I Don’t Know What Day It Is #NightShift

At Mr. Brickie’s last union meeting he was unemployed and looking for work. A nice member told him that US Steel was hiring for refractory work.

A little history. Before Mr. Brickie started his apprenticeship he randomly met someone who did refractory work. This guy described it as very lucrative but difficult.

Everyone he has talked about it with since has also called it very demanding or difficult or some other negative term.

So Mr. Brickie was hesitant to sign up for the gig, knowing that bricklayers are working like the dickens everywhere and another job would surely come up.

That’s where his greedy wife (that’s ME!) comes in and says, “Babe…maybe think about it a little. Talk to some other people you know. The nice man at your union meeting wouldn’t have suggested it if he didn’t think you could do it.

He called and found out more and decided to give it a try. After a couple nights of putting in insulation brick, clay brick, and fire brick he’s come to the conclusion that not only is it not the worst job he’s ever been on….it’s actually kind of enjoyable and he *gasp* likes it.

The hours, however, are hell.

Because all this brick goes on very hot things. The very hot thing is shut down (which means less productivity for the plant) and they have to very quickly replace the brick so the line can get back up and running.

I’m being vague here because I don’t need homeland security thinking I’m giving away national secrets about steel production. Even though this is probably the coolest job ever there will be NO pictures of any kind, even for me to see in the privacy of our home. Mr. Brickie is a smart guy and I appreciate him not getting in trouble.

He volunteered for the night shift because you get a $2/hr. differential. He works 12 hours a day until the job is done.

Wait. I literally just got a text. Starting tomorrow it will be 10 hour days. Still no days off until the job is done.

Here’s where it’s lucrative. First he makes scale (he’s in Indiana again so that’s $6/hr. less than Illinois but he’s on overnights so that’s $2/hr. more so the difference is negligible) the first 8 hours of every shift. Then time and a half for the remaining hours of the shift. On Saturday he makes time and a half the first 8 hours of the shift then double time the remainder of the shift. Sunday is double time the whole way through.

It adds up in a big, big way. Lots of hours, no days off, working straight through until the job is done makes for a hell of a paycheck.

I’m over here making sure to set my alarm so I’m awake when he gets home and we talk for about an hour so he can wind down and then he goes to bed. He wakes up an hour and a half before he has to leave, has coffee, wakes up a little and I feed him something before he packs his lunch and goes back to work.

I miss him very, very much.

The intimacy of that hour after he gets off work in the morning is really nice, though.

On days when the kids go to school he’s getting home right when I’m taking the youngest to school. When he moves to 10 hour days he will be home an hour before I wake the kids up, I think.

So I’ll be getting up at 5am to hang out with him until he goes to bed and I get the kids up to start their day.

I’ve become a master of napping.

Also, I shop now. Someone has to and like I said on the social media, “I am not a great every day wife. But give me a short amount of time where I have to be amazing and I will kick ass!”

So I’m being amazing and mopping and running the dishwasher and wiping the counters and sweeping the living room and doing all the things.

I think he’s going to be working until next Sunday morning. It sounds like there will be a week off and then another one of these jobs starts.

If he does this kind of work for a year? We could easily pay off all our credit card debt and start hacking away at the house principal.

Oh, yeah, the house. Or duplex. Whatever you want to call where I live. Last I heard from the mortgage guy he’ll have a date set for closing this week. When you don’t know what day it is, the stress of waiting on someone to tell you a closing date takes a backseat to everything else.

We’ll close when we close.

With the paychecks from the refractory gig we’ll first set aside money for winter just in case. Then I’ll put aside an emergency fund, then I’ll start knocking out credit cards from smallest to largest.

When I do taxes, my goal is to pay a year of the mortgage up front (or set aside the money in a savings account dedicated to paying the mortgage) so I can use all the income we get to pay down credit card debt.

I know that’s not very smart when that’s going to be 10k+ we could put toward debt but there’s a balance that has to be maintained for me to sleep at night. Part of that balance is knowing I do not have to worry about the home payment (whether it’s rent or a mortgage) being made no matter what Mr. Brickie’s work status is.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll change my mind. I don’t think so, though. We’ll see.

The Secret We’ve Been Keeping

It’s been quite a long time, hasn’t it? October 9th would have made three months!

Well there was something going on I couldn’t really talk about. I wanted to share it very much but couldn’t.

We were closely guarding a secret.

I spent months scouring the internet for advice anonymously. Read books I could get my hands on even though our local library had only one and it wasn’t even very helpful. Spent so much time keeping my mouth shut I didn’t know how I’d ever start talking about it. I had to make a plan completely without help from my online friends and I hated it!

It’s nothing bad.

I know that might make someone wonder why it would be a big deal, unless it was something negative. It’s simple. I’m very, very good at talking about bad things. Uncomfortable things. I don’t mind talking about food pantries and the best way to make multiple meals out of five dollar’s worth of food from Aldi. I’m comfortable talking about struggle, about strife, about the things that go bump in the financial night.

