Is God alive?

Have you seen those movies; the “God’s Not Dead” movies? I highly recommend them. They’re great! I find them highly relatable. Living in Europe I often feel like I’m the only one around who believes there is a God and that He is not dead. I find myself not only believing this but having to defend this belief to others.

Yet, even passionately believing this concept of God’s Not Dead, I find myself acting and praying and thinking like He’s not alive. Let me explain. If someone asks me, “Is God alive?” I would quickly and confidently respond, “Absolutely!” It would be like a reflex for me. However, when I truly examine my life and my actions I doubt myself. Do I truly believe God is alive? Well? Living? Walking among us? Able to touch? Able to transform? Able to perform anything I ask of Him?

The other day I listened to a podcast of a American Midwest pastor who was talking about a simple concept: The greater the expectation; the greater the preparation. Let that sink in. It’s a basic concept, right? The more you expect from something the more you’ll prepare for it.

So I ask myself again, do I expect God to answer my prayers? Do I believe He can hear me when I speak? Do I think He is capable? Do you remember in like 4th grade math when you had to start showing your work? It wasn’t enough just to have an answer. You were required to show how you got to that particular answer. I’ll use the same concept. All my work shows is that I ask for things I plan on fixing myself I’m just worried it won’t be easy to talking to God gives me peace about it. On top of that, I feel guilt somehow when the thought of asking for something “out of my control” pops into my head; like it would be selfish and ridiculous to ask for something like that from God.

Long story short, my walk doesn’t match my talk! As a Christian, I’ve hit a rut. Not one of questioning my beliefs but one of plugging into the wrong power source. God is the ultimate battery pack. If you are spending your time plugged into another outlet you will find your spiritual walk lacking juice! Well, duh. Even writing this right now I could slap myself. It’s so simple. I look at how I spend my time and I somehow wonder why is my walk stagnant? Why can’t I seem to hit the gas? I mean; Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Netflix, LiveScore, fantasy sports leagues, and YouTube; I spend hours and hours during the week but somehow I can’t take 15 minutes to speak to the God of the universe? I can fool others but I can’t fool myself. I’m joking myself if I think I’ve spent enough time plugged into God, His son and His word to get out of the rut I’m in.

The good news is; it’s all in my control. Speaking as a control freak, that’s a positive. I control where I spend my time. I control my tone when praying. I control the questions I ask of an all-powerful God. I control my phone, my social media, my TV.

So, is God alive? Yes. He exists. He walks among us. He is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. Whether we believe it or not; whether we show it or not in our words or in our actions; God is God.

Paris – in 4 days – the simple tourist’s guide to the city of love!

Paris, the city of love, has captured the hearts of millions over hundreds of years. It is visited by hundreds of thousands. It is on the bucket lists of millions. It is dreamed of by billions. My husband and I were lucky enough to live a fantasy and visit this famed city. I don’t know about you; but the expectations of Paris are among the highest when it comes to cities of the world. Hollywood, photographers, writers have all built up the beauty of Paris to its absolute capacity.

I was skyping with an English student from China the other day who said it is common for Chinese people to commit suicide in Paris. They build it up so much in their minds that when they get the chance to visit the place of their dreams, they arrive and realize it is in fact just another city, they feel there is no purpose to life anymore. How sad! While my husband and my’s expectations were definitely not that high; it is still hard not to have a preconceived idea about the place.

But, if you have been to Paris in recent years, you already know; it doesn’t take long to see that Paris is, in fact, just another big city. Yes, it holds beauty, culture, art, monuments, history, life and of course, love! Many of the things everyone loves! But it also holds traffic, crime, homelessness, animal poop on the sidewalks, beggars and so many tourists! Many of peoples not so favorite things.

The point of this isn’t to discourage you but rather to keep your feet on the ground. I find Paris is much more enjoyable if you start your trip with the right mindset!

While 4 days is just longer than a weekend, we found it was plenty of time to see Paris! Of course, you can always go for longer but it isn’t a must.

Our sightseeing list: (in no particular order) The Eiffel Tower, The Arc de Triomphe and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, The Louvre, The Cathedral of Notre-Dame , Sacre-Coeur and Montmartre, The love-lock bridge, and the Palace of Versailles.

We walked and walked and walked the streets of Paris. So naturally, saw many more things than just this. However, these were the ones we made a priority to really see and explore! I will give you some tips and time frames that we used for each place so you can plan accordingly.

The Eiffel Tower – is clearly a must. It doesn’t disappoint. There are several different vantage points to see this amazing monument. There is also an option to go up inside of the massive structure. I don’t recommend going into the tower. I find it overpriced and disappointing because you are inside the main thing you would want to see when DSC_0501 (2)viewing Paris from above. Plus, the lines are crazy long and sometimes there is construction which hinders time-efficiency for the experience. There are some cafes with heated outdoor seating where you can enjoy a coffee or hot chocolate with an amazing view of the romantic tower. I recommend seeing it during the day and then again at night. When it gets dark the entire tower lights up; plus every hour on the hour it sparkles for about 3 minutes. It is absolutely breathtaking. My husband and I enjoyed a hot chocolate at one of the many cafés with a view. It was winter time but they had outdoor heaters plus blankets. It was perfect! Afterwards, we found a street vendor selling the world-famous crepes of Paris; then found a park bench to watch the hourly sparking cuddled up in the fresh air. Those are the moments – I can only describe as magical!

