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.

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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.