patience can make time just hang and then suddenly you don’t remember any of the waiting and all the little memories are gone, too, lost in the memory of the waiting feeling.

I’ll be damned if I ever let myself forget how low the lows felt and how high the highs felt.

Even if I have to go back and read it to remember.

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Today We Are No Longer Homeowners!

I know you’re probably cringing for me because it’s such an awful thing this whole foreclosure business but really we’re past that and on to the celebration of starting the new chapter in our lives.

A chapter where people are kind.
A chapter where we aren’t crazy dirt poor.
A chapter where my daughters are blooming from being planted in fertile educational soil.
A chapter where things only get better. (I mean on the whole, I’m sure emergencies will still occur.)
A chapter with hope as the underlying message.

With the weather being so awful-cold he hasn’t worked yet this week so rent is going to be a struggle this month but he’s going to try and figure something out (as am I).

It’s okay. We’ll get there.

In the meantime? No albatross around our necks and $120,000 less debt. Our Net Worth has improved drastically overnight.

Have a great day.

(Technically the court date was Tuesday, Jan. 6th but today is our first full day of being not-homeowners!)

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Learning to Let Go…

I am not an enlightened person.

I’m in the forgive but don’t forget camp. I hold no ill will to anyone for anything that’s happened to me pretty much ever because holding anger only hurts my heart and does not move me closer to solutions.

You know me, I’m all about the solution to the problem.

Really, when it comes to letting go I’m a champ, except when I’m not. You see, I have kind of an awesome memory. It’s not photographic (probably not even photogenic!) but it works by association and looks an awful lot like file cabinets. If someone asks for something or needs something I check the file cabinet before saying, “Yes!”

I’m not sure if that is “Setting Appropriate Boundaris” or “Holding on to Past Grudges” and I have this sinking feeling that it’s a matter of perspective.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but what are remembering past grudges and using them to form “Healthy Boundaries” but holding on to the past with good intentions?

Is it obvious I find it confusing?

What matters more: The action, or the intent?

I let go of a lot in 2014. A house, a town, SO MUCH ANXIETY! I don’t plan on flipping the script and becoming a hoarder, but I’m certainly not actively looking to let go of anything else at this time.

Maybe sometimes the best thing to do is relax and not let go.
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It’s Like I Ran Away to Join the Circus

I’m afraid to look and see how long it’s been since I’ve written.

Immunizations, the wrong math books, applying for a preschool lottery, and a scentsy party have all happened.

Later this week I’m going to a yoga(!) class and to coffee with a dear Illinois friend who is bringing her child over the border for a birthday party.

The long and short story of the immunizations is advice. If you can, have your medical records faxed to you instead of to a new doctor. It’s better to have your own copy than rely on two sets of people you don’t know to get something done that seems impossible every time I’ve personally tried to do it. Now I have a faxed copy of the girls records saved in the cloud forever. Or until the cloud implodes. Whichever. I also have a backup copy on my hard drive but come on, everyone knows hard drives are so 2000-and-late. Pfft.

The Math Textbook Story

The math textbook story is super simple but when I try to tell the story it turns into something that sounds more like a tall tale told drunk.

The old school had five tracks. Two levels of intervention the regular middle-of-the-road level and then two levels of enrichment learning. It seems genius. Five slots means everyone has a better chance of getting their personal, specific learning needs met. Big Sister was in accelerated math (same year, just faster, so a slightly advanced class they told me) and Middle Sister was in a very advanced class (she was working a grade higher than her own, they told me) and it seemed to work out because they both had “The Zebra Book” so the 4th grader working fast in her grade and the 3rd grader working a year ahead SHOULD have the same book. It made sense.

One of the first things the girls told me after they moved was about the new books they received. They were super excited at their beautiful science and social studies books and they oohed and aahed over their reading and writing workbooks. Then Middle Sister said she had the same math book as she did in the old school and again, that made sense to me, it even made sense when Big Sister said she got a different book because the new schools aren’t tracked and there is only one “High Ability” class per year in the new school. She’s working a year ahead too, I thought, I should get on some resources so she doesn’t fall behind if she’s going to get a slingshot to new math concepts.

I asked Big Sister what her new math book looked like. She said it had a peacock. I couldn’t find one with a peacock and asked her, “Does it have the poof on its butt or its head?” She replied, “It’s head.” I said, “Oh, that’s this book.”


The first thing I noticed was this book has a giant four on the cover.

For 4th grade.

The grade Big Sister is in.

Which then led me to try and figure out what grade the zebra textbook was. The book both my kids have been using from September to this point where nothing makes sense and Common Core is supposed to make this absolutely not happen when you move to a new state.

everyday-math-3You see that giant 3 there, right?