The Arc de Triomphe and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées – are connected. You can’t see one and not the other. Champs-Élysées is the most famous street in Paris and one of the most famous in the world. It is multiple lanes wide going each direction. It is separated DSC_0364 (2)by about a two meter wide median which is almost constantly full of tourists. At one end of this large street is the famous Arc de Triomphe! This monstrous arch stands in the middle of a massive round-a-bout traffic circle. Although traffic doesn’t allow you to make your way to the arch through the traffic circle; there is an underground tunnel which you can use to get underneath the arch itself. The street itself is lined on both sides by some of the best shopping opportunities in Paris. A walk down this amazing avenue is a need-to-experience type of thing. All you have to do is decide whether you do it on the sidewalk or you risk walking dangerous the median listening to exotic car engines roaring on both sides.

The Louvre – is the worlds largest art museum and arguably the most famous in the world. It houses pieces from many different periods of history from many different DSC_0075 (2)places in the world. Most famously, it is the home to the Mona Lisa – the famous painting of a woman by Leonardo da Vinci. There are a few things you should know about the Louvre. I will keep it to four important things. First, this place is HUGE. Bring your walking shoes and plan to spend some serious time. Even if you are like us, “not a museum person”, and don’t plan on reading anything – you will still find yourself walking and seeing things for hours. Second, it is not easy to navigate. There are free maps in pretty much every language available at the information desk in the lobby. Or there are options for audio guides available for sale online or in the lobby for 5 euro. The audio guides are like little smart phone Gameboys which can track you via GPS and guide you to any exhibit or specific piece of art which you are looking for. Thirdly, you might want to buy your tickets online. Depending on the time of year and time of day – the Louvre can get pretty busy. If you want to stay on the safe side; I would save yourself the stress and buy online. Plus, there are a lot of different pricing options you can research beforehand. Fourthly, because of recent attacks of the world be live in. The Louvre, like most places, has majorly updated it’s security. It doesn’t allow large bags and for some travelers that is a problem if you are on the go. So yes, the Louvre is beautiful… inside and out and should definitely be on your list!

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame – doesn’t need an introduction. It is a large catholic cathedral located in central Paris. It is known around the world for many reason and DSC_0343 (2)definitely draws a crowd. You are able to go inside and it does not cost or require a ticket but it only allows entry at certain times on certain days. You can visit the churches website to find those times and plan accordingly. I would plan on waiting in line as well especially if you are there during a busy time of the year. We waited a full hour in a line. The church has a security check which definitely slows things down. But it is a beautiful and massive building that is worth the wait. There is no wonder why people have written about it and it’s mysteriously haunting bell towers for hundreds of years. While we didn’t catch a glimpse of Quasimodo; we were mesmerized when the organs played and the sunset came through the stain-glass windows!

Sacre-Coeur and Montmartre – is a large white church atop a hill overlooking Paris. It is open to the public and like Notre-Dame there is a line because of a security check. Although it generally is a short wait and nothing to worry about it is something to note. Entry times are very normal which can also be found online. The hill which Sacre-Coeur is at the top of can be a little bit of a hike. There is a lift available where you can buy tickets on the spot and be up in no time. While it is an amazing view of the city; DSC_0015 (2)unfortunately, the view doesn’t include the Eiffel Tower. It’s hidden by some high-rise house buildings. The church itself is beautiful and a must see but additionally the surrounding neighborhood is also very beautiful and quaint. This area is called Montmartre! It isn’t the richest area but it shows the face of middle to low-class Paris which is also an experience. You can walk those streets and get away from the tourists and the part of Paris which are on the post-cards. There is one open plaza they call “Artist’s DSC_0031 (2)Corner”. It hides just around the corner from the church. It is filled with artists of Paris painting, drawing, and cartooning. On all sides of the square there are cafés with outdoor seating facing the middle of the plaza. People are able to again sit, curl up with a blanket and hot drink and people watch. I highly recommend spending some time in this area. Find a café; walk the streets; watch the people of Paris live.

The love-lock-bridge – no longer exists. Not the answer you were hoping for? I know; I was bummed out too. Not too long ago they had to remove the locks from the bridgeDSC_0548 (2) because the weight was making the bridge structurally unsound. It’s a shame. I was looking forward to seeing it in its former glory. However, the bridge still stands and has a beautiful view of a split in the river through the middle of the city. I recommend keeping it on your list. There are paths running right along the water where people can walk or sit. There are even still a few light posts that are still covered in locks.

