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How broke are we, Americans

I cannot say how people are doing in other states these days, but in good ole Florida people are looking kind of rough, tired and miserable… and so do their cars, and their houses (please, disregard the retired folks, they are doing just fine).

I do not know how Americans are constantly broke, but we are. I mean, we really are. The banged up cars we drive on highways, the cheap clothing we wear, the trailers we live in….

Not seeing our family from up North in years because we can not afford to visit them.

We make good money in America. How is it that we are so broke? Perhaps if people knew how to save money better, they would not have to put a newspaper and some tape over the broken car window. Have you ever seen Trailer Park Boys? It seems to me like we are turning into a bunch of Ricky’s and Randy’s, walking around without our shirts on and eating cheeseburgers…. what is going on?

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Time to go

A week or so later, the plane crash tactically planned by the German co-pilot still haunts me. I mean, it has been in the media so much too that I can not look away anymore. But that’s almost beside the point.

What haunts me is the conversation I had with my friend. He’s in the military, and I know he has seen a lot of things already and he definitely has a different take on the world than I do. He is much more brave, that’s for sure. But I remember talking to him about it, and he felt bad, of course, but then he added: “maybe it was their time to go.” How was this their time to go? They did not decide upon it, but some other asshole decided it for them.

There is really something scary that so much of our lives are dictated about other people’s actions. Accidents happen every day, and those are inevitable. But mass murders like this? It is not in any way, shape or form fair to have a life ended this way. Yes, before you comment, life is unfair but there is just something so fundamentally wrong when you have to go that way. And I do not think that is your time to go. That is someone else deciding that for you- your time to go is when you die of natural cause.

What do you think- would you accept the fact if something like this happened to you? Does it even matter in the end how you go or when (since it is after the fact?)

Either way, R.I.P. innocent victims. This world can be a cruel place.

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Dinners on plastic plates

The first time I was ever almost stoned to death because I brought plastic plates for dinner was during my first dinner in France. Growing up, my mother stored all the fancy china Grandma inherited in a special cabinet, while she made all of us use plastic plates. I did not think anything of it- Mom did not have a dish washer and -therefore-logical thinking- we used plastic plates so she did not have to clean the dishes after.

And then I came to France. Study abroad and all, with people from all over the world (which btw, my book on the study abroad is available on Amazon). Anyway, we were almost like representatives from the United Nations or something, gathered behind a tiny table. Trying to be helpful, I brought plastic plates, plastic cups and plastic silverware to eat with. It was not cheap either, so I really thought I was doing everyone a favor. Well, I guessed wrong. Needless to say, most attacks came from the Germans and the nature-loving Scandinavians. I think I had to listen to “how wasteful” Americans are through the whole dinner. I never felt so judged. Is it really so wrong to use plastic plates? Isn’t using a dish washers equally wasteful? Why I am such a horrible person?

The type of treatment I received was more than brutal. Even the Canadians loved to bash my wastefulness and hatefulness for nature. But I did not care- all I kept thinking was my Mom, and how many nights those plastic plates saved her from being the dishwasher. Instead of cleaning the dishes for half hour, she was able to sit down, relax and talk to her kids. That’s worth something too, right?

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Sparta is back in style

Finally! Skinny people have to take care of their bodies too! We are going back to the Spartan times. The times of fit people sweating together and sculpting their bodies. I mean, we should politely disregard the military-style education program with hazing and fighting.. here, we are talking about the work on their bodies, their ultimate obsession to achieve the bulkiest, chizzled and god-like muscles. Men or women, they were all supposed to strive to be physically fit.

Somewhere between Sparta and Twiggy, skinny people strategically positioned themselves to be adored and admired. I don’t know how we let them get away with it, but we did. And as lucky as they were with their genetically given bodies that have metabolisms on steroids, they were laughing at us as they ate chips and didn’t gain a pound.

But now, a new revolution is happening. It is slow, but it is sure. Skinny people can’t just be skinny. Now they look weak. And jiggly. And not toned. It is great! As a person who struggled with being fat my entire life, it is nice that the trend is moving towards a “healthy lifestyle.” Because just because you are skinny, doesn’t mean you are healthy. I have tons of skinny friends who gobble down cakes and hamburgers and almost lose weight.

It’s a new trend of eating food that fuels your body. A trend of working out hard to sculpt your body. No one can get away with being lazy or having good genes. You have to work for it, and you have to discipline yourself. It’s nice. Because ultimately it is about being healthy, and that’s what matters the most.

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Letter to Nutella

Dear Nutella,

You are like a bad boyfriend. You lure me with the sweet sugar and hazelnut combo, only to make me feel like a horrible person after I finish the jar within a couple of hours. Everyone keeps telling me you are bad for me, but I don’t care most of the time. I need you.

