Category: House Updates

How A Decision is Born

 

cannot-solve-same-thinking

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

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

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

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

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

Scenario 1 – Chapter 13 and Refinance

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

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

Scenario 2 – Chapter 13 with New Foreclosure

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

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

Scenario 3 – Current Plan Continues

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

Other Warning Signs

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

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

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

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

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

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

bottom-flowers

Mr. Brickie Goes to Chancery Court (May 2014)

chancery-court-update

Part 1 – The Pre-Court Portion of the Blog Post

The saga of our maybe-foreclosure continues….

Yesterday, Mr. Brickie went downtown and basically dropped in on the legal aid department from Partners In Community Building (they also have a Facebook Page). Luckily, the receptionist was out and the door was answered by the amazing lady-lawyer we talked to the first time we had to file something with the court. (You can read about our first encounter with the young, smart lady lawyer on this post down to the section that says the Helper and the Lawyer.)

She told us we were on the right track and that the thing to do today was to ask for more time to file a response. I thought – all this time – we were filing an answer to the motion they filed last time. I was dead wrong. Even with Google and the plethora of law resources all over the Internet, I was wrong. Thankfully, we asked the lady lawyer and she told us we were going to ask for time to file a response. Considering the lady lawyer remembered our situation exactly when Mr. Brickie saw her again, I am holding out hope the judge recognizes Mr. Brickie as well. Considering the judge thought Mr. Brickie was a lawyer last time he was there (because he’s the only one who bothered to wear a suit and call the judge Your Honor) I think the judge will remember him and that will work in our favor, because the judge knows we are doing our best to follow the process exactly how it is supposed to go.

It helps that we have a new specialist at Citimortgage and they are starting the hardship program all over again. So we have a bunch of documents that need to get into their system by June 4th so they can process everything and decide if they are going to give us a refinance or whatever they call it when they just redo your mortgage. Of course, when they redo it they’re going to add in about $40k in lawyer expenses (the last time I checked) so we would essentially be paying a lot more for the privilege of staying in the same home. It’s a bit confusing. It would be a lot more confusing if I was emotionally invested in this house and was completely blinded to the raw numbers and how that looks.

All this would have such a different look about it if Mr. Brickie were, you know, working. The season starting late is driving us both a little batty. It’s scary and difficult to have faith no matter how much we know there is no reason to despair. It would even look better at court if he just had a few paycheck stubs to throw out there instead of a record of odd jobs and unemployment.

I’ll know later what the overall outcome was at court. His appointment is for 8:45am so he will probably get an early start and be out pretty quickly. Last time he had an 11am court time and he was out pretty quick, too. They schedule people as best they can at Chancery Court, but there are so many foreclosures happening that when we come up with our files and proper etiquette and a plan for what we are doing next, it’s just easier for the judge to give us another court date in 30 days (which, inevitably turns into 90 days because the court is so backed up). That extra three months will give us time to have an appointment with legal aid and have them look over the affidavit I’m sure is a lie from the Citimortgage side. It will give us time to find the proof that they blocked our chance for getting an FHA streamline loan before we ever missed our first payment. It will give us time to print all the emails and show the deceit and lies that were told to us over and over.

We may subpoena the Citimortgage phone records for gems like the call where the guy told me the wrong numbers and then told me he was reading someone else’s numbers and then gave me my numbers which were way more awful. Then I asked him if I could get that in writing to look it over and he promised I would get everything in writing. Of course I did not and when I asked him about it he said we got in writing what we were supposed to get and would not be getting anything else.

I’m not sure how these things help. I really don’t. The only two options I know of are:

  1. Keep the home after getting a loan modification.
  2. Leave the home and start fresh with none of this monkey on our back.

In the beginning I really wanted to just get a loan payment we could afford (we could afford the original loan amount of $975 but over the course of 10 years with a fixed rate loan we were paying $1275 a month. I could never figure out how that happened even calculating escrow. There was also this $75 fee we had every single month. They never explained what it was for and told me it would never go away. I’ve been frustrated for a long time but you just put that to the back of your mind and pay the bill. It’s our house. We paid the bill.

Until we couldn’t.

Now I just have to wait until he gets back from court so I can finish this post with what happened. This is like the pre-court think-aloud portion of the post. There is still a whole post-court part of this I’ll update when he gets home. In the meantime I’m going to go work on another post. The Insurance Bill That Ate My Family. Feel free to read that one when you’re done here if you haven’t.

Part 2 – The Post-Court Portion of the Blog Post

Ooooh…well first of all the big bad lawyer from last time wasn’t there. We were up against the guy with his name on the door the last two court dates and today there was some Junior Attorney instead who didn’t seem to know what was going on.

His 8:45am appointment got him in fourth or fifth to see the judge. First off the judge noticed we didn’t have the head of the legal firm anymore. He totally noticed we were now dealing with a Junior Associate or whatever.

I wish I knew what that meant. It seems like it has to mean something, but maybe it just means the big guy was busy with some other case. *shrug*

They accepted our request for more time to file a response!

The judge wanted to do a straight 30-days until the next court date but Junior Attorney was all, “Your Honor, I can only come in on Fridays.” LOL! So it got pushed out. But the last two times it was supposed to be 30 days exactly it wasn’t so who knows how long it will be until our next “has to be on a Friday” court date happens!

Now the more sketchy not-quite-good but absolutely-not-bad news. We have to file our response by June 10th. If they have a brief reply the mortgage company has until June 24th. Our next court date is 7/11 (Feeling lucky? LOL) The thing is, the last time we were given 30 days, it turned into 90 for the next court date. So that July date might turn into August, September, or October. I’m not sure. We never know the actual next court date until we receive notice in the mail. So we are kind of back to being in limbo like before we got the court date for this meeting.

