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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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Santa Claus and our parent’s lies

I hear loud arguing between Anna and Tim. We were given a recess, but instead a horrible fight broke out and everyone stayed inside. As I came closer, I could hear what the arguing was about. Anna was determined: “I know what I saw. It was my Mom who put the gifts underneath the Christmas tree. Not Santa! That’s because Santa doesn’t exist!” My heart stopped. My belly jolted. “You’re lying,” Tim accused her. “No, I’m not!” she cried. I was in shock. My developing brain was struggling to comprehend what had just been said. How could Santa not be real? I’ve been writing him letters for years! He’s been bringing me gifts each year; with Rudolph leading the way to my house. Why would my parents tell me about Santa if he wasn’t real? Why would my parents lie to me?

To this day I am hurt by the lies my parents told me about Santa. Why does it matter, you ask? It matters because despite the joy it brought me, it also brought me horrible devastation. For a young kid like myself, who spent hours reading and imagining different worlds, the non-existence of Santa was like a slap in my face. I could not believe people I trusted put on a charade, a show for Christmas. They made me write letters… they made me put cookies down for him. They made me believe he was real.

I do not have children of my own just yet, but I still struggle whether or not I should lie to them about Santa too. It gets even more problematic if I tell them from the start that Santa does not exist. Then, other parents will complain that my children ruined Santa for their children.

I don’t know why this lie has to continue. I know children are happy to hear it, but when you realize your parents lied to you and that it was them the whole time…. well, it kind of shows that even those you trusted lied to you. So, on the flip side, is Santa actually supposed to be a life lesson? As in, do not count on those you trust because they are not trustworthy either?

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The EU Fiasco- thinking in capitalistic terms

Ah, the idea of united Europe. So simple, yet so complicated. Greece has been in the news the last few days, battling the Iron Lady of Germany on their debt payments. “You gave us too much money,” they claim. “We took more than we wanted and now we have no way of repaying it back.”

Debt problems aside, there is a prevailing problem in (Eastern) European countries. Nobody wants to acknowledge it, but EU will have a hard time sustaining itself if it is not fixed. Countries like Greece, (recently joined) Croatia, Hungary, Latvia etc… they all have poor financial background. Croatians lived in socialism for decades. Do you really think the politicians, who ruled in Yugoslavia and have left behind a socialist legacy, know anything about debt? Managing? Investing?

There’s a certain discrepancy between reality and theory. In theory, they are all “educated” enough to make financial decisions. The reality is they are not used to the mind-set of capitalism. In their hearts they carry socialism. They are used to corruption. Nobody gets penalized. Greece has enjoyed creating government jobs for everyone for years, but they don’t see that they won’t survive if they do it again. Even if they leave the EU, the mentality the way people do business/ run the country will be their fall. It will also be the fall of Croatians, Latvians etc. The mentality of people needs to change. Old habits have to die out. They may not like capitalism, but their previous way of doing things didn’t work out either.

The key to EU’s success will be changing the mentality of people to not only accept capitalistic thinking but know how to use it too. Throwing money at countries without fixing their operating structure has never benefited anyone.

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Name of the rose (Je suis Charlie)

Cowardly killings that took place yesterday in Paris triggered absolute shock and horror in me. As someone who lived in France for almost a year, it was surreal to see the video which was replayed over and over again on all the news stations.

Amid the initial reaction, I remembered a book I read in my teenage years. The book is called “Name of the rose” by Umberto Eco (and I highly recommend it). The reason why it came to mind was that the people that died in the book were also killed in the name of “comedy.” Laughter. Ridicule. As a teen, I couldn’t fully understand it. How is laughter so powerful? Is it really this powerful?

As I grew up, laughter is the only thing one has left. It is a cure for everything and without it, world is horrific and scary.

William of Baskerville: My venerable brother, there are many books that speak of comedy. Why does this one fill you with such fear?

Jorge de Burgos: Because it’s by Aristotle.

William of Baskerville: [Chasing after Jorge who runs with the Second Book of Poetics by Aristotle intending to destroy it] But what is so alarming about laughter?

Jorge de Burgos: Laughter kills fear, and without fear there can be no faith because without fear of the Devil, there is no more need of God.

William of Baskerville: But you will not eliminate laughter by eliminating that book.

(excerpt from the Name of the Rose)

There will always be cowards, murderers, terrorists who think they can kill the freedom. Freedom of laughter. Freedom of ridicule. Freedom of life. But we have to fight them back. #JesuisCharlie #CharlieHebdo

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Boring koi ponds and private theaters

I read the gossip websites. I know every celebrity home should include all/ or most items listed below (and more):

Koi poind greeting the visitors. Lagoon-style pool to jump into. Wooden beams. Ornate chandeliers. A theater. Arched doorways. Multiple fireplaces. Spa tub and mood lightning. Private elevator. A gazebo. Waterfall spa. Nine-stall barn.

I’m assuming most celebrity houses entail that. And while they might be happy to live in such overabundance, I can honestly say I would never want to live in such a home. Why? Well…..

1. If I got anything dirty, it would cost a fortune to replace

2. Too many rooms (I already get disoriented in a hotel, why would I want to get disoriented in my own home)

3. I don’t want my Mother to move in (The excuse “we don’t have enough room” would be gone out the window)

4. Higher chance of a murderer hiding in my house (more rooms= more opportunities to hide)

5. I hate being hot so there’s no way I can put that sauna in a good use

6. Presence of fountains would increase my urge to go pee

7. A private elevator would make me even lazier than I already am

8. I don’t pay enough attention to my doorway to truly appreciate the value of an arched one

9. Multiple TV Screens would be neglected as I barely watch TV anymore

And more… but, above all, I believe in being modest. I would prefer to sell the house, live in a smaller home and donate money to a good cause than to compensate for whatever lack of insecurities I am trying to hide and show off to other people by buy buying a house that should probably be a hotel in the first place. So, no, Beyonce and Taylor Swift, I don’t want your damn mansions! ;)

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Karma perverts

The gist of karma is people acting good and getting good karma, while the slimy bastards who do bad things get worse things thrown in their face. Something like that, right?

It’s a concept. Fine. But what I am bothered about are karma perverts. I call them perverts because they distort the original concept of karma.

Karma perverts only do good things because they want good karma. Doesn’t that essentially make you a bad person? Isn’t it manipulative to do good things only to benefit from them?

Needless to say, I had a long debate with my friend who often likes to quote the “well, karma will get him” or “oh, I don’t want bad karma so I do good things.” She was quite offended I implied she is a bad person for only doing good things to benefit a more frugal outcome in the future.

Additionally, karma is seen as tool for revenge. People want to have this idea that there is a force out there who will punish all the bad people and make them suffer more.

My point, in the end, is that you shouldn’t do good because you want good karma. You should do good out of the pureness of your heart. Because you believe in it, because you mean it and you do not expect anything in return.

In 2015 (and all the other years prior), my goal is to stay a “good person”- not because I was worried about the consequences of karma, but because I generally believe you should do good and try to make this world better.

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