Category: Family & Friends

From spouses to spit-up

Be Present….For What?

The only thing that keeps going through my mind is, “Be the present you wish to see in the world.” Because I destroy perfectly good quotes and make them into other things and that’s how I think.

I’m planning a birthday party today. I’m not sure how to be present for the possibility of 28 3rd grade children in my not-small but not-big house-apartment-space. I keep going back and forth between, “The kids will have fun. There will be cake. There will be toys. Kids are low pressure.” and, “They’re all going to laugh at me.” (Yes, the Carrie reference is totally intentional. Of course it is!)

Even if I get through this one I have two more this month. Big Sister’s in two weeks and the friends/family party the weekend in between. I might cry.

Okay, I know it sounds like I’m going off into left field, but stick with me.

In order to be present in your life, you have to know what your life IS. Some days I feel like my life now is like I won the life lottery with decent neighbors, people on the street that wave and say hello, and kindness at almost every turn. Then other days I feel like I live in an apartment and that makes me less of a life-succeess than someone who rented a house than someone who owns a house. Like, I would be happy to be present in my life if I knew how I was supposed to feel about my life, you know?

I have a great family, but I can’t afford the convenience of having a birthday party at the place with the trampolines. Is that something I should feel bad about or not give a crap about? Will the moms judge my situation? How do I make a good impression? Will I even have the chance to make an impression with a bunch of kids running in after being dropped off and running out when they get picked up?

I’m perfectly willing to be present. I just don’t know what I’m showing up to be present for. My life feels like someone else’s more often than not and I have this weird feeling I’m playing my part all wrong. (Not saying I could change, I couldn’t. That doesn’t make the feeling of doing it wrong go away.)

My choices since I have moved have been more social and I am doing my best to be the person I think I want to be, but I’m not sure if I’m doing it right.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is I am fully present but in a perpetual state of confusion.
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2014 – A Blog Year In Review

Oh my gosh! This seemed like such a cute idea when I first saw it on a few blogger’s sites. Collect a few posts from a few months and viola! You have this great little year in review, some links to posts people may have missed, and a review post all in one!

Then I started going through my blog.

You guys, it’s a MESS.

So many pictures didn’t come over when I switched hosting companies. There are blank boxes with names of pictures and no pictures. Things are messy. I don’t like my own writing half the time. It was a humbling (LONG) experience.

I did my best to keep it as un-snoozy as possible.

January

At the beginning of this year I cooked crock pot ground beef stew and chicken nuggets as I worried my way through my first winter as a bricklayer’s wife.

February

I calculated our -$96,985 net worth and figured out we had more bills than income. I also started working out with a kettlebell. Then I bit all my nails off waiting for Mr. Brickie to go back to work “any minute now” (which turned out to be June 27th!)

March

I got the bills and the budget sorted a bit. There was a really good, old-fashioned rant about people who get angry at people for buying junk food with food stamps, and I got misty eyed as I realized one of the most popular posts on my blog was about our date night.

April

We got chickens! We built an almost servicable coop before deciding to leave them indoors. I loved those chickens like you would not believe.

May

I shared the story about how I dropped the ball and did not follow through with my responsibilities on a board of trustees I was elected to.

June

I finally stopped overexplaining! It was one of the best decisions I ever made even if it occasionally makes others a bit uncomfortable. Mr. Brickie finally went from no work to oodles of poodles of overtime.

July

I bought all the girls’ school supplies online and my friend loaned us a car!

August

We started planning the move we thought would be taking place in July, 2015. Mr. Brickie’s work schedule went a little crazy–from overtime to no overtime to overtime to no gig. I try to practice some mindfulness and take time to be thankful for the amazing things I have in my life.

September

In an effort to be move-ready, we play The Minimalist Game. I start an emergency/moving fund.

October

First, we bought a really, really used car with the emergency fund and then we get awful professional budgeting advice while we are trying to keep the house from being foreclosed on and then we find out we have to move way, WAY sooner than expected and I start a fundraiser, because my sad little emergency/moving fund isn’t going to cut it.

November

I will never doubt the goodness of people again because we raised enough money from the fundraiser to move. Also the goodness of our landlord who found the fundraiser on the Internet and still let us move in even though he knew our rent and security deposit were paid by the kindness of others.

