Get debt-free by 30. Check.

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As I wrote a couple weeks ago, one of the things I wanted to do by age 30 was get out of debt.

This incredibly embarrassing to type out, but last year, a few months before my 29th birthday, I was realizing that I was nowhere near where I’d hoped to be financially. For some reason I thought, but that point in my life, I’d have 10, maybe 20 grand in the bank and well on my way to a financially secure future. In reality, there was my car loan, two credit cards, a couple dental/health bills, my student loans, etc. They were all small amounts when you looked at the bills separately, but when I actually added up my total debt, I was disgusted with the number… and myself. $12,000! I owed 12K and had just a few hundred bucks in savings… What had I been doing the past few years?! Not focusing on finances… obviously.

Initially, my debt didn’t seem to stand out to me. Most of my friends my age have a car payment, student loans, and some sort of credit card they’re paying off. Online I’d read tons of stories of folks owing tens of thousands of dollar in just credit card debt alone. I thought I was way better off than those people. But when sat down and looked at the amount of money I could save each month by not paying on debt, it rocked me. I was spending about $1000 each month on debt bills. That ish was completely unnecessary. Saving $1,000 per month sounded way better than shelling it out.

I had been under the impression (from myself) that  I was doing good financially: I made more money than I had to pay each month and I could pay my bills and still have some left over. Great. But all the “leftover” got spent each month. I’d been out of college for 7 years and had nothing to show for it. (I won’t say I didn’t have anything to show for it… not in terms of “stuff.” I took plenty of trips, saw 6 countries, and made great friendships from a lot of those trips. But still…) It was time to reel it in.

At this realization, I was kicking myself for not making larger payments all this time. Especially when I was married and living in a two-income household, with a husband that saved everything. Going from that kind of household back down to a single income household was more costly. I realized that since my divorce in 2011, I just stopped focusing on my financial goals. I could still support myself, but there definitely wasn’t as much “extra money” and I wasn’t making any goals of my own. However, I couldn’t sit around moping about what I didn’t do for the last 3 years. It was time to get after it and tackle my debt.

Step 1. Take advantage of %0 interest rates.

I needed to make sure the debt I had wouldn’t accumulate any extra interest. I had an empty credit card that had $9600 of credit available and it was offering a %0 interest rate for any balance transfers for 1 year. So I put as much as I could onto that card. That only left a few thousand dollars to get rid of as quickly as possible and gave me a year to pay down what I’d just transferred. This bought me some time and saved me some dollars.

Step 2. Pay down the highest interest first.

I had a credit card and a car loan that were my most expensive payments each month. I’ve always paid all my bills on the first of the month so I continued this and anything additional leftover would go to my car payment. After a couple months, it was paid off and so I would move on to the next big bill. How good/not-so-good business was that month was the deciding factor on how much I was able to put away. Some months were better than others and so I’d put as much toward my debt as possible. Once those were done, I would just have the big sum to start chipping away at.

Step 3. Cut back on monthly spending.

I could have paid off my car in under two years if it had actually occurred to me to do so. But instead I spent any extra money I had. However, if you’re in any kind of debt (other than your mortgage), there is no such as thing as “extra money.” I used to think I had leftover money each month after I paid my bills, but that wasn’t a great way to look at my account. There’s no reason to be buying things, going on vacations, getting a new tv/car if you owe money to other companies/people. I had to re-wire my thought process on my spending.

Since it’s easy to drop anywhere from $30 – $60 on a single night out, I cut back on dinners/drinks. This wasn’t incredibly hard. I wake up at 5am most days of the week so usually want to get to sleep by 10pm. This doesn’t leave a lot of time at night. Also, since I travel for work most weekends I’m really only in town a few days per week.

I also started cutting my monthly expenses. I got rid of my storage unit ($60/month), found new car insurance (saving me $40/month) and even changed my phone plan (saving me another $40/month). The extra $140 per month went to the debt.

