Tag: apprentice

Apprentice Update – 60%

Mr. Brickie is a 60% apprentice right now. That means he makes 60% of what a journeyman makes. Every 750 hours of work (plus two training classes, plus going to union meetings monthly) gives you a 10% bump. There is also a test at the 80% level, I think.

Each bump is a raise of about $4/hr. It is a big deal amount of money.

Right now we are at what I call the “bridge” between the apprentice level when we can no longer qualify for SNAP benefits and the level where we can afford food. We are 99.9% sure we are not receiving any more SNAP benefits (food stamps) because I did the math and we dropped off paystubs yesterday. We are nervous but the paystub drop-off was 100% voluntary because I don’t want to be caught up in fraud, even if it’s by accident or ignorance or “hoping for the best.”

In addition, Mr. Brickie’s next job location will involve a lot more tolls and gas. So we may be stretched razor thin this summer. I just don’t know yet.

Back to the apprenticeship.

This 60% – 70% bridge (in real numbers that are only accurate for this day and our situation are $25.55/hr. vs. $29.81/hr.)

60% → $764.43/week → $3057.72/month (assuming a 40 hour week)
70% → $889.84/week → $3559.36/month (assuming a 40 hour week)

In the example above I calculated taxes using the hourly paycheck calculator (it’s usually right to within about ten dollars) and then took off union benefit payments which for this union on this day are $2.20/hour.

The difference is a jaw-dropping $501.64 per month. Each subsequent raise looks the same. The only way you go above 100% of scale is if you are a foreman or something else within the union. Raises are negotiated by the union and go into effect in June of any given year.

Awwww, remember back when he started and he made $16.27 an hour? When the best we could do was a full time check of $478.52? Trying to figure out how to keep a house with a $1200 mortgage on an income of $1600/month that he only made during perfect weather when there was a job? …awwwww so cute!

Or….aww, remember when he really first started and took an 8 week unpaid apprentice course that paid a  $50/wk. stipend? AWWWWWWW….

Me too.

There has been a lot of scratching and crawling from there to here.

But when your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is an actual pot of gold, well, like my friend once heard a garbageman say, “You have to dig through a lot of trash to get the fur coat.”

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Birthday Parties and Layoffs

I threw a birthday party for one of my daughters and the other one will have her birthday party next week. I was really nervous about it because it’s been a while since we’ve done a party and with all these new people and not knowing how many kids were coming I was a wreck.

Of course Mr. Brickie then got called in on the Sunday the party was happening on so it was going to be just me. Lucky for me, my cousin came by a little early and kept me sane. Five kids showed up and they all had an absolute blast. They rotated between video games and hanging out talking and Pokemon cards.Three boys and two girls and everyone just…got along.

It was amazing. Even Little Sister and Big sister were great hosts, asking if people needed more snacks or something to drink. I was proud of everyone.

Yesterday, Mr. Brickie found out he’s laid off again, so today I am putting in his unemployment application online just in case he doesn’t get back to work right away (if I put in the app and he does start working right away you just don’t certify and nothing happens) but he has a lead on a job starting in a couple weeks so that’s promising.

Of course he’s not going to just sit and wait and hope for a couple weeks. He’s learned from past “waiting games” that turned into “no gig” that waiting is never the right option for steady work! No one has done this to him intentionally, but things happen. It’s important to get your hustle on the minute you find out there isn’t work the next day.

We do have enough to pay January’s rent today, though, and I should have my tax return by the time February’s rent is due. I’m also really really excited to be able to write that sentence! Even though he was laid off (temporarily) I can still BREATHE knowing the rent is paid.

Whew, right? Total whew.

Today is the day where Mr. Brickie goes to Illinois and cancels our public aid (medicaid and SNAP) so we can reapply in Indiana. It also looks like it might be a food bank day but I need to lok that up. I have a feeling it’s Thursday. One moment.

(15 minutes later)

Okay. Mr. Brickie is on his way to the food pantry. It’s 9:07am and they close at 10am and all he needs is proof the kids get free lunch (they do) and he says the building where he would get that letter to prove they get free lunch is in the same building as the food pantry.