Good things aren’t my wheelhouse. Saying anything good feels like bragging even if it’s only stating a fact. I don’t have the right words for great stuff on the horizon.

That means when we started seriously considering buying the triplex we have been renting a floor of for the past four-years-in-November I didn’t know how to share the dream. I didn’t want to jinx it or mess it up or have someone read the blog and somehow swoop in and snatch it up. I was scared to share the good thing because I believed that sharing would put it in danger of being taken away.

That’s the mindset you have after years of being poor, I think. It’s the mindset I have, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

We close next week.

The first thing we’re doing is turning it into a duplex. The third apartment is in the basement and the entrance is in the backyard and it’s just a mess all around. It wouldn’t be an apartment that anyone I would want to rent to would want.

Oh my goodness.

“I would want to rent to….”

We’re going to be landlords, y’all.

Space is currently a real struggle in our three bedroom apartment. We’re at right around or just under a thousand square feet, but part of that is a room no one can use and part of that is the very large master bedroom with the ever-so-small closet. So we’re going to expand our apartment into the basement and make it a two-story, four-bedroom, 1.5 bath luxury apartment. We will expand, make improvements, give the kids more space, be landlords, and stay here until we pay it off.

Then we want to buy another one.

In the meantime, we’ll be back to bare bones living in order to pay off the massive debt we’ve accrued over the past few years as well a pay off the mortgage in five years.

You heard me! The goal is a five year payoff. I think we can do it, too.

So this little financial blogging corner of the Internet is back open for business. Not the kind of business that makes money. This blog’s job is to document our lives for future generations. So when I’m old and crabby the grandkids can log on and be shocked I had a sense of humor back in the day.

I am sorry it’s been so long since we’ve talked. I didn’t know what else to talk about because our lives have revolved around buying this property for almost a year now. Well, in theory, even longer. But I still remember first moving here and changing my Twitter background to the picture of the lease with our key on top. That was such an emotional day.

Now when we close, we’ll be getting more keys but will continue to use the same one to open our same front door just like we have been since we moved here.

There aren’t words to properly express how much I really love the idea of not moving. We’re less than a block from a park, two blocks from a bike path, less than two blocks from the middle school and maybe five blocks from the cute downtown area. It’s a great location for the kids.

It’s going to take a long time to get the basement renovated. If you ask Mr. Brickie it won’t take long at all, but I think he’s underestimating how long it’s going to take to do demo, move the furnace and water heaters, and then reframe the whole thing. Then there’s all the stuff that comes after framing.

Loads of work. Plus making changes here on the main floor.

Which means this isn’t just a finance blog anymore. I guess it’s going to be a finance and renovation blog. Or a house hacking blog. Or a fledgling real estate investing blog. It’s still going to be a blog about getting debt-free even though we’ve strayed way far away from that path and getting back is going to be a bit of a struggle.

Take your pick. I’m happy to be blogging again.

The Home Stretch

Marathons aren’t just the ones you run with your body, you know? Some marathons are mental tests of strength and stamina. We are in the home stretch of one of those marathons.

Five and a half years ago my husband, Mr. Brickie, was hired on as a Union Bricklayer Apprentice. The apprentice scale started at 40% and you would move up in 10% increments every time you worked 750 hours, took two training classes, and were six months out from your last promotion through the ranks. The 40% represents that you will make 40% per hour of what a Journeyman makes. It’s a simple and clear way to navigate from point A (getting the job) to point B (being a journeyman).

I’m not entirely sure what being a Journeyman means, other than getting to that finish line of making 100% of your potential hourly wage. There’s a little book they gave him when he got hired that outlines it all, but I haven’t read that book for five and a half years.

Right now he has 15 days left before he graduates(?) promotes(?) becomes a Journeyman. Three short weeks. When I look at it on the spreadsheet you can finally see today’s date and the date we’ve been aiming for without scrolling down.

When we started this journey we knew there would be sacrifices but felt it would all be worth it in the end.

It was the first time either of us did a real five-year plan.

It was the first thing we had truly hoped for as a couple. It was our dream, not my dream or his dream, but one we held together. We whispered our hopes to one another as we fell asleep in the dark, kind of a realistic version of, “What would you do if you won the lottery.” Even more realistic because we don’t play the lottery but we have been on this journey toward this destination for so long and we are fifteen (business) days away. Three weeks.

The problem? I tend to absolutely fall apart during the last leg of a race. If I have to wait for a half hour, I’m fine for 25 minutes and am a nervous wreck for the last 5. I wake up and immediately want to do something, anything, that will let me sleep until three weeks has passed an I am no longer a jittery, anxious mess.

I do breathing exercises and guided meditations I find on YouTube, but they only help a little. I keep doing them because I don’t have better options right now. I have to keep it together. I joined Facebook groups for spirituality, self-improvement, peaceful parenting, and anything else that could give me advice or inspiration on ways to keep it together I may not have thought of yet.

