Tag: family

Training Pays Off and SAT Testing Tomorrow #NaBloPoMo

I’ll split this between Mr. Brickie stuff and Kid Stuff so if you’re only interested in one or the other you can find the heading.

Mr. Brickie Update

When I talked to him earlier tonight (he’s a good egg and calls every night before bed) I reminded him that yesterday after our call he was supposed to get in touch with the gentleman from the union that might have a job lead.

It looks like it’s going to pan out. He told Mr. Brickie to call as soon as he’s back in the state to get more information on the next job.

As much as I believe people when they say work is abundant and as much as I know that when he does this work it’s lucrative there is still part of my brain that lives firmly in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” place.

I’m feeling good about his prospects. Really good.

Even better? I can tell in his body language and bright eyes he’s having fun in training. He truly enjoys this work. It makes my heart so full.

Family Update

I miss my husband. I comforted myself today by repeating, “Next Friday he’ll be home. This is the last repeating day he’ll be gone.” It helped.

I was so worried about not having him home for Halloween and am really proud of myself for handling the holiday as well as i did.

The SAT is tomorrow for the older two and I had to do a last minute run to Office Depot for a calculator for one of the girls. She’s in Algebra but she either uses her phone or her Chromebook for a calculator in class. I didn’t get a graphing calculator because they don’t know how to use them yet and it would have been a waste of money.

After tomorrow’s testing the two younger girls have a volleyball game.

The holiday and the testing are things that would normally be in Mr. Brickie’s wheelhouse. He’s the doer, the buyer of last minute calculators, the driver. But I’ve been fine.

I plan on rewarding myself by doing absolutely nothing on Sunday. You can find me on my couch enjoying tea and a good book.

It’s Dark and Everyone is Sleeping #NaBloPoMo

I considered doing National Novel Writing Month this year but then decided against it because I’m in a place where I’m saying, “No” to everything. Okay, not everything. I’m saying, “No” to everything that isn’t “Yes” to me for the rest of the year.

The kids and husband are part of me, so they don’t have to worry.

I’ve been hesitant to mention this but Mr. Brickie is out of town. He went out of town on Sunday and will be gone until next Friday. A full 12 days gone.

Up until this point in our fifteen year marriage we’ve been apart for two nights, tops. Part of that is because we had nowhere to go separately but another part is absolutely by design.

He’s in Maryland for a couple of certifications. Originally he was going to be back next Wednesday but then it was recommended by someone he knows at the Union to do a two day add-on class so they switched his plane ticket to Friday and he’ll be getting two certifications while he’s gone.

From the sound of it he’ll go straight back to work once he’s home. I’m not 100% sure on that but the signs are good.

I thought I’d be a wreck without him here. So far, I’ve been okay. He calls and we talk for an hour in the evening before he goes to bed (thank goodness for video calling) and says goodnight to the kids and then I put the kids to bed.

Then I have an hour or so to myself and I have to tell you, it’s really peaceful. Like, really really peaceful. I plan what I’m going to do the next day and have a cup of tea and decide to participate in National Blog Post Month (or NaBloPoMo) because no matter what else happens I can’t seem to stop writing.

The biggest fear I had with Mr. Brickie being gone was Halloween. I have the anxiety thing and Halloween is the hardest day of the year. So many strangers. My older two ended up taking the youngest trick or treating without me. I stayed home with my phone ringer up as loud as it could go (in case they called for a ride or needed something) and read a book.

We still haven’t closed on the property and can’t until Mr. Brickie is back in town so that’s still hanging in the air being mildly annoying.

I’m really excited about these certifications. There’s a lot of money in this skill set and a lot of places in the Midwest that need people. It’s all indoor work (as far as I understand) so it’s not affected by the weather. That means we may not suffer through winter waiting for the weather to break this year! (He couldn’t get these certifications or do this work as an apprentice.) The thought of being able to really have a quality shovel to dig out of debt is absolutely thrilling.

A great side-effect is knowing the house and family don’t fall apart if he travels. He knows of someone who plans to go to South Korea for a fifteen month gig and it’s a serious payday but Mr. Brickie just laughed when I asked if he would consider it and told me there was no way he’d stay away from his family that long. I couldn’t argue or complain with that. I did semi-jokingly float the idea that we could retract our offer on the duplex, all move to SK for fifteen months with him, and call it an adventure! He considered it for a little bit with me but ultimately decided we love our current plan and want to stick with it.

The last hurdle for me as “person who does all the grown things” while he’s gone is getting the older two to the SAT on Saturday. No, they’re not in high school yet…It’s to see if they qualify for opportunities with the Northwestern Talent Search. A nice bonus is taking the SAT a few times before they’re in high school will make them more comfortable when they take it for college application purposes. This all started because the youngest scored high on a couple of standardized tests so I got her checked out by an individual who specializes in tests and lo and behold now she’s taking the PSAT because she’s going to get noticed by the Northwestern Talent Search and once she was in I thought I might as well have the other two test as well since they are also gifted.

It’s not something I think about a lot or dwell on, but it is part of the parenting duties, so I do the research and make the best choices I can.

The budget is still a wreck because we are only spending the bare minimum to get by in order to keep the closing money in the checking account free and clear. According to the mortgage guy, even though we only need X amount of cash for closing, in order to get the green light from underwriting we need about 3k more than that in our checking account. I don’t understand why and the way he explained it I don’t think he understands why, either.

So money that could pay off/down credit cards has to sit in the checking account. I try not to think about it but I’m not good at not thinking about things. I want to be done with the closing so I can do a normal budget and get to tax season so I can go back to pre-paying the mortgage with the tax return. Since we won’t have a November lease I can use the entire tax return toward the mortgage and see how far that gets us. I’ve gotten spoiled not having to worry about a monthly housing bill and I’d like to get back to it as soon as possible.

For now, though, it’s time to go to bed. Happy All Saint’s Day, whatever that means to you. Tomorrow is All Soul’s Day so we will put out an extra plate for the souls who are not with us anymore. Next year I think I’m going to let my spirituality freak flag fly a little more, too.

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.

Outside Focus – A Birthday Story

When I’m really stressed out, I try to ignore my feelings.

Sure, I’ll tell you what’s wrong if something specific is going on but you will, inevitably, have to listen immediately to my plan for solving that specific problem. I am a problem-solver of the highest order. Years of practice and execution of plans has made me efficient and confident. There are very few times I get thrown a curveball I can’t hit. It might not be a home run, but it will get me on a base, at the very least.

