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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Today... it's all about triangles

We all know about the circle of life (don't you start breaking into song, Sir Elton!). However, another shape that is very useable when considering various situations is a triangle. There are at least two triangles that most people are familiar with. One is for fire, demonstrating that the three components necessary to produce fire are fuel, oxygen, and heat. Another one is for project management, showing the interconnection between the three crucial factors that drive any project - time, cost, and resources.

These diagrams are simple yet very illustrative, especially the project management one, giving you an instant picture of what would happen if, for example, you wanted a project completed in less time (you would immediately need more resources and up the cost).

But what if we were to take this concept further? Let's take two topics that appear very often in this blog - cooking and fashion. In this day and age of super-fast everything and not enough time, the virtue of home-cooked meal is increasingly estimated based on ease of preparation. While I am all for easy recipes that include readily available ingredients, I must caution all my fellow household chefs - easy doesn't always mean good. To take this to the extreme, there aren't many things easier than eating a whole bag of potato chips or an entire box of donuts, however, temporary enjoyment aside, that does not make it good for you. When planning your next series of meals for the week, consider the cooking triangle.

The three factors I propose including in your culinary decision making are taste, difficulty, and nutrition. What you want is to find some meals with these three things in a reasonable state of balance. On one hand, you don't want your entire menu to consist of fudge, which is delicious and easy to make but hardly nutritious. On the other, hand, you don't want to fall into the rut of so many obsessively healthy eaters, whose meals end up being very nutritious, but are bland or include hard-to-find ingredients, making the meals difficult to prepare.

To keep the taste, difficulty, and nutrition in balance, consider stocking up on inexpensive things like a variety of canned veggies that cane be prepared several different ways (served raw, sauteed, steamed, etc.), get some basic herbs (rosemary, parsley, thyme, mint, etc.) - grow your own if you have a sunny window sill somewhere around the house, research non-sodium salts (like sea salt), and remember - a little bit of fat or butter goes a long way. Completely fat-free meals are actually depriving you of certain nutrients that need fat in order to be metabolized by your organism. So, adding a splash of olive or peanut oil or a bit of butter is always acceptable.

Now let's tackle fashion. Once again, we seem to be living in the world of sartorial extremes. On one hand, there are the designer label and trend-obsessed "clackers" (see Devil Wears Prada for reference) with a fortune's worth of designer clothes and shoes in their closets - many of which they only wear once because of how quickly the trends change. On the other hand there is the sweats mob - the people who look like they rolled out of bed and went on to run their errands without bothering to take a shower, let alone to put on something that doesn't make them look like a walking talking blob of misshapen polyester. So, let us triangulate.

Take time for the mother of all closet cleanings. Drag everything out - everything. Sort through it, get rid of everything that doesn't fit you now, wash or take to the cleaners what needs to be cleaned, mend what needs to be mended (missing buttons, broken zippers, falling hems, etc.) Consider your remaining clothing stash from the standpoint of these three factors - affordability, fit, and impression. Obviously, we can't all drop $400 on a cashmere sweater, I don't care how "in" it happens to be. After culling the stuff that doesn't fit, are there gaps in your closet? What can you do to fill them in? How can you do that and stay within your budget? Remember, it is not beneath anyone to shop at thrift stores - absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's recycling as far as I'm concerned, and a great way to refresh your wardrobe on a tight budget.

It doesn't matter how much something costs or how good it looked on you ten years ago. If it doesn't fit your body and your lifestyle - off it goes. The same applies when what you have on has nothing to do with where you are going. A baggy caftan at a formal wedding? No. Jeans to the opera? Hell, no. Ballgown to a paintball fight? Just as bad. Your clothes need to fit you and the occasion - another bit of balance to maintain.

Fit and impression are closely tied together. I said this many times, like it or not, but we are visual beings. Impressions matter. Your appearance is as much a part of you as your mind. There needs to be a balance between the two - it will never do if one is emphasized more than the other. It can go both ways - a person can look spectacular on the outside but be hollow on the inside, or someone may have the heart of gold but look like a bum. Neither is a good option.

My philosophy is - I want to get dressed, look in the mirror, and have a reason to smile. I might be having a casual, run-the-errands sort of day or getting ready for a special dinner with my husband at a fine restaurant. I do run the full gamut from jeans to evening gowns - and in every single case, I want to look at myself at do like Barbra Streisand in the opening scene of Funny Girl, "Hello gorgeous!" If you get dressed in the morning, look in the mirror and want to shatter it - it's time to find you something worthy to wear.

Another life's triangle I want to touch upon is the triangle of idea sharing. Social media has made it incredibly easy for us all to just send our thoughts into the void and get an immediate response. But this method of communication comes with a huge caveat - it's missing 93% of the interactional telemetry, so to speak. That's right, only 7% of information is communicated through words. 55% of communication is visual (body language, eye contact) and 38% is vocal (pitch, speed, volume, tone of voice). When we communicate through Facebook and Twitter, everything but the first 7% is missing. And judging by Facebook fights, de-friendings, and blockings, it shows - because there is so much room for miscommunication and misinterpretation.

The next time you want to share something with the world, take a pause and consider these three factors - thought, manner of expression, and feedback. To elaborate, is what you are about to say well and truly reflective of your thoughts? Is it how you really feel about the subject? Does it demonstrate your views exactly?

Once you have written it out, before you hit "Send" or "Share", re-read and consider - is this really the way you want to express it? I am sure you have all seen the posts, that end with, "I know who will post this and who won't" or "99% of you won't share this". Sometimes the original message in the post is positive, but it is instantly deflated by the passive-aggressive conclusion. When someone shares something like this, I always tell them - would have shared the message, but was discouraged by the guilt trip. If you like the message, share it in your own words, and skip the bullying. I honestly cannot believe that so many people want to guilt their friends into passing something along - so why not stop acting like that? Always, always consider the words you use. Once again - it is the ONLY thing people will see. They have no way to know if you are being humorous or sarcastic, not unless you indicate it clearly. Make sure the manner of expression corresponds exactly to what you are trying to say.

The last but not the least - feedback. It's astonishing, how many people share messages and articles on controversial subjects and are then surprised when arguments break out. What did they expect? If the subject is edgy, there are bound to be disagreements, especially in the medium rife with misinterpretation. I am not suggesting that we should all share pictures of cats and nothing else. No. But if you are going to post something that can spur a debate, be prepared for it. You will get feedback, and you are not going to like some of it. Brace for it from the start instead of acting as if you were completely blindsided by it.

As you consider various situations in your life, give it some thought and make up your own life's triangles to help you move along your own circle of life.

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