Palace of Versailles – is amazing! I will admit, I am a bit bias – palaces and castles hold a special place in my heart. Versailles is more than a palace. It is an entire area still DSC_0188maintained as if the royal folks are still around. There are a lot of options for tours – all of which can be found online. No matter which package you decide to get. BUY YOUR TICKETS ONLINE! The line is extremely long. If you buy online you can set an entry time and skip the line saving you hours! I recommend going there right away in the morning. The opening times of the gardens, buildings and exhibits change. Be sure to check online and plan accordingly. You can easily spend a full tourist day lost within this beautiful place on the outskirts of Paris. Like most tourist days, bring your walking shoes. The gardens are big! There are golf carts available to rent. But either way, they’re big. If you are unsure which ticket package to buy I would go for the “passport” which allows full access to everything worth seeing.

All of the places I have mentioned can be reached by public transportation. We always do a lot of walking in cities we visit because we like to see the streets and experience life in that city. But we used the metro system whenever our dogs were barking. 🙂

Overall, Paris is a wonderful place. It isn’t heaven on earth. It is just a big city. But it is one filled with life, love and so many cool things to visit! If it isn’t already on your bucket list; put it on there and make it happen!

 

 

 

3 easy tips to make your New Year’s resolutions stick!

Happy New Year! Another new year means another opportunity to set new resolutions. There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love New Years resolutions and those who hate them. Which one are you?

Okay, okay that may be dramatic. But have you noticed that for whatever reason, this is one of the things our society has targeted to tear apart? Every year there are new years resolutions memes mocking the habit and discouraging those who take the challenge. Some of them are sarcastic. Others are harsh. But either way, there is a negative attitude towards the idea of starting the new year with new habits.

Me personally, I’m a huge fan! I love lists. I love challenges. I love opportunities. So New Year’s resolutions are like the trifecta; the opportunity to write down a list of challenges?! YES PLEASE!

Every year, I make resolutions. I have done this for as long as I can remember. They have been anything from physical, educational, spiritual, or relational goals. Some years, I do really well. Some years, my results are embarrassing to admit. Looking back now, I have some perspective as to what worked; what didn’t work; and why.

Here are 3 easy tips to make your New Year’s resolutions stick: Write it. Plan it. Mean it.

Write it! There have been times in years past when my resolutions were more serious than others but I really didn’t start sticking to them until I made it a priority to write them down. Putting a pen to paper (or I suppose my thumbs to my phone’s keypad) made it seem more final and concrete. I’m a competitive person. If I see a written list; it’s like daring me to accomplish it. Plus, if you need to additional motivation… I recommend writing it in a place others can see. Me personally, I write it on my phone and sometimes screenshot the list and put it as my background. I’ve even posted them on social media before. Whether those who saw it will actually hold you accountable or not, the fact you announced it publicly holds power.

Plan it! While writing it is important and a way for self-accountability; planning your steps for attack is also vitally important. Then instead of it simply being a list, it is now a list which you possess the key to complete. Make small practical steps. Make a timetable to complete pieces of each resolution. Create reminders on your mirror or in your phone to keep your motivated. I use the list app on my iPhone to keep me organized. I check things off as I accomplish them from day-to-day or month-to-month. Set yourself up for success but giving yourself a clear direction!

Mean it! You may think by writing it down and making a plan to complete it, you are clearly serious about your resolution. Therefore, you mean it! While that might be the case, I would also argue you can’t really “mean it” if you pick too many things. You are only human and only capable of a certain amount. You can’t vow to complete everything all in the same year. Pick your battles. Start small but stick to them. I generally chose goals from three categories which don’t overlap so I can focus on each separately. My three categories are: physical, spiritual, and mental. It’s amazing how good it feels to simply accomplish something you said you would!

I’ll share a bit about my personal journey. Last year, I vowed that 2017 would be the year I would do the splits. I wrote it down. I told those who are close to me about my goal. I made a plan through reminders as to how often I would train my flexibility. It was the only physical goal I made it 2017 so I meant it! I was focused and ready. I’ve always been an inflexible person. I started the year unable to even touch my own toes. I had ups and downs throughout the year. I definitely ignored my reminders to stretch more than once. But overall my flexibility was improving and it was exciting. When the end of the year rolled around; I failed. I was close. But I didn’t accomplish my goal. I learned a lot from the experience. I had a lot of people ask me throughout the journey about how it was going. I even had people over Christmas ask for a photo. I chose not to be embarrassed but to be proud of the improvement. And when it came time to make my 2018 list, the splits went on there again! Allow me to be corny for a second and refer to the saying about “it isn’t about the destination but the journey.” I learned! And now, I want to stay on the path of improving my flexibility.

No matter what you are trying to accomplish, I believe no time is as good as the present to take a leap and just start. Whether you use the motto of “new year = new me” or not, dare to challenge yourself and improve!

 

 

 

 

 

Professional Athlete vs. Housewife – My balance. My struggle.

 

Growing up I wanted to be a point guard in the WNBA. It was more than a passing phase of childhood. It was hours and hours spent training in the driveway. It was watching the greats on TV. It was collecting cards. It was dressing the part. We had our own basketball goal but our driveway was slanted so I had to use a little more umphf shooting from one side and not the other. Even so, it served its purpose of keeping a young girls dreams alive.