He just tried to take my car. It started fine (hooray!) but is totally stuck in the snow. Wouldn’t move an inch. I’ll have to look into that if I plan to, you know, drive anywhere this week. He’s taking his commuter car (the ’90 Toyota) to the food pantry.

I wonder if I’ll ever get used to things being not-horribly-difficult … every time something here is easy to get done or close-by it feels like a shock to my system. I’m determined I will never take it for granted.

So with a (super low-key and inexpensive) birthday party under my belt, public aid services getting switched, unemployment being applied for while jobs are being searched for, and getting the food pantry taken care of it’s been an eventful morning.

How silly of me to forget so quickly what my job is. Sure it’s overseeing homework and making dinner and keeping my home neat and inviting. That’s just my public face, though. When danger threatens my family I turn into a superhero! I spin in a circle and become a kind of rickety-poor version of Wonder Woman. My powers are finding ways to make it through Mr. Brickie’s apprenticeship with food and power and all the things we need to survive.

I wish I could remember my super-powers when he is working steadily and I start thinking I’m useless.

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I Think It’s Okay Now (Work and Hope)


This morning started out really rough.

The phone rings and I find myself being pulled from dreams of sand and fire and so much violence. It is a relief but my mind barely registers the moments of peace before it switches to practical mode. “Who was that?” I ask my still mostly sleeping husband.

It was the president of the union.

“Why didn’t you answer it?” I ask, even though I know the answer as plan as the pillow on my cheek. “I was asleep.” He says in a tone not unlike one my daughter will use when she is a teen. The defensive whine cuts through the air and I am angry. Angry because I feel like if it were me waiting for a call my brain would be kind enough to wake me up faster, somehow better than his brain did for him.

I go from dreams of war to armchair quarterbacking the unconscious choices of my husband’s brain in less than a minute. Some might call that talent, but I think you and I both know it was a failure. If he had answered the phone groggy it would have made him seem like a slacker. It was 8am and bricklayers are already working, usually by 7:30am at the latest. You should be awake and chipper by 8am.

If only my “just woke up” brain was on board with being a little bit understanding. I mutter to him that he needs to get his feet on the floor and do jumping jacks or something to wake his brain up so he can call back as soon as possible. He looks at me like I’m insane. My natural reaction, of course, is to swing my feet onto the floor and begin making huffing noises as if his behavior just has me at my wit’s end.

Sometimes I’m not super mature. I want to be. I try to be. Mornings are not a good time for me unless I have structure. I do love structured mornings. It’s why I liked when the kids were in school so much. I would wake up a half hour before everyone, have coffee and toast, relax, and then wake them up when it was time. I was awake and smiling. Mornings were bliss.

Now it’s a madhouse.

I find out during the get coffee portion of the morning someone else had called him and left a voicemail while we were both still sound asleep. It was the project manager for the company he worked for last year in the very beginning. It’s a reputable company but one my husband would not say was his first choice in companies due to being moved around a lot last year and not getting a lot of “wall time” as an apprentice.

He didn’t miss a beat, however, and called back right after calling the president. He got voicemail and made an executive decision to drive to the company’s headquarters and see if they needed him to fill out new paperwork for the new year. About halfway to his destination he got a call back. Mr. Brickie informed the project manager that yes he was looking for work but he has training M-Th next week so wouldn’t be available to work until Friday. (This is a known thing in the bricklaying industry and does not reflect badly on Mr. Brickie. Employers understand the training thing, thank goodness.) The project manager said, “No problem. Give me a call Wednesday or Thursday and I’ll give you an address to go to on Friday.”

Did you hear that?

Did you?

My husband will be back to bricklaying next Friday! It would be sooner but he has training. (Training threw a wrench into our lives last year, too. It’s part of the process, I guess.) He’s back.

We’re back.

I’ll have to do some savings calculations and see how little we can live on.

I’ll be able to blog about something other than hope gastanks running on fumes and feeling pathetic every time I say, “Any week now.”

Really, I can’t even tell you how happy I am to know I’ll be able to get back to the nitty gritty of saving and budgeting, which is what I always wanted this blog to be about. Sure there will be some other stuff, but I’ve felt so adrift with my main goal on hold for so long.