You are like a drug. Probably worse. Because when I eat Nutella, there is no self-control. You turn me into a spoon-licking monster who always wants more.

I first indulged myself during my study abroad in France and I probably gained 10 pounds from gobbling down slices of bread drowning in Nutella each morning. And afternoon. And right before bed.

For Americans it is hard to understand the Nutella obsession. Because you, Nutella, are either loved or hated. David can’t stand you. But I will pay whatever price to get a jar. Like crack-addicts I will sell my TV if I have to just to get a taste.

But lately, I’ve been having to avoid you. It just doesn’t work, Nutella. You swoop me off my feet with your sweet flavors and trick me into eating so much I end up hating myself. I will probably never have a bikini body, and mostly, it is because of you, dear Nutella. Like a bad boyfriend, you make me feel bad about myself… so it’s best I stay away. I have to (even though I don’t want to). It is for the best.

Love,

Leah

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Medals are NOT for everyone

Imagine watching the Oscars; everyone is dressed to the nines, looking stunning and hungry. Next up: Best supporting actor category. They read out the names, and then… they announce the winner. The actor walks on stage and shares a sob story.  He kisses his Oscar. He won! The camera turns towards the other best supporting actor nominees and hey, guess what, they are also holding up their Oscars- you know, they should get an Oscar just for their nomination.

Now, how ridiculous is that?

America is turning into a nation of wussies. Everyone is being rewarded these days. For effort, not results. Just last night I saw pictures of my friends running in a 5K. And you know what was hanging around their necks? Medals. Freaking medals. They didn’t come in first, second or third. They weren’t anywhere near top 100. But they got medals. For what? For participating. It makes me vomit, dear fellow Americans.

Medals symbolize something extraordinary- extraordinary time or achievement, sometimes service to the country. They do not symbolize participation, or an effort or getting of a couch to walk a 5K. America, what are you doing? Event organizers, what are you doing? By giving out medals, albeit fake, you are devaluing the value of winners. The winners who trained hard to be the fastest. They woke up every day and trained. Trained to be better, to improve results, to be the best. Not average. The best. They woke up sore, they woke up tired and they put years in training. They sweat tears, they sweat ambition and they sweat dedication. They deserve to get something unique. Because if we stop awarding those who push the boundaries, we acknowledge average… and average will never achieve extraordinary.

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Why in Europe sometimes you just have to dump things on the street

When I was younger, I loved yard sales. I was able to sell some of the stuff my Mom never used and made a couple of bucks while at it. Then, a few years later, I gave my bike to somebody who needed it for free. I still remember the message he sent me, thanking me over and over that he takes the bike to work instead of walking there. He was so grateful and I was thrilled I could help. So, every once in a while, I still leave a box on my yard with a sign “Free stuff.” Someone always pickes it up.

Then, I did my study abroad in France. I lived in a furnished apartment I shared with other students. (btw, my book about the French study abroad is available on Amazon ;)) We only got the bare necessities, so we decided to buy a few things to make our lives more, errr, livable I guess.

At the end of the semester we listed them on a board at school and on a Facebook website where people who wanted to give stuff away for free were welcome to list the items. I mean, surely people will be happy to get nice stuff for free? Surely they will come on time and won’t be picky, right?? (btw, it is forbidden to dump stuff on the street)

We only had a few people genuinely interested… everybody else wasted our time, energy and generosity with the following stupidities:

1) “Your place is too far” (far being 15 minutes out of the way)

2) “I only want one of the items listed in the bundle” (yes, let me make a special appointment for each of the people who want to take the damn dying flowers)

3) Didn’t read the ad right (“I thought you were offering X” (when in fact it was Y))

4) Showed up 2-3 hours late (because of course, I have nothing else to do in my life)

5) Say they will show up and they don’t- without telling me (because again- apparently I have nothing else to do in my life than wait for them)

6) Book a time to come and cancel after they realize that it is too expensive to rent a truck (because checking rental prices prior to making arrangements would be nonsensical)

7) “Do you have it in another color?” (please, can I refer you to a furniture store??!)

8) “Could you deliver it to me?” (no comment…..*sigh*)

Ultimately, the amount of effort I had to put in to deal with these people just made it not worth it. It actually killed my joy to try give useful stuff to people. I follow the online blogs/websites and I am still a memeber of some of these groups and complaints like mine show up  all  the  time.

The biggest problem with giving things away for free is that people think you are also giving away for free your time, energy and sometimes even your transport. And it truly kills the joy of trying to do good and trying to help. Ultimately, after offering the items to some charities (which only took selected items), we sneaked out in the middle of the night and dumped the stuff on the street. Eventually it was all picked up but I promised myself I would never give stuff away for free anymore, not while I was there. When people have to pay, they suddenly realize their time and energy are vested in the exchange too.