My next move was to stop buying “stuff.” I don’t shop a lot, but every now and then I’d go with a friend to the mall and walk out having spent $100. For NO REASON. And we all know about the $30 cover charge just for walking through the doors of Target. I had all the clothes I need. I’m stocked up on shoes/accessories. I don’t need any “things.” My new plan: if it was an “item,” I didn’t need it. (Reading about minimalism lately has really gotten me pumped on not having a lot of stuff. This will also be helpful the next time I move…) Now, I didn’t get crazy and just stay at home in the dark eating Ramen noodles. I just looked at my bank statement and added up everything that I didn’t need to spend money on. It was a lot. I knew I could do better… and so I did. All the money I stopped spending went to paying down my debt balance. And it was getting lower, faster.

Step 4. Make more money.

I took on a lot more work this year than I had the years before. This meant a lot more travel and time away from home, but it had to be done. I was thinking if I could pay off this debt by the time I hit 30, then I could cut back on some hours, but until then, it was time to crank it out. The extra work paychecks that I made went directly to my debt. ALL OF IT. This is definitely disheartening, seeing your account balance go up and then right back down in the same day, but it was necessary. If that money had been in my account, I would have found something to spend it on. The good thing about working more is having less time to spend. Since I was gone more weekends, I spent less on groceries, entertainment, gas, etc. I was making more, spending less, and knocking out my payments.

Step 5. Saving at the same time.

Since the other part of my goal was to increase my savings, I had to actually act on that.Unfortunately being self-employed doesn’t mean I get a company matched 401-k. I was gonna have to get started myself and I didn’t want to wait until my debt was paid off (who knew how long that would take). I started small: I opened an IRA and a Money Market account and just set them up to automatically withdraw $100 per month each. This was an embarrassing amount to set up, (because the guy I talked to suggested $1,000 per month…. riiiight) but it was better than nothing. I just wanted some forward movement. Any forward movement! The majority of my money needed to go to my debt. Once that was paid off, I would increase the monthly contributions.

The good news is, those contributions add up quickly. Since they were automatic, I completely forgot about them at times. When I looked at them last month, there was a total of $3300! That’s $3300 in savings that I didn’t have before! That balance doesn’t allow me to retire soon or anything, but it’s definitely more than I had. Now that my debt is actually gone. I can make those amounts bigger.

Step 6. SAVE: The $1,000 Buffer and 6 months of expenses.

$1,000 Buffer: For the past 6 years or so, I’ve kept a minimum of $1,000 in my checking account. This makes me feel taken care of should anything unexpected pop up; needing new tires, an unexpected medical bill, a car break-down, etc. I’ve dipped below it a couple time when things came up, but I always replaced it. If my checking account read $1700, my mind only saw $700. This helps. It’s a great way from having to dip into savings or use a credit card in times of need.

6 Months of Expenses: They always say that you should have 6 months of expenses in a liquid account in case you lose your job. I’m self-employed so I don’t really think I’m going to lose that much work at once, but if I were in a car accident and couldn’t work, I’d be toast. I’m in the process of that right now, but I’m nearly halfway there, so that feels good.

Now: I’m 30 and debt free!

Five days before my birthday, I made my last payment on my last bill. I’m officially out of debt, I have a few thousand in savings/retirement and I’m on my way to feeling more financially secure. I know I’ve still got a ways to go; getting my “6 months” saved up, having a chunk of money that can actually be invested, etc, but I’m in a way better place now than my last birthday and that feels wonderful.

So tonight, I’m congratulating myself.

I’m having a bit of sparkling wine (in a pint glass, with my initials on it) ’cause I’m grown. ; )

Good night!

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Do you have any financial goals you’ve recently made for yourself or accomplished? How did you do it? Any tips for me?

 

 

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A Saturday afternoon post…

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI was not doing yoga in the grass… this a photo by my friend, Danielle. I will find a reason to use all these photos until they run out. Top: Power Y Tank. Bottoms: In the Flow Crops.

After working and being out of town 9 weekends in a row, I’m loving being home for my 2nd weekend in a row. Last night I was able to meet some friends for drinks at my favorite spot, Garage Bar then catch the Zombie Walk while having dinner. This morning was awesome waking up (not by an alarm clock) after 9 hours of sleep. Tang and I got to walk two loops at the park, and my friend, Myhria and I got to do a workout and a trail run. I’ve been lying on the couch for nearly 4 hours now, making my way through the 8 episodes of Modern Family that are on the DVR. Because I’m still not used to the DVR, I keep forgetting that I can fast forward through the commercials. I’ve finally seen enough “If I Stay” previews and just bought the damn book for my Kindle. Those commercials… they get you.  There’s a thunderstorm cranking outside, which gives me all the more reason to stay exactly where I am… and I’m ok with that.