I know. I repeated myself there. I’m trying to let it all sink into my brain so I can understand what our next best steps are.

So now we have to get the stuff Citimortgage wants to them by June 4th and the stuff has to be filed downtown at the courthouse by June 10th. Plus Mr. Brickie is expecting a call to go in to work any day now.

Things are about to get hectic around here.

The last mortgage payment we made was in August of 2013. We were told to skip three payments so we could apply for the loan modification. It was the worst advice we ever took. So in three months we will have our year-long anniversary of no mortgage payments. It’s still possible to stay here, we just have to file all that paperwork we filed before all over again so they have up to date records of everything.

Mr. Brickie ran into the opposing council in the case and they talked for a bit. The opposing council Jr. Lawyer said to Mr. Brickie that the mortgage company doesn’t tell them anything so they keep showing up and just finding out as they go along. He told Mr. Brickie to email over what we email to the mortgage company because if we are in the middle of negotiations for a modification they aren’t able to proceed with the foreclosure stuff because of that dual-tracking law. So we might be able to go to court less as this goes along.

That would be nice.

Of course as it is right now, we don’t qualify under that dual-tracking law because it’s taken so long to get to this point. But the fact that they started sooner than 120 days might cause some problems. I mean, I don’t know what the outcome of all these problems is…do we just get more time? Is it more court dates? Is it more delays?

It’s confusing.

Unfortunately, if we don’t have paychecks from Mr. Brickie working, the only modification they’re going to offer us is the one where we modify our living arrangements and get out of this house because they don’t care about our savings account. They only care about the income. Not that we would have any savings to show after the next couple days. We have to completely drain it.

So we are still on a tightrope and the best thing I can say about it is either way we have a plan.

You know how I am about planning, though, did you expect I wouldn’t have plans? LOL

But my drained savings account (or, technically, my about-to-be-drained savings account) is for tomorrow’s blog post. Something came up and while we have the money for it, it’s a huge gouge in our finances. (Oh, hey, if you don’t want to miss that story you can put in your email address and hit submit over there on the right and you’ll get my posts right in your email so the next chapter of the story comes right to you!)

Other bad news. My computer totally died yesterday but turning on the air conditioning saved her. I guess she just needs perfect weather conditions to work. I’ve crashed a few times today already but as long as the air is cool she starts back up eventually.

I really need a new computer. Someone needs to set up a GoFundMe for my birthday or something so everyone I know can kick in a few bucks and I can have a computer that works and is reliable. I know it’s a pipe dream – especially because there are so many people with those GoFundMe accounts that are homeless or hungry or doing so much worse than I am – but you know the pipe dreams keep me entertained, and that’s something. 🙂

chicken-border-bottom

Housing Counselors Are Confusing

house-with-hearts

Yesterday we went downtown with the youngest to visit the housing counselors that are supposed to be helping us get through this house stuff. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, I’ll give you a quick catch-up.

We are behind on our mortgage. The mortgage company offered us a HAMP modification but refused to tell us the terms of the modification, saying it would be on the paperwork. The paperwork had three payments listed but no overall plan. I called back and was told they could not give out that information. I told them I could not sign a contract I was not allowed to read. (Making the payments is, in effect, signing the contract that you agree to the HAMP terms.) One time on the phone I got the guy to tell me the payments would be “about the same” as they were previously and that there would be a balloon payment of “about $23k” at the end of the loan.

Basically a bad, bad plan. (I may have blogged about this before with more solid numbers that were given over the phone. I tried to search for it. It was written on an envelope since phone conversations mean jack-all it was not considered an important piece of paper to keep in the files.)

So, today we talked to the counselors and they told us they had almost entered our information incorrectly into the system but would fix it while we were there. Even though we were told over the phone we would meet with a lawyer after we met with the counselors, the counselors told us that would not be happening. We spent two and a half hours giving them information and paperwork they already had.

The first counselor told us that the best thing we could do would be to make a “dignified exit” where we do a deed in leiu or short sale so our neighbors don’t know we were foreclosed on. Of course, that’s only if the modification doesn’t work which it still could. It’s, like, never too late to modify a mortgage it seems.

They told us the best way to see a lawyer was to go to Chancery Court and there are free lawyers there that can help you file an answer to a motion. That’s what we need to do. There was something in their answer to our answer to the original motion that’s incorrect. We want to file an answer that states we require corrected information. That will mean they have to file another motion and that will probably take another three months. Those months will see paychecks coming in that can prove income that can make a modification possible. (Making regular unemployment income of $544/mo. is pretty much the opposite of coming to the table with something useful.) I can’t prove any regular income and if I file a profit and loss statement for writing and other things I do to make money online it has to be done by a CPA and I’m not paying for that.

Once the first counselor left the room, the other counselor told us his story. Basically he’s staying in his house as long as possible until he is foreclosed on. He thinks it’s the best possible option because you will pretty much be shackled to your house for an extra 40 years and not see a dime of equity for at least 20 because when they do your modification they add in all the lawyer fees, too.

I’d love to stay in this neighborhood, and I love the familiarity I have in this house. I have lots of memories here. Heck, I had one of my kids in this house. But I’m far too pragmatic to let some memories get in the way of making a smart financial decision.

I looked into doing a short sale, but then I found out that’s just as bad on your credit as a foreclosure. In fact, according to the Washington Post in an article titled What’s worse for credit score — foreclosure, short sale or deed in lieu? there is a quote that sums it up perfectly:

… turns out there’s no significant difference in FICO score impact among foreclosures, short sales or deeds in lieu of foreclosure, said Bradley Graham, senior director of scores product management at FICO, which is the trademark credit scoring model created by Fair Isaac Corp. It’s the most widely used scoring system in the country.