I don’t think I will feel a true sense of relief until next Friday when he actually works a full day, but it doesn’t even matter. I just texted him to call and see if our direct deposit information is with the right bank.

There are things I can do to feel part of the process now. Direct deposit forms. Lunch planning. Hydration planning. Getting him out from under my feet so I can organize the house some more.

So many things I’ve been looking forward to. I’m so happy, even though I know until he steps foot on the job site I should be cautious with my feelings, I just can’t help it.


My Husband. My Love. My Bricklayer.


Let me warn you right off the bat, this one gets sappy.

The main point I’m trying to get across is that if someone does not feel fulfilled (male or female, it just happens to be my husband in this post) thinking outside the box can mean many things. Some people are wonderful entrepreneurs, but when you have people telling you the only way to be fulfilled is to become an entrepreneur….they’re lying. There is no “ONE TRUE WAY” to happiness. I’ll be the first one to tell you most everything bright and beautiful in my life came from tragedy and luck. Enough of my esoteric messages….

On To Our Post!

The soundtrack for today’s post.

I am pretty sure about a million couples feel this way. So do we. I’m not trying to have the most original marriage, I just never want it to end. (If you’re reading this and you had a marriage end, I’m not judging you. What I say about what I want doesn’t mean I think anyone else in the world should want the same thing. This is just where I am at. Everyone else’s mileage will surely vary.) 

Mr. Brickie is at training today. It’s his last day of Year 1 training and I’m really happy for him. Every step is one step closer to journeyman and he’s gotten some very positive feedback from the trainers about how he’s been doing in the field and they agree he should not go looking for other pastures to graze in because if his company is working, he will be working. The new estimated job start date is 2-3 weeks.

In the meantime he has a painting side job he is very excited about. I love when he gets to paint because he’s really good at it and he loves the big reveal of a painted room that looks like it just magically changed color because you can’t tell someone painted the damn thing. He’s good.

New/Old iPhones Are A Go!!

He called last night and got our phones changed over. Unfortunately, they closed before we could call back and port the phone numbers over, so that’s happening tonight.

By morning, we will have iPhones again!! Carrying around two phones has been inconvenient and embarrassing. Oh this phone? This is the one I call people on. It’s unreliable and eats calls and texts on the regular. It also holds three apps because I don’t know why. This iPhone? Oh, I tether the Internet from the bad phone to this so I can actually use the Internet at a speed faster than “should have just walked to the library and looked it up.”

$85/mo. for both phones. Unlimited text/talk/data (Up to 2.5g data before throttling sets in but have not heard of anyone actually being throttled yet. It’s more of a “we reserve the right” thing at this point.) The best part? It uses AT&T towers!! AT&T worked great where I live. I’m so happy to be on their towers for a QUARTER of the price!! I heart Net10 so much!! (Not sponsored. LOL)

EDITED BECAUSE OMG PROBLEMS! The Net10 rep should not have billed our card last night. You have to activate with an activation card from a store if you want to port numbers. So you buy the SIM cards, make sure the phones are unlocked, buy a card for what you want (we bought a $90 two-phone card and it had two PIN numbers on the back for activation) put the SIM cards into the phones and THEN call and get your numbers ported over while they activate the phones on the family plan.

They should be ported in the next couple of hours. Tomorrow I’ll be using one phone. Finally.

The Other Reason I Love Mr. Brickie Training

It’s great that Mr. Brickie is learning about grout. It’s wonderful he gets to hang out at the Laborer’s Union Hall and help them learn how to be a great laborer for a bricklayer. I love that he goes in and knows laborers already (Don’t let the name fool you, it’s more difficult to get into the Laborer’s Union than it is any other union. I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere but here you have to be sponsored by a company AND brought into the Union by someone already in the Union. It’s some secret squirrel stuff, man.) These are the things that happen at training. Building walls, taking classes, and going to the Laborer’s Hall.

The secret benefit to him going to training has become crazy-obvious when he gets home. He has the same amazing attitude that he has when he’s working on the regular. I always love my husband, don’t get me wrong, but when he’s working he beams with fulfilled potential for awesomeness. He feels worthy of the devotion and love his family give him. His solid self-worth manifests in so many ways.