I’ve spent much of my married life … well … probably much of my life-life but have you ever noticed how it feels like when you get married there’s a kind of starting over that happens? Like, I’m this person now instead of that one (with a new name and everything) and maybe I started judging that as my new and improved starting point to erase the mistakes that happened before. As if this new woman with a new name had a whole different way of dealing with problems and wasn’t just the same person with a different driver’s license photo.

So back to married life and me spending most of it anxious out of my mind. A husband that went from being a pizza guy to a painter to a coffee slinger to a barista to a financial advisor. It didn’t start that way. It started with me working in insurance and him finishing his degree. I was actually that wife that worked while her husband finished school. I had heard about them but never actually realized how that whole thing would look like while it was happening. It looked a lot like anger if you were me. Especially if I came home and Roller Coaster Tycoon was on the computer monitor. I was neither kind nor forgiving early on. Mostly because I was scared out of my mind about the house and the bills and the money and this husband-interloper who felt it was his money too! How dare he! (I’m mocking myself, here, I know I was awful.)

Then he had a degree and we were so happy until it turned out – surprise! – to be totally not helpful at all in getting him a job. So he ended up with a string of jobs he wasn’t too fond of. I was fired from Allstate for being atrocious at customer service and started working from home. Next is the “famous among family and friends” story of the two hours I lasted at the Disney Store in the mall. The only thing I am worse at than customer service is customer service in a crowd.

In retrospect, I should have seen the failure coming a mile away but you would be amazed at what I can convince myself I can do if I just don’t wuss out. If I power through my anxiety and confusion and just do the damn thing, I am sure I’ll be great and of course I’ll get used to the physically debilitating symptoms of overwhelming fear I feel in situations where I have to deal with strangers in a crowded, loud setting. I can do anything! Except then I can’t and I walk out and have a panic attack and I’m sitting on the floor in a bathroom stall in the mall on my phone crying and begging my fiancee to let me quit. The fiancee that may have warned me against taking the job in the first place who was rather confused I needed his permission because we totally do not have that kind of relationship but I just needed to know it was okay, you know? That he would still love me even when I was failing so spectacularly.

Really, I’m so bad at timelines. I thought the Disney Store debacle happened after the Allstate debacle but for some reason I know we weren’t married when I was at the Disney Store so they can’t be related.

This is why I can never write a memoir. I can’t keep track of time.

A journal? Of course I have journals from before we were married…from before we even dated….sure the information is probably in there. But then I would have to read them and there is about a zero chance in hell I’m going to do that in the near future. I’ll let my kids read it when I’m dead and they can marvel at how unhinged their mother really was.

Look, kids! Look at all the coping skills your mother didn’t have when she was young!

It will blow their minds.

I’m trying to get to the good story about the budget. I don’t have a good transition. This will have to do.

I will always remember the day I wrote down our bills on a piece of paper. Then I wrote down our income. (I didn’t even know this was a budget at the time!) The number in the bills column was bigger than the number for income. This is why I’m so understanding of friends I know and readers who have never set up a budget. I remember wondering why I had never thought to do that before.

I mean, I had even read Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey (that I received as a gift from a Christian radio station when I donated $10 to give orphans in Africa a well for fresh water, I kid you not) and I still have that book and I remember reading it and thinking, “This is for people who already HAVE money.”

Figuring out how people made money became an obsession. I wanted to know what everyone did for a living and I spent more hours on the BLS than I care to admit – even to myself. There are so many jobs that people have that no one tells you about. It’s like a secret system where people randomly find jobs they end up at. It felt like a lottery until we found the unions and, eventually, bricklaying. As he went through training I had this feeling that things were going to get really difficult but they would be so much better after the bad part. On the heels of this moment of clarity was when I toldl Mr. Brickie, “I don’t want to work. I want to take care of the kids and, beyond that, do whatever I want with my days. I want to find a job for you that will take care of all of us and I’ll make sure our lifestyle doesn’t surpass that salary. We’re going to find a happy medium. Oh, and by the way? We’re totally going to lose the house in the process. Let’s talk again after you have a few days to be okay with losing the house because I know it’s important to your whole man-pride image.” (We had some conversations about feeling like a failure and what real failure was and taking steps backward and forward in the interim but we were back to focusing on HIM so I was all good with that. HIM is outside of ME so it was a fine thing to focus on.)

Some of you have probably heard me say, “I don’t have a passion.” That’s because I couldn’t afford to have one. All my neurons and synapses were dedicated to not being homeless. They were all dedicated to keeping my family safe. They were all dedicated to things OUT THERE instead of my inner world. How can I decide what I want when I have to figure out how to feed my kids?

So now it seems I’m starting to be able to take little peeks inward instead of feeling like I have to focus on everything else around me and balancing it all so it doesn’t come crashing down like so many spinning plates. I feel calm in a way I didn’t think was possible.

Which is funny because I was told recently (in writing, my reactions were at my screen not in person) that I was going through a transition and I took a mental step backward and said to myself, “Who? Me? You’re talking to me?” Here I am, safe and calm and feeling totally chill and someone is telling me I’m in a transition period? It amazes me how sometimes people with the most book learning are the most unknowledgeable when presented with a real-life case study of someone in a stable place. Also I know this whole paragraph sounds like something I made up. You can just disregard it because it was a long story that ended that way but I assure you none of it was about me transitioning to anything but a deeper state of contentment.

One of these new and fun peeks into myself (sounds dirty but it’s not) let me see that my decision to start actively writing when my kids are all in school for a few hours a day is absolutely the right decision. I don’t have a genre in mind, I’m going to just write for anthologies and submit and see what sticks. I’ll edit and revise before sending, I don’t mean I’m going to throw a first draft at anyone. That would be gross and mean. But I’m going to see where my talent and interests intersect. For example, I know after writing sexy stories professionally for marketing purposes. So I may be very good at that kind of writing, but I do not enjoy writing those stories, so you won’t see my name in the erotica section anytime soon. I’m on the fence about horror because sometimes I don’t sleep well after I write those stories. I look forward to seeing all the different genres I can try to write for and seeing how well I can do.

Even if nothing comes of it just doing it and trying and being free to write what I want and have fun with it means the world to me. It will be like giving my mind and my heart wings and letting them soar free without worrying.

That freedom comes from years of learning how to budget, learning how to make things happen automatically, and having a plan. Also, I’ve learned to be patient. Things don’t get amazing overnight, they take time and effort and hard work. I won’t write something amazing on August 20th at 7am when my kids get on that school bus. I will be able to look back on that date and know that is when I started down the path but that path will start with research, not writing. Also, I have been writing stories in fits and starts for years, so I’m not really starting from scratch, I’m just choosing to be dedicated to it like I’m dedicated to budgeting and finance now. It’s like I’m giving myself a first-day-of-work start date.

