DH = Dear Husband

Steady debt-reduction & savings

Yesterday, I had trouble starting our 18-year-old van. It took me 4 tries, and while there was some “Oh no!” stress, it was tempered by a confidence that is new to me: “If it dies today, we’ve got more than enough on stand-by for a good used vehicle.” A life-time first.

Our ’99 Dodge Caravan lived to see another day as it turned out, but how great not  to be overwhelmed by dread or panic at the thought of it biting the dust! In our poor money management days,  DH and I experienced that soul-sucking stress on a regular basis – every time an unexpected expense came up. My hope is that our faithful old van will serve us at least until its 20th birthday in February 2019 – which might just be our first month of complete debt freedom.

February  2017 was the 57th month of our total money makeover. Since June of 2012, we have:

  • paid off all of our consumer debt ($21,000)
  • paid off all of our business debt ($81,000)
  • saved up an emergency fund (to see us through 3-6 months in case of income loss)
  • made more and more aggressive payments against our mortgage ($71,000 and counting)
  • ramped up our long-term savings and investments

From our original total combined debt of $257,000, we are now left with a mortgage of $84,000.

Frugality misapplied

In October of 2015, I wrote a post about frugality misapplied. Two years earlier, I’d been having trouble with my vision, and  I’d gone to my eye doctor. Sure enough, he’d had to update my prescription. But when it came time to decide upon the purchase, “I managed to work my decision-making faculties into a state of paralysis, and [I stuck with my old glasses.] I left the optometrists with a new prescription, but the same old frames and lenses, feeling an uncertain sense of victory for my frugal move.”

Just before writing that post in 2015, I finally did buy new glasses – but not before my compromised vision had contributed my nearly hitting a pedestrian while I was driving to work. “I told the first two colleagues I saw about my near miss. ‘I just did not see him,’ I explained, still absorbing the horror of what could have been. And what was their response? One of them asked, ‘Is the prescription for your glasses outdated?’ ‘Yes!’ I answered – horrified again – at how obvious a mistake I had been making. I just didn’t tell him how outdated. ‘In fact, I’m getting new glasses this week.'”

Frugality misapplied again

Every year since I started blogging, I’ve had something to say about my “winter blues”. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing that can be effectively addressed, but my default was to just get through the blahs of late winter and hold out for spring. One winter a couple of years ago, I went to see my doctor about it. Besides giving me a list of vitamins and supplements to purchase, she recommended light therapy and told me where I could buy a SAD lamp.

Can you guess what I did with that information? That’s right. Decision-making paralysis again. I bought some vitamin D, but that was it – and it wasn’t enough.

Do you ever find yourself thinking, when embarrassing videos of the rich-and-famous go viral, “I’m sure glad that nobody recorded me when I . . .” whatever mortifying moment happened in your life? I had a moment like that last weekend. I had a melt-down – in a way that was completely out of proportion with what triggered it. And I’m glad nobody recorded it.

SAD lamp and supplements

I said my apologies, asked for and received forgiveness, and I took ownership of it. This past week, two years after it was given (I’ve clearly got a pattern of 2-year delay), I followed my doctor’s advice. I bought the SAD lamp, and I’ve been using it at least 15 minutes each day. I bought a higher-dose vitamin D (10 times higher) as well as St. John’s Wort. It’s too early to say if it’s making a difference, but it feels right to be taking these steps, and to be setting myself up to be proactive from the get-go next winter.

I went to see my doctor again, and just like our visit of two winters ago, she half-jokingly, half-seriously added this recommendation: “I’ll prescribe a trip to Hawaii for you every winter.” A yearly trip south will definitely be a part of our financial freedom plan! Until then, the SAD lamp will be my Hawaii.

Brighter days to come

Brighter days really are coming. Despite the unseasonably cold temperature of this particular time and place (-19C /-2F), the days are getting longer. Furthermore, the calendar doesn’t lie: spring will be here soon.

And an exciting development happened with the children’s book I’m self-publishing: The illustrator, a former student, has completed her work, and the illustrations are on their way to the publisher. I was so thrilled to go over them with her Thursday evening that I missed a little correction that needs to be made on three of them. Can you see what it is? (The publishers say they can fix it.) In this illustration, Sensei Jordan is giving Ella a high-five just before her karate class.

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I’m hoping this is the last mental health post I’ll be writing for some time to come, but I can only promise to tell it like it is : )

Have you ever used a SAD lamp? Have you ever neglected your own self-care? Are you looking forward to spring? Your comments are welcome.


Join the Conversation


  1. Love the art work. karate teacher has a white belt? Winters don’t effect me too much, my wife on the other hand, a Southern Californian girl, could certainly leave them. We will consider that for our longer term living plans. It sounds like even with good advice you need to be ready for the change. Maybe we’ll call the 2-year delay “Ruth time” Hope spring is here soon!