“All of those events represent a loan default and as such are highly predictive of future credit risk,”

So, it sounds to me like the only thing dignified about a dignified exit is not letting the neighbors have something to talk about. Which I think we can all agree is something that bothers me pretty much not at all.

Logically, it seems like sitting back and just going through this, making the process as long as possible is going to benefit us the most in the long run. When people with law practices who write for Forbes that I greatly respect write pieces like 11 Reasons Why I Never Want to Own A House Again you have to stop and think about it more carefully. Sure, the first thoughts that jump to mind when you think of foreclosure are being a deadbeat who can’t do the right thing. A lot of people look down on people who rent as people who can’t get a house.

I don’t think that’s so cut and dry anymore.

I was raised that owning a house was the sign of success. Over the last 11 years, I would say owning a house is an exercise in marrying well. I didn’t know Mr. Brickie could do drywall or plumbing or paint or do the million other things he has had to do since we have moved in here, but I thank the good lord every day he can.

remodel-pics

These may not look all that impressive, but I wish you could see before and after pictures. Most of the rooms in my house look vastly different than they did when we moved in. From new toilets to amazing paint jobs, he has made our house into a home.

Tomorrow he goes downtown to get help. Help from a lawyer so we can file an answer to a motion.

There are no words for how tired I am. I keep reminding myself of the seventy-thousand things I am thankful for. Remembering to be thankful helps me hold on to some kind of small grace in my life.

bird-end-fin

Image Credit: hazelong

 

DMV Data Breach! Time to Destroy the Credit Cards?

stranger-bahamas-fraud

So, about this California DMV credit card data breach, huh? (That link goes to the Krebs on Security blog, which is now my favorite blog on earth because SECURITY.) There was, apparently, a private note sent from Mastercard to some unnamed people talking about some unnamed place but Krebs (who is Sherlock, natch) solved it. Brian Krebs is awesome and I don’t know how I didn’t know about him before. Read the first paragraph of this story about him and you will be just as sucked in. I promise. If you’re as into heroin and poop-on-porches as I am, you’ll love this guy!

What I really mean, of course, is that if you are as fascinated by the gross and dirty underbelly of the Internet as I am you will love this guy. I think you do. I know I do. We can learn how not to get scammed by learning how others do it. I mean, of course we’ll use our powers for good. Of course!

I guess no one really thought of the DMV as being “safe” in terms of credit card security. I think it just seems like a place where there are so many people and things are moving fast enough and the people are sitting right there at the counter that it would be difficult to get that information.

This Reminds Me of When Our Information Got Stolen

When Mr. Brickie’s card got fake-swiped at the gas pump (I totally tried to find the post to link it here because I’m a professional blogger but I couldn’t find it even using Google and the search box and so I guess by professional I mean “professional amateur”) we got a call from the company so we could let them know we weren’t popping out to buy groceries in Ireland even if the card thought we were.

You can tell if someone has had their information stolen at a gas pump. They’re hitting, bumping, or trying to pull off the swiper before they put their card into it. Velcro-attachments mean they’re sturdy, but not sturdy enough because they need to be pulled off at the end of the day so the thieves can drive off with their precious information.

After that, I actually felt more secure about using the card because the bank had our back. They were watching out for us. We got a call once because we swiped our card in three states in one day. We live in Illinois and drive through Indiana when we go to Michigan. I was mildly annoyed because I felt like they should have known based on our history where we spent our time and that it was well within the time period of us being out for the day.

That was my a-ha moment. When I felt annoyed that a computer somewhere didn’t know my habits well enough. If you asked me, “Hey, do you want all the information about you in a computer somewhere?” I’d be like, “No, thank you.” unless it was medical, of course, because then it’s all kinds of Let’s Make a Deal.

The alarm in my brain that was telling me to run because a computer knew just enough but not too much? It’s a thing in my head that happens when I start to feel too comfortable. My brain assesses the situation and decides if it needs to throw off an alarm bell in my brain. This time it did and the thought followed, “I have to get off of this hamster wheel. Something bad is going to happen.”

My family – because they are kind – call it intuition.

As for the credit cards, I can’t bring myself to actually get rid of the little plastic beasts, but at the same time the 5% off just for using the Target card, well, I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore. Yes there will be a little extra hassle of having to keep my receipt on me to return something, but okay. (Let’s be honest, I’m not shopping much at Target in the first place. I’m at Aldi for my food and if I’m getting kitchen stuff or little things for my home? Goodwill, Value Village, or one of the four dollar stores in my immediate area is where I’m going. When I am in the position to buy things that are high quality I won’t be at Target anyway.)

The thing is, if we are already at t he point where we accept our credit card (or debit card) information has been stolen and used to buy groceries in Ireland (or whatever it might be in your case!) and that part isn’t a shock anymore…that’s when I truly believe it is time to get out.

Let’s Be Realistic About Credit Cards

I don’t advocate getting rid of all your credit cards. I keep mine in a little zipper pouch next to my “in cash” emergency fund in a hidey hole. I had no credit cards at one time and it felt no different than having credit cards I’m not using now. Well, except for the ease of renting a car or getting a hotel room. Getting those with a debit card is much more of a hassle because of the hundreds of dollars of holds that can be placed on a card.

Credit cards aren’t drugs, you don’t need to flush it all down the toilet to keep it out of your nose. I don’t keep them on me, however, because if my purse is stolen I want to have to deal with ONE card being stolen not all of them. (Quick sidenote: If credit cards ARE like drugs for you then YES you do need to flush them all by cutting them up and trashing them. Only you know your situation when it comes to the plastic stuff. I can’t make that decision for you. I think there can be a solid path to financial solace that does not have one-size-fits-all answers.)

