Tag: happy

Back to Work 2016!

Great News!!!!!!!!

Mr. Brickie just texted me from training – he starts work Friday!! (Training is M-Th)

This is, by far, the earliest he’s started working. Last year he started in April. The year before he started in late June. The earlier he starts, the more hours he works. The more hours he works the more he vests into his benefits and health insurance. The more hours he works, the sooner he will get to the next apprentice level and closer to the goal of being a Journeyman!

Also, the sooner he begins working the more money we make through the year and the more likely it is I will be able to pay off that credit card debt and start on a proper winter emergency fund for next year!

Due to the weather he may not be working 40 hour weeks but if he did he would make $919. So we are absolutely in a position now where 40-hour checks are a lot of income for us. I will lose SNAP benefits pretty much immediately when he begins working (as it should be…I would much rather be able to afford to buy groceries) so we will have to budget $600/mo. for groceries. There will be higher gas costs and there will be toll costs to take into consideration as well. I need one day to figure out how much to budget for tolls and one week to figure out how much to budget for gas.

I don’t even start hoping to budget for job income until March – I couldn’t be happier for the surprise.

Our monthly bills and expenses add up to approximately $2300. So if he DID work full time that would free up $1300/month to pay toward debt.

I like to calculate the best possible month (The Model Month) first. Then I calculate the bare minimum and have a sliding scale in my head of what gets paid and how much goes to groceries based on what those two months look like. I also prioritize how I pay things so if something is going to go unpaid it’s going to be a savings account I’m putting money in for insurance, not the grocery budget. (I can always pay insurance monthly if I have to.)

The Model Month is a super-rosy view on the situation considering the view out my window is fairly heavy, thick snowfall. It’s going to be a while before full weeks will be worked, I think. The job should go through fall and that’s always the best news because we won’t have to worry about him finding a new job until probably the end of August. Since he hasn’t been to the job site yet we don’t know if it’s indoors, outdoors, block, brick, or stone. So maybe it’s a situation where he can work when it’s snowing. We’ll see.

Even though I hate the waiting, I’m getting better at it. Funny, having to learn to be calm waiting for him to work has reduced my anxiety around a lot of other things in life, too. It’s like an exercise in how to remain calm in the face of the unknown.

Back to him being an apprentice and working partial weeks….now that he is at the 70% apprentice level, even partial paychecks are better than unemployment for living on. We might not have to go to the food pantry anymore *knock on wood* (I only care because I have never been able to shake the feeling that when my family uses the food pantry we are taking from other families who might need it more) but at this point I just got the good news so I’m letting myself dream big before I pull myself back down to earth to make real plans and start plotting out possible financial futures so I use our resources as wisely as possible.

We might be able to pay cash for Christmas this year. (I said this last year and the year before, too, so I know I’ve hit fantasy football levels of optimism but whatever, I don’t care, I’m happy.) Sometimes even I am an optimist.

I can tell you we are better off than we were this time last year but in some ways maybe we aren’t. I do have more credit card debt overall, not less. That’s negative for sure. I do have a paid off car, though, and that is so important for having traction paying off everything else!

A lot rides on the weather, on materials, on deliveries, and on other factors that go into the logistics of making a building. The longer he works as a bricklayer, however, the more I realize that everyone is really pretty darn honorable. Mr. Brickie hasn’t had anything really shady happen at any of his job sites, no one has asked him to do things that were unsafe or illegal, everything has been on the up and up for years now.

He’s at his required training this week (only two more to go, ever!) and he’s working with stone and kicking butt. He has a natural gift for working with stone safely and quickly…weird how people find hidden talents, isn’t it? You wouldn’t know you were gifted with stone any other way than to become a bricklayer and lay some, would you? (Unless maybe you became an artist that chose to use stone? It’s possible…)

As always, I’ll keep you updated!

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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A Nice Financial Surprise

You remember me trying to figure out what Mr. Brickie’s check was going to be after the raise with overtime, right? If not you can check it out but it might make you feel really confused because I was crazy confused while trying to do the math.

I won’t actually have the pay stub until the mail comes this afternoon (Oh, what’s that? You get your mail in the morning? How NICE for you. Yes, I *am* jealous.) but the check itself was direct deposited and my guess of $891.59 was wrong. The check was $1013.43.