Instead of constantly seeing everything in terms of opportunity cost, cause/effect, and problems/solutions, I feel the bonds of my brain cracking, see the dust fall from squeaky, unused hinges as the door to my imagination finally begins to open again. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to focus on, say, the shades of brown on my desk or pay attention to how the light hits my blinds. Daydreams have been my enemy for far too long and I look forward to letting my mind play.

I should probably put this entry aside and edit it later to make sure I don’t sound silly or completely off my rocker. If I do put it in mothballs I know I’ll probably never share it and it will live forever in my Google Docs Drafts folder. So you can have me the way I am. Slightly edited, proofed for spelling (I hope) and mostly raw but free of Salmonella.

Thank you. To those of you who have shared birthday wishes online, directly, and otherwise. I have to tell you….40 is so much better than 30 was. This might actually be the best birthday I’ve ever had. Not because it’s so amazing, but because it so does not need to be amazing. A bakery cake and my family is all I need today. I can look inside my heart and the emotions are not fear and anger and panic. Today my heart is filled with love and contentment and joy. I have fought for these feelings and they feel like a gift to myself.

What I have is enough.

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Take A Break for Thanks

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I make spreadsheets, pay bills, and write up financial forecasts.

I buy school clothes, supplies, and do Internet research about the school my girls will attend next year.

I cook dinner, keep the house passable, and spend time with friends.

I spend my life waiting for the next paycheck to make another small dent in the wall that blocks the here from the there.

I am focused. I am intense. I AM TIRED.

The thing is, the silver lining on my cloud is thick and bright. So I’m going to take a break from finance for a second and share why it’s worth it to drive myself into the ground focusing on every single penny every single day. My silver lining is my family.

My Girls

I want to do the things I see other moms on Facebook and Twitter do. I want them to go on horseback rides and take them to museums. I want them to go to summer camp and make lifelong friends.

But today? One turned on the Keurig when I woke up so I could make coffee. I got out yogurt and bananas and grapes and orange juice for the girls and we all sat and had breakfast together. They laughed and told me what they had built in Minecraft today. It’s this giant person with a sword that is entirely hollow and they put a spawn point in it and it’s entirely filled with cats. Probably ten thousand cats. We took a breakfast break to look and she had made nose holes for the cats to fall out of.

It was hilarious.

They are very good about their end-of-summer routine where they each get an hour and a half of gametime and then everyone reads for an hour and a half. (The older girls each spend 45 minutes reading to their little sister for her hour and a half.) This takes us to right about time to make dinner and then they help me make dinner and we sit and eat dinner as a family. I make lunch on demand when a kid comes and says they are hungry.

We have blueberry picked this summer and we have gone to the splash pad and we have gone to the beach and we have gone to parks and the library.

They do not complain about the places we do not go. They are always happy when we go places.  They are not demanding or spoiled or entitled.

I am so thankful for my flexible, loving children and I want to give them everything in the world, but I know that when they are old they will know I did the best I could with what I had and they will always know that there is not a moment where I do not love them with every bit of my heart.

Except the part of my heart reserved for loving…..

Mr. Brickie

I have a husband that is perfectly happy being the (mostly) sole breadwinner of the family. I have no pressure to get a job, there is no resentment that I stay home and take care of the kids and blog and make dinner. My house is messier than it has been in a year but he understands without me having to explain that it’s the end of summer and I’m exhausted and the kids want to go back to school and I’m getting them out of the house more to get that energy out because they know it’s a week until school starts and the countdown is on par with the Christmas countdown for intensity and fervor.

He was unemployed on our wedding day. I supported him while he got his degree that we thought would be the key to our success. It was not and he did everything from working at a coffee shop to becoming a licensed financial advisor and everything in between to keep our family afloat. He did not resent me when I was the sole breadwinner for our family and he did not mind if I made more than he did.

We do not have a perfect storybook relationship. We argue. We yell. When I yell at him he has a tendency to sometimes yell at the kids and then I have to call a family meeting and air out what’s happening so the kids can understand what’s going on. I make sure if the kids see the fight they see the resolution and he goes along with it because he gets that he’s raising girls who will be women and they will marry a man like him more than likely and so he needs to be the man he wants his daughters to marry. (Don’t get skeeved out, you know what I mean!) When he was in the room and the kids somehow asked about Ellen being married because we were talking about marriage and one of them pointed at Ellen on mute on TV and asked who she was married to he did not bat an eyelash as I explained about Portia and googled the wedding pictures.

He takes that pressure and tries to be that man. Which is great because that man I want my girls to marry? It’s not the one I married. It’s the one he has become.

I know to the tips of my toes that there is no more perfect partner for me on this earth. He is smart enough to keep up with me without being so smart he becomes smug and unflexible. He trusts me. He listens to my stories like a girlfriend (even though sometimes it’s tough for him to stay awake) and comforts me with hugs when I am sad.

He is the most optimistic person I know. While I run around yelling about the sky falling he just does what he can and knows its enough. He falls asleep in about 30 seconds at night. Wait. I kind of hate him for that sometimes so I guess I’m not thankful he falls asleep so hard and so fast it’s more I’m thankful that he isn’t up all night worrying because that makes for not great work performance. Or something.

He rarely reads my blog because he already knows everything in it. He acts as interested in stories about my day as I am about stories of his day.

Finally and probably most importantly he let me change his mindset. He was raised in a white collar family and learned that a degree and a job with a suit was the goal. When I sat him down and showed him the evidence of what made him happy and floated the idea of a blue collar job he listened. When I asked around and learned more about it he listened. He went to every Union Hall in a 50 mile radius and applied. He followed up.

He still occasionally thanks me. (Not for getting him the job because he did that all on his own. He thanks me for paying enough attention to see what made him happy and finding a way to make that happen in the world. He doesn’t say all that, he just says, “Thank you” with this one look on his face but I know what he means.)

So while my blog is mostly about being poor and struggling and trying to claw myself out of the pit we are in, I have so much to work for. Museums and vacations and horseback rides with people who love me.

I am poor but I have so much.

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I Already Met My Goal

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Yesterday my Facebook friend Francine (who I am honored to be FB friends with) sold out of her cookbook Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen on QVC in 8 minutes.

I cried when I heard her wonderful news.

Francine is an inspiration to me. She always wanted a cookbook and she worked so very hard to get where she is and she went on The American Baking Competition and I was so sad when she came in 2nd place, but she took that 2nd place and made it into a victory.

I think she’s wonderful.

Through tears last night I pointed at my monitor and sniffled and asked, “I wish I had a goal like that because achieving it must feel amazing.”