Yeah, this is when I looked around and realized I don’t have any wine in the new house and I was going to have to get through this without help. I looked and looked to see if there were different versions. I found the California version but then checked the girls’ workbooks they brought home and they don’t say Illinois version on them so that couldn’t be it.

But…but…how did my 4th grade daughter get a new 4th grade textbook that’s different from her old common core 4th grade textbook? Super simple. Both my kids had 3rd grade books last  year. I know because I went through the stuff the brought home from the old school and found their journals and opened them up to see a big ol’ THREE staring me in the face. Now, you might be thinking (I know I am) HOW did I miss that for half a year? HOW?

1.) When they said my child was in accellerated math they really meant she needed help and she was in a year behind text. I was blinded by my own mother’s heart.

2.) They brought home photocopies of pages in the workbooks almost exclusively. Rarely did I see a workbook in the house.

3.) I never thought to double check to make sure my 4th grader wasn’t using a 3rd grade textbook. I assumed my 4th grader was doing 4th grade math.

I still think I must have something mixed up. I’ve googled questions to get help with answers, I’ve done numerous searches to find answer keys for something I didn’t understand (I said I liked Common Core, I never said it was easy for me, lol) and never, ever, ever did it come to my attention my children were working out of 3rd grade textbooks.

Seriously. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. When my memory is gone and I’m sitting in a chair staring out the window more gone than present I will still mutter about those damn Zebra books.

I wonder if this is happening anywhere else? I don’t see anything on Google for people’s children using the wrong grade of books and basically keeping it from all the parents on a mass scale. I’m not going to ask because I’m done with being the difficult parent. I’m certainly not going to become the difficult parent that isn’t even part of the school system anymore.

Maybe people are too busy fighting about common core to notice if their kids are using the right books for their grade. Common core is supposed to mean 4th graders across the country are all learning the same thing the same year. So even though my kids were using Common Core textbooks they might or might not have been learning what other students of the same grade are. On the bright side, at least they’re bringing home different homework sheets now. It was getting straight up boring last year when Middle Sister would bring home a worksheet and then Big Sister would bring home the same worksheet the next day.

I like a little variety in my homework helper duties.

Work Update

This week has been a training week for Mr. Brickie. Great because these classes are required to get his promotions, but bummer because instead of four days of work at over a hundred take home dollars a day he gets a stipend check for $250 at the end of the week. It’s a sacrifice but one we’re (mostly/somewhat/reluctantly) happy to make because it’s part of the overall plan.

The days before the move where we were sick and throwing up like crazy and barely able to walk? Those were the dark days. The very darkest. Since we first realized we were going to get foreclosed on and prayed the timing would work out that he was making enough to live on by the time we needed to leave the house. Originally we thought we would be in the house until April, 2015 until an investor bought it instead of the house going back to the bank. So that’s where that fundraiser came in.

There is still almost $500 left from that fundraiser. It was spent on first month’s rent and security deposit here at the new place, the movers, renters insurance, gas for moving that was not the movers, and that’s about it. My goal is to keep the $498.97 as the beginning of an emergency fund.

At the last union meeting, Mr. Brickie cashed out his HRA health savings account so we received that $260 in the mail yesterday. I deposited that lickety split.

Today he received $379.14 for a partial work week last week (he was moved to a new job site with the same company)
There was already $111.77 in the checking account.
The HRA check for $260.14 will fully clear in the bank account tomorrow. ($200 cleared today. My bank is funny.)
Thursday he will receive his $250 training stipend. (I’m not sure when that will clear in the bank account once it’s deposited.)
That all adds up to $1001.05

It might be enough. It will be enough if he works all next week. He’ll get paid for that work on Christmas Eve (I love direct deposit. It doesn’t care about the day before holidays.)

Of course the sticking point is he will only work at his job on Friday of this week which means next Wednesday he will get a paycheck for one day. About a hundred dollars. So I have to save a hundred from this week’s bounty to cover living expenses (gas, tolls) for next week. Planning ahead is important when you have a job like Mr. Brickie’s.

The bills this month I really have to watch out for are the rent ($775 due 12/15) and the car insurance ($187.37 due 12/18 ) … we haven’t seen a gas/electric bill yet. That will come sometime this month and be due in January. There is an Internet bill (and boy howdy does Comcast stink. I can’t stream a video and go on facebook at the same time, what the hell is that about? Even writing in the WordPress backend is laggy and stuttery! I’m sad.) that’s also due on 12/18.

It’s going to be close but it really looks like it’s going to be close on the right side of being able to leave that savings alone.