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What are you up to this fine holiday weekend?

Tango and I hope you’re getting to lay around as well.

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Girlie Ish That Is My Jam Right Now

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I wouldn’t say I’m a girlie girl, but I’m not a tom-boy though either. I definitely spend time in each category at time…  Here are the girlier things I’m into at the moment, sending me more towards that end of the Chick Spectrum:

1) This video my girl Brandy shared makes me LOL. Because it’s totes true. #omgareyoumadatme

 2). Pinterest

Having an iPad now is suddenly making me spend more time on my Pinterest account. I’m not sure why, but it is. I now have more than two boards… I have even followed a few more people… which means I see more pins, which means I pin more things. Nevermind. I DO know why I’m on it more. #mysterysolved

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3) THIS song/video. It makes me really like Taylor.

4) Shades that make you look fancy. i.e. The Aviators from the above photo.

And also shades that make you look fun.  Neon is always in.

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5) Ballet.

I’ve made it to class twice this week. A new record…

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Are you girlie? If you’re not, do you fall for certain “girlie” things? Do you swoosh back and forth between that and tom-boy ish?

Happy Friday, bitches! Enjoy the holiday weekend!

*Top photo of me taken by my talented friend, Shelby of Joielala.

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Travel: Austin, Texas

 

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I was so excited to get sent to Austin, Texas for work back in June. I’d always wanted to go there but had never been. I had two days of play time before work, so I tried to make the best of it and see as much as I could. My college friend, Karley lives in Austin now and I got to hang with her most of the weekend. When she asked me what I wanted to do, I replied with “anything Austin.” And so she took me all over town. Here’s what we did:

 

Friday night: Honky-tonk 

I don’t know if this is Austin’s oldest honky-tonk, but it’s certainly the most well-known. It’s been voted “Best Honky-tonk in Texas” and “Best Dance Hall in the Country” soooo I’m thinking it’s pretty legit.  The Broken Spoke is such a cool place to be, with all its history. All kinds of country stars have played here and the owner is still there every night rockin’ it out and hanging with the music goers. We took some line dancing lessons, had dinner, drank beer, and saw an awesome live performance of Asleep at the Wheel. It’s must-see.

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Saturday: Stand Up Paddleboarding at Lady Bird Lake

Previously known as Town Lake, this lake is huge and beautiful. It spans a good distance along the city so it has great views. Karley works for a place called The Expedition School and was leading a group of girls scouts on Stand Up Paddleboards Saturday morning so I tagged along. We lucked out with the weather that day. It was warm, but not insanely hot yet, and the water was the perfect temperature. After learning some of the SUP basics from Karley, we played around in the cove, paddled out onto the main stretch of the lake, then came back in to practice yoga poses (unsuccessfully) on the boards. Karley also showed up some fun games like King of the Hill, where two people get on one board, each trying to knock the other one off balance and into the water. Good times. Hit up The Expedition School if you’re in Austin and want some fun on the water! They have kayaks and canoes as well!

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These last two photos taken by Karla Held   Thanks, Karla!

 Saturday Night: 6th Street

There are two ends of 6th Street. On the east end of it, you’ve got all the bars you could ask for. I stopped in for a drink at The Jackalope, a dive that plays lots of heavy metal. Since I was alone, and didn’t want any more conversation about Jesus with the guy next to me at the bar, I chose not to have my photo taken on the Jackalope. But if I return to Austin, it’s on.

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At the west end of 6th, you’ve got lots of new restaurants and great places to sit, drink, and eat on open-air patios. We had dinner at J. Blacks and were not disappointed. The drinks were great, the food (what I like to call “Fancy Southern”) was spectacular, and we enjoyed the awesome evening air and people-watching.

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Sunday: FIT Austin and Barton Springs

I had to work on Sunday but got to finally see FIT Austin. This is great small gym with tons of classes and personal training to offer. They have great space, an array of classes to choose from and showers to help get you out the door without looking a mess. I trained a bunch of newly qualified TRX instructors and  then headed out for my final night in Austin.

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 Dinner at The Shady Grove

Although there are innumerable restaurants in Austin, The Shady Grove was my favorite of the weekend. The website describes it perfectly: “Nestled under the shade of the tall pecan grove, Shady Grove serves up Austin-inspired home-cooking, cocktails, sunshine, and smiles.” We ordered food and margaritas and sat outside for a couple hours. It had gotten a lot hotter, but the shade and fans made it pleasant.

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Barton Springs

Y’ALL. Barton Springs was my absolute favorite thing in the city. It’s a natural underground spring with man-made walls, stairs, and a diving board surrounding it. It’s 3 acres! Even though it’s kind of freezing (avg. 68 degree water) we had to jump off the diving board a few times. I couldn’t stand to be in the water for very long, so we got out and did a walk all around the grounds. We then laid on the blanket on the grassy hills adjacent to the pool. It was the perfect way to end my time in Austin. At only $3 for entry, Barton Springs was completely packed when I’d tried to check it out on Friday afternoon. By Sunday evening though, the crowds had thinned and we were able to revel in the glory of the evening dusk. My phone had died by this point in the day, but here’s a link to Flickr album that shows the entire place. It’s amazing. Go there.

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If you’re going to Texas, visit Austin. If you’re going to Austin, visit these places. ; )

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Workout Playlist! Shake your ish…


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Notes: *My workout playlist consists of music that makes me wanna shake it… for an hour. *It has Iggy A, Taylor Swift, and Kanye all cozied up together. *Loving the first song, by Charli XCX. *My boyfriend, Lenny Kravitz has a new album out,as does Jennifer Hudson, who apparently is now going by “J-Hud”… which is interesting. *I don’t think I’ll ever make a playlist that doesn’t have Beyonce on it somewhere…

So either bust a move on the dancefloor, or get your workout on… either way,

#BeABeast

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It’s National Dog Day! I love you, Tango!

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In 2009 my boss, Joey, at Barry’s Bootcamp, brought a dog into the studio. Joey was always rescuing dogs from kill shelters in LA and bringing them into work so tons of people would see them and adopt them. They had been mostly smaller dogs, which I wasn’t looking for, but this day, it was medium sized, white dog, named Tango, with the best eyes you’d ever seen. Tango hung out behind the counter and while I was getting ready to teach my class, we kind of had a moment. He was super sweet and seemed to want to just be there with me. After I taught class, we hung for another 10 minutes or so and I called Joey to tell him I wanted this dog. A few days later, I picked Tango up to keep him for a few days for a trial run. My then-husband and I would keep him for 3 or 4 days, see if we could work it out, and then go from there. About 3 hours after I picked him up, I called Joey back to let him know we would take him. This dog belonged with me.

His first photo… well actually his second. He did the head tilt thing as soon as I snapped it so I had to snap another.

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This November will mark 5 years of my life with Tang. We’ve lived in California. We’ve lived in Kentucky. We’ve road-tripped across the country, been coast to coast, been camping and climbing. We’ve been to the beach, the desert, the mountains, and everything in between. We’ve lived in 4 places together… And I couldn’t ask for a better buddy.

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People always say dogs are a lot of work, but I don’t agree. Work is a lot of work. Dogs are easy. You feed them. You play with them. You let them out to pee. Not that hard… You have to work much harder at any other relationship you have, but not with dogs. Sure, getting him to walk next to me and be social with other dogs has been challenging. Making sure he’s taken care of when my roomie and I are out of town at the same time can be challenging… but in the grand scheme of things, having him has been the easiest thing in the world. I LOVE this dog. He’s sweet. He’s beautiful. He’s smart. He frustratingly independent, but I guess I relate to that side of him. He’s fast and agile and makes a great running/jumping partner. He’s an incredible snuggler. He puts me to bed every night. He’s ready at a moment’s notice to go anywhere. And everybody loves him.

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Tang.

Tang-eray.

Tangaroo.

The Tang.

Tango.

I love you, buddy. I’m so glad we’re in this thing together.

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Happy Dog Day to everybody out there, and your furry friends, past or present. xoxo

*the last 4 photos taken by my awesome friend, Danielle M.