Yes, I screeched. It was a happy screech and then I looked like a cartoon character grabbing my priority budget and scribbling changes wildly based on the new numbers. I know that maybe for some people $121.84a week extra wouldn’t make much of a difference but for us this is a life changer. That’s almost $500 extra per month which is huge. HUGE. We can use that money to pay off debt and save, save, save.

Please remember: This blog is written in real time. When I say we WILL this or we will be debt-free by THAT DATE it is accurate as of the moment it is written. If an emergency comes up or something changes, I will blog about it! 

In redoing the budget that extra money is going to see us credit card debt free by the end of August. That includes the $300 in school supplies I bought on Amazon.com and the $462 that will go onto the credit card automatically for auto insurance. Everything. It includes everything.

It will open up September to save for Christmas and my girls’ birthday parties they want this year. (One is “Turning Tween” as she calls it. The other is having her “Golden Birthday” and so they are both beyond jazzed and asked if they could just this once have a big party.)

As much as I want to push all extra money after those credit cards toward the car or buying a second car (because y’all the freedom having a second car has given me is beyond amazing and I don’t know if I can go back to not having access to a second car) it’s important to me that the girls have something very nice now and then to keep in the memory bank. They don’t really know how much they are sacrificing compared to other kids. In fact, they have cell phones (because of our Freedom Pop debacle) and electronics and books. Really, I’m not sure if they know we are poor.

It is a real bummer that the foreclosure went through when it did. The way we save and the money he’s making right now? We could more than pay the mortgage. Timing just isn’t going to work the way we hoped and we will have to move next year (hopefully next summer) and we will probably move to Indiana because the cost of living is lower and it won’t add but fifteen minutes to Mr. Brickie’s commute. We know people who are renting now and they are happy and have a guy who rents houses so we are going to go through a friend of a friend (which always makes me feel special because, “I know a guy…” is awesome lol)

Now it’s time for the grind. No more surprises until the next raise. If he keeps working overtime, will happen 10/23/2014 and that is the absolute soonest it can happen so don’t write that date down in pen because I have it written in the lightest pencil possible … things happen and clinging to a hope as if it were a fact is a recipe for despair.

So today with the magic-big check we have to take out $150 for Mr. Brickie to buy a new pair of boots. He’s been dealing with $20 Walmart boots that last 2-3 weeks because we didn’t have a chunk for a better pair. He tried last week to get a $42 pair at Payless he thought were stitched instead of glued. That would make them last longer and be a better long-term value. Unfortunately those stitches weren’t real and the boots fell apart in four days. So he needs good boots.

Here is how we spent this week’s check (we are switching back to a zero-based budget):

$1,013.00 Check
$200.00 Living Expenses
$150.00 Work Boots
$161.00 Utilities (past due)
$95.00 Net10 (cell phones)
$407.00 CapOne CC Pmt
$0.00 Leftover

After so many bummer surprises and so many weeks of not having enough money today I feel really good.

I feel lighter.

Of course my good mood might also be attributed to the mile walk I took this morning. I know, I said I was going to yesterday and I did it today. I did it before I had coffee to make sure it was going to get done. It didn’t take long but I am doing my best to commit to #wycwyc (What You Can When You Can) and getting in more hugs, more dishes, more walking, and more smiles whenever I can.

I’m doing kind of a Baby Step approach to the money that’s coming in. Pay off debt first, then save 3-6 months of expenses. I’m a little nervous because when winter comes … I’ve heard it’s going to be a crazy-mild winter which means Mr. Brickie will be working but it’s possible he won’t work during the winter again which means a combination of unemployment and working where and when he can get it.

I hate to always be looking toward the next possible problem, but I want to have a plan and be prepared.

I’m so bad at balance.


Feeling Inspired and Wrapped in Cotton

Big shout out to Johnna for sharing this on FB =)

I have been in the slumpiest slump that ever slumped.

First, though, let me tell you the amazing thing that happened to me. I am not the girl who wins contests. Cool things usually don’t happen to me. Getting to the point where I am anticipating Mr. Brickie’s check tomorrow like a lotto ticket clutched in my hand took years of research on my part and years of hard work on his. Things don’t fall in our laps.