Right now it’s a race to Taxmas. We have had some serious conversations and right now it’s looking like we might use a giant chunk of the tax return to pay off the remainder of the lease through next November 15th.  It seems like absolutely the safest (smartest?) choice. We will cross that bridge when we come to it because a vague plan is good but counting chickens before they are hatched is bad.

I’m trying to walk the tightrope.

Overall, he thinks this company is going to keep him around and working much more than previous years. It will make a huge difference in our bottom line if that’s the case. My fingers are crossed, for sure, and he already has a job to go back to after training on Friday. He’s already heard that this job should go through January and there’s an indoor component which means weather won’t be a factor! He has also heard whispers about another winter job on the horizon.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

The Kids (but really all about me)

They love the new school, they love the activities in town. I think the #1 thing that has made the kids’ transition successful is me. I’m not tooting my own horn, I swear, it was just not this easy to get along with other people where we used to live. Everyone here being friendly helps me – as Indiana Jen – get out and do more things. My anxiety was directly linked to how my interactions with others went when I left the house. I’ve been here since November 23rd (the first night I slept here for real!) and the girls’ first day of school was November 24th. We have only been here EIGHTEEN DAYS and I’m more comfortable making phone calls, have taken all the kids to the doctor, picked up the kids from school, and talked to one of my neighbors. We have been to a Christmas event at the local high school. I have talked to the superintendent of the school district. My daughter participated in Hour of Code and wants to join the coding club that is starting at the elementary school.

Seriously, you guys, I moved to a neighborhood that cares about its residents. I’m sure there are groups and cliques, but it’s not clique-ish. Sure I’ll never be someone who remembers where everyone hung out in this town when they were in high school, but I won’t be not invited because of it. Each new person I meet here is like a reminder I wasn’t the problem. I feel like a Mom Butterfly who didn’t realize she was anything more than a Mom Caterpiller. Sluggish and crawling and so low here on the ground watching other moms soar with their children.

I wondered how they did it. Not anymore. I just get shit done now. It’s okay, if I make a mistake someone will be kind and help me. It makes all the difference in the world.

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Second Application – Movin’ on Up

Yesterday Mr. Brickie went to see another apartment.

I knew when he called me he wanted this one.


So…while we were able to be (and continue to be – we haven’t been turned down yet) ambivalent yet accepting about the first apartment we saw, this one we both are kind of holding our breath over. He took videos and every one I saw I knew – just knew – where all our STUFF was going to go. We could do the same setup we have here with the living room as computer/dining room. It has a little room as you come in that would be a great room for the little benches we have and coat hooks and purse hooks and shoes and boots. It has a little basement all its own with hookups for a washer and a dryer and a countertop for laundry and shelves and drawers for laundry stuff. The kitchen is totally average in a good way with a little space under a window for a rolling island table thing.

I didn’t have to exert one ounce of mental effort, I just knew where stuff was going to go.

So, obviously, I’m completely losing my mind going between being sure we’re going to get it because I have a feeling (and when I want something I become super-psychic, of course) and being sure that my feeling is nothing but me riling myself up for disappointment.

I know these things happen how they happen and I even had a friend who prayed for me get a message that I really believe is true. I’ve had great advice to not get too attached which I also believe.

But the text from my husband telling me the guy seemed really happy we got back to him with the application tonight so fast just makes me feel so much hope and man, when you sit around just waiting to get kicked out of your house and trying to save your money and pay bills and constantly fall behind while the pressure gets greater and greater and the date you have to move gets closer and closer?

The worry that my husband went to the town with the application and then called the guy and the guy told him to meet him where he was at – shopping – because he didn’t give him any lead time. That scares the crap out of me because I don’t know if that makes us look responsible, quick, and eager or just weird like we have no social skills.

The voice that used to be there to give you hope tells you that you’re coming across all wrong. No one is going to like you. You are not an acceptable risk.

Hope gets lost in the shuffle and you become something that looks a lot like a hollow shell because the alternative is the voice that should be hopeful telling you how awful you are and detailing all your mistakes.

But you’re not even bothered by the mean voice right now because you’re nowhere.

We are in the middle ground. On the fence. That moment when the elevator you’re in reaches your floor and does that weird stop and for just a moment you feel weightless. No longer moving but not still. The in-between place where you haven’t succeeded or failed. Where anything is possible both good and bad.

I really hope we get this apartment.

I would love to start writing posts about moving and how we decide what to take and what to get rid of. You know, fun stuff moving toward something new.

An adventure.


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.



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.


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


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.



Happy September Paycheck Update


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

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

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

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

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

We all have our gifts and talents.

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

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

Finances This Week

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

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

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

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

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

Fear is a much more manageable emotion.

Mr. Brickie Promotion Tracker

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

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


How We Spent It


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…