December

The girls both tested into gifted classrooms, they love their new school, 4th graders all learn to play the recorder and 3rd grade learns to read music, the school lost one of my daughters, and I opine on the difference between buying something (like beer) because it’s in your budget vs. buying something because it’s part of a costume.

I hope you all have a really stellar 2015! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your visits, your emails, your phone calls, and your support. I really think this is one of the most supportive corners of the Internet and I would like to figure out a way to make it even more inviting next year but for now I’m spending my time just thanking each and every one of you in my head for showing up and reading.

You are the best.

For real.

Also…I want to let you in on a secret…I think 2015 in the Decki houshold is going to be way, way better than last year.

I can’t wait to share it with you!

Promotion Update

Mr. Brickie Promotion Tracker
Hours to 60%: 147
Days: 19
Estimated Date: 2/2/2015

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The Difference Between Optimism and Gratefulness

….and how being grateful might not save the world but it could save your sanity.

Christmas is difficult sometimes.

I don’t mean some Christmases are difficult and some are not. Every Christmas season there are moments that are difficult. Sometimes those moments are subtle and fast like a cold whisper-kiss across the cheek. Moments like the one where you want to add that one extra thing to the list for the kids and realize you can’t because you didn’t get a paycheck this week because you got a stipend check last week for training and training isn’t work so you don’t get anything on payday. Yes, that whole thought happens in a minute and it gets processed as a heartbeat of disappointment and it passes.

While my example is financial, I am sure manymanymany other people have similar moments of frustration. Maybe they are centered around family, maybe they are centered around friends, maybe they are centered around something personal. My point with the example above is not that I am poor, my point is that we all experience moments that are jarring to our personal version of Holiday Spirit™ happens to be.

I think of an optimistic person as not having those dark moments. They are somehow able to circumvent that moment of pain in between seeing something and feeling the disappointment. It could be nature, it could be nurture, it could be both, it could be neither. At this point I’ve come to believe optimism is an inborn trait. Those of us who were not born with it can come close with (I feel close to optimistic. Your mileage may vary, of course.) by cultivating a grateful heart. The way I define a grateful heart is stopping to notice the good moments and not letting them roll off into the pile of meaningless things that happened during the day.

For example, I received an email today that said (in part) “Your kids are lucky to have you and [Mr. Brickie].  They will go far with that type of love in their background.” (I’m not lying. Someone actually said this to me. I have the email. I HAVE PROOF.)

When I read that, my heart felt fuller almost immediately and a few overwhelmed tears might have spilled out. I took a moment to just be in that moment where I was amazed someone would think that about me, about my kids, even about my grumpy-butt husband. I spent another moment being thankful that person took time out of her busy day to share that positive thought with me. That is a priceless moment that keeps me warm against the moments of darkness and pessimism that come and go throughout not only the Christmas season but the whole year.

I keep those moments, those words you have been kind enough to give me in conversations, in messages, in emails. I keep them in my mind and in my heart on a little shelf and take them down when I’m feeling shaken and scared, angry and not good enough.

Cultivating gratefulness is not just about seeing the moment when the moment happens and having the feeling in that moment. It is keeping those moments on a shelf in your heart to combat the other moments that can bring you down. An arsenal of weapons where the ammunition is beauty, love, a kind word, or even the memory of a hug.

Weapons that can destroy the darkness. Hold back the pain. Create a dam of positive emotion that can be unleashed when it is most needed.

Warmth to combat the cold.

Hipsters, Lumbersexuals, and Living Within Your Means

There is an article over on The Atlantic about Lumbersexuals. Go ahead, read it if you haven’t and then come back. If you don’t want to read it, I’ll sum it up. Lumberjacks are the new cowboys, flannel is back in fashion, and certain groups of men are happier working with their bodies and their minds as opposed to just their minds.

One of the iconic things mentioned in this article is a man with a flannel and a can of PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which is cheap and drinkable but definitely not a microbrew or what anyone would call artisanal) and I smiled because cheap beer has a place in my heart from the old college days of cheap drinking and loud singing in large groups for no good reason. The article then goes on to talk about men in crisis and how they try to recreate these things that they felt were “real” because their lives seem so “unreal” and about three quarters of the way through I realized this is the same problem in a different light.