I was a tiny little thing growing up; stuck at about 5’1” and cried myself to sleep about it. I can remember the prayers I used to pray over and over hoping God would have mercy on me and make me grow. It sounded something like this:

Dear Heavenly Father, please make me grow. I need to be 6’2” but I would still be happy at 6’0”. I’m so sick of being so short. It’s embarrassing. I can’t imagine how all these short adults feel having to walk around being so short all the time. Lord, can you please make it happen overnight? Please please please just let me wake up at 6’2”. Don’t worry about all my clothes. I can save my money and buy new ones. Thank you in advance! In Jesus name, Amen!

I’m laughing now thinking about it. The heart of a 12-year-old crying out in pain. In case you’re wondering, God has yet to answer my prayer exactly how I wanted him too. I did grow; but I’m not 6’2”.

Long story short, my dreams of the WNBA fizzled. I didn’t even play basketball in college; although I had every intension of doing so for a long time. By a wild turn of dvv_pokal_achtelfinale_gegen_koepenicker_sc_berlin_80_20170210_1316961569events, I received a volleyball scholarship to a small private university. It wasn’t much but I didn’t deserve any more. I was an athlete, sure; but I was not a volleyball player. Throughout my 4 seasons of college volleyball, I worked hard to develop my athletic ability. Although the WNBA didn’t quite pan-out I still had/have this desire to be more, to become more. And yes, I finally got my shot. I got the opportunity to play professional volleyball in Europe after college. And yes, I still am a professional volleyball player in Europe.

On the one hand, professional athlete is freaking cool. I train. I lift. I sleep. I eat. I repeat. I mean, it’s fun; it’s exciting; it’s prestigious. However, it is also a lot of hard work, frustration and stress. But it’s worth it! Sports build character. I learn life lessons and better myself as a person through fitness.

As a young girl, I had another dream. Different than playing in the WNBA but a dream all the same. I wanted to be married by 25 and start having kids by 28. I wanted to be oneDSC_1175 of those cool moms/wives who are organized but not rigid. I wanted my husband to be so handsome that all my friends were jealous. I’ve always been very particular about things I like and dislike. It wasn’t that I wanted him to be tall, dark and handsome. It was that and much more! He had to be taller than me. He had to be athletic. He had to have a big chest, calves, and booty. I was also hoping for a 5 o’clock shadow. Oh maybe he will have a sexy accent; because who doesn’t love that! Through a wild turn of events, I found my man. It wasn’t who I thought it would be, no. But that’s a story for another day.

On the one hand, I married my lover more than a year ago now. I’m a housewife which is equally cool. I cook. I clean. I do laundry. I grocery shop. I sex. I repeat. However, I mean, it might not be as prestigious. And yes, it’s hard work, frustrating and stressful. But it’s worth it because the rewards, the character building opportunities and the special bond of a lifetime are unmatched.

Now, balancing these two things is a circus act sometimes. I thought I was good at multitasking in college; it doesn’t even compare to what I am capable of now. I’m not perfect. I’m learning. That’s the beauty of it. Just the other day I missed a work meeting completely. I just didn’t even go. I totally forgot. I forgot so bad that I didn’t even remember I missed it until like 3 days later when someone asked where I was.

My childhood dreams came true on two fronts and they collided; professional athlete vs. housewife. I realize there are very few women in my exact shoes. But there are millions of women feeling the same pressure; stuck between two things. Feeling pulled by both. Mine may be different from yours but I’m sure you can relate. It’s challenging. It’s a battle. It’s a constant fight. But that fight isn’t with my husband or my career. It’s with myself. I struggle about what it means to be a wife just as much as it mean to be an athlete at this level. I struggle with what society tells me I should do or look like or wear or say or treat my husband or do.

I always thought, once you got married things would just gel. What could go wrong? You’re soul mates; it’s happily ever after, right? I also thought once you were a pro; what else is there to learn? What could a coach possibly teach me? Yes, call me naïve. I found it so easy to overlook the little things. Now, I know, it is all about the little things!

Learning to be both is hard. Learning to be good at both is harder. This line of thought only leads me to more questions; what do a good wife look like? What does a good wife do? What does a professional athlete look like? What does a professional athlete do?

While I wish I had the answer, I don’t. I can only share my strategies and mindset while I navigate through this time. One tip I will give you is, it is all about effort. You know when you are holding back; you know when you are not trying your hardest; you know when you are mixing up your priorities; you know when you are not giving your best. You might be able to go day in and day out fooling everyone around you; but at the end of the day, you know. Doing something halfway is never a good feeling. Give effort to both things that you can be proud of!

I challenge you first to prioritize your time. Decide what’s THE MOST important and give your time to that first; then decide what is second most important and give your time to that second, and so on. Then as best you can, you can try to compartmentalize. For example, if your first priority is your marriage and you are home with your spouse… BE at home with them. Put down your phone. Turn off Netflix. Stop emailing. You are taking time from your “first” priority and giving to all the others, some of which are 5th, 6th, or 7th on the priority list. I challenge you prioritize, compartmentalize, then to really try your best, your hardest. You won’t regret something if you know you honestly gave your best effort.