In a rare moment of “who are you and what have you done with my husband” he looked me dead in the eyes and asked, “What did you want more than anything else as a kid?”

“I wanted to be married. I wanted my own family.”

He smiled at me in that know-it-all way that he thinks makes him look like a serene monk but generally just makes me want to smack him and said, “Maybe you really don’t have NO goal, maybe you just already achieved it.”

All I could say was, “Oh.”

Now, I don’t take my family for granted. I feel joy every day not only for those who live under my roof but those family members who let me into their hearts beyond my roof. I am thankful for days like yesterday where we go blueberry picking as a family and then sit in the shade and relax in the field for a little bit just enjoying each other’s company. I am thankful for friends who give me the opportunity to take my girls to the beach in Michigan on a weekday so the crowd isn’t painful and overwhelming.

Sure, we’re going to have to move in probably less than a year. I don’t know if we are going to rent an apartment or a house and I’m only 90% sure I even know the town we’re going to end up in (because things happen and we’re going to be somewhat at the mercy of the court system) and I have no idea how much the foreclosure is going to destroy our credit. I feel like I’m playing a very dangerous game of beat the clock when it comes to my husband working and saving and paying down debt and being able to afford food now that we make too much money for SNAP benefits but make less than we used to make when we qualified plus the amount of the benefits.

There is a lot of uncertainty in my day to day life.

The things I can rely on, however, are:

  • Good morning hugs.
  • Being told, “I love you.”
  • Someone smiling at me as if I were the only person in the world.
  • Kisses.
  • Giggles.
  • My husband lighting up when he walks in the house after work and sees me.
  • Dinner at the kitchen table together.
  • Stories.

I have a family that loves me. Both related and unrelated. I have the things that money can’t buy and I worked (and continue to work) very hard for those things. Sure, they don’t reward me with a paycheck and I don’t ever get to punch out and go home after a hard day…but who cares?

Instead of constantly wondering what my passion is and thinking “I should have a goal.” I am going to focus more on appreciating the goal I have already met. Someday I might have a new goal but my passion for my family – my people – will always be a primary focus. Without them, everything else is hollow.

There is nothing wrong with different people having different goals. I support my online friends in all their goals and I know that other people have the same goal as mine with other goals in addition. Maybe I’ll get there someday, but I don’t want to strive for something I can’t see when I can pour my love and effort out right here where it’s needed most right now.

On a totally unrelated sidenote: The town’s building inspector truck just pulled up in front of my house and stopped. I have no idea why. Every few days I see a truck from either public works or the building inspector’s office stop in front of my house for a couple minutes. I have no idea what they’re interested in but I haven’t gotten a letter yet. It is a little off-putting though because for the next few days I’m going to be nervous when I check my mail. I mean, I never see them stop in front of anyone else’s house on my block. Weird.

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The Bliss of Days Off

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Image Source: Cheryl McCain Photography

I’m in that place where I”m so thankful Mr. Brickie is working and I’m beyond thankful and happy he’s working a boatload of overtime every week for the forseeable future.

It has been a kind of crazy transition around here a we all try to find our place in this new world with (seemingly) no end.

But it’s Saturday evening and that means a night where we an all relax because he doesn’t have to go to work in the morning. The one day of the week I don’t have to set my alarm for 4:30am to make sure he’s up for work because you can never have too many redundancy alarms!

I have the makings for biscuits and gravy (from scratch, natch <– I kill me, lol) that I’m going to make in the morning and I have the fixins for lasagna for dinner and we are going to light a fire in the backyard tomorrow night and roast marshmallows. Let’s be honest, lunch will probably be peanut butter and jelly. I have my domestic limits. 

Sundays are the family’s day to recharge and reconnect. To enjoy each other’s company instead of marking time waiting for daddy to get home. I know we will get used to him being gone and our everyday play and coloring and video games and reading won’t always be passing time until he gets home but that’s what it is now, and I just want to honor that he is such a solid part of our lives as both a husband and father that it takes us weeks to transition from him being off for the winter to him being gone so much.

We miss him. He misses us. When we all finally see each other we’re worn out and tired. Everyone wants to just be done for the day.

Tomorrow – I hope – will be amazing and calm. Tonight we are going out to dinner with a birthday gift I’ve been holding on to. You guessed it, it’s a restaurant gift card! The girls will be out of the house and having a fancy dining experience and I can sit next to my husband at a table no where near a screen where he won’t be looking at his phone to try and catch up on everything he missed while he was working.

I’m really looking forward to it.

For now? I have to make sure they put away their clothes so we can actually get out of the house and get on with our wonderful night!

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Foreclosure, Reality, and Emotional Pain

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I knew we had an appointment in Chancery court on July 11th. I knew we did.

Sort of.

We’ve had previous appointments with the court and they always sent us something in the mail. Mr. Brickie, after the last court date, said, “I’ll just show up at the date they say to. Just in case.”

I am the one who told him to wait for the papers to come in the mail.

I am the one who flicked the first domino and chose this path.

I am the only one to blame.

Chancery court is so far behind in cases (I said) and you shouldn’t have to take a day off work (a day you’re working overtime, I said) to go to a court date that might not even be yours (I said) and get sent home with no pay for the day and no information (the way they do, I said) even if I want just one. more. stay. before they decide forevermore they are going to sell our home at auction (because one more stay would have guaranteed one more full school year, I said) because they have been so good about informing us of our next court date (I cooed into his ear before we slept at night) and he believed me.

I am so rarely wrong, you see. I do my research and I find out the facts and I don’t share untested theories as fact and I don’t rely on “I hope so” and “It’s probably okay” so he had no reason not to believe me.

Really, everyone believes me. I’m a very believable person. I’m right with astonishing accuracy because I hate being wrong. I do not accept mistakes as a natural outcome of the law of numbers. I am better than that (I said) and we will persevere and get through this (I said).

I was mistaken.

I was not just a little bit mistaken. I did not tell my husband to take an umbrella with him on a sunny day. I was mistaken about something wicked important. Our house (which is no longer our house) that I have the papers stating and have to tell Mr. Brickie about when he gets home from work today (his last day as a 40% apprentice.)

The Reality of the Situation

According to the first lawyer we ever talked to (the lovely, young lawyer who paled and stuttered when I asked, “Out of everyone you’ve ever talked to, has it ever been a wise financial decision to fight for the home?”) who told us our time frame from this moment or, rather, the moment from July 11th when the clock (the foreclosure auction sheriff-at-the-front-door clock) starts ticking like something out of only the largest, scariest MC Escher painting.  We have – about – nine months from July 11th to get out of our home. We might have a little extra time but the real clock – the big  TIME TO START OVER Y’ALL clock is now ticking for real and we are no longer living in a state of flux. Or, as I liked to call it, “Our state of grace.”

