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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.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Big Little Change Digest - February, 2014

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - choose your exercise carefully.

The year end is upon us and people are making their New Year resolutions lists. Exercise is usually at the top of those lists - and is often the one abandoned the soonest.

First of all, trash the lists. When you want to do something - go do it, and calendar be damned. Second, keep in mind that not all exercise was created equal. "No pain - no gain" only applies so far before it becomes an exercise in stupidity.

Studies show that our muscles comprise more than one type of tissue. Depending on how much of each muscle tissue we have, we might be better suited for running, or dancing, or walking, or climbing, but not necessarily all of the above. So, if running makes you feel like crap, and it's not because you run out of breath but because your legs are complaining, it could be that your muscles are trying to tell you, "Hello, this is not what we are best suited to do!" This doesn't make you weak or lazy - please, please, please keep that in mind.

Learn to differentiate between the normal post-exercise soreness and the kind of pain that is a sign of possible injury. Try various types of exercise to zero in on the kind that works with your body - not against it. Pull together your own workout program that is not only effective, but also makes you feel good about yourself, and stick to it. Play some good music when you exercise. Have fun.

Week 2 - stop dreading Mondays.

... Or any particular day of the month - like the bill paying day, for example. Or the grocery shopping day. Remember, when you say something is going to be an awful day - even as a joke (as in, "Sheesh, has this been a MONDAY or what?"), your subconscious doesn't know it's a joke. All it knows is that, for some reason, you are compelled to feel depressed on a specific day of the week or month, and so, it obligingly stores that information and acts on it every time that day arrives.

Don't do this to yourself. It's just a day. Another day to breathe, and walk, and hear, and see. Another day to wake up and grab the world by the tail. So, who cares what day of the week it is?

Week 3 - don't be afraid to be seen.

I love Facebