"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.
Happy New Year, everyone! Let's make it a year when some small changes gain steam and expand into some big changes.
Weekly small change challengesWeek 1 - pack early.
When you travel, consider packing two days in advance, instead of the day before you have to leave. That way, you have a whole day to remember all those things you forgot to pack, instead of 15 minutes before you have to leave.
Week 2 - camp out.
Yes, I know it's basically winter, and I didn't mean outside. What I meant is - if you have someplace to sleep in your house, other than your bedroom, give it a shot. Or, if you have someplace to eat other than your kitchen or your dining room. It's fun breaking the routine occasionally. For example, I love crashing on my own living room couch now and then or eating seated on the floor around the coffee table. It reminds me of my student days and helps me stay young at heart.
Week 3 - be nice to yourself.
I know quite a few people who take care of a disabled parent, child, or spouse. Having spent some time helping take care of my mom, when her bone tumor resurfaced, I can understand the determination to devote all of yourself to your loved one. The problem with that is - you are not invincible. You need taking care of too.
Think about it. What will happen to people you take care of, if you overwork yourself and collapse? What will happen, if you can't get out of bed because you haven't had a decent sleep in days, and let's not even start on that vacation?
Even the strongest of us need some sort of rest and relaxation. Two stories come to mind. For those of you who have read "The ring of nine", you remember Nurse Lida - the woman that helped take care of the sick and wounded soldiers in a hospital in the besieged Leningrad during WWII. Sometime it took quite some time for Nurse Lida to get to the hospital. At one point, one of the soldiers reproached her for being late. However, she explained that she took a safer route through the city, sometimes taking a longer way around the areas that were more likely to be bombed by the Germans. She did that to make sure she stayed alive another day and actually made it there to take care of all those soldiers.
Another story is from my own life. We didn't celebrate my 14th birthday, because my mom was very sick by then, and it just didn't seem appropriate. However, my classmates held a celebration of Soviet Army Day - which was essentially a kind of boys/men's day - Saturday, February 25. I asked my dad if I could go. He initially resisted, but my grandparents reminded him that I've been working very heard and deserved a break.I did go and had an amazing time - haven't laughed like that in months. My mom died the morning after. I think I survived that a lot better than expected because I had that little energy boost the night before.
Week 4 - one more thing.
"Never put off until tomorrow what you put off yesterday until today." So says a Georgian proverb. But what if we became intentional about this? What if we made a point of tackling our tasks in such a way, that playing catch-up with the seemingly never-ending list of stuff to do became obsolete?
As you are wrapping up for the day, find a small task you initially set aside for another day - nothing more than five-ten minutes - and do it. Trust me, I totally understand what it's like to be out of energy and dragging your feet at the end of the day. Which is why the task can be something really small. Like loading the dishwasher and letting it run overnight. Or putting away dishes you washed after dinner. Folding a small load of laundry. Paying a bill. That sort of thing.
It's quite amazing when you wake up the next morning and realize you have one less thing to do. It's almost as if a good fairy came by and did you a favor - except you also have the satisfaction of knowing that you were your own good fairy.
Now this is a damn good idea and a positive example! Me Buy Nothing experiment.
YES! (Also applies to people who feel too skinny, too ugly, too .... something.) So, you're feeling too fat to be photographed...
Dropped off a bag of goodies at my chiropractor's office for everyone to munch on - some crackers, mozzarella, home-made bell pepper relish and strawberry-blackberry jam. Whenever you can - take care of people who take care of you. You want them to be around a long time and you want them to WANT to take care of you.
A fantastic mini-documentary with unlikely models.
I was so irked by the sight of people at an upscale department store buying and buying just for the sake of accumulating stuff because a sale was on that I bought one of the fast-going items -- -a three-foot tall stuffed Emperor penguin -- and brought it directly to the Toys for Tots guys stationed near the food court. I wanted a kid who didn't have much to have something that the rich kids were fighting over. Didn't cost much: only $11 and change, thanks to that special sale. You should have seen the looks on the guys' faces! They're retired Marine Corps reservists, well along in years, but when they saw that penguin, they laughed and thanked me as if they were kids who'd just opened their own Christmas presents. :-)
While I am somewhat of a workhorse and sometimes have to be hauled into the realm of pampering and diva-dom by the scruff of my neck, my friend Kimberly is a true diva - that girl sure knows how to take care of herself! (Before anyone gets into a tizzy, she also lives in a revitalized neighborhood, volunteers, donates a lot, and regularly helps out her neighbors, many of whom live below the poverty line - so she has that balance between taking care of others and of herself down pat.)
When we got together last weekend for our Ritz Carlton day (we save up and do these twice a year), we packed up some snacks for the spa staff - some of Kimberly's home-made chex-mix and some of my coffee cake. It was a huge hit - this is a VERY busy time of year for the hospitality industry, and people often skip lunch or forget to grab a snack between appointments. They were SO happy to get something to munch on that was home-made and yummy. I always send thank you cards to Ritz spa personnel for the wonderful service they provide, because the amount of recharging and revitalization I get out of that one day every six months is priceless. I think this year I am going to do what I did with my chiropractor and my vet - pack them a goody box along with the card, with some more home-made stuff to enjoy during their crazy schedules.
It really doesn't matter if it's a provincial chiropractor's office tucked between an insurance bureau and a strip mall or a luxury hotel spa - it really does matter when we take care of people who take care of us, even in a small way. It does make a difference.
Public service announcements
Let's not forget our winged brothers and sisters. Make winter your top birding season.
Stop the fat talk (that would be a great New Year resolution - hint!).
Consider becoming a Nature Conservancy member and participating in their hike challenge.
Kiva now has gift cards.
IKEA helps out Syrian refugees.