I am waiting for a return call from a lawyer. Two, actually. I can tell you about one of them. We are receiving a bill from a doctor that worked on Mr. Brickie’s wrist when it broke during a work accident and he was out of work for five months and I learned to navigate the waters of worker’s compensation claims. The lawyer we worked with is – we think – contacting them about the bill but we aren’t entirely sure. Usually he responds back very quickly but this last time it’s taken a while and so we aren’t quite sure what’s happening. We may have to pay the bill even if we don’t legally owe it because if they put it with a collection agency our credit scores won’t care if we don’t legally owe it, you know? We’ll see how it pans out but for now it’s in the air.

The other lawyer, well, I’ll blog about it eventually but while there are a lot of things I can talk about in the moment, some stories have to be the “in retrospect” type. Some things, put out in public, can change by the nature of them being in public and this is one of those things that can’t be shared just yet. It’s going to be a good story regardless of how it turns out.

Everything is a good story if it’s told right though, isn’t it? It’s not the story, it’s the telling that makes it interesting. I’m not sure I’m telling this story that way, but I’m giving it my best shot.

Luck and Circumstance and I Have a Monetary Confession

Mr. Brickie finally started working!

He was laid off again two weeks later. Laid off so fast, in fact, that I was able to go online and file his bi-weekly unemployment certification on the normal day.

He won’t get paid for the two weeks he worked (of course) but it means if he doesn’t work for another two weeks we’ll have something come in to go toward bills in the meantime.

The two paychecks were a boost, for sure, but going into the budget after Disneyland and four months off really highlighted how much damage the vacation and long winter really did.

How Much Damage, Though? (aka Confession time)

Credit card minimums add up to over a thousand dollars. There. I said it. I hope you don’t think me too much a failure, though, because regular bills haven’t increased at all. We did what people are never supposed to do – buy groceries and whatnot on credit cards charging really high interest rates. There were also a couple car repairs in there I could explain as totally necessary but signing up the girls for camp was expensive and not necessary. Sure they did three weeks a piece last year and this summer will only do one week a piece in order to reduce the damage but yeah, my kids are still going to sleepaway camp because it’s more important to me than being debt free.

It didn’t help that unemployment barely covered basic bills. I know it’s not meant to, I’m not complaining, but that is the long and short of how it happened. There was no wiggle room. He tried finding side jobs and I tried finding side jobs but the few we did get barely made a difference. It was a tough winter. It happens. Thank goodness it’s not the 1600’s or we’d all be dead from my poor planning because instead of credit card debt I’d have probably poisoned the winter rations or something else totally awful.

I hear the DR fans in my head saying, “What if you hadn’t had credit cards at all?” My response would have been, “I don’t know but I don’t want to think about it because it would have been so, so much worse.” Yes being normal is not great but being wholly committed to an idea at the expense of your kids and family is also a bit not great. I’m okay going back into debt as long as there is a plan for where the next money is coming from to get us out of the debt. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay.

The best thing to come out of this winter, I think, is the understanding that even though we’re deep in the muck right now, it could be so much worse. I don’t regret the things we did or bought. This is really the first time we used our future to pay for our present in a big way and as long as we don’t do it again I’ll write it off as worth it.

I’m Done Beating Myself Down

Yes, I have a bunch of credit card debt. I used a credit card for groceries and gas and all manner of silly things that weren’t bare-bones necessities.

Okay.

I can learn from this and not feel bad about it all at the same time. It’s a new skill I’ve been working on and it’s paying off like gangbusters right now.

Do I still want to be debt-free? Of course I do! But there is no virtue in it. There is no moral superiority. I won’t gain the ability to talk to my cats like they’re people.

It’s just a choice.

Sure, I prefer to live debt-free. As soon as we don’t have this pesky income problem I will be thrilled to get back to working on it again!

Speaking of Mr. Brickie – Job Update

This is the summer Mr. Brickie becomes a journeyman. No longer an apprentice, he will be a full-fledged member of the bricklayer’s union.

What that means in real life terms. One, he can move anywhere or go anywhere for work. If they’re laying a bunch of brick down south in the winter, he can travel down and hop on a job and make what they make at the location he’s working in. Two, he is eligible for other positions within the union.

I don’t know if either of those things will happen. I think the biggest plus of being a journeyman is knowing he did ten weeks of training, worked 4,500 hours, completed eight weeks (and a couple Saturdays) of additional training, attended 53 union meetings, and made an enormous amount of contacts in his industry.

I still remember back when he started this journey and everyone – bricklayers and friends alike – looked at him sideways wondering why this white collar guy thought he was going to build walls. I remember him failing his first test during training and my heart plummeting. When he passed it on the second try my heart soared for him. He has grown as a person so much through this journey. I have, too, but I’m trying not to make it all about me for a minute or two.

This is what I’ve been waiting for. It’s not the end of the road but the road trip from marketing guy to union bricklayer is almost done. There will be a new trip after this one is over but for now this is our home stretch.

During this journey we foreclosed on a home, had an internet fundraiser to move to a new state, the kids switched school systems and had to adjust to a dedicated high ability program, lost friends, made friends, and sometimes I swear lived a whole life in the last five years.