If these men wanted to feel masculine and do something with their bodies they could join a union. Or they could join a trade and not join a union. The trades get a bad wrap sometimes as a bunch of lazy guys doing bad work and being dumb. They are not. My husband needs to be able to eyeball 1/8″ and do fraction math all day long in his head while he lays brick. He gets a sense of doing real work at the end of a day where he has worked on an elementary school or a retirement home. We have pointed out buildings to our girls and said, “Daddy helped build that.” He tells me it is an immensely satisfying feeling.

It also pays a living wage once you get past being an apprentice. A wage that is enough to properly feed and clothe a family of five….if you are willing to live within your means and don’t want to eat at a farm to table restaurant every week and don’t mind cheap beer.

Lumbersexuals and hipsters want the accouterments of a middle class life but do not want to make the sacrifices that come with one.

PBR is fine and dandy as a symbol to show that someone doesn’t require a microbrew to be happy. To show off that you don’t need name brand things.

It is a different personification of the rich not needing to show off with a bunch of branded items. You are well off enough you don’t have to prove it to anyone so you don’t care if your car is ten years old. You are not showing off. It’s the understanding that once you have truly arrived the only person who needs to see you there is you. You don’t need anyone else to notice what you’re wearing because you just. don’t. care. It’s what my great grandmother taught me rich was and, while she was talking about having enough money, I think I misinterpreted at the time and thought she meant enough money as in loads and piles of money, not enough money in the very real sense of not feeling fear anymore.

But the posturing? The overt symbolism this entails? When you are drinking cheap beer (but the RIGHT kind of cheap beer, for sure, otherwise people might think you’re poor or something) you are sending a message as much as someone who is wearing DG sunglasses while sporting a Louis Vuitton handbag and … I don’t even know … pick some clothing that has a brand all over it and you get my drift. There are people who need/want to be billboards and there are people who want to be the billboards that are the mirror image of those other “bad” billboards but in doing so are just as much of a billboard as the first people. I don’t want to buy the things to look like I’m from GQ they say….I want this cheap beer and this (probably not cheap) flannel and I will grow my beard and not be mainstream.

Sure, they are not mainstream anymore and I do love looking at guys with beards because beards are nifty, but trying to pretend you’re something you are not happens as much in a thousand dollar suit as it does in a hundred dollar flannel.

It’s a costume.

If these men (and hey, I’m sure women feel this way too…I know I miss my flannels from high school and college like crazy!) want to do something meaningful with their bodies as well as their minds in order to make a paycheck they don’t have to risk their lives the way actual lumberjacks did. There are safety regulations that help keep people alive and everything now! Ah, the future! My husband doesn’t go on a scaffold twenty stories up without safety gear (thank goodness!) so he doesn’t have to deal with the horrible conditions and he gets the joy of a job well done that will last at least a few generations before it’s turned into a parking lot. Hell, the law of numbers states that our grandkids’ grandkids (I’m just using it as an example) will be able to find at least one building in the Chicagoland area that their ancestor worked on.

The sacrifice for these bearded, lost men (the real sacrifice that would give them satisfaction instead of symbols) would mean they would have to drink PBR because that’s what was in the budget, not because they were slumming. It would be a choice, still, but a different kind of choice.

A choice to live a life with less money and more life.

It’s a simple shift that would probably make a lot of people happy. The symbols of a satisfied life will never make the person wearing them as satisfied as the life itself would, but maybe it’s the best they can do. Maybe they can’t let expectations of what life should be just … go.

Switching our lives around from being a white collar family to a blue collar family has been one of the most difficult things we have ever done individually or as a couple. A new state, a new living arrangement, new schools, new expectations, and a new budget have left us reeling but feeling satisfied and at home. I know that there is a Mary Engelbreit quote that says, “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Sometimes, though, you have to tear out your root structure and move to the sunlight so you can bloom your best.

Dumping cheap beer and old symbols on the problem isn’t going to solve anything.

Only a change in perspective can do that.

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The Fifteen Minutes My Daughter Went Missing

Somehow, the communication wires got crossed.