In nine months(ish) we are going to give birth to a new life. I have a feeling it’s going to physically hurt less than childbirth and emotionally tear my brain in half. Maybe I’m overreacting and it will be an easy move. We’ve been decluttering for a year here and there and plans are in place for what will come with and what will go in storage and lists are made. So the focus of the blog will change slightly and we’ll be talking about getting ready to move.

Same family stories, just stories about a family transitioning to a new place, probably a new school system, and all the things surrounding the move and the finances getting us there.

Even when you prepare for all outcomes (and yes, I mean all outcomes, you should see my charts) it doesn’t make getting hit in the gut any less breathtaking. You can know in your head you’re making the best possible financial decision and feel with every feel in you that you’ve lost this round of the game of life.

My breath is taken.

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Wendi’s Story | Hearts & Homes Series | Updated June 2014

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Wendi blogs at Sudden Silence. Her story is ongoing and will be updated when updates are available. 

 We walked in to the Making Home Affordable seminar with high hopes.  Arriving just after it opened at 1 pm, we signed in and took a seat to wait for a rep from our mortgage provider, CitiBank.  As we waited, a video clip played over and over.  We listened to homeowners who had received mortgage assistance last year at this seminar talk about what a relief it was, how important it was to save your home and not let it go into foreclosure.  The various options were described (modification, interest rate reduction, principal write-down) and the basic message was:  You did the right thing by coming here and talking to your lender, because now they can help you.  There’s help for everyone if you just ask!

After waiting for over three and a half hours while other people with other lenders were taken back within five minutes of sitting down, we were finally called to meet with our rep.  (Apparently computer trouble was the reason for the horrible delay.)  We had every document required; we had every form on the website downloaded and filled out…all nine pages of information.  I was feeling unexpectedly hopeful after listening to the video clip for over three hours.  I should have known better.

We sat down and explained that nearly half of our mortgage was currently being paid by the Illinois Hardest Hit Fund, and that agreement was ending in July of this year.  We were hoping to get a permanent modification similar to what we had from HHF (Hardest Hit Fund) – where you pay 31% of your monthly income instead of your full mortgage payment.  We had been doing this for over a year and getting by okay, but we would not be able to handle the full mortgage come August.  We hoped that our track record of 100% on-time payments on all of our debts would work in our favor.

What Do You Do When You’re Only Offered A Bad Deal?

As the rep asked questions that we had already answered on the documents we’d filled out (which were apparently unnecessary), he scrolled through screens and eventually mumbled that he could offer us a 3.5% interest rate.  We’d already explained that we weren’t interested in an interest rate reduction; our rate is currently a low 4.5% already, and a drop of 1% would barely make a dent in our monthly mortgage payment.  He was apologetic, but said we didn’t qualify for any other programs because we have a VA loan, and they don’t participate in principal reduction plans.  Within 15 minutes of sitting down, we were done.  We got up, shook the rep’s hand and left.

We tried to salvage the waste of an afternoon by reasoning that at least we had done what they recommended, and we had tried everything.  We got the information we needed, just not the result that we wanted.  I hadn’t gone into the seminar with high hopes, but I had gotten progressively excited as we waited.  It was very, very hard to leave there knowing we were still facing August with no plan in place.  I had to fight back tears as we silently walked the long, long path back to the parking garage.

This was Thursday, and I really needed the weekend to recover from the disappointment.  I was trying not to panic, trying to really believe things would work out and that whatever happened was meant to happen.  I really, really like having a safety net, though, a Plan B.  I felt so vulnerable and unsure of what our next move should be.  I really didn’t want to foreclose on the house, even though we’d met with a Realtor the previous month and she’d told us we could not sell the house for anywhere near what we needed to pay off the mortgage.  The real estate market in our area of Illinois is still very depressed, and we have lots of houses either in foreclosure or short sale that are killing the value of the surrounding homes.  It was so frustrating – we want to move and sell the house and do the right thing…pay off our mortgage and other bills, then downsize to a smaller house in a more affordable area.   But no matter what we do, it just will not come together.  Everything we try seems to fall apart.

Maybe A Lawyer Could Offer Some Solid Assistance

Dave had made an appointment for Monday afternoon with a bankruptcy attorney.  I knew we’d have to file bankruptcy at some point, since the housing market was so terrible.  Our original plan, back when our house was valued at over $270,000, was to get the kids both through high school and into college, then sell the house, pay off all our debt, and move to a smaller place.  Now, we couldn’t even sell the house at a price high enough to pay off the mortgage; there was no way we could pay off our credit card debt, which had grown to an enormous amount over the past 11 years.

I went into this meeting with a very downbeat attitude.  I expected to find out that we didn’t qualify for bankruptcy or hear some other hope-dashing announcement.  I was hoping to be able to wipe out the credit card debt but keep the house.  As it stood, we could afford to either pay the credit card minimums or pay the mortgage, but not both.  I figured if we wiped out the credit card debt and kept the house, maybe the market would rebound in the next year and we could sell it for enough to pay off the mortgage.

So we met with the lawyer, and he confirmed that we could file for bankruptcy with no problem.  We talked some more about our long term goals and he pointed out that we really would probably need much more time, possibly 10 years, before we could sell the house for what we needed to get.  I kind of knew my idea wasn’t realistic, but it was different hearing it put so plainly.  So we talked about the ramifications of including the mortgage in the bankruptcy.  Even though it seemed like a fairly obvious course of action, I needed some time to digest this new information and decide if it felt like the right move.

By the time we left the lawyer’s office, I pretty much knew that I was on board with including the mortgage in the bankruptcy.  And as some time passed and I thought about it more, I could feel a huge weight lifting off my shoulders.  There were so many things connected to selling the house that were worrisome to me – passing the two inspections (one required by the village, one for the buyer) and how we would afford to make any repairs that were required; all the stress involved in having the house for sale and showings and worrying if we’d ever get an offer on the house that was enough to even pay off the mortgage, let alone pay for the closing costs and leave us with enough to buy another house; all the improvements we still needed to do just to list the house and even have a prayer of getting within $10,000 of the amount we needed to pay off the mortgage.  After that visit from the Realtor in March, I really was not feeling confident that we’d ever sell the house because she seemed to think a LOT of improvements would need to be made before we could list.  Here I was, thinking the house was really in good shape and looked good enough to list just as it was!