People Who Use Their Credit Cards to Get Cool Free Stuff

Oh! The people who are all “I use my cards for awesome perks and game the system so it totally doesn’t game me” are getting blowback. It’s starting with an American Express policy that you can’t get the bonus points or whatever if you apply for the same card again ever. I totally assumed this was already a thing and even though my credit score is in the 600s and I would never have qualified for any of those fancy cards now I kind of feel like I was left out of something cool since when I do have good credit I’m not going to be messing around with stuff like this anyway.

It’s because I’m risk averse. I hate risk. Having a credit card is one level of risk, carrying it with you is another, having a balance is a third, and carrying a balance is a fourth. I feel them exponentially, but again, I’m not sure how you jam with your cards and your risk and whatnot. I just don’t like that much risk, because being careful is what’s kept rice in our bowls and chili in our crockpot.

House Not-Update

I expect my credit score to bottom out completely if the house stuff goes bad. We never got notice of a new court date. I really expected it since the judge said we would have another court date in March, but everyone keeps telling me Chancery Court isn’t like the other branches and it just takes forever.

So we are still hovering here in between everything and nothing. We are grateful for every day we don’t have notice to go back to court. I look at the temperature and think, “This could be the week that foundation gets poured.” I try to be hopeful about Mr. Brickie getting back to work because this mantra that repeats over and over in our heads is, “Any day now….any day now….”

Some Resources and Reads About Credit Cards

Want to read up on credit cards? Here are some recent articles from Bloomberg that cover everything from data breaches to giving money to the homeless with a credit card. (The homeless dude in Sweden has, like, the NICEST winter coat, doesn’t he?) Fascinating stuff.

The Points Guy is a blog about maximizing credit card points.

The creditnet Credit Talk Forum is a great place to learn about repairing your credit report and improving your credit. They are also great at answering questions you might have about your situation, whatever it may be.

CreditBoards is the other forum for credit repair and credit improvement. I know there are a billion more, but this one and creditnet are ones I lurked on for months and learned from.

I’m not turning my back on the debt-free dream, far from it, it’s still where I want to be. In the meantime I’m using my credit card for “auto pay” bills like the cell phone bill and the garbage bill and the Internet bill. That way I don’t have to hunt down what is due where and I can just make one payment to one place. The credit limit isn’t high enough to put the car payment on with all the other bills, but I think that’s for the best, really. As much as I dream about only ever having to deal with just one bill, in reality that might not be the very best plan.

I’ll revisit the whole paying bills in one place auto-bill stuff later on when we are more financially stable. It’s nothing but a pipe dream right now.

Better Safe Than Sorry

The bottom line is be careful. There are places where it might be perfectly safe to use your credit/debit/whatever card as long as you may live. You may be a person who habitually loses cash and if that is you, well then, you shouldn’t carry cash as much as someone who doesn’t lose it all the time.

But even though there is no one-size-fits-all answer, do me a favor and try to use cash a little more than usual this week. Just give it a try and see if it works for you. If you’re super-used to using a credit card or debit card getting out cash can seem uncomfortable.

I went shopping with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago and she whipped out a checkbook at the supermarket. I almost DIED of embarrassment. I was 100% sure the cashier was going to laugh her out of the store. I mean, a checkbook? Why not just give the woman an IOU, am I right? (you’re probably yelling at your screen right now telling me what an idiot I am)

You’re right. I’m an idiot. Not a fuss was made, not an eye was blinked, and her check was taken with no problem.

I mean, it made sense when I looked back on it. They wouldn’t still be sending the handout thingys in the coupon envelopes to get Garfield checks if no one took them anymore. It’s just so rare that I use a check I kind of forget they are used to exchange money for goods and services anymore.

We started using cash more often a few weeks ago. Mr. Brickie admits it’s more of a hassle at the gas station for sure, because he’s too embarrassed to have to go back in for change so he never fills up the car with gas now. But he likes knowing his card can’t get swiped again if he’s paying with cash money.

We are trying to find the combination that works best for us.

As always, I’m super curious about what works best for you!

bird-end-fin

Mr. Brickie Goes to Chancery Court (Feb 2014)

gavel-pic

A mildly inebriated Valentine’s Day house update.

I love the idea of Chancery Court. Mostly because it sounds like some kind of thing that landed gentry or uppity English people would be part of as a social thing. “Oh, Bitty, let’s go to Chancery Court!” and Bitty would reply, “Regina! That idea is tops! Let’s do!”

Then there would be gin and jazz, which would make me want to stab my eyes out in normal circumstances, but I’m sure jazz would be ever so much more wonderful if I didn’t have anything to compare it to and I was living in the stone age where people are regularly named Bitty and jazz is this new thing no one has heard before.

Do you FEEL me? 

So Mr. Brickie went into Chancery Court today. This is the very unreliable but almost entirely true account of the situation as it stands now in our lives.

We learned that being in the middle of a short sale does not forestall your eviction. So you’re welcome if you ever need to know that. This tidbit was learned while Mr. Brickie was waiting for his turn with the judge.

When it was Mr. Brickie’s turn the judge – being a smart sort of chap – didn’t try and pronounce our last name and after the third letter Mr. Brickie realized they were going to spell his last name. He stood up and right off the judge mistook him for a lawyer. Which was either great or horrible, no one will ever know.

Then the proceedings began.

Also, today we found out that the lawyer handling the mortgage company on our case was, like, the ONE law firm who pretty much had their shit totally together for everything and was totally on point. Lucky us, right? Other lawyers are making rookie mistakes and scrambling around but the lawyer we are dealing with was all. “Oh, hai, I’ve been here doing the right thing all along.”

Is it wrong to hope the building that law office is housed in burns down to the ground? It’s okay, you can be honest.  