Being pulled between two major commitments is difficult. Phases of life come and go. Don’t get defeated or spooked when it isn’t like you planned it. Roll with the punches. Develop a learning mentality towards each circumstance.

 

 

Have a conversation with God? How?

This question has haunted my faith walk for as long as I can remember. I grew up listening to people say they have conversations with God.  It was normal. As a kid, I didn’t even question it. As an adult, I am still trying to figure it out. 

One side of the conversation is clear – prayer. Of course, I can pray and talk to God. A day rarely goes by where I don’t talk to Him. It’s easy to talk. I talk to Him like he’s my best friend right there with me. Sometimes I do it out loud; other times there are people around and I don’t want anyone to think I’m insane so I pray silently. Sometimes I bow my head; sometimes I fold my hands; sometimes I close my eyes. Prayer is overcomplicated too often. It’s like there is a spiritual expectation around this holy act that intimidates people and discourages them from this rigid religion action. 

Now, listening is a different story. After all, I can’t see him. He doesn’t text me. A voice doesn’t boom through the clouds at me. One day in church I heard a thought that changed my life. The speaker said: “God speaks to us through his word.” It was simple but life changing. Could God really communicate with me through the Bible? I don’t mean general statements of truth; I mean me, Molly. Could He know what I’m going through each day? Week? Month? Then respond to me, Molly, personally? 

My senior year in college, I had found a great rhythm juggling my life at that time. I was student teaching, working part time jobs, and training for my future career as a professional athlete. I was up every morning early. I even had a routine of getting breakfast and packing a lunch. I would get a good hard lift in, get some touches on the volleyball and tuck in at a early hour – for a college kid. 

I had gone through a major heart change in the last half of my college years and it had made my faith strong. The first and the last thing I did every day was get on my knees in prayer. I read the Bible daily – hungry for truth. I also had this devotional book called Jesus Calling. It’s a great little book that my husband and I still use often. The author uses scripture to construct a paragraph of encouragement. There are 365 of them; one for each day of the year. What make this particular book special is the words are written to the reader as if Jesus called you on the phone to tell you something. It’s great!  

Anyways, one morning I will never forget. I woke up late and was in a rush to get to school on time. The easiest part of my morning routine to skip was devos. The guilt didn’t last long. It was either skip devos, not brush my teeth or be late. I figured God would understand; after all, I hadn’t missed a morning devo in months. I sprinted out the door and into the parking lot to discover it was freezing cold and my car was completely iced over – got to love Midwest America. I attempted to scrape my windshield but it was useless. There was nothing I could do except to blast the heater and wait. Annoyed, I realized I had a few minutes to spare – against my will – and could read my Jesus Calling for the day. I pulled it out of my backpack and opened it to the reading for the day. I read, “Make time for me today.” I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. Overwhelmed with a sense of love from my father God. He knew me; little, stupid, always in a rush me! 

If you are struggling with how to communicate with God. I encourage you! He’s listening. He cares. He desires a personal relationship with you. Don’t be intimidated by what others say or think. Speak to Him from your heart then open your heart and read from His word. 

I was homeschooled – and no, I’m not socially awkward.

Education – it is a source of joy and tears, opportunity and misfortune, success and failure. People pay thousands for it. They cheat, lie and steal for it. Some even lose their lives for it. Governments spend hundreds of thousands of hours and dollars trying to improve, reform and revolutionize their systems.

My parents thought long and hard about education when they started their family. They knew they wanted a big family. I don’t know if they had a number in mind when they started having children. But, with each of us there was more and more pressure to have a plan for each of us. They had their doubts about the public education system. With so many of us, paying for private education wasn’t an option. That left homeschooling. Okay, wait. That makes it seem like homeschool was their last choice. On the contrary, it was their preference.

So, yes! I was homeschooled from birth until I graduated high school. Don’t know what homeschooling is? It’s exactly what it sounds like. I had school at home. My mom was my teacher. My classroom was my bedroom. My classmates were my siblings.

dfdae310243adfdd2d20089d39f7bcc5

I have story after story of experiences – as you could probably guess. It wasn’t a normal upbringing. It was a reality show that Hollywood missed out on. It was awesome!

Whenever I mention this fact to people, I always get the same reaction: “You were homeschooled? But you’re not socially… awkward. How?”  Myth busting time – homeschooling doesn’t make kids socially awkward. Is your mind blown?

While it is true, there are some socially awkward homeschoolers in the world. I know a lot of them personally – trust me. However, I’m living proof, it isn’t the homeschooling alone which causes it. Heck, I work in education and I can tell you I have met some real awkward ducks that public school systems have produced.

My parents worked very hard to give us the education they did. I’m extremely grateful for it. They started me on a path which gave me an edge in the world. I’m different. I learned how to deal with being different from a very young age. It is one of the reasons, I believe, has lead me to being “successful”.

I now live in a country where homeschooling in illegal. In fact, just a few years ago 4 children were put into the system because their parents were incarcerated for homeschooling. Crazy, right? Call me a typical American – but, shouldn’t that be a freedom of choice?

Education is complicated. I believe traditional schooling is a passing trend. Technology is changing the world we live in. It won’t be long before technology has changed education completely. I’m grateful for it. I believe some parents need a good hard shake.

Why write this blog? Hear this. Where students are educated doesn’t effect them near as much as who or how. My hope is not that everyone home schools their kids. It isn’t for everyone. My hope is that parents will give serious thought to who is educating and impacting their children and how those educators and impactors are going about it. Then, I hope those same parents will take action and make adjustments and sacrifices for the sake of their children’s future.

School (wherever it is) doesn’t only teach math, science, and history. School (wherever it is) is where children are learning the difference between right and wrong, social skills, and how they’re supposed to act towards authority. School is raising the next generation. No matter where your children go to school, be involved as a parent and get to know the who and the how!

Why I jumped on the vegan bandwagon

Have you noticed a lot of people becoming vegan lately? Every time I turn around, I feel like I meet a new person who has made a major diet change – namely, the change to vegan. One of those people would be me.

What is vegan? Vegan is “a person who does not eat or use animal products”. What kind of person comes to mind when you hear vegan? For me, it was these hippy, gypsy, green, tree-hugger types. Who would honestly choose this life? No milk. No meat. No cheese. WHY?

I’ve done a lot of different diets, cleanses, or clean-eating strategies throughout my life. As a professional athlete, it comes with the job. You feel an unbelievable amount of pressure to stay fit and be healthy. Nutrition is a big part of that. However, the thought had never crossed my mind to go vegan. For heavens sakes, vegan is vegetarian for the insane, right?

So what changed? Well, I watched this documentary on Netflix called “What the Health”. I had heard a lot about it from friends and family but nothing prepared me for what I watched. In 1 hour and 32 minutes, my life changed. The film explores the connection between diet and chronic disease. It also adds an element or corporate corruption; and who doesn’t love a good scandal?

IMG_0791My journey with veganism started in an instant but it is, in fact, a journey. I began reading, researching, and watching other sources of information. As I studied, the case against animal products began to mount. Now, here I am – a “vegan” of sorts.

I feel no moral obligation to veganism. I’m not an animal rights activist. I recycle a normal amount. I am simply an advocate of health. The facts are there. The myths I’ve been taught my whole life have been debunked. I’m grateful I have the educational background in health, nutrition, and fitness to take this path confidently and healthily. It’s a journey and while I use this word “vegan”; I don’t actually feel worthy of using it because it isn’t entirely accurate. When people ask me to label it, I answer by saying “I’m a plant-based, whole-foods, flexitarian.” But since I live in Europe and language barriers are real; I do end up saying “vegan” more often than not.

What do I mean by flexitarian?

First. If someone serves me something non-vegan – I will eat it. I don’t feel like someone who cooks a nice meal in their own home should have to cater to my preferences. And how awkward to turndown the food they prepared and served!

Second. If a restaurant doesn’t have a truly vegan option (that doesn’t make me want to puke) I will pick the closest enjoyable option.

Third. I use butter on the pan to cook my vegan pancakes because omg it just cooks them so perfectly.

Fourth. I believe in cheat meals to keep my sanity. I live on a 95 to 5 percent ratio. Meaning, 95% of my total food intake I try to eat plant-based and whole-foods and 5% of the time I allow all the other stuff.

If you are looking for a change, I recommend a diet change. It’s unlike other things. It a unique challenge that will change your life. My advice, do your research! The whole purpose of a diet change is to be more healthy and if you don’t do it correctly it could be detrimental to your body. While I’ve fallen in love with plant-based, whole-foods flexitarianism you might find another variant that your body loves.

I encourage you! Try it; try something! Whether you’re 18 or 80, thin or thick, healthy or sick, busy or free as a bird; do your research then challenge yourself! Good luck!

Traveling is rich in experience but doesn’t have to be an experience only for the rich!

I will tell you right now. You can afford to travel! Don’t believe me? You should – because I do. I make sacrifices, yes. I make it priority, yes. Why? Because I can’t imagine my life without travel.IMG_0116

Whether you are looking to travel regularly or want to take the trip of a lifetime; you can do it. You may just need a bit of advice from someone who is a well seasoned traveler – namely, me. I’m no expert travel agent. But I do have some tricks of the trade which allow for me and my husband to take above average vacations on our average budget

Stalk the system! 

Got to love the internet. The ability to stalk is unbelievable. I’m not a creep but I stalk on a daily basis. There are companies all over the world selling the same travel products: flights, cruises, all-inclusive vacations, hotels, car rentals, tours, etc. Your job as the consumer is to use that to your advantage.

Sign up for updates and alerts for any price drops on places you want to go. When I fly internationally, I stalk all major airlines from here to Europe from all major airports. I just booked a flight from the Germany to the Midwestern US for $400. That’s crazy good! It might take some time and energy but it does pay off – literally.