I’m not trying to be whiny, I just don’t have that particular kind of luck. (Yes, I believe in luck. I’m a little superstitious, too.)

So two weeks ago when a friend came to my door I didn’t think anything of it. She placed an envelope into my hands, hugged me, and said she had to go. She’s in school and is a quirky person to begin with so I just roll with it when she does things I don’t understand instead of questioning it. I turned to Mr. Brickie and said, “Um, she left me an envelope and said I had to take whatever was inside.”

He gave me a look somewhere between, “Huh?” and “Is it a badger?” I’m sure I looked just as confused.

When I opened the envelope there was a note letting me know the car parked in front of my house was reliable and insured and I was to use it to take my kids to the park, library, wherever for the rest of summer. A car key slid out of the envelope.

My friend lent me her car for six weeks so I wouldn’t feel trapped at home anymore.

Can you believe that?

I smooshed all the worries and warnings that immediately popped up in my brain back into a dark spot in the attic of my mind and locked the door to keep them contained. I texted, “Thank you.” because I did not trust myself to speak. I don’t ask for help. I’m not good at accepting help. This time, though, I knew the only right answer was appreciation and thanks.

Because for six glorious weeks I have a daily reminder in my driveway that I am that girl. The one who is appreciated. The one who is heard. The one who is free to leave her house and go wherever she wants.

So far we have been to the park multiple times. The kids are thrilled and think it’s a new adventure every time. I’ve tried to go to the library a couple times but my fear at watching three kids in a library keeps me driving past the library to the park. I’m doing the best I can.

Back to Feeling Slumpy

Did you know you can feel completely drained and thankful at the same time? I did not.

It seems that even eating good quality food and sleeping good quality sleep I am still feeling just overwhelmingly blah. Happy, but blah. It’s a muffled sort of goodness that is not entirely unpleasant.

My dishes are only half done. My living room is only mostly picked up.

I feel like I’m only half checked-in to life most days right now. Is this normal for a wife who has a husband working six days a week? Is this caused by an overwhelming sense of fatigue taking care of three kids day in and day out? Or is it something more?

I wish I had a threapist that wasn’t crappy. I read an article somewhere online today about someone who was working through some issues with this ah-mazing therapist and I was like, “Where is one of those I can talk to?” I get the bad-breath guided meditation therapist that tries to trample my boundaries during the second visit. Gross. (I actually have a long list of examples much like that one. I have bad therapist luck. <– see, superstitious.)

I want to get up and put on my shoes and take the kids for a walk, but it just feels so overwhelming. At the park, I don’t get on the equipment because I’m not insane. Mr. Brickie does but I get nervous about park equipment so I stay clear. I think I need to just start from square one and pop in a Leslie Sansone video first thing in the morning and let that wake me up for fifteen minutes before coffee. Not because it’s exercise, but because it will get my brain firing and blood pumping and make me feel mentally better.

Over on Carla’s blog she introduced me to the concept of #wycwyc and at first I had no idea what it meant. Turns out it means to do What You Can When You Can in terms of almost anything. Fitting in exercise, meditation, and everything else. I think it’s another way of saying baby steps. Today I just feel like I can’t do anything. Well, except feed the kids breakfast, keep them from fighting, set timers for their turns, make them lunch, sit with them and talk to them about their day while they eat lunch, brush the youngest’s teeth while the older ones are brushing theirs, take out the recycling, figure out what we’re having for dinner (I plan the list at the beginning of the week but then based on my energy for the day I pick an easy/medium/difficult to prepare meal) supervise and help the two older girls do dishes, make sure the youngest is brushing her hair, sweep, and wait what time is it?

11:47am? Wait. It’s not even noon?

SEE. I think I’m such a lazy beast but if I break down my morning I’ve done stuff. Not all the things and not even most of the things but I haven’t done nothing and I certainly haven’t been sitting at my computer doing nothing but hanging out with the cool kids.

I guess I don’t have a proper way to how much is a good amount to do. When I ask myself, the only answer I hear back from the depths of my mind is, “More.” My mind has been known for not being super-helpful in the past but I give her a pass because she’s really good at budgeting.

Does anyone know how much should get done in a day? (Suggestions are always welcome!)