Except when the judge busted him doing NOT the right thing. That part was fun as all get out.

Mr. Brickie, at one point, informed the judge he had filed a motion. The lawyer for Citi said, “Oh no you didn’t!” Mr. Brickie said, “It was filed on the 7th.” The lawyer for Citi said, “Oh no you didn’t! It was filed on the 6th!”

The judge looked at the lawyer from Cit and said, “Uh…you need to read these motions, dawg. You just busted yourself out.”

You know this is all paraphrased, right? I hope so. Lawyers and judges do not talk like that.

So the lawyer said nothing and was all looking like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar.

BUSTED.

Mr. Brickie was all, “Uh huh THAT’S RIGHT” (in his head, you can’t say that to a judge)

They filed a continuance and we get to do this sexy rumba again in a month.

Bur, for now, we are still here with nothing progressing toward foreclosure.

So, there’s that.

 

Trains, Courthouses, and Exhaustion Beyond Coffee

metra-rail-train

This morning we took the little one and hopped the train and went downtown.

We really had no idea what we were in for.

Armed with a messenger bag full of tax returns, paperwork, and electronics for the preschooler (that, seriously, you know she never touched, right?) we trekked off on our train adventure.

Lucky for us, most of the rush hour passengers are gone by the time we got there for our 8:11am train. We were able to score seats across from each other and the little one sat on our laps – trading off whenever she got a little bored – during the journey. I knew we were keeping her indoor voice going strong when people leaving the train stopped to tell me how adorable she was. She ate it up and always said, “Thank you.” which made them melt.

She’s going to be dangerous, this one.

We got off the train at Millennium Station and decided we were going to try and get to our destination via the Pedway, so we wouldn’t have to spend extra money on a taxi.

Since we aren’t moles, we totally got turned around and walked for like five blocks underground before starting to get freaked out and feeling like maybe we’d never see daylight again. We saw a staircase that said Washington Street and were like, “Sunlight! Yea! It can’t be worse out there than it is down here!”  Also, I might have been having a problem with my very friendly daughter talking to every single homeless person underground. I didn’t stop her because they’re human and deserving of interaction because it has to be hard being invisible while hundreds of people swarm by. It still made me mildly uncomfortable, though, in the same way it would if she were talking to pretty much anyone else in the Pedway. She just happened to engage with the people who were sitting (more on her level) talking to the crowd (she’s really responsive) or playing music (because that’s pretty cool). Basically, she was interacting with the most social people in the city and while I wasn’t about to stop her we had an appointment and I couldn’t let her get sucked into a half hour conversation with anyone.

The Helper and the Lawyer

The first place we went was to Legal Aid across from the Daley Center. They were super nice and we went upstairs and filled out some forms and were introduced to a very nice lady (who shall remain nameless for privacy purposes) who collected and scanned all the documents we brought while telling us her life story. Okay, not her life story.

She told us about her condo. She lived at her condo for 17 years and then she lost her job. After she fell for a couple scams and finally got help, she ended up with a new 30-year mortgage and a payment that was higher than before. So after 17 years, she has made less than no headway. She decided she wanted to work for a company that made sure that didn’t happen to other people.

I’m not sure why, but this did not leave me feeling either inspired or hopeful. It left me sad. We filled out many more forms, found out that we were supposed to bring in 2012 W-2 forms but everything else was scanned and accounted for.

Our next stop was to talk to the lawyer.

She was in her twenties if she was a day. I mean, this girl was young. Not only was she young but she was at Legal Aid (that means pro bono) wearing some of the most expensive clothing I have ever seen. Cream colored cable knit sweater, black tights, and gold ballet flats. She was business causal in a way that I have only seen in catalogs. She was also very direct and on point.

She walked us through what happened up until we got there, what will happen next, and gave us a timeline.

She said two things that caught me off guard:

1. She flat out asked me what I wanted. When I asked her to be a little more specific, she said, “I want to know if your goal is to stay in your home or stay in your home as long as possible until you are foreclosed on.” Oh! “I can tell you that?” Yep. So I told her I was on the fence. Staying would be easier but I’m not going to be in a situation where I pay more just for the privilege of not having to move.

2. She told me if the car was sold outright for less than it was worth, the mortgage company could legally come after me for the difference. I asked, “I thought with FHA that didn’t happen.” She said it did. Mr. Brickie asked, “Isn’t that what mortgage insurance is for?” She said, “I don’t know how mortgage insurance works, I’m trying to inform you of your rights and responsibilities.

So I was confused because every resource and every lawyer and even people who ask questions on the Dave Ramsey show hear that if you have an FHA loan, no one comes after you for the difference.

She handed me a piece of paper to take over to the Daley Center and submit at the clerk’s office.

I asked if I could ask her one little question. Her mouth said yes but dang if her eyes said no. I ignored the eyes and asked, “Has anyone ever chosen to keep their home for a reason that was not emotional? Is it ever a better decision financially – from what you have seen – to fight for and keep the house?”

It took ten minutes but she finally got to the point and said, “No. The reasons are always emotional. Well, that and your credit rating but even with that your credit rating is hurt almost as much by a short sale or a deed-in-lieu than a full-on foreclosure.”

Well, crap.

To the Daley Center

daley-picasso

Yes, he IS looking at you. In case you were wondering. That’s our famous Daley Center Picasso. Or, “The Horsey” to pretty much any kid on earth.

On our way in Mr. Brickie has a minor meltdown because it’s a courthouse in Chicago and we have cell phones and headphones and the LeapPad and he’s thinking we’re never getting past security. I completely ignore him because I’m too practical to engage in that kind of paranoid, right? I walk up to the nearest security person (police officer?) and ask if cell phones and everything else will be a problem getting through security. I even showed her my FitBit (I’m pretty sure she’s going to buy one now, you are very welcome Fitbit company) to make sure it’s not going to make me look suspicious.