Get a travel rewards credit card! Maximize your spending by putting it on a card that gives back for money spent on travel. Plus, no fees on swipes overseas can be a life saver. A lot of credit card companies have bonuses as well, stalk them and take advantage.

Explore every means of transportation. Everyone likes to arrive as fast and as comfortable as possible but traveling on a budget can’t always be like that. Some flights have big layovers. Some distances are cheaper by train, bus, or boat. Explore all your options just to be sure.

Pinch pennies! 

International travel isn’t an expensive as you think. That means, every dollar counts. Keep that in mind while saving up for your big trip. You can sacrifice a few extra splurges a week and save real money to spend while overseas. Don’t believe me? I’ll give you an example.

I live in Germany. Currently, flights from the airport 30 minutes from my house to London England are ten euro. Now, ten euro is about twelve dollars. Twelve dollars is about what you spend on a lunch at Panera, am I right? Lets say you eat at Panera or something similar twice a week. Tell me, if you had the choice between; first option: eating two PB&Js and getting a round trip ticket to London; and second option: eating Panera twice. Which would you choose? Are you catching my drift? I hope so.

I mentioned before something about long layovers. Everyone hates them but you don’t have too! Many times, flights with super long travel times due to super long layovers are cheaper than those without. But think about it, you can save money and explore more cities. Who said you have to stay in the airport? Look into transportation into the closest city from the airport. With a six-hour layover in Finland, you could bus into the city, have a meal, go through a museum and walk the streets aimlessly. Fun, huh?

Get your priorities straight! 

It is important to have a plan. I prefer that plan to be well-organized. You need to know where you are going, how you are getting there and what you want to do and see! Everyone has a different idea of what a vacation is. Some are the lay on the beach and relax type of people. Some are the extreme sports and active type people. Some are the museums and tours type of people. There is no wrong!

I’m just here to be the friendly reminder that you can’t have it all. Okay, maybe your rich and laughing right now because you can have it all. If so, I’m jealous! For the rest of us, we have to get our priorities straight. If you want to relax on the beach; you have to sacrifice on the activities. If you want to do all the activities; you have to sacrifice on the relaxing. It’s simple really.

For my husband and I, we go to tour cities! We hit the major sites and see the most amazing famous things in the world. We prioritize our daily activities over our nightly sleeping arrangements. We pay less for our hotel or hostel in order to experience more within the city. The same concept can be applied to any vacation you take!

What are you waiting for? Stalk the system! Start pinching you pennies! And get your priorities straight! Stop making excuses for why you don’t have a passport; why you haven’t ever flown; why you haven’t done something you’ve always dreamed about!

10 things every woman should know how to do – my self-improvement list.

There is a lot of talk around the differences between men and women; some are more obvious than others. As time goes on, society calls for there to be less stereotypes regarding capability based on gender. I would agree and support this way of thought.

With people getting married later or not getting married at all, it is very useful for everyone to be self-sufficient. We live in a time which it is very important for everyone to be capable on their own – male or female. All to often humans in this day and age lack some skills that I find to be wonderful parts of life – parts of life that are so fulfilling. I meet people who stop the search for self-improvement; claiming it is not for them because of one reason or another.

IMG_0757There are stereotypes on both sides about roles and “who does what” within the household. There is a time and place for roles. Within relationships, roles are necessary – even vital. Chores need to be done and there needs to be open lines of communication between both parties.

I would argue these 10 things are important for both genders but I focus on the ladies – well, because I am one. I can’t do all of these yet but someday soon I hope to say that I can.

Change a car tire

Hopefully you never have had the experience of being stuck in the middle of no-where with a flat tire and a dire need to change it yourself. But if you were, my bet is your reaction would be to call the man in your life.

Fix the chain on a bicycle

While bikes aren’t a major source of transportation in most areas of the US; they are in other parts of the world. While living in Europe; I use a bike daily. A basis knowledge of how a bike works is helpful more often than you would think.

Jump start a car

With electricity on the line, knowing which wires to connect where could save you a major shock. Not to mention, it would save you the cost of a new battery if you know how do it correctly.

Check and add car oil

Stereotypically, females know embarrassing little about automobiles. Don’t believe me? Just ask the average girl to pop her hood, check and add car oil. Oil is part of a vehicles regular upkeep and due to the car strong culture in the US it could come into play any day of the week.

Basic landscaping

I’m not talking about gardening. That’s my next point. I want to also include landscaping on this list! Knowing how to run a mower, weed wacker, leaf blower, tiller, or bush trimmer are all included with yearly maintenance on an property.

Tend to growing plants

Now, I am talking about gardening! Having a basic knowledge of how plants grow, how to tend to them, and how to use them productively is a skill. Whether it is a garden out back or a aloe vera plant on the window sill, tending to a living thing is a responsibility which we shouldn’t be ignorant of.

Iron and steam clothes

Cleaning clothes isn’t near the hassle it used to it. New technology has made it easier than ever to get professional results in your own home. Dry cleaners are becoming a thing of the past; except for rare occasions. It just takes a google search and effort!