He is not defensive at all. If he makes a mistake he just fixes it. He reaches out and wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me in to hug him when I’m walking by. He takes charge in a million little ways.

It’s like if I squint I can see the 1950’s.

Except he helps with dishes. Helps with dinner. Helps the girls set the table. He talks to his daughters about video games (or whatever they want to talk about).

He winks at me from across the room.

He is everything I love about him and nothing I don’t. His pessimism is gone because he feels fulfilled. His mopey defensiveness is replaced by an air of authority that demands respect. Not some macho bullshit, either. Just a quiet power that everyone responds to in a loving, positive way.

He makes me feel safe. Protected. Cared for. Adored.

I have referred to this job as our Second Honeymoon. He just laughs and pulls me down on his lap to tell me some cheesy line about the first one having never ended. (I know, I told you he’s bold when he feels happy. I’m always worried I’m going to snap his thin little legs right in half but know better than to argue. He has eyes and knows how big I am!)  

Why This Is Important

We are THE SAME COUPLE who participated in The Taco Incident less than a month ago. I shrieked like a harpy on fire and he showed me his belly like a submissive dog. It was not good. I felt out of control and unsafe. He felt unsure if he could really provide. We were our not-best selves that day. We have been our not-best selves many days when I felt scared and he felt powerless. I wrote the article last month with an eye to my problems and what I did wrong because this is my blog and it’s not really my place to muse on another human being no matter how close to me they are. Also, I’m generally not into trash-talking my husband because when does that ever end well?

The only thing different from me having to give him the benefit of the doubt and so many extra hugs because he’s going to act all mopey that I yelled at him is WORKING. That’s the only difference. (Training consists of building walls and doin’ stuff so it’s the same as working. He also gets a small stipend at the end of the week so he’s being paid for the work.) Having a job fulfills him in some special secret way I do not personally understand but it is so obvious that’s the change I’d be an idiot not to see it.

Which is why I’m more likely to blame myself when we argue, because I know he’s only being the way he is because of not working. I’m the big picture person in the relationship so it’s my responsibility to know the annoying parts of my husband are going to disappear as soon as he gets a hard hat on his head.

It’s taken me kind of a long time to figure all this out about us being the same couple when everything changes and becomes like a friggin’ fairy tale around here. Want to know why?

  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled when he owned his own business.
  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled when he worked as a marketer.
  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled when he managed the coffee shop.
  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled when he was a financial advisor.
  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled with any other job he’s had since I’ve known him.

So I’m willing to forgive myself for not connecting him being all old-school manly but modern-day awesome with becoming a bricklayer.

How could I have ever guessed my gentle husband that loves to talk and laugh and watch romantic comedies needed to be a tradesman to feel fulfilled? That he would excel at every task he was given? That he would be made for this journey?

How could I have known?


Chicagoland IL Job Alert: Bricklayers Union


I usually don’t go local with my posts or talk about job stuff but I’m making an exception today.

My husband got this card in the mail and I wanted to share it with y’all. With social media and whatnot, even if you aren’t in the Chicagoland area (or Northwest Indiana), you might know people who are.

While the starting pay isn’t enough to feed and house a family of five, we think it’s worth the sacrifice for journeyman pay, benefits, and the retirement plan. This is a union job so you will pay union dues and all that stuff. There is a monthly union meeting, too. The pre-apprentice program teaches you masonry/bricklaying basics.

There were two women in Mr. Brickie’s class and the one that did not pass the test was offered an apprenticeship within the union in another job. Also, the bricklayers are great at being inclusive. Mr. Brickie did not see women treated better/worse or people of color treated better/worse. It was honestly all about the work.

So if you are looking for a life-change and think that working outdoors is something you would be interested in, it can’t hurt to apply. There is paper/pencil testing and then the training involves three tests as well. If you can take constructive criticism and correct your mistakes when you’re told what they are, you’ll be just fine.

Please share with your people because this is a really solid opportunity. Visit http://www.bac2school.org for more information.