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Filling this out… because it’s Monday and that’s all I got.

…and a fun photo. Because sometimes you need a little something like this to get you into blogger mode.

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Outline snagged from Bridget. She even posted it today… I’m copying same day… #facepalm

 

Making: Orzo Pasta is on the menu tonight. Quick and easy! Also because I never posted the recipe on here (like I promised some peeps I would do) and need to take photos.

Drinking: Lemonade… because Summer.

Reading: Still trying to get through “The Dragon’s Triangle,” but thinking about breaking my book rules and skipping ahead to “Wild.”  Need to read that ish before the movie comes out soon.

Wanting: The temperature to drop below 90 degrees… I’m all for summer hanging around, I just want to be able to play outside for more than 10 minutes, and be able to breathe at the same time.

Watching: Still trying to get caught up on Grey’s. I heard Burke came back so trying to get to that point. Only 15 episodes to go. sigh.

Eating: Funfetti cupcakes (minus the Rainbow Chip icing that Betty Crocker has discontinued) that my BFF made for my birthday last week.

Smelling: My laundry being finished… mmm, dryer sheets.

Wanting: A new travel mug for my tea. My morning routine has been thrown off since my last one (stupid $27 Heine Bros thermos that I got while trying to be all “buy local”) broke.

Enjoying: The fact that I had a great long weekend home last weekend. AND I get another one this weekend! Already planning on getting another 11 hours of sleep Friday and Saturday night again.

Loving: The fact that I’m an adult (I’m grown!) and didn’t have to go back to school last week. Such a cruel way to spend the rest of August, sitting in a classroom. It’s crazy that the first day keeps creeping further into August each year. The kids went back on the 13th here! Thumbs down.

Hoping: That my next ballet class will be better than today’s. We were strapped for time because of a delay, but there’s never a time when it’s ok for the barre warm-up to go 1) Plies. 2) Fondus. 3) Frappes 4). Battements. 5) Long stretch. Am I right?! (need some validation from other ballet dancers here…)

Needing: To find a widget that will post all the blogs I read onto a handy little list in my sidebar. I miss mine that I had when I was using Blogger. Can anybody recommend a good one?

Feeling: Hot. There’s no other feeling right now, in this heat, other than “hot as balls.” No matter where you are, it’s just hot.

Wearing: This new “Earn It” tank top that TRX came out with last week! I’ll post the link when it’s available online. 

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Growing up by 30… or at least acting like it…

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I turn 30 years old this Sunday! I’m really excited to reach this milestone. A year ago, I did this blog post, “29 lessons learned in my 29 years.” It was a great post, but at the same time, parts of my life still felt like I needed to learn more lessons. I wasn’t quite where I’d imagined I’d be by 29 years old. So I made some plans and vowed to get myself a little farther down the line to feel a little more grown up by the time I hit 30.

1. Get outta debt.

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I didn’t have anything crazy like $50k in credit card debt or anything, but with my car payment, dental/health bills, credit cards, and student loans, I had more debt than I wanted or needed. It didn’t seem like a lot of bills, but when I sat down last year and added everything up, it totaled about $12,000. I hated having to spend money each month paying on things, so I set to work on getting rid of all of it. (More on this in tomorrow’s post.) I am happy to say that I made my last payment on my last bill two days ago. I am officially out of debt! Now I can start working on “building my wealth.” #shitgrownupssay

2. Investing in my future.

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That sounds in credibly grown up, doesn’t it? Investing. What a ridiculous undertaking. Yes, I have a savings account, but there are SO many other ways to invest money, most of which I’m completely lost on. I made one of my new year’s resolutions to open an IRA this year and when I went to the bank on January 2nd to do it, the banker asked why I wanted to open an IRA. My response? “Because you’re supposed to.” Then when he started asking me whether I wanted stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, I just sort of blinked at him. Slow your roll, buddy! One thing at a time! Just put this money in that account and leave it alone. I gotta get rid of my debt real quick and then we talk about bonds and shit.

3. Working a little bit more.

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Being self-employed is really cool on some levels; you get to pick when you work, you can take off as many days a year as you’d like, you really like your boss, etc. But it also has its downfalls. Not working as much means not making money as much. BOO. So to meet my financial goals this year, I reeled it in on the fun spending and cranked it out on the work front. The more work I did, the more opportunities popped up. My business blossomed and I got all my debt paid off. Boom.