Patch a clothes hole

Have you ever ripped the tag off your pants and it left a hole where the tag was attached? Annoying, isn’t it? Many of us have been there. But then follows the debate of what to do with those pants. Are they ruining? Do you wear like-colored undies? Are you going to take them to grandma?

Do the taxes

Once a year, everyone in the country is annoyed with the same thing – tax season. Collecting the data. Filing the paperwork. Reporting any deductibles. It is a pain in the butt but it is something that can’t be avoiding.

Self-defense

Whether it is a black belt training course or a whistle. Every woman should have the basic know-how of self-defense. It is a scary world we live in. Be proactive!

The world is changing every second. The information available to us is the most in history. Endless opportunities are right at your finger tips. Think ahead! Whether you join in with my list or make your own version; make it a priority. There is no excuse.

Part of life is striving for continuous improvement. While these might be small things, my experience with lists is they offer a sense of accomplishment, pride and closure when they are completed. What things would you add to this list?

How you can have a beautiful wedding and come out financially on top – the logical side of marriage

We are very normal people. We work very normal jobs. We make very normal money. We have very normal families who share our average financial status. I love them to death but the whole process would have been so much easier if they were multi-millionaires with a healthy “Molly’s wedding fund” just waiting for the day I decided to get married. But alas, they’re normal.

At the time we were thinking about getting married, we didn’t have a lot. We both had some savings but we also had student loans and very little capital to our names. Our net worth didn’t amount to anything. It barely broke even.

We wanted to do as much as we could on our own but we struggled with how exactly to balance our cash. We had wants about this special day, of course. I mean, who doesn’t at least have certain details of their “dream wedding” pre-planned?

However, as I’ve previously mentioned, I’m logical before emotional.

I’m no expert; but I wish to offer advice to those who are in a similar position that we were – an average couple planning to spend their lives together!

My first reaction to your situation – GO FOR IT! Marriage totally rocks – but yes, I’m bias.

If you are also interested in how we mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for getting married – you can read my blog Prepare emotionally for marriage with these 3 tips that unfortunately – all to often – get overlooked.

Now, on to my advice, having been in your spot a short year ago. These are my three tips on how to prepare logically for getting married!

Be realistic

Most people have preconceived ideas about their wedding day. All to often, those ideas are misguided and unrealistic. It is imperative that you don’t get sucked into the madness; that you think logically and realistically.

If you can’t afford it; don’t spend it. The pressure of impressing people is so real. I encourage you to think about what the day is really about instead of what others might think of you because of X, Y, or Z. Therefore, if you find a beautiful dress that you are happy with don’t bother to worry about how expensive it is or what brand it is. Be happy with your choices! It’s your day!

Pick your battles; and stick to them. My fiancé and I made a list of wedding details from most important to least important. We included everything we could think to: flowers, DJ, food, drink, dress, shoes, rings, etc. We took our time and made a ranking that we agreed to stick to as closely as possible. Therefore, if flowers was towards the bottom of the ranking then when an offer for a beautiful arrangement presents itself; we passed.

Be hyper-organized

You will here this organization stuff a lot from me. I’m a big believer in organization and it’s powers. Our wedding was an opportunity when I was able to put my skills to the test in a pressure situation.

Keep the books; keep them well. List, charts, and schedules aren’t easy. If they were, everyone would use them. However, it is a sure way of staying organized. There are a lot of details which go into planning a large event. If you aren’t careful; things can easily fall through the cracks. Organization is a necessity. Make lists; update them daily! Chart your budget; be a perfectionist! Stick to your schedule; don’t procrastinate!

Another huge part of keeping “books” is it is a physical system of organization. Meaning, don’t keep it all in your head. Make sure it is something that everyone involved can see. You know, many women complain about their husbands not helping out enough. How is he supposed to help if he doesn’t know the plan? Wedding planning is a prime example. Men often times take a step back and leave 90% of the work to the female. Now-a-days, you have no excuse to not be on the same page when planning a major event. Technology allows for shared notes, lists, calendars, and accounts right at your finger tips. Use it!

Be flexible

I talked about this a lot in my blog about emotionally preparing for marriage. Flexibility is equally important on the logical side. You are literally joining to lives together! I don’t just mean the spiritual bonding of two human souls. I mean literally joining two houses, two households, two phone plans, two insurance policies, two bank accounts, two furniture and decorations styles, two computer hard drives, and two closets.

Whether you live together already or not, chances are you haven’t combined everything yet. Doing so can be stressful. It is important to think logically and make decisions together. You might love your place; but if your future spouses fits better into the budget – move in to theirs instead of making them come to yours. Maybe you’ve had your same phone number since high school and don’t want to give it up; but if your future spouses carrier offers a better family plan – give in, sacrifice and make the best decision for your family.

I want to encourage those who are making this leap! It is scary; I know. But don’t be frightened. Marriage is beautiful and worth it.

I challenge you. During your process of getting married, save yourself unnecessary stress and be realistic, be organized, and be flexible.