Everything was fine and we sailed through security.

The lawyer gave us a sheet with floors and room numbers so we knew right where to go. The first place was on the 28th floor and we now know that DD freaks out on elevators. The More you Know™ right? We turned in our fee waiver and the judge signed it. We took the whole shebang down to the filing room and got everything turned in.

Next Steps

We got back to the train station with a little less than a half hour until our 1:30pm train left. DD ate the cake pop I bought her at some Starbucks along the way. I’m not usually a food reward kind of mom, but she was as perfect as a four year old could possibly be all day. Polite, engaging, friendly … if she had wanted a pony instead of a cake pop I might have tried to make it happen. I was so proud of her.

We have another copy of the answer to the foreclosure and I just have to mail it to the  law office handling the foreclosure for our mortgage company.

If we don’t choose to keep the house, that piece of paper is going to give us an extra 4-6 months of being in the house on top of what we already have. If we do choose to keep the house, it lets us become more financially solvent so we can pay mortgage payments. A complete win-win.

You might be wondering why I haven’t already mailed that piece of paper since I’ve been on the ball this whole time. Funny story…I sat down after I got home and immediately fell asleep. Not a quick nap, either. I woke up with my mouth hanging open with drool all over the place. I was exhausted!

I wanted to update you first, so I wrote this as soon as I woke up. After I hit “Publish” I’m going to fill out an envelope and go mail that letter to the lawyer.

Tomorrow? The follow up phone call with NACA. We have two companies we are going to use to get us through this mess. That’s two better than zero, for sure.

Also, THANK YOU SO MUCH for the emails, comments, posts, and notes with warm wishes. Knowing I’m not all alone in the world makes this so much easier to deal with.

Really….thank you.

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

blue-bed

I wish tonight could be the night where I get twelve solid, uninterrupted hours of sleep.

Of course that means I probably have another two hours before I get to bed.

Mr. Brickie is scanning all our pages into the flash drive so I can fax them using the most excellent HelloFax. We used to use a real fax machine but that was back when we had a landline. Eventually paying for a landline for a couple pages of faxes a year became kind of pointless.

I was just going to pay for one fax (it’s 99 cents for the first ten pages and 20 cents each additional page) thinking it would be more economical. Thank goodness I do math before I make final decisions. Mr. Brickie told me the fax was sixty-five pages.

So I bought a month of service for $9.99 and have up to 300 pages to send/receive. It’s good to know I’m covered if I have to send this monster document to someone else.

Public Service Announcement

If you are the kind of person who doesn’t save things or just keeps things in files and doesn’t keep track, stop that. The only reason we were able to get this huge document together to be faxed in the first place is hanging files and manila folders. This horrible job would have been so much more horrible if we hadn’t had easy access to all these things.

I save my taxes for the last five years on the cloud, in my computer, and on my backup drive. That way if I need copies, they are available.

Make 2014 your year to keep track. It makes life easier.

Back to Being Tired

Even after he faxes this we have to look up the morning train schedule and pack a bag. Since we are taking the 4yo with us I’m going to grab a backup pull-up, the LeapPad, and a pair of headphones (for the LeapPad, naturally). Maybe a coloring book and crayons, and an extra old phone charged up. I just want to keep her distracted while we talk to lawyers.

I may be posting a few times while I’m downtown if I get good pictures or have a good story. If I only have good pictures, I’ll just post those to Instagram. If we don’t follow each other there, let’s fix that.

Have a great day!

 

The Mortgage Company Won’t Be My Valentine

clockwork heart

This is the part where you act all shocked and surprised in an attempt to be supportive.

Come on, you could look a little horrified. Okay, maybe not.

But we have things in the works, my friends.

Before that (and hopefully before I double-enter seventy more one-line paragraphs) I wanted to update you on The Credit Card Fiasco that Created Christmas. It’s a quick update because the tax return is going to take care of them all and I’m going to tuck them ever-so-gently into my little zipper pouch that I hide on the moon and not use them again.

Crisis averted.

In addition I have enough to pop into an online savings account (out of sight, out of mind) for first/last/security in case that becomes a necessity. No homeless shelters for me!

One of the things that I learned is that there isn’t actually anyplace we looked at that has all three (first/last/security) because they either have first/last or first/security and because I have three names in my head I got all confused and thought it was x3 when it’s not. I’m still saving x3 because then we have a little extra or in case we have to bribe a landlord to ignore my credit report because what’s happening with the mortgage is going to make a landlord that checks that kind of thing cry.

Of course, we aren’t planning on going a traditional route. We are hoping to get a place to rent from a friend of a friend and hopefully that will avoid the whole fiasco.

But every month we postpone that. Every month we don’t have to move is another month closer to Mr. Brickie moving up in the apprentice program and getting those big raises. We have to get through two raises. It’s like a mantra I repeat to myself almost daily. “Just two raises, we just need two raises.”

He is 14 work-days from his first raise.

Thanks so much for asking! Yes, it does make it more painful to be SO close and not there yet. It really does. he should be able to get through it pretty well come Spring but there’s still a ways to go before Spring and breaking ground happens on the next job. (The bright side, of course, is that the next job is already scheduled for Spring so there won’t be any confusion or scrambling to get Mr. Brickie on a job when the weather breaks. Small mercies, right?) In the meantime we keep on keepin’ on.

Back to the Mortgage Stuff

We received thick packages from a law office letting us know there is a court date where all the nasty things begin to happen like sales and transfers and auctions. This means two things happened simultaneously.

  1. We all had panic attacks. I don’t care how prepared you are that is a stressful letter to receive.
  2. We now qualified for programs that wouldn’t talk to me before I had said court date.