Of course it happened the day we were late to pick up the kids because the DMV took *gasp* twenty minutes to get us our new licenses for our brand-new state. (That includes the time it took to take the actual written test, too.)

I called the school and they said that late pick-ups just needed to call the office when they got there and they would send the kids out to the same place. I called as we pulled up and was informed they only had one of my kids. I heard them paging the other one while I was still on the phone. The secretary put me on hold for a few moments and then asked if I could come around to the office.

Panic began to form a tight knot in my heart.

Mr. Brickie dropped me off and drove the path home to see if Big Sister had walked. I didn’t think that would happen because while Middle Sister is VERY excited by the prospect of walking home, Big  Sister is more unsure. It was a long shot, but better to split up and cover more ground as soon as possible.

Middle Sister was in the office waiting. She said that Big Sister was waiting in the car area with her and then she wasn’t there anymore. (We found out later that was incorrect.)  The principal, the teacher that is on car-rider pick-up watch, and the substitute teacher for Sadie’s class today (along with the school secretary) were all having a little get-together covering what they thought could have happened. They paged through the school several more times and asked Middle Sister and I questions about Sadie’s friends at school and if she was thinking about visiting someone’s house.

I started to get a little nervous thinking they were implying my child might have gotten plucked from the car-rider pick up line but the principal assured me that sometimes it happens because the kids make plans and the parents just go along with them sometimes. She was sure if Big Sister hadn’t walked home some other kind parent probably just gave her a ride. “It happens.”

“Oh. So I shouldn’t be worried just yet?”

“No. No. I’m sure she’s fine. ”

“This is not the reaction I was expecting. ”

*everyone laughs in a kind-hearted way that feels like I’m a big-city fool who just doesn’t understand how things work around these parts*

About this time, Mr. Brickie calls and – lo and behold – Big Sister HAD walked home. By herself. She was very angry because she thought that Middle Sister had left without her and she walked the whole way home thinking she was going to see Middle Sister any minute now until she got home and no one was home waiting for her. She was very sad and got very scared.

Mr. Brickie found her safe and watching for our car by a big tree near the house where she could see us coming from FIVE different directions. Smart kid. I was planning on giving both the girls a house key on a necklace this weekend, I guess this is a good example of why it’s a good idea!

As she opened the office door to come inside everyone smiled at her and said they were really glad she got found. When I wrapped my arms around her and said, “I was so worried. I’m so happy you’re safe.” her little angrysadscarednervous tears spilled over. I felt awful for her. Poor kid. She made a bad decision, but she got home safe and then waited for us to find her.

Thank goodness.

In the future, Big Sister will make sure not to make any walking or riding decisions without Middle Sister by her side.

Teamwork makes the dream work, y’all.

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90% Done and Sick as Dogs

All the big stuff and most of the smaller stuff is here at the new place.

There are some things that have to get picked up. That may happen tonight if Mr. Brickie can stop there in between work and his Union meeting tonight.

I told you about Saturday night and Mr. Brickie being so sick, right?

We’re still sick but it’s tolerable.

The problem with being sick is being forgetful.

Yesterday I took the kids in for their first day of school. Monday morning was hard because I felt awful and we weren’t sure how long it would take us to get ready and we knew the school had a breakfast program but somehow I forgot they were going into testing right away and I messed up and for the first time since my children started school they went to school without having breakfast.

I felt like a monster. Like I was setting them up to fail. It was awful.

We got there and as I was sitting in the parking lot about to turn off the car my phone rings. It’s the school secretary checking to see if we’re coming in and letting me know they were expecting us earlier. I apologized and let her know we were in the parking lot. After some talk about the parking lot I was supposed to go in (oops) she said she would come to meet me by the door we were at. We rushed out of the car as fast as we could and ran to the door in what was becoming really horrible wind.

The rushing would cost me later.

They had us wait in the office while the girls completed their testing and showed Little Sister a bin full of crayons and coloring sheets and toys to occupy her while we waited and she was a real champ. I read her a couple little books out of the bin, too. One of the kids books was about Alzheimer’s Disease and it made me cry but I didn’t know that before I started reading and it was a really sweet, sad book. (I highly recommend it when you’re not reading to your child in public about understanding how and why we deal with people living with us who are not working with their faculties at 100%. The one we read was called, “But Mama, How Come Grandpa Gets To?“)

After the testing I was informed both girls tested into the High Ability classrooms. I was so nervous one would and one wouldn’t based on the time of day, the phase of the moon, and just the general stress of moving the day prior that I was almost in tears with relief. The lady who performed the testing also told the principal in front of me that the kids were a delight and really great at following directions.