My main concern with giving up the house was finding another place to live.  I felt like we could never qualify even to RENT a place with a bankruptcy on our record and the subsequent hit our credit score would take.  (For the record, as of June 2013 my credit score was 749, which is fairly decent.)  I was under the impression that as soon as the bankruptcy was filed, that meant we stopped paying on the credit cards (thank God) but also that we would have to leave the house and immediately find a new place to live…a place that would allow us to bring our four cats.

The lawyer explained that that’s not how it works.  The foreclosure has to go through the courts, and right now that’s taking 18 months.  As he said, “You stay in your house for 18 months and you save the money you would have paid on your mortgage.  (Note:  For us, that’s $1,500 per month.)  When you do have to leave, you’re leaving with enough money to put down six months’ rent or a big down payment on another place.  With so many people filing bankruptcy, they will most likely understand your circumstances.”  Our goal all along had been to find a place in Michigan that we could buy on land contract, which is like a rent-to-own situation.  We could put enough down that we wouldn’t need to make payments for very long, and we don’t have to secure a mortgage through a bank (something we most likely would not be able to qualify for).

Uncertainty Eats Away At Hope No Matter How Prepared You Are

There’s still some uncertainty that makes me nervous, since there’s no guarantee exactly how long we can stay and, therefore, how much money we can ultimately save.  I really don’t want to be in a position where they’re dragging us out of the house and we have no place to go – I’d like some warning, so we have enough time to find a new place and get moved.  But that’s less stress than the stress that would be involved in trying to sell the house in this terrible real estate market, AND find a new place to live with pretty much no money down.  So I’m going for the lesser of two evils.

I’m writing this over time, adding on as things progress.  It’s now the second week of June and we’ve given the lawyer the retainer fee and the paperwork he needed, and we’ve taken the online Debtor’s Education class that we’re required to take.  That was a hoot and a holler, and deserves its own special section!

The first thing that I found amusing was that you have to pay for the online class…with a credit card.  Which is one of the main things that got us in trouble in the first place!  We aren’t using credit cards anymore, and we had to come up with a way to pay for this class.  Thank God for PayPal; I was able to use our PayPal debit card for the payment, since it’s a MasterCard.  (I don’t let PayPal pull from our checking account to cover debit card transactions; if the money isn’t already in our PayPal account, the transaction won’t be approved.  I prefer the extra security in case someone nefarious gets a hold of the number.)

Once we figured out the payment issue, we settled in to take the class.  It was a timed class, 60 minutes, and there was a timer at the top of the screen so we could keep track of our progress.  You weren’t allowed to finish the class in less time.  We’re both fast readers, but we read through each screen slowly and then got up to do things around the house to kill enough time on each screen.  Most of the information I already knew; we didn’t get in this situation because I’m an idiot and have no self control.  I know how to save, I know the right and wrong things to do with credit cards, and I use a budget.  We don’t have ANY extra expenditures.  We never go out, we don’t drink or smoke, we don’t eat out, we never buy clothes (except, rarely, at Goodwill).  But I went along and read the suggestions, basically just to confirm that I hadn’t missed some kind of magical way to save money that I didn’t already know about.

Along the way, we plugged in our monthly income and monthly expenditures.  I didn’t bother with the credit card payments because we already knew we were filing bankruptcy and wouldn’t have to deal with those much longer.  I mainly wanted a budget we could follow once the bankruptcy was filed.  I did enter in the mortgage payment, just out of curiosity.  Again, we knew we were giving up the house and wouldn’t be making the mortgage payment, but the amount we plan to save is just about exactly the amount of the mortgage payment.  I wanted to see if that was something we could really handle financially.

Saving Money By Doing Everything You Were Already Doing

As we went along, the class gave us suggestions on ways to save money, all of which we were already doing.  But I was surprised at how little advice we really got; there are many things we did to save money that were never suggested in the class (increasing deductibles on home and auto insurance comes to mind).  In fact, the main thing the class advised was to get a second job.  This advice was given to those who had already lost their ONE job and couldn’t find another.  Just get a second job!  Everything will be fine!

It got to the point where Dave and I were just laughing out loud at each new screen, as the timer counted down.  I suppose this would be a helpful class for someone who was absolutely clueless, but for two intelligent adults, it was really a waste of time (and money).  We learned nothing, except that our mortgage should only be 30% of our income and ours is currently over 80% of our income.  All it did was solidify our decision to let the house go, save our money until we absolutely have to leave, then find a more affordable place to live.

At this point, we’ve received the bankruptcy papers and had to go over them to verify all the information and make sure nothing was left out.  This was my job, and it was very hard for me – I was in the throes of monthly hormonal turmoil, which didn’t help.  I basically sat in front of the computer, reading along with tears dripping down my face as I silently sobbed.  I know this is the best move for us; really, it’s the only move for us that makes any sense.  I know this.  It was still very hard to see it all laid out in black and white.  It makes me feel like a complete failure.  Dave keeps telling me to look at it as a business decision and to keep emotion out of it.  I know he’s right.  I just can’t help myself; it feels like I’m getting a big fat F in ‘Life.’

Cut to July 13

We are officially filed, as of June 30.  It took a while to get the official document in the mail (which contained our case number).  Then things started rolling along briskly.  Bank of America canceled our cards, as well as American Express (which is pretty funny, considering we had a ZERO balance on that account).  We also started getting lots of offers for car loans in the mail, for people with ‘credit problems’ and things of that nature.  The sharks start circling pretty quickly, don’t they?!

We were surprised and happy to see our creditors’ meeting is July 23, just a couple of weeks away.  I’m a little nervous about this, just because, not for any specific reason.  It should be short and painless, though.  After that we wait; creditors have 60 days to dispute things in that time period.  After that, we should get a notice that the bankruptcy has been discharged, providing nothing crops up to screw with the process.

We had to take a second and final debtor’s education class online within a month of the filing date, so we decided to get that out of the way quickly before we forgot.  Again, it was $9.95 with payment method via credit card which just seems ridiculous when they know you’ve filed bankruptcy.  (We used the PayPal debit card again.)  We figured this class would be an hour long like the first class, but no – it was TWO HOURS long.  Still, though, if I have to waste two hours of my life I’d rather do it at home than in some class at a physical location with other people.

I was sort of looking forward to this class, since it was meant only for people who’d filed bankruptcy.  I thought we’d find out what to expect in the bankruptcy process, maybe learn some ways to help repair our credit, or at least find out how it would affect things for us in the future.  But no…instead, we sat through two hours of the same unhelpful ‘budget advice’ from the first session.  We couldn’t believe it!  Parts of it were even exactly the same as the first session.