Mr. Brickie got on the phone and started making connections. We had heard about NACA a while ago thanks to a friend of mine, but they aren’t really able to help unless you have a court date. Well, it’s possible they could have helped us sooner, but I’m not sure. We filled out the forms and Mr. Brickie had a phone meeting this morning and now I have to fax over a bunch of paperwork to them today.

He has a second (and final) phone interview scheduled with them tomorrow but tomorrow isn’t going to work for us because we have to go downtown to talk to the county legal aid. We can tell them what we’re doing with NACA and figure out who can best help us. I kind of want Mr. Brickie to reschedule the “let’s all go downtown on a train” appointment and keep the “calling on the phone” appointment but he seems to think it’s better to do it the other way.

I have to remember to ask him why. I’m pretty sure he won’t have a good reason. He just goes with things without thinking them through sometimes. He can be so frustrating sometimes because he wants to defend his opinions even when he’s not sure why he’s having them. I get it, he feels like I’m second-guessing him. But I wouldn’t need to if he thought through his decisions in the first place.

You know that last paragraph is totally one sided and he would tell you that he does think things through, right? Don’t take this as gospel. That last bit was mostly venting.

I can be so human sometimes. Ugh. Mostly I can be so, “I don’t want to go downtown on a train with a four year old and I’m going to do everything in my power to convince you that it’s a bad idea because stress, anxiety, and panic.” I hate public transportation. I hate it even more in winter. I hate it EVEN MORE during rush hour. Bringing my child with? We have just entered a whole new stratosphere of stress. Like, punching people stress.

Luckily I have lovely legal drugs given to me by my lovely doctor for that kind of anxiety. I only take them “as needed” so they don’t get a lot of use since most of my life is these four office walls right now. But for this? Oh you can bet your butt cheeks I’m going to consider that a needed moment in anti-anxiety pill land.

Oh! I asked Mr. Brickie about rescheduling the Horrible Train Experience™ and he had a totally valid point I didn’t want to hear. He just told me, “No, we can’t reschedule the “go downtown” appointment because the one we got tomorrow was a cancellation.”

I still don’t want to go. But driving through rush hour will be so much worse than the train. Plus parking is so expensive downtown.

Of course, taking the train is going to be $31.50 round trip for all three of us, plus the taxi we are going to take from the train station because it would be inhumane to make the 4yo walk four and a half (city) blocks in downtown Chicago during rush hour when everyone is power walking to work on auto-pilot, not paying attention to their surroundings. She’ll get totally stepped on and then I’ll get all mama bear and getting arrested won’t get me to the appointment now, will it?

So train + taxi = getting to the law appointment on time.

I have no idea what any of these people are going to do to actually help us. I do, however, know that having help is way better than having no help, so I’m all over it and will happily pop pills and get into crowded trains if that is what it takes.

In case I haven’t mentioned it, both of us have to be at the appointment. If I could just send Mr. Brickie and stay home with the young’un I would totally do that. He would probably prefer it that way, too. On the bright side, I’ll probably get some cute Instagram pics of DD because I’m not going to be able to resist taking her to a Starbucks or Au Bon Pan or Corner Bakery downtown.

How could anyone?

Oh, I forgot to tell you! The reason the mortgage company doesn’t want to be my valentine is because our court date is on Valentine’s Day! Har Har! But also, because once you work with NACA, they do all the talking with the mortgage company and because they do this kind of thing for a living the mortgage company doesn’t get to run them around and give them bad deals like they tried to give me.

It never makes the mortgage company happy when NACA gets involved because another homeowner has stopped trying to DIY and got some professionals involved.

Boom!

Can you think of anything else I should be doing to try and make sure I’m not messing this all up?

 

 

Superbowl Sunday! (Let’s Get Clean in 2014!)

seattle-football-stadium

Depending on when you’re reading this I might be completely wasted in another state.

I like to keep you guessing.

Really, I’ve spent most of the morning researching ways to get a cleaning schedule together. Mr. Brickie got all excited about creating a chore chart which turned out to be the worst list of ten things I’ve ever seen and then I refined it and he promptly forgot he ever had the idea. It was a pretty cool system. We told the girls we would pay them in Decki Dollars and each Decki Dollar could be traded in for an actual dollar or a half-hour of extra TV, computer, or video game time during the week. If they earned five Decki Dollars they would get a bonus dollar for special parent time. The thought process kind of went like, “Oh, since you’re helping around the house there are less things I have to clean and I’d love to spend the time I didn’t spend cleaning with YOU!”

gold-pom-poms

The kids ate it up. They loved it.

We haven’t started it yet because I have to design and print the Dollars and the list needs to be completed and I really could use something that makes some kind of sense and starts a habit.

Without a habit it’s not parenting, it’s just housekeeping.

So I got super excited when I came across this Free Cleaning Checklist You Can Customize over on Simply Rebekah. One page has a year’s worth of chores on it. It’s a great “big picture” way to see what you want to take care of.

A quick sidenote about cleaning systems: I don’t “get” FlyLady. If I could just get emails in the morning telling me what I’m doing that day I would be all over it. The inspirational posts and the advertising posts and the everything else overwhelms me and the ten times I’ve signed up it takes about a month before I check out completely and finally unsubscribe again. I tried to take all the information and create my own sections and whatnot, but it never works. So, I’ll be trying this new system and see if that helps. Maybe I can use both in some way. All that just to say I have nothing against FlyLady and if you’re able to keep track of it all, more power to you. You are a rockstar!

You can see all the floors in my house (which is my gauge of how bad things are) except for a third of the office. But the office floor is covered because the walk in closet in the office is cleaned out completely. It’s like a domino effect.