That’s probably the most you’ll ever hear me brag on my kids. I try not to talk to much about it in the blog because there are so many kids out there and the story of my children is mostly an easy one and thus, not really the kind of thing I like sharing. I’d rather find my financial grapplers in solidairty and we can lift each other up than find a group of parents with mostly doing fine kids and just kind of high five each other over how fine they are. Once we are out of the financial woods I hope to have tips and tricks for anyone to be able to do the same. For people to do better than they are now. My kids were born the way they are. I can’t tell any other parent on the face of the earth how to do that job. I’m pretty against most parents trying to tell other parents the “right” way to do things. It makes my skin crawl. One of them has a wicked anxiety problem that I’m trying to deal with but some other kid with anxiety? The same things won’t work because nature and nurture are different for almost every child.

After we got done with the tour and everything Little Sister and I went to the car though some magical sleet whipped hell she was screaming at having to walk through even though she had a hood on and refused to even let me carry her and we got into the car and I turned the key and …and it wouldn’t start. Rushing out of the car? I had left the lights on the entire time I was in the school. The car battery was dead as a doornail.

I felt so defeated in that moment. Realizing I had left the lights on when we went into the school made me feel better (car doesn’t have a mechanical problem!) and worse (I’m an idiot!) and it took a few minutes before I realized I had coverage on my insurance for roadside assistance.

Then Little Sister and I spent an hour sitting in the (cold) car waiting for the tow guy to show up and give us a jump start. Which was awful. I cried a lot. Little Sister slept because she refused to go outside in the sleet and sideways wind to go back into the school. Since the wind was the worst by far I figured being in the car would be cold but not dangerous. The guy showed up and jumped the car, super polite and pleasant and fast. Just what we needed to reboot and try to make the best of the rest of the day.

We had a few minutes at home and then went with a friend to the YMCA for an application and then to the Head Start where we thought we were picking up an applicaiton but were sat down and we went through the application right there. They were really kind and I have a list of what I have to bring back tomorrow if we want her to start on Monday. I’m not sure the times are going to work with the girls, though. The afternoon lets out at 3:15 and the kids get off school at 3:30 and on a good day it’s about 7 minutes between the two. If you take into consideration a kid getting her coat and gloves on at the end of school? That adds ten minutes and I’m not on time to pick the girls up from their school.

Eventually the older girls will walk to school but not until we can all walk together a couple of times to get them used to it. With the rain and cold it just hasn’t been an option and may not be until spring. I don’t know.

The current plan is to get through this week. I have a feeling if we can just get a few days of recuperation in we’ll all be ready to take our new lives by storm Monday.

Oh, as for poor folk stuff, Indiana public aid is really nice but I’m confused by the requirements to receive SNAP (formerly food stamps) because when Mr. Brickie told them he didn’t work a week they asked for a letter from his employer or they would have to put in the system he worked 40 hours. I guess that’s to deter fraud? Ah well, he ended up working on Saturday so we have a paycheck to give them as soon as he can get back in there or give it to me and I can get it in there.

Other snafu, I don’t remember signing up for TANF (cash assistance formerly known as welfare) but received letters in the mail today for both adults in the household that we have to go to some skills training job thing. Oh, a Job Search Appointment. Maybe that means they’ll help me find child care so I can get a job outside the home? I’m not entirely sure. If Mr. Brickie is working he won’t be able to go, so I’m not sure what to do about that. I’ll keep you updated on that. Maybe we can just tell them we weren’t looking for cash assistance because we’re not, I’m more than happy with food assistance.

Oh, and maybe LIHEAP. Do they even have that in Indiana? I wish I wasn’t so nauseous I could look it up. It has taken me since 9am to write this post because I have to step away to let the dizziness and nausea die down. So seven hours for this one post. Yeah, research isn’t happening just yet. I have to get better.

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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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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!

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.

feelin-better

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.

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