Written Friday morning:


I am officially making the decision to forgive 15-year old me for making a terribly bad decision to get involved with bad news.

As a codependent, there are just some things in my life that I will always deal with. One of them is feeling responsible for my high school boyfriend’s life and how it is turning out, which is not great. This, despite the fact that I have been married to someone else for 16+ years now.

I started to write about what trash he is (because while I hate to refer to a person as “trash….” I like to think that all people are redeemable at some point, it is healthier for me at the moment to remember that he is not my responsibility and to put some distance there). But, this is about me.

I have long fantasized that if only this person could get his shit together, then he could live into the dreams I had for him once upon a time. Even if it meant that we had long gone our separate ways and he went on to be with someone else, as I have.

This is about me, and my dreams. And, that dream needs to die now.

I have attempted to be a good friend to him in more recent years. He has proven incapable of reciprocating. I overlooked and overcompensated for those deficiencies, going back to the old feelings of responsibility. I have let myself get hurt time and again because he refuses to reciprocate my efforts at friendship. I am not sure that it is malicious or whether it is purposefully manipulative; it is entirely possible that he is literally incapable of true friendship.

I am responsible for myself only. I am sorry for the state of his life, but I am ready to move on and embrace my present reality: a reality which is full of love and care and genuine friends and family.

Written Saturday night:

Another asshole who used to have his way with me played Elton John when he was doing his thing. I’ve mostly let that one go, but one of the trigger songs came on the radio tonight on the way home and put me in a serious kind of sad mood. Thankfully, Jared knows exactly what to do to bring me back to present day. He found “A Knight’s Tale,” one of my all-time favorite movies. And Trixie, Porter’s dog, decided to choose me to tackle tonight while we watched the movie. So thank goodness, I can go to bed with a mind back in a peaceful state.

It is a season for being really gentle with myself. And, for picking up the camera for some true photo therapy.

love, Caroline

I’ve started a couple of posts here only to abandon them mid-draft. I haven’t felt much like writing.

So, I have moderate-almost severe obstructive sleep apnea. I got a cpap machine last week. Instead of sleeping 12-14-15 hours a night, I am now sleeping 7-10 and feeling much better in general. The jury is still out but I think the cpap may make losing weight easier, as well. It has helped with the depression, for sure.

I’ve been getting up when the boys get ready for school and several mornings I have taken Oliver to school because he likes to get there earlier than Porter and Liam are ready to leave the house. I am focusing on discipline over motivation.

Eunie, Eunie, Eunie…. she has been a big focus for us this past couple of weeks. She had a dental where they removed a couple of teeth and she has recovered fine from that. But she also had several growths removed– from her neck, chest, and leg. She got the staples out from her incisions on Sunday, but she split the incision on her neck, which meant we switched from using her collar to her harness. She definitely prefers walking with the harness. I think she likes it because it means she has nothing on her when she is in the house. She is starting to be more playful and loving toward us. I hope it means she is starting to feel more at home.

I posted on Facebook that I was going to start seriously posting about finances in an effort to curb spending.

Yeah, about that.

So, ten+ years ago, my spending was out of control. We didn’t know how to budget– I’d for sure never been taught about budgeting aside from a rudimentary 1-lesson fake budget in college that meant nothing at the time because I wasn’t instructed to apply it to my personal circumstances.

I have always blamed myself for our having to declare bankruptcy in 2012, but Jared says my spending wasn’t the problem. The fact that I was unable to care for the kids due to my mental health circumstances, meaning we had to place two children under the age of 6 in daycare full-time, was the problem. Our wonderful friends who ran the daycare were as flexible with us as they could be, but ultimately, daycare bills went onto the credit cards.

It wasn’t just the financial side; these years were filled with deep shame for me. What kind of mother was I that I couldn’t care for my children? What was really wrong with me that I couldn’t care for them at home during the day? If I couldn’t care for the kids and I couldn’t go out and make a living to contribute to the household, what in the world was I doing with my life? What was my purpose?

Thankfully, Jared just wanted to love me. That love probably saved me in those years because there were some very dark days.

At the time, I just threw my hands up and told myself I wasn’t good with babies and toddlers and that they were better off at the daycare. At the time, these things were true. I was working a lot of stuff out, dealing with a wonk thyroid as yet undiscovered, mostly in a bad therapy situation, apparently dealing with undiagnosed sleep apnea, and hadn’t found the psych medications that worked for me yet. I was going from being an extremely spoiled only child thrust into the role of mother to two, and I didn’t take on that role gracefully at all. The big boys benefitted from the stability of a loving situation that was like family at daycare. I do not regret that decision one little bit.

Fast forward to July of 2013, and I find out I’m pregnant. I panicked and I’m pretty sure Jared held his cool publicly but wasn’t sure for real– what the hell would happen?

Thankfully, we found out about my thyroid issues shortly after Oliver was born. I was followed closely by my psychiatrist the entire pregnancy, started my psych meds the day Oliver was born, and all was well. Jared resumed night duty one last time so I could be a normal person during the day, and Oliver and I did just fine by ourselves during the day. I love all of my children equally, but the experience of keeping Oliver at home during his baby and toddler years was so therapeutic and validating. I had the mothering instinct in me after all.