When we realized what we were in for, we knew we’d be killing LOTS of time to make this last for two hours.  I don’t understand how they expect people to take two hours to read through this material; we could have done the whole class in 30-45 minutes easily.  It’s timed, though, and you can’t finish with any time left on the timer.  We ended up turning it into an exercise class; we would read the screen, get up and jog around the house a few times.  For every screen, we did something after we finished reading: calisthenics, jogging, walking, check the mail, go to the bathroom, check on the garden.  It was really silly but it was the only way to kill two hours on a class that you could finish in a quarter of that time.

So we finished, got our certificates, and then we had to rate the class.  Now, you have to understand that the class was not helpful AT ALL.  I mean, the budget advice was condescending and didn’t apply to us at all; I am the queen of budgeting.  What got us in this mess was mostly the horrific real estate market in our area, since we aren’t able to sell our house to pay off the debts like we planned to.  Of course, living off the credit cards didn’t help but I also didn’t plan to go deaf and incur huge medical bills, and we never planned for our business to take a nosedive after Google changed its algorithms a few years back.  It all mushroomed from there.  But yes, I know how to live on a VERY tight budget and we were doing things way beyond what the class was teaching.  We certainly didn’t get into this situation by buying designer clothes and Caramel Macchiatos all the time.

I wanted to be honest but Dave refused; he didn’t want it to jeopardize anything.  So he gave the class high marks across the board while I sighed in disgust.  I guess I could see it being helpful for someone very young, just starting out in life and basically clueless, but I think most adults already know this information.  Who knows, though?  Maybe other people find the classes immensely helpful.  All I can say is, thanks to the class I got a nice workout that day.  *rimshot*

Get Me To The Judicial Building On Time

Skipping ahead to the last week of July here, and our 341 Meeting of Creditors is now behind us.  Even though I’d read over and over that this was nothing to worry about, and I hadn’t really been worrying about it (just a little anxious when I thought of it), I found myself seriously nervous the day before and in the hours leading up to the meeting.  I just felt that if anything was going to go wrong here, it would happen to us.  I mean, all over the US we’re hearing about real estate booming back and people selling their houses right away, and for us it is the worst it’s ever been, with no chance of our house selling for near what it’s worth.  So I figured even though nobody else ever has any creditors show up at this meeting, they would be there for ours.

We got to the judicial building with plenty of time to spare, went through security and up to the second floor to look for the room we needed.  We walked past a man in a little cubicle area and Dave stopped, backed up, and asked, “David?”  To my surprise, the man nodded and stepped forward to shake Dave’s hand.  I had no idea what he looked like; we met with Stuart initially and never saw his partner.  I found out later that Dave had seen his photo on their website.  Smart!

He asked if we had any questions, and my only real question was about the mortgage.  For whatever reason, on our bankruptcy filing they had checked off that we were interested in a loan modification for the mortgage.  This really baffled me, but I figured it was a way to drag out the foreclosure and give us more time in the house; the lawyers did know that we planned to include the house in the bankruptcy and not reaffirm the mortgage.

Because of that checked box, the mortgage company had been contacting us (with Dave’s approval) to try to get information for a loan modification.  (Which cracks me up, by the way, considering that we ALREADY DID THIS, YOU IDIOTS…don’t they keep any of the copious paperwork they make us fill out?!)  So I asked the lawyer if we should be doing anything regarding these attempts at contact – was it okay to ignore them or were we supposed to be playing along and acting like we wanted to try (AGAIN) for a modification?  He confirmed that if we weren’t planning to keep the house, we should just ignore these attempts at contact.

He went off to meet with a couple other clients who were waiting, along with us, in the hallway.  Things were behind, so we spent about 30-35 minutes sitting on a bench.  I eyeballed everyone who came down the corridor, trying to see if they looked like a Creditor who might possibly be arriving for our meeting.  Luckily nobody seemed to fit the bill, and when our name was called (‘KAST!’) we were the only ones who walked into the room, other than our lawyer.

The room was small, with a basic table and a few chairs.  A woman sat behind the table with a laptop, and a younger girl (assistant?  trainee?) sat next to her, silently.  We took a seat, took an oath that what we declared on the bankruptcy papers was true, and then answered the questions that were quickly volleyed our way.  No, we didn’t have valuable jewelry or coins, no stocks or bonds (other than my meager IRA CD), nobody had died and left us money.  I explained about my failing candle business.  We confirmed the general value of the house and what was owed (although Dave said I heard incorrectly and told her what the house had been valued at, $150,000, was what we still owed on the mortgage; we really owe more like $160,000).  Even with my little screw-up, the questions went by quickly and less than 10 minutes had gone by before the trustee said, “Okay folks, I’m finding No Assets.  Thank you and have a good day.”

As we left the room, David told us that we’d be getting a letter in about 60 days telling us that our discharge was final.  He said we probably wouldn’t be hearing very much from them in the meantime.  Now, I know that during these 60 days our creditors can object to the discharge, so I won’t breathe easy until we get the official letter.  David’s attitude gave me the feeling that objections don’t happen very often and that they don’t expect anything to happen in our case.  Hopefully that’s true!

As of this date, we’ve gotten letters from American Express and Bank of America canceling our accounts.  Every day we get more offers for car loans.  I checked online, and our Chase and Discover accounts appear to be canceled even though they didn’t notify us.  Of all those accounts, only American Express had a zero balance so I expected the accounts to be canceled.  Out of curiosity, I checked today to see if I still had access to my Kohl’s account, which had a zero balance when we filed for bankruptcy.  It’s still there and I still have access.  It will be interesting to see how the credit card accounts play out when the discharge is final.

Dave signed up for a Credit Karma account yesterday and it shows the bankruptcy (called a Derogatory Mark).  Even with that, his credit score with TransUnion is 710 right now.  We’ll keep an eye on our credit scores over the next year, obviously.

No mention was made of the Parent Plus loan, which we’re due to begin paying back in November.  I know student loans aren’t included in bankruptcies and Stuart said they are only discharged in rare instances, so I expect to be paying it back.  It will be a good way to rebuild credit.  But I can’t lie … if we found out it had been discharged, I would be pretty happy!

September 2013

The bankruptcy is discharged!  Now we just have to make sure we don’t win the lottery or come into some money (an unknown rich relative dies and leaves their estate to us) for the next six months.

We consider the credit cards to all be canceled, which is fine.  A couple show up as still active (Sears, Kohls) on credit reports, but my online access is gone so I cut up the cards.  The Parent Plus Loan is still there (sigh) but the $50/month payment is doable.

October 2013

We decided to apply for secured credit cards, because having NO credit cards is really a pain.  We don’t plan to charge them up, but it’s nice to have a credit card number for places that require one.  Dave got a $200 secured Capital One card with an $80 deposit.  I tried for an unsecured Capital One card and was approved (!) with a $3,000 limit.  Color us shocked!