What Now?

I’ve been hopeful-to-the-point-of-being-cocky in the past about how easy it would be to clean up our financial mess pretty much every winter since Mr. Brickie has started being Mr. Brickie and not Burnt Out Angry Marketing Guy – but this time feel different. I’m not hopeful but I’m also not worried. Maybe because I think it’s the final time we will go through this, but I’m not sure. It feels like this is our biggest hurdle to date but at the same time it doesn’t feel stressful.

I will do everything I can but I can only do what I can do. Worrying won’t help.

Mr. Brickie may not working now but when he goes back, I have the new 2018 budget ready. It took almost two full weeks to figure the darn thing out. Due dates, importance, trying to put money toward next month’s bills (which we were able to do with just two of his working paychecks) are all things that had to be accounted for. There was a lot more math than most years.

April has never been a kickass month for work because it’s super wet and he can’t work in the rain. I really feel pretty lucky he’s been back to work at all considering what felt like a never-ending winter.

My Plans

I’m half-heartedly poking around in the library and online for something I want to do that’s just for me. I’ve spent the last five years focused on everyone else and making sure they transition with as little stress as possible. I’ve spent so much time, effort, joy, and tears on my family I’m not even sure what I want anymore. Not in a bad way, I love the life I have and am excited for where our life as a group is going.

Recently it feels like the whole world is full of doors and my only responsibility is picking one to open and walk through.

Taking care of the family is still my first priority, so I won’t be opening any job or business doors. I’m looking at maybe doing something creative, because even though I’ve never really done anything creative before I feel like I might be a creative person.

I am still doing medical stuff. 2017 was the year of anti-depressants for anxiety (and all the side effects that went with them…ugh) and five outpatient leg vein surgeries (awake and crying into a pillow for every one, ugh) all before going to Disneyland and walking 32,000 steps a day.

2018 is going better so far health wise. Last month my doctor joked that I should be taking the same meds my daughter with ADHD – Inattentive Type takes. I took her up on the offer – because why not? – and now, three weeks of ADHD meds later, I’ve never felt less anxious.

Guess that anxiety wasn’t just anxiety after all. I’ll be damned. Now, if I could figure out how to make that anxiety not come back and crash down on me like a ton of bricks when the meds wear off that would be great! But even if I never figure that part out I don’t care. At this point I’ll take all the not-anxiety I can get however I can get it. I also have another surgery scheduled for a different place you don’t even want to know about in three weeks. I hope that works out well because I’m more nervous about it than I care to mention. I will say that the problem had to be pretty extreme for me to be willing to go to a surgeon for the solution. Sorry for the vagueblog but I promise it’s better for you this way.

I try to focus on on how lucky I am that one of the biggest bonuses of the last five years is our insurance. I’m a pretty firm believer everyone deserves good health care. Is health care one or two words? Healthcare? Health Care? Health care? I’m mostly good with my native language but sometimes I’m easily stumped.

It wasn’t a five-year plan after all!

I think I was more silent this winter than usual because this year is such a game-changer in terms of how it could possibly end. Mr. Brickie will become a journeyman and, at that time, everything changes. He becomes eligible to work for the union, he is allowed to go wherever he chooses (as an apprentice, he has to stay within the area of his training center), and he could be made into a foreman (a 10% pay increase over scale, offered “per job”).

Right now, I’m in a group about raising vibrations and talking to our inner selves and I shared that right now I have to wait. So, because she was being precious, the teacher reminded me that even if I’m waiting it’s a choice and I can do whatever I want.

Let me tell you. I just want to vent for a second. Not about the teacher because her response was valid but ranting there would seem like it’s about her and, like I said, it’s not, because she is not privy to my life circumstances and I am making the choice not to flood her group with my life story.

I realized Mr. Brickie was happier when he was doing physical things around the house when he was remodeling the bathrooms in our Illinois house. I have pictures, let me grab the date. September 18th, 2009 is when he did the bathrooms but it was when he moved the plumbing line in the kitchen in November of that same year I realized he was much happier doing that than what he had been doing prior.

I floated the idea that maybe – just maybe – he’d be happier in a blue collar job. We spent a long time talking about what might suit him. Then we went to the party and I grilled everyone I knew about their jobs, their dad’s jobs, their friend’s jobs and that’s when we figured getting into a Union was the best thing.

It took him almost a year to decide because I told him he would have to be okay losing the house. There was no way we could start over and deal with the mortgage, too. He came around and started looking for Unions to work for. He filled out applications. He took tests. He had interviews. He was offered a position with the bricklayers and he was thrilled (they were his favorite from the beginning). He finished is 10 week, $50-a-week-stipend training course with two tests that were pass/fail. He successfully completed that pre-employment training 3/28/2013.

I remember feeling like those were the longest ten weeks of my life.

But here we are.

Like I did when he was in pre-apprentice training, I wait.

Yes, I realize it’s a choice.

Here is how I explained it and then realized it was more fitting for the blog than a comment on someone else’s Facebook page.