So, no full-time daycare for O, just some drop-in days. And no fear of out of control credit card spending that we couldn’t manage due to daycare bills from an essentially one-income household.

We took Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey literally while we were in bankruptcy, before it was even discharged. The idea of a zero-based budget was so foreign, so scary to me. Jared discovered You Need a Budget, or YNAB, at roughly the same time. I started logging every last penny we spent in YNAB in late 2012 and have never, ever looked back. At the time, it was standalone software. It has since become subscription-based and I locked in a lifetime rate when they first went subscription. YNAB has at least taught me to see where our money is going.

Financial Peace taught zero-based budgeting but frankly, it scared the hell out of me and put me in a bad place mentally in relation to credit use and debt. Jared doesn’t buy into Dave Ramsey and despite the fact that I was brainwashed into buying into it, Jared is working on changing my mindset currently. That’s not to say that we want to carry debt or be irresponsible. But for starters, $1,000 is not enough of an emergency fund for homeowners who are a family of five. I cannot tell you how many times over the past eight or nine years I have drained that $1,000 emergency fund in literally two days due to unforeseen expenses. I mean, the alternative would have been terrible, but that minimum emergency fund should be at least $5,000 in our case.

Also– saving while paying down debt should be a higher priority, which Dave Ramsey disagrees with. The tactic we are currently taking is to refinance all our debt into lower interest rates, to save money while we pay down debt AND save. This wasn’t an option for us in 2012 because our credit scores were trash. But this year, we have refinanced the house into 2.25% for 20 years, and we are currently in the process of refinancing my van from a 5.16% loan into a 2.24% loan for roughly the same 3 year term left. Our house payment is higher than before but it is a real mental load off to know that we will have the whole thing paid off in 20 years AND watching the principal go down faster every month is a real esteem boost. The van refinance, though, will see us having about $160 extra to save or put toward other debt monthly.

I said something in a Facebook post about embarrassing myself out of spending, but my spending isn’t out of control when I am happy and busy. I only shop when I am bored and depressed. The boredom and depression is the real issue. I am driven and determined in our finances when life is going well in my world. And even then, my spending is really only an ancillary issue (at least now that I’ve gotten the kinks worked out of my photo system). We can afford for me to go to Gallery Row every day of the week to get out of the house if it means I don’t go buying randomness other times.

The real drawback to us being able to really sock away savings is the fact that we currently have two car payments. I cannot regret those decisions at the time, but we will likely do whatever we have to do to only have one car payment at the time for Jared and myself. It may be that we have other car payments once the boys are driving age, though Porter will inherit Jared’s car just about the time it is paid off, so there’s that.

That’s all for now. Oh, and I am slightly obsessed with my new Showit blog.

love, Caroline

The thing about depression is it is still there, even when medicine appears to be working.

It doesn’t matter what the target of my angst has been this week. Toward the end of the week I became non-functional. Thank goodness for video therapy, because it allowed my therapist to see me as I really am, instead of a fake facade I might otherwise have put up for an hour with her if I had to go to her office. (Worse yet– If I had had to go to her office yesterday, I would have cancelled and would likely still be in bed.) I was real with her, and at the end of the hour I wasn’t quite ready to face the world but I was ready to see my Mama and Daddy and get out of the house. And most importantly, to stay out of the bed the rest of the day.

And my brand of depression rarely results in feeling suicidal. I mostly just want to disappear and be unconscious. Which is precisely what I did with my day on Thursday; I disappeared into my bed and did my best to not be awake. I disappeared from social media and offloaded all my responsibilities to Jared. Willing myself to disappear did not work, of course, nor did the willing myself to be unconscious result in much sleep.

I am ready to get real with acceptance of my self-image and where I’m at both in my career and in my body’s condition, even as I work consistently to improve both. I want to change my internal dialogue, which has always been pretty damn harsh.

I went to a newborn studio workshop last week and the day was wonderful. Those ladies work SO hard and have amazing results to show for it. It was great to spend the day around an impressive group of photographers. Good for my soul.

I also learned through that experience that I do not want a studio for myself. I came to the realization that I want my first floor to be ready to be a consultation space for clients, but I do not have the drive or desire in my art to be a studio photographer. I want to know how to manipulate the lights, but I am always going to defer to parents to hold and position a newborn– I have no desire to do the posing myself. Newborns stressed me out when I had them for myself, and other people’s newborns stress me out, as well. I like photographing primarily outside, or at least in good light. And that is A-Okay. I know talented people to refer folks to for studio requests.

And can we talk about finances for a minute?

Nearly 10 years ago, Jared and I took Financial Peace with Dave Ramsey at church. It was ingrained that heavy credit card debt was evil. That we should keep our savings at a minimum until we have the debt paid off. That we should always have a budget. That car payments are bad.

We’ve gotten pretty good at the budgeting part. However, we’ve determined for ourselves that having a minimal savings account just does not work……$`1,000 is not enough to keep ourselves out of hot water with the credit cards. In fact, just this morning I paid off medical bills that were over $650 in total…..I was able to do this because there was more than $1k in savings. Other months where I’d been shoving money at credit cards, that money would have been gone on pay day.