 

4. Floss Regularly

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I mean, flossing takes less than a minute and it’s really not that big of a deal, but it feels like such a pain in the ass every night. I just want to go to bed! But every time I go to the dentist and they ask me if I’ve been flossing, I want to feel good knowing I can say yes… and also so I don’t have to spit out a pint of blood when they do it for me. I’ll allow myself two skip nights per week; usually Sunday nights when I’m arriving back in town from a work trip, and Friday nights because reasons… Ever since I had to have a root canal and crown last year (with no dental insurance, it cost me $1500) I realized it can be quite beneficial, physically and financially, to floss my freaking gums every night. And get dental insurance. And who knows when I might need to strangle my enemies? ; )

 

What grown-up things have you caught yourself doing lately?

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Workout Playlist! August (2)

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Here’s what I’m workin’ out to this week. Have fun and get after it! #BeABeast

*One of the songs is about Ninja Turtles… you’re welcome.

*I added an extra song at the beginning for prep time. ; )

*This one is on hour and 7 minutes, so a little longer than usual.
I’m off to Anaheim, CA for the IDEA World Conference! Can’t wait to see all my fitness peeps and celebrate my 30th birthday with my man-friend. Have a great weekend, guys!
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You’re free, Genie.

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I feel like I’ve lost a close friend. I know I’ve never met Robin Williams, but his body of work has had a profound influence on me throughout my entire life. It’s crazy to think how many movies he did, for children and adults alike. From the craziness of Aladdin’s Genie, to the seriousness of his roles in movies like Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, he was my all-time favorite actor.

His movies seemed to parallel my life for a while there… In the mid 90s, when my parents split, Mrs. Doubtfire had come out and made me feel everything. It was a heart wrenching movie at times, but he made the best out of it all and I think that had a profound impact on me and how I carried myself through that same situation. This ending scene resonated with me and it’s the first time I believe a movie ever hit me. I’ll always remember this scene, as I’m sure any other 90s kid with divorced parents does.

Later on he played “Jack” a story of a boy who had a disease that made him age prematurely. I used to babysit a little boy named Clinton, who had Progeria, a form of similar disease. You don’t actually grow tall and look like an adult, like the movie, but your body ages far faster than any normal person’s. Most children with progeria only live to be around 8 or so. My friend, Clinton died at 6 years old in 1999 and this movie I watched a million times to help me cope. Nobody played “kid” better than Robin Williams. He never lost his sense of joy and abandon, which is what made him perfect for movies like Jack, Hook, Jumanji, etc. It’s what reminds me to remember to play.
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As somebody who doesn’t like to talk about things that are bothering me (which I’m aware of and working on), it helps just to feel sometimes.  His movies made everybody feel. There’s no way you could watch Robin Williams and not laugh, cry, or just feel his sincerity of every single role he played. One of the coolest things he did was tour for the USO. He did shows for our troops for nearly 15 years. I’ve always compared Robin Williams to Bob Hope, another of my favorite actors/comedians who also made frequent USO tours to lift the spirits of the troops and just love seeing photos and videos from his stops. Here’s one of his most famous:
The way Robin Williams’ put expression into his characters gave us all the ability to relate to him. It didn’t matter if he was dancing around the house while vacuuming, or playing somebody as serious as a doctor, therapist,  or teacher, it felt like we were watching somebody we really knew.
I don’t know of another movie that talks about love as well as in What Dreams May Come. This movie can be a hard one to watch, but the way it expresses love in one the most enduring ways I’ve ever seen. If you’ve never seen it, please do.
“Is that a kind of occupational hazard of soul mates? One’s not one without the other?”
“It’s not about understanding. It’s about NOT giving up.”
So thank you, Robin for your kindness, your amazing ability to tell a story, your sincerity in your work, and for making us feel it all. I’m sorry you had to go through what hell you did. I hope you are now finally at peace.
Robin McLaurin Williams
1951 – 2014
If you or someone you know is going through depression or having thoughts of suicide, please call 1.800.273.8255.
Or message me. I’ll chat too. : )
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