In my life (at this time) the course of action called “waiting” is more like “living in the moment.” It’s very similar to a road trip. I decided over five years ago to drive to (let’s say) Topeka. It was a fairly direct route but I also stopped at roadside attractions along the way and took detours and visited tourist traps along the way. Now, though, the signs are telling me how many miles to Topeka instead of the signs that tell you the number of miles to the big city closest to Topeka. I can feel how close I am. I’m getting antsy and I want to gun it but if I do that could get me pulled over or into an accident, so I’m taking care not to screw anything up because I’m so close. Sure, I could choose to pull over and hike for a while or stop at the side of the road for some kickin’ BBQ. The choices are endless, but those will delay me even further and now that I’m so close even if my bladder is crying for a wee I’m not pulling over until I’ve crossed the border of the town and am in Topeka. All of my energy is focused and centered on making Topeka happen. It’s the reality I’m hell bent on having and I’ve been single-minded in my pursuit for years, but all I can do to get there now is stay alert and do the speed limit so nothing gets in the way and I can cross the border and be in Topeka in the shortest amount of time possible.

Oh, when I am in Topeka the universe will hear the cry of thanks my soul will make to the heavens and the power behind it will scream, “I have done this.” It will be glorious. The culmination of so much time and energy and attention and every bit of it will have been worth it. Hell, it already is worth it and if something happens and I don’t make it to Topeka I will not be sad… but if I do (when I do) … oh … there will be such a party and it will be absolutely beyond.

The only difference is that the seed for this journey was planted in the fall of 2009. The idea that we could start over and make things better. What I thought was a five-year plan has really been a nine-year plan. Five years of execution after four years of planning. It wasn’t a case of dilly dallying, either. I mean, it took almost a year from submitting his application to beginning the pre-apprentice training course. I assume (based on hindsight) that was because Mr. Brickie got hired in during the worst year on history for the bricklayers. Hardly anyone was working. He started at the lowest dip in the bricklayer market since its inception in 1865. We told each other it was because everything is a cycle and getting in at the bottom is where you want to be with cyclical things and lo and behold we are about to go into a boom year like nobody’s business.

Now, here we are. 20 days until the five year mark of his graduation to apprentice bricklayer and 70 days (556 hours if we’re being precise) of work left to become a journeyman. We are so, so close to the finish line. Okay, 70 working days may not seem like we’re so, so close. Once he starts working, though, three months will fly by.

So, I think I’m making it fairly obvious why no one wants to make any changes to the plan. We’re all thrilled with the plan. We just don’t like waiting. The days before the bricklaying season start back up after the first thaw are the most difficult to wait through. They have been for five years now. The difference is the undercurrent of a new story being available to us that wasn’t possible five or seven or nine years ago. A door that isn’t open yet but will be unlocked and swung wide 556 hours after the clock starts counting down.

In my mind the door is a deep mahogany color with slight imperfections from being hand-stained. Imperfections called “character” that make the wood special rather than taking away from its beauty. A brass doorknob (because this door isn’t fussy, you see) and carved with all the beautiful tools my husband needs for his trade. A trowel, levels, a hardhat. All those union stickers he put all over his hardhat because that’s what I’d do, too. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love stickers?

I’m so excited to see what’s beyond that door.

Note 1: Mr. Brickie kept saying, "Why are we going to Kansas?" I explained I stole Topeka from the show Falling Water because it refers to a place that is neither here nor there or the ability to go from the here to the dream, or something like that. I don't quite "get" Falling Water but I love watching it.
Note 2: The story is entirely first person even though Mr. Brickie does all the work because this is my blog from my point of view. In my everyday life it's always about the team effort and the "we" getting where "we" need to be. I know I'd be lost without him, no matter what it may sound like.

Positive things, a few worries, and the placebo effect

Max - One of my two tabby cats. The bitey one.

I’m trying to update but Max keeps biting my ankles and shins. I played fetch with him today for almost an hour with that yellow pineapple there and he was fed not ten minutes ago so there’s no reason for this. He wants attention. I love giving him attention but sometimes I would like to sit down and write without the fear of being bitten hovering in the back of my mind. We had a heart to heart about it and I’m pretty sure his meow meant, “I don’t care what you want.” Such is life with cats.

Finances

I paid the minimums on the first half of the credit cards for the month today. I should have done it on Wednesday when he got paid but I’m moving in slow-motion lately. The second half of the minimums plus the car and gas/electric will get paid in two weeks.

This is the part where I pause to pray to the universe and the heads of all the religions I learned about in theology class that he has a job by then. He did get a stipend for going to a protest last week so that will be helpful, for sure. I don’t want to dip into the savings if I can avoid it. We need that money for other things.

A Nice Dent

Any day now, we’ll get the check from Costco with our cash back. It will go right back on the card as a payment, but it will be nice to see the balance drop. It’s over $600 and we maxed out the gas benefit so at the very end it went down from 4% to 1%. That was good to know. Gas is the one thing you know you didn’t buy extra that you used credit card reward points to justify. You get gas when you need gas and goodness knows I didn’t get out of the house more because I knew we’d get cash back. It would take a lot more than that to make me a person who likes leaving the house.