    1. Yes, you found the mistake, Brian! Sensei Jordan should have a black belt. I still can’t believe I didn’t notice it! 3 illustrations will have to be adjusted for the Sensei’s belt. I’m glad the publisher says it can be done on their end.
      It’s hard to know where that line is between “winter blahs” and SAD is though. Your wife probably has a good idea of which side of that line she is.As for “Ruth time”, I don’t recommend it!

  2. Winters have always been hard for me and even though I know (and my counselor has recommended) I should get a SAD lamp I haven’t pulled the trigger. Right now I am walking to and from work most days and try to take a lap around the building on a break to get enough natural sun. Good for you for taking another step in self care! I hope it works for you!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jax. The walks to and from work are great not only for the exposure to sun (mind you, at the beginning of winter, there’s no sun before or after work), but also for the exercise. That’s another big lifestyle help, and it’s one I find hard to follow through with when I’m in the midst of SAD. You’ll know the lamp is there if you find your current strategy isn’t enough. All the best!

  3. I’ve never used a SAD lamp but could have used one when I lived in Seattle. We have had the rainiest season on record here in LA, and I forgot how much it affects your mood. Normally we LA people like that first day of rain because it’s so unique and cozy to us, but cut to three months of heavy rains, and everyone is over it. lol! That first really warm sunny day and everyone seemed to be in a better mood, myself included. Note to self: wherever I decided to move, it has to be mostly sunny! Anyway, I too hold on to money when there sometimes is a good reason to spend it. The struggle is real, I get it!

    1. Three months of heavy rains would be tough! The way you describe that first sunny day is familiar to me. When spring really arrives around here, people are just more relaxed, happy, and friendly. You can see it everywhere – at work, in the neighbourhood, at the grocery store . . . Yet I don’t think I could actually move to a place that’s “mostly sunny”. I like being rooted here. I just look forward to having the freedom to travel – including travel to sunny places during the winter : )

  4. I LOVE my light box! And most years, I start tomato seedlings super early in my bedroom so I have a reason for a blazing white growlight before the time change throws me back to dark morning commutes.

    I just had an eye appointment last week and found out I no longer need to correct for astigmatism (it was in one eye). So I went home and promptly put on my old glasses, ha. I’ll run out of trial contacts soon though so I’ll have to pick out something 🙂

    1. So is the “white growlight” different from a SAD lamp? Does it fulfill a duel purpose? Both for the tomato plants and you? Interesting that you’re making the whole vision decision too. I hope your old glasses work for you – but don’t make my mistake!

      1. It’s been a few years since I’ve researched the difference, but my understanding is that light boxes have a UV filter and are usually closer to white light. They’re also rated in lux which is a measurement of intensity. My grow lights, on the other hand, are rated in watts (so it may be more or less intense a light than the SAD light) and are often a broader spectrum of color for optimal plant health. Grow lights aren’t required to have a UV filter, could be much hotter than an equivalent-intensity SAD light, and might even potentially be harmful if used close up on the eyes/skin as a SAD light should be used.

        I do know that the years I’ve had the grow lights in my bedroom it’s impossible to stay in bed for more than a few minutes after they come on and it really does make me feel more alert than having to get up to go use the SAD light, haha.

        I’d never had separate vision and contact appointments until this year and realized only afterward that I expressed my contact issues to the wrong provider. I really want to switch to daily contacts but didn’t ask about different brands while I was there – so now I’m just hoping they’ll approve my online order even though the brand I want to try is slightly bigger than my current brand. But don’t worry, my love of my non-prescription changeable-lens sunglasses will help keep my contact-ordering timeline!

        1. Hey, if the grow lights do the trick, stick with them! And it sounds like you have this vision thing under control : )

  5. I was surprised how much it rained in the Sunshine State the year we lived there. For a few months you could set your watch to the fact that it would rain around 2 every afternoon. It would only last maybe an hour, but just knowing it was coming day after day after day was kind of a mood dampener. Anyhoo, it’s nice to hear that you are taking better care of yourself. I wouldn’t have caught the mistake in the book, but I do love the illustrations! Here’s to an early spring Ruth! I know I’m ready! 🙂

    1. You and Tonya both mention the effect of too many rainy days. We all need Mr. Sun so much! I’m ready for spring too : )

  6. I’m SO excited for you that you are using your SAD lamp and the supplements, and super excited about the children’s book as well!!! Great work, my friend. Part of dealing with SAD includes working on projects that encourage you, and the book is perfect for that. Well done. 🙂

  7. Amazing progress! My husband and I started our TMMO in January. We came to realization that we were just sick and tired of being sick and tired. With a little over 10 years to go until retirement, we figured we had better do something or we would be dragging this debt with us into retirement. Congrats on your progress!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Lucy! You were motivated as we were – by a sobering realization that time was ticking. So strange to be in the last 10 years of a career, right? The good news is that you really can transform your finances – in far less than 10 years. All the best to you and your husband on your TMMO journey : )

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