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© Al Powers, PowersImagery.com

Clubbing for the sake of clubbing

Michael and Kate have been together for seven years now, I think. Kate has gorgeous black hair and she pierced Michael’s heart with those stunning blue eyes of hers. Michael is also quite a handsome man who can drown himself in alcohol every night and yet, he is not whiny and groggy when his hangover kicks in the next morning.

The reason why Michael and Kate are so fascinating to me is that they are thirty-ish years old and they still go out clubbing. Twice a week is a must! Before you say Michael and Kate obviously don’t have jobs, Michael has a full-time job and Kate does work full-time too (although she tends to go from one job to another). But since I have known them, they go out and get drunk like they are still fifteen. And the thrill is apparently still there. How is that possible? How is the thrill still there?

To me the thrill faded away when I met David. Because, honestly, once you meet someone you are pretty serious about- you don’t really want to go clubbing anymore. I mean….dark, smokey places with drunk, sweaty and often slimy strangers accompanied by loud, repetitive music kind of lose their appeal. Right? Then, I got older too and staying up til 6 am felt like a punishment, not enjoyment. I couldn’t stay up all night anymore; my back hurt like I was carrying heavy blocks of cements around for hours (just from standing/dancing at the club) and waking up the next afternoon felt like I was a living zombie- by the time I woke up the night was coming down and ultimately I failed to see the light of day.

And as I am typing this on a sunny Monday morning, barely awake from my seven hour sleep, I know Michael and Kate probably got home at 4 am and are already at work talking about another great night of partying. And I wish I could understand the thrill again. But I just can’t.

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Quality chocolate for .50 cents

Alright, alright. You can’t get it in the American stores. For many reasons, chocolate in U.S. is not only expensive but the presence of cacao is terrifically low and sugar content abysmally high. But that’s how we like it I guess.

I liked it that way too until I discovered a German store called Lidl (Lidl is pretty much a copycat of Aldi or kind of like Dollar General with better quality products). There are many things in my life that bring me joy and finding great chocolate for the price of a hamburger at McDonald’s on Wednesday’s is one of them.

Lidl is/was a shabby-looking store with a strong warehouse feel. Nothing fancy or classy about it- but Germans love it. Almost instantly as I walked in, a 100 g (3.5- Ounce) of chocolate caught my eyes. Wrapped in an appealing, yet simple wrap tempted me from the shelves. Milk Chocolate for 50 cents. (Mind you, this was like two years ago so the price really hasn’t gone up at the time of writing.) This chocolate wasn’t expired or poisonous. It didn’t give you painful diarrhea. It wasn’t like godawful Hershey’s with their butter substitutes and whatnot. This was genuinely good chocolate. Because it was so cheap, I had to hoard it. I couldn’t pass on such a deal! I bought different kinds: the alpine milk one, the one with nuts, raisins, the white chocolate kind. I thought I died and went to heaven.

Needless to say, all that chocolate was gone before I could bring back any to the States (so I had to go back to the store and buy more). I miss that chocolate. I genuinely miss it. It crosses my mind specially as I wander down our Publix section or when I shop on Amazon. Good chocolate for little money does exist. It exist in the world of the good ole Germany. Now, who in Germany is reading this and is willing to ship some over to me? :D

P.S: Thanks for reading my post! Leave a comment on what product you miss! :D

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Link to my book on Amazon (since I haven’t posted one in like half a year ;)

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The misuse of the word “Curvy”

Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue features its first-ever plus-size model”  I couldn’t help myself but clicking on the darn article. I am not skinny at all. But I am not fat either- mostly hourglass shaped. I have some junk in the trunk but the trunk is not overflowing if you know what I mean. So I click on this article and I get mad. Further I scroll down, more annoyed I get.

Somehow the “beauty” industry either has to go Holocaust skinny or obese with their models and label them as “curvy.” I’m almost insulted the way they use the word curvy. Because when I saw Ashley Graham on that cover she does not look curvy but she looks fat. And she can be whatever size she wants to be, but I wish they wouldn’t call her curvy. Because curves mean something else. Or at least, it used to mean something else.

It is hard to write this as I encourage the industry to move away from the ghostly skinny standards, but encouraging obesity is not something they should do either. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

American women have to stop hiding under the layer of “curviness” when they are actually fat. If you want to be fat, fine, be fat. I like to be fat too sometimes. But the bigger concern is that Americans are misinformed on what being fat these days actually means. More than one-third of American adults are obese. We’ve gotten so used to seeing our obese friends we compare ourselves to them. My Mom is fat, my sister is fat, my Dad is fat…. but I mean, compared to those really fat people I see elsewhere, they are normal sized, right?

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