The Kids

I’m still stalling on signing them up for camp. We got our IL tax return (even though we live in IN since he works in IL we file taxes in both states. I had to write a check to IN for just under $300, but we got a little over $600 back from IL so it was a net positive. That means it’s not all going on a credit card. Heck, I think I can do it without touching a credit card. Mostly I’m trying to avoid paying for summer camp this year but I know how much they love it and they’re both Junior counselors this year and that leads to experience that darn near guarantees a fun – room and board included – repeat summer job down the road located 20 minutes from home. I don’t want to mess that up.

Hopes

I’m truly hopeful we will be able to pay off our credit cards by the time he’s laid off again in winter. If not, I am hoping to make a substantial enough dent I can complete the payoff process with our 2019 tax return. I haven’t planned out anything specifically, I’m in the “big picture” portion of planning. We are coming to the end of the five-year plan and I don’t know what the next five years is going to entail so I can’t really make a new plan. We should have a much better handle on that by the end of this year. Probably by June of this year. As soon as I have something solid I’ll let you know but for now I have to keep so many things vague and it makes me feel bad. I’m not withholding information because I’m ashamed or unhappy. I can’t risk anyone finding out who shouldn’t know because there are seventy things that could happen and seventy ways it could get all mucked up and I’m keeping my mouth shut so there are only 69 things that can muck it up and I’m not one of them!

Fears

Of course I’m worried that our hopes are going to get dashed. I’m trying not to worry and I signed up to take this 40 day “raise your vibration” course. After learning that the placebo effect has extremely powerful benefits even if you know it’s a placebo I decided that what I needed a placebo most for was positive energy and chakra alignment. Doing a thing makes you feel like you’ve done a thing and it can make a difference. The worst that happens is I look silly in a room by myself and that’s not really anything to be afraid of even if I am when I think about sharing that I’m doing it. But between being loud and a goof, I’m used to looking silly in front of other people and not caring one bit so even though I’m my harshest critic I’ve decided to let it go and feel at peace and become one with the universe. Ohm…..volt….resistance…. (that’s an electrical joke in case you were wondering)

Good News

Middle Sister is going to state for chess. I’m pretty excited about it. She isn’t a prodigy or anything, it’s her first year playing and I’d only shown her some basic moves, but she gets to go and that’s amazing. She’s really excited. It felt wonderful to sign her up for the US Chess Federation.

Big Sister is back on meds for her ADD and I feel much more comfortable now that she’s old enough to make sure she pays attention to how it makes her feel and I don’t have to give her multiple choice questions that feel leading and disingenuous. Her grades have improved and she has no failing grades right now. I’m happy that the improvement in her grades is making her happy.

Little Sister is a handful who is happy with school and goes to Karate once a week. She loves it. The teacher gave her a pair of nunchucks (nunchaku?) and she practices katas with them at home. I’m a little nervous about my 8 year old learning how to attack with a weapon (Karate doesn’t have that “don’t start fights” part drilled into them like Taekwondo does.

Mr. Brickie has another protest to attend Monday. I’ll be here hoping he gets a call to start work since we know of three companies starting jobs as soon as the foundation is poured and set. If I get too stressed about it, I’ll meditate. Meditation has a scientific basis so I feel really good about doing it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_on_meditation (I’m not linking to Wikipedia as a one-and-done source, I’m linking to it as a location for the 113 sources cited at the bottom of the article. They’re not all rock star citations but some seem legit.)

Happy New Year! 2018 is going to be a blast!

Really, how is it going to be March tomorrow? I didn’t even manage a single post in January but at least I’m squeaking in before March officially hits. That makes me feel better about neglecting basically everything in my life including the blog. The problem is I’m very boring in the winter and I stop blogging because every other week would be a post along the lines of, “Hey, we got unemployment, tried to find temp work, paid minimums on credit cards, and are still making bad life decisions.” It would get tiring. I’m still here and the winter is almost over which always leads me to think about writing, planning posts, and tending to the word garden that is this blog.

Work Update (More like a participation update)

Mr. Brickie is at a protest today (I know, right? A protest!) and hopefully that will keep his reliability/visibility indicators high for his future job potential. Tomorrow he goes to a class on organizing. I’m not sure if it teaches him how to be the big bad wolf Walmart and Amazon warn against during job training, but I’m curious to know more.

Money Update

We did get our tax return and I’m not surprised to report it was down 2k from last year. It’s not because of anything political, Mr. Brickie made about 4k more during the year and, as such, our earned income credit was 2k less. I like that it scales down slowly like that so we don’t go from having a huge tax return to nothing in one year.

We racked up a lot of debt during the winter and paying it down will be our single-minded money focus once Mr. Brickie goes back to work. Every extra penny is going to go toward debt because it won’t take much to give our credit scores a healthy boost. We need them looking good within the next few months. As a secondary measure toward 2018 success, we set a little over half of our tax return into a savings account. I honestly waver on whether we should throw every penny toward debt or save some and put the rest toward debt. I’ll have to Google it and see what the Internet thinks.