So despite the fact that we have a small credit card balance at the moment, we will be focused on building a minimum of 3 months’ worth of expenses in savings before we pay anything other than about $100 per month– not the minimum, but not nearly what I would normally choose to put toward debt payments. Though truthfully, that may well be enough to pay these particular balances off in that time anyway, but still.

When we took Financial Peace, I needed a good shaking up and to learn to budget. But, the spend cycle was not entirely broken with that class, just as it hadn’t been entirely broken with the declaring of bankruptcy.

What is working now is seeing the numbers of what will happen (fairly quickly, too) if we start saving as our focus. It stopped me from ordering canvases this afternoon. A YNAB blog article (I think it was YNAB but I can’t find the post now) phrased it well when it talked about savings as buying time. I had never thought of it that way before. But just this morning, I thought about buying the 4 canvases I want for the family room wall. The total was going to be roughly $200 for the quality canvas I want, for the four of them. I stopped myself when I realized I would have to stretch the budget in ways we really shouldn’t right now, and I realized there are always other months to buy those canvases… the wall doesn’t look particularly bad as it is right now.

So, savings = buying time is a game changer for me. I’ll be applying that principle as a sort of litmus test to any future impulse purchases. I used to keep a wish list in Google Keep, in my list keeper, and I’ve been neglecting that list because I would just buy whatever, whenever. Which leads quickly to credit card debt.

I’m pretty bummed because Jared is pretty anti-Dave Ramsey, both for his political leanings and from the practical standpoint of seeing how it didn’t really lead to us building savings in any sort of reasonable time frame. I had hoped to put the boys in a Financial Peace class when they were each in high school. However, I think a better use of time and money is to get them set up and using YNAB for themselves, to get used to budgeting and saving.

Jared fixes Oliver’s doggie

I am slowly coming off of a LONG depression.

Yesterday, as I cleaned off the bathroom counter for the first time in several months, I found myself in a familiar place: wondering why it was so hard to do anything other than live like this for so very long.

It was a weekend of catching up for us: laundry, dishes, long-needed chores like cleaning the master bathroom countertop, sewing up stuffed animals long needing attention.

I’d like to say coming out of depression is all good news. Jenny Lawson talks about this in her book Broken, which I am reading: it is not all roses. Jenny is right in that depression is beyond sadness, it is a type of numbness. Coming out of depression means remembering and feeling full-force all kinds of different emotions, not just happiness and contentment.

For me, this means remembering anger and despair. And, feeling them full-force. Sometimes, this means tantrums.

Jared says I was overdue for the one that happened Saturday morning. It was an all-over terrible full-body experience and I spent the rest of the day recovering on Saturday.

I am interested in having a clean and neat house again, which probably means the television will be on HGTV whenever the television is on. I have a lot of photography and business education online material to get through, stuff that I have been meaning to study for months now. Now, it’s time to find the discipline to make myself do it.

I’ve found the key so far is to just take short chunks of time and concentrate on one thing. Yesterday, we got a lot done in Jared’s office just by cleaning off the extraneous papers and schoolwork and keeping the shredder going. Today will be finishing up some laundry, wiping down the kitchen counters, and paying some attention and love to the first floor floors.

Happy Monday, Everyone!

love, Caroline

This is the umpteenth iteration of Tickle the Sun.

I have owned this domain since 2009 or 2010, I don’t remember which. I’ve written volumes upon volumes of stuff here.

Then, I scrap it all.

It’s a pity in some respects that all that writing is gone but really, so much of it was me working out various aspects of self-care and work I really should have been doing in therapy. And a lot of it was repeated in my paper journals. So. Not gonna sweat it.

No real news around here except I think my new antidepressant, a Pristiq generic, is helping me wake up earlier. Thank goodness for that.

It’s Spring Break, and we went to St. Simons and Savannah. River Street Sweets in pandemic times is underwhelming and slightly alarming with the number of people. Porter enjoyed our tours of the squares more than he enjoyed River Street in general. I bought a mask and I wish I’d bought two or three; my new mask fits so much better than any of my others.

Porter’s souvenirs were pictures of the squares and other historic monuments. We tried to tell him we’d buy him something, but he wasn’t interested. Oliver found an “Among Us” shirt and Patrick from Spongebob sunglasses. Liam found a stuffed crab he named Gertrude.

My main souvenir was this picture of the boys. I have already ordered a canvas of it for the family room, to replace the canvas from the beach in 2016:

St. Simons was not that fun because people mostly weren’t wearing masks and parking was hard. It’s just not the same island it was 20+ years ago and other than short trips for reminiscing, I don’t have a huge desire to spend gobs of time there.

We brought home a stomach virus from our trip; Oliver and Liam were the lucky victims. They’re both better now, but the 24 hour stomach thing wasn’t fun. Both boys went to the dr and the dr was sure neither had Covid. But I will for sure take a stomach bug over Covid. So far so good on that front. I get my second vax on April 15 and Jared had his on March 31. Cannot wait for vax options for the kids.