Or the fourth and ten at the goal line. (I’m keeping with the Superbowl theme so you don’t think I was just teasing you!)

I just know that cleaning has to be a priority because if we do end up having to leave this house we are going to have to do it quickly. That means we are looking out for storage spaces for important bins (like our FIVE rubbermaid Christmas bins – that happens when you have two complete tree setups) and things that have no place but I am emotionally attached to (one bin). Then Mr. Brickie probably has ten bins of things he just can’t part with because he would be a hoarder if he wasn’t married to me. Seriously.

He even does that thing where he gets defensive and calls them collections sometimes. I’m like, “If you’re getting defensive and calling it a collection, you’re a hoarder.” I’m still working on grace and thankfulness and I am 100% sure mocking my husband and comparing him to people on a reality show is NOT the path to being a more loving human being.

I am a work in progress…aren’t we all?

So, um, let’s make it a touchdown this year and get our houses in order BEFORE it’s time for spring cleaning. Then we can all sit back and look down our noses as we see all the social media freak-outs that happen as soon as the snow melts and spring hits!

Who’s with me?! (Even if you’re not with me, I won’t really look down my nose at anyone. It’s not my style. Glass houses, throwing stones, and all that.)

Do you have a cleaning system that works for you? Are you using FlyLady and loving it?

Give me some feedback on what you’re doing, what you would like to do. Let’s talk about cleaning and organizing!

The Weather Problem (or, he has a job so can’t get another)

winter-trees

This is my first winter as the wife of a bricklayer.

Since this follows the rainiest, no-workiest year of bricklaying ever the work leading up to this winter was spotty until he found His Company. (His Company is a term I’m using to mean the company he is the #1 apprentice for and will work as long as there is a job. It’s a good place for an apprentice to be, especially with a company that has regular work lined up.) Obviously circumstances could happen that could make it necessary to work for a different company, but his goal right now is to work through his apprenticeship and become a journeyman working as exclusively as possible for this company.

Since he has only been working fairly regularly since June and was in training for ten weeks before that his unemployment is crap. It won’t even pay the car payment.

I’ve been doing what I can with writing articles and doing some crowdsourced projects, but it’s created the old “when I work and you don’t we are both crabby” problem we’ve experienced a few times before.

The Problem

Even though we recognize there is a problem and we know how to fix it there is this mental block. He can’t get another job without burning the bridge when he quits. No one will hire him knowing he will be gone come Spring. He also has the pride that comes with having a job he loves and is good at. He has the pride that comes from going to the Union meeting and having people tell him they’ve heard nothing but good things. He has the pride that comes from choosing a career.

This makes him almost impossible to deal with because “all the other bricklayers” have saved up and get unemployment during the winter. There may be a little pouting but it’s that macho pout that looks more like an angry glare if you don’t know better. I may have also poked him in the belly to make him laugh to test the theory. I do not fight fair.

 

He wants me to not work so much. He knows I’m happier when I’m taking care of the kids and managing the household (finances, organization, parenting, etc.) and he’s happier when I’m doing all that because he feels everything is in balance. Unfortunately, I have this panic that lives in my soul. The panic of knowing unemployment isn’t enough and I don’t know if I can make enough to keep the whole house running and if I do make enough that means I’m spending no time with my kids. None. I give up all the things I love.

So my problem is trying to balance doing enough work to pay the bills while still having time left to do all the other things I need to get done.

The Solution

I don’t know. Do you have one? As far as I can tell “suffer for a couple years” is what apprenticeship is all about. I mean, if he was a young pup living with his parents being young the apprenticeship wouldn’t even be a hardship. It’s not something designed to take care of a family on, even if his lowest apprentice wage is still far and away above minimum wage.

He is doing some work. He did a lot this morning before I even woke up and he let me sleep in, so I’m certainly not in a complaining mood today. It was a nice break and I had good dreams so woke up in a great mood. I just wish I could wake up with some kind of inspiration that would give me the answer for how to get through this winter.

I know that the way to avoid this next winter is to save some out of every paycheck to add to the unemployment when it happens next year. I just don’t know if we will be able to save enough in addition to paying off the credit card debt we have now. I mean, we owe around two and a half grand in credit card debt total, it’s not a king’s ransom, but since we have to save first/last/security with the tax return, I don’t know if there will be enough left over to pay it all off.

It would be super nice if it was, though.

In the meantime I’m taking care of balances and he’s working on getting the car payment together. We have some paperwork from the mortgage company that we have to address. I’m hoping he will take care of that. I really don’t want to deal with it.

It makes me very, very sad.

Our Next Steps

The only goal we really have is to get through winter. I am reading One Thousand Gifts and it is reminding me to be thankful regardless of if the situation is easy or difficult. Yesterday I read Hunter S. Thompson’s advice for living a life you love or having a purpose or some other thing and it reminded me that I get to wake up next to my husband every morning and that’s exactly the kind of life I adore.

So I’m also happy.

Basically I wander around my house being a giant mood-swing. When I notice I’m doing this I warn my husband by saying, “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy…” Because nothing says, “I love you, honey” like quoting horror movies while your’e acting all weird and broody!

Most of my problems are the “should” variety. I should be working more, he should be working more, we should be doing better, we should be working harder.

I’m shoulding all over our lives.

He checks Craigslist and the job boards daily. He’s stopped in at local businesses asking if they need help through the winter. We aren’t sitting around doing nothing. Not by a long shot. He does not want to sacrifice his integrity by lying about why he wants a job to a Walmart or Meijer and then have to call off if there is one good weather day and he goes back to his “real” job. Because we can’t sacrifice this long-term job opportunity for a few weeks of stress relief at minimum wage. It would be a very bad idea.

Do you have any suggestions?