I’ve already informed the girls they won’t be doing extended summer camps this year. One week each and that’s it. We need to scale back and use that money for debt. I’m lucky my kids still trust me (the oldest is thirteen, I was worried she was going to give me pushback but she still trusts me as of the moment I’m typing this, goodness knows things can still change but I remain hopeful) and understand we have a bigger plan for all of us that is worth sacrificing a couple extra weeks of summer camp

Health Update

My doctor and I spent most of last year cycling through medications for anxiety and they either didn’t work or the side effects made them not worth the trouble. We found a new dentist that didn’t do a hatchet job like the last one and I no longer have a giant chip in my front tooth. Hooray! Plus, they’re being super-cool about paying the balance we owe them in payments. We have wonderful insurance but we still have to pay 20% of services. I have a year-long payment plan for the vein surgeries I got in my legs last year before we went to Disneyland. Luckily, they’re being super cool as well. They’re cashing the checks, anyway, so even if they’re not being super cool, I don’t have to hear about it.

Budget Update

In order to track all the doctor bills we have payment plans on (vein doctor, dentist, hospital, physicians, and the opthamologist I saw recently for a giant floater in my right eye that obscures my vision) I started a Google Spreadsheet. It took me two weeks to decide how to set it up for easy access. I settled on using a tab (separate worksheet) for each place we owed money to and then did a column for each family member within that tab. It’s been working out really well so far. For convenience, I also added the girls’ school bills as a tab because I’m making payments on that as well. School is expensive here. Two kids in middle school and one in elementary cost me over $500 out of pocket and that’s WITH a discount off fees for the kids qualifying for free lunch last year. (Next year we might only qualify for reduced lunch, which is fine since my kitchen is in far less disarray than it was last year! Thank you IKEA and a Billy bookcase we use for storage in the kitchen and two Walmart bookcases we use in the back room as pantry space, we can finally not be entirely cramped.

We also bought a quarter cow! We have so much beef! I should take something out of the freezer now to thaw before dinnertime tonight. I totally slacked on making a meal plan this week. I’ve been slacking at most everything for the last month. I don’t want to do anything and feel totally lethargic. I even went to my doctor and got diet pills, but I found out they’re not basically speed anymore so they’re not even giving me a boost. This morning I started doing bed exercises to get myself more awake in the morning and it seemed to help a little but I have this fantasy where I’m a person who cleans and enjoys cleaning and I feel like I’m failing myself every day I’m not that person. I do like to keep things organized and somewhat tidy and just this morning I spilled a little coffee on the kitchen floor and wiped it up with a rag and followed that up with a Lysol wipe (not the actual brand but you know, that type of wipe) and ended up wiping down about 4 square feet of floor just to keep it clean so I’m not living in squalor or anything….I just…have this picture in my head and I don’t match it and I don’t like it one bit. Where is my cute apron and adorable attitude? Why am I not cleaning baseboards? Why am I such a human and not a cool robot person?

On the Horizon

Last but not least, I want to start incorporating video into this blog. I love doing videos, especially live FB videos because they’re fun! I’m guessing I just pop them on the FB page and then link them inside the blog. I’ll research that a bit more.

I hope your winter has been going well. I look forward to us talking more soon. Otherwise the next you’ll hear from me it will be that I’ve snapped and scattered Mr. Brickie’s body parts across fourteen states under the guise of a road trip. Closeness is wonderful but closeness with the anxiety of impending work that hasn’t materialized quite yet is suffocating for both of us.

Post-Disneyland Christmas Budget Reality Hangover Remedy

I want to be a great mom.

Yes, it sounds obvious because who doesn’t want to be a great mom…but I really have a deep desire to be a great mom.

Do I know what a great mom is? No. I have no idea what I even mean when I say to you, “I want to be a great mom.”

Part of me thinks it means making sure my kids want for nothing. Taking them to Disneyland for my brother’s wedding was amazing. They were wide-eyed bushy-tailed thrill seekers the whole time we were there. Even the angsty tween couldn’t help but be sucked in to the Disney Magic ™ … we all had a blast.

Coming home and entering all those line item spending items to the budget REALLY brought me back down to earth. Like, woah.

But as soon as that pain of how much we spent settled in there was (with almost whiplash speed) a whole bunch of Christmas stuff all over my world telling me that all that spending we just did wasn’t enough because we had to buy Christmas presents for the kids.

I almost immediately bought an Xbox One S from Costco. “It was on sale,” I said. “The kids will love it,” I said. “A group gift will SAVE MONEY,” I said. Then we started talking about how the kids play minecraft all the time with split screen and didn’t they need a bigger TV so they didn’t have to stand in front of the smaller TV to see the little screen quarters.

I’m not lying to you…I literally woke up out of a dead sleep in the middle of the night and thought to myself, “What the hell are we doing?” We were about to fall down some kind of consumer money-pit rabbit hole where I spent a thousand dollars on my kids for Christmas after spending more than I feel comfortable admitting to publicly on a week long vacation. (That price includes wedding gifts, clothing, like…everything but it’s still madness.)