March 2014

We are now free and clear from the bankruptcy; those unknown rich relatives can bestow their riches upon us left and right.  The few things we’ve been charging on the credit cards (mainly the monthly TiVo bill of $7.95 and random things that we can’t pay for with PayPal) are paid off in full.  It feels so weird to have no debt beyond food, utilities and car insurance.

The car has acted up twice since we filed bankruptcy – it figures.  In July we had to fix the AC to the tune of $700, and this month a cable for about $200.  We also had to replace tires and wheels in January, so that took another $450.  Since we paid cash for all the repairs, it cut back on our monthly savings.  In the months that have no big setbacks, we’ve been able to save between $1,000 and $1,300.  We live very frugally, trying to save every penny to put down on a new place to live.

Dave is watching houses in Michigan, many of which can be had for under $50,000.  We can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage, so it will be renting or (ideally) a land contract for us.  We aren’t sure we’ll be able to rent because of our four cats (we refuse to give them up).  That’s probably my biggest worry right now – will we find a house on land contract?  It’s not like we can just rent an apartment in the meantime; I think it will be very hard to find a place to rent that will accept cats, especially since they aren’t declawed.

The next step is a trip to Michigan in May, to check out the towns we’re interested in and hopefully find a realtor we can work with.

Right now we feel like we are in limbo, just biding our time.  I’m no longer worried that the Sheriff will knock on the door and drag us out of the house; I finally realize that so much has to happen before it reaches that point (plus, they try to avoid scenarios like that because it looks bad and costs the mortgage company money).  But I am itching to have this all behind us, to know where we’re going to land.

June 2014

If you remember, we stopped paying the mortgage in July 2013. We got the actual Notice of Default in Jan. 2014. Everyone in IL seems to get about 2 years from the NOD before they get an auction date, so we assumed it would be the case for us too. We were planning to look for a place in Michigan in early spring of 2015.

Luckily, my husband was checking the DuPage County foreclosure auction website every day, just to be safe. And on June 6th, he found our name on the list with an auction date of August 12, 2014. !!!! (And, BTW, as of today we still don’t have an official notice from the mortgage company or anything — I think they will wait until August 12, and then give us a notice saying we have 30 days to move. Nice, huh?!)

Let’s just say that I became hysterical. That’s putting it mildly.

We’ve been saving, but didn’t have near as much as we planned to have. On top of that, we have pets (cats) and a bankruptcy, which makes renting in a complex basically impossible. All the cute, cheap little land contract homes in MI suddenly disappeared. We had NO IDEA where we could move.

We spent some time looking at super-cheap mobile homes ($5,000 to $8,000) that we could buy, since we did have that much saved. Lot rent in that area of Michigan is around $350-$400/mo. so I figured I could keep saving if our housing was that cheap. It was so depressing, though — either the mobile home was really trashy, or the park it was in was trashy, or both. I was crying every day, it was so depressing and scary.

Finally we started looking for houses to rent. We didn’t think we could find one that would allow the cats but we figured we’d try. I’ll spare you all the details, but on Monday we went to see a place about 2 hours away in Michigan. It’s tiny (the two bedrooms are 9.8 x 9) but in great shape, on an acre of land, has a full unfinished basement so we can store all the furniture that doesn’t fit upstairs, and we can bring the cats. We had to wait a nerve-wracking 24 hours for her to show the house to 4 other people and then decide who was going to get it (yikes!) but we found out yesterday that she picked us. I am afraid to consider it a done deal until the lease is signed (hopefully we’ll get it later this week).

I can’t wait to get moved and put this all behind us. I’m ready for downsized living, to be honest. And I really, really hate Citimortgage. They can kiss my ass!!

Jenny here…I know I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of Wendi’s story as it unfolds… how about you? 

Raw – Come Play In May

raw-pictureI was hoping for something a little more upbeat for today’s prompt – aka the prompt I participate in again after a couple days off for life updates – but you know what, I think I can do this while not being entirely downbeat about the whole thing. Let’s see…

My Emotions

I’ve never experienced feelings in shades of gray. I can think all in the gray areas and see lots of points of view but my heart? My heart has always been raw. I have boundaries, sure, but they are very different than most people and so some people think my blog is an overshare while others understand the things I do not share exist and are important to me. There aren’t many, but the things I hold behind my boundaries are absolutely sacred.

My Life

I don’t lead a “sweater sets and ice cream social” kind of life. Sometimes I want one very, very badly. I want to be a mom who gets up, makes sure her lipstick is on, and goes out to do the things that normal moms do. If there was ever such a thing as a normal mom. I think it’s just a grown-up version of hoping I would grow up to be a princess. I keep hoping I’ll grow up to be a real-life, normal mom.

My Blog

My blog is pretty raw. Especially since it’s not anonymous. It allows people to read and make impressions and assumptions about my life that may or may not be accurate. No matter how detailed I am, I will never be able to give someone a true impression of what my life looks like. But I try. For my children to read someday, for their children to read someday, for you to read and hopefully enjoy or learn from or feel your own raw emotion while you read.

My Love

My love is raw because I do not pretend. Not with my children, not with my husband, not with my friends, not with my family. I saw some Tedx talk about a marriage/relationship hack. The graph that took my breath away was the slow, downward spiral of marriage satisfaction. He only studied 50 years but wow, that graph.

I have never been more satisfied in my marriage than I am today. I credit being happier now than the day I got married with being raw. Also, maybe, not expecting my husband to be my everything, every day, all the time. So I guess it’s more of a combo platter.

My Self-Care

Therapy is going to be a way to stay raw but with less poky edges and brittle bits. Maybe a little less intense. That being said, if someone didn’t like me before therapy they sure aren’t going to like me after. I hold my tongue a lot and if I am more at peace with myself that could change. Maybe not. We won’t know until we know, will we? I’ve never been the person who says mean things and then uses the “I’m just being honest” excuse to try and justify my words. So I probably won’t suddenly turn into that person during this journey.

But hey, I keep hearing “It’s a process.” So maybe part of that process is where I get to just say what I’m really thinking and feeling without cushioning it at all. Letting people know where they fit into my life and what I’m willing to be in theirs. You know, boundaries. So I don’t just run again.

I’m tired of running. If I move it’s because I’ve chosen to. I’ve planned it. I will be prepared for it. I will stand strong and raise my kids and hug my husband and treat my friends well and have a life well-lived. 

Wait. I did that already. Huh. Maybe I’m farther in this process than I thought. *grin*

Stay Raw, my friends…

Axis of Ineptitude

Looking for the whole list of prompts? They are in text form and image so you can Come Play In May!