We are in enough of a hole and digging ourselves deeper isn’t going to make it any better.

So, against my desires of wanting to give a lavish Christmas to the kids (that we cannot afford) I am going to teach them about restraint. I’m going to teach them that we are going to do a small holiday because the date on the calendar does not determine our spending habits.

Maybe we’ll do the gift guide I see going around social media: Give them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

It sounds good in theory but my new (too strict) goal is $100 for all of Christmas for the three kids…including stockings. I’m not sure if it’s possible but I’m going to try. I picked the number in a very scientific way. I bought my youngest a LOL Big Surprise the day after Halloween this year because I heard from a mom friend online it was going to be the IT toy this season. I had totally failed on getting my daughter a Hatchimal last year (she really wanted one but was awesome about waiting until after the holidays) so was thinking I’d save the day this year.

They are going for a hefty sum on eBay right now. I’m thinking I can use the sale of the LOL Surprise to fund Christmas if I time it correctly.

I’m done being sans souci about money. It’s time to get focused and build muscle for squeezing pennies in 2018. There are some amazing things in store (I hope) and I can’t wait to share them with you as they happen! I’ll keep you updated on my cheap-as-heck Christmas plan.

Why I Gave Up on the Budget

Man. It’s been rough. Sure, it’s minor surgery but we’re on week six and today is my last procedure and I could not be more excited and tired and over this whole wellness process.

I remind myself it’s voluntary so I can’t complain. I’m lucky to have insurance that covers this now so I don’t have varicose veins in 10 years or ulcers in my legs in 20 years.

Getting older is a trip.

Mr. Brickie was off work sick Thursday & Friday and then he was rained out of work Monday & Tuesday so we are going to have two not so great 24hour checks. This is the time of year the weather starts to turn on us like if you keep a wild animal as a pet and you think it’s all cool until the tiger is 200lbs. and gnawing a little too hard on your arm. That’s what October usually feels like.

My habit of paying all the bills as soon as possible instead of spreading them over 4 weeks helped, however. One of the three-day checks only has to cover groceries, etc. this week so the bit of additional money can go toward bills with next week’s three-day check.

I certainly hope it’s a three-day check. Mr. Brickie says the weather looks great for the rest of the week so here’s hoping.

This weekend we got a hotel room to celebrate my daughter’s friend’s birthday. This is absolutely not in the budget.

I’m going to call this the Disneyland Effect. Since there is no way to budget for Disney (and I’m in pain all the time right now) there is a “put it in the chuck-it bucket” effect where all expenses that aren’t budgeted start to look like less of a, “when we can afford it” and more like a, “whatever, I don’t care.”

I recognize this is a dangerous attitude and am trying to get the reins on that horse before it runs right out of the barn doors.

I wish I could hand off the budget to someone else for a little bit. It’s exhausting. I know it will probably go back to being my favorite thing in the world eventually but right now I just want to go back to bed.

Mr. Brickie is on track to become a journeyman in March. I wonder if it will feel different when he isn’t an apprentice anymore… (I’m trying to end on a positive note.)

Why I’m Done with MLMs for Good

Short Answer: People who fail aren’t just full of sour grapes. These businesses only work for people who are full-on extroverts with the kind of energy only found in toddlers and me when I’m having an manic episode.

Long Answer: I’ve tried two MLM companies (Scentsy and LipSense) and I joined BOTH in February (of different years). I wonder what it is about February that makes me make particularly bad business decisions.

The products from both companies are great and I still use products from both companies. It’s just the way the system is set up you have to game it to win. Or, like I said before, have eternal energy.

I should have seen the warning signs from LipSense. I didn’t get orders for a month before I signed up. When I did sign up there was nothing available to sell. I got sucked up in the whole “buying inventory” mistake. I walked away almost breaking even, so I’m not mad and I didn’t lose a bunch of money like some people do in these businesses but I won’t ever do it again.

It’s just not my nature.

That being said if I ever have an original idea I’ll sell my own thing for sure. Just…not other people’s things via a multi-level marketing company. Sure they like to post things about the pyramid scheme of the “cubicle life” but the analogy doesn’t hold water. When my leadership has a worse grasp of logic than I do? It’s not a good sign.

So I’m out. If you want LipSense, I still recommend it. It’s good stuff. I hated the skincare stuff. Well…not hated…I just felt there were a hundred better options for less money at Ulta, you know? Plus it wasn’t until after I signed up they told me I couldn’t talk about anything that was a competing brand. Which is all the skincare stuff I actually use. (I have a friend who sells Perfectly Posh and I love their stuff…no…I’m not going to sell it. I’ve learned my lesson, I swear! If you need a recommendation for a person though, let me know and I’ll send you her way.)

I’m done having people tell me what I can and can’t talk about on my own Facebook page or in my own blog. I don’t hate the company or anything, I’m just done with it. My freedom is too important to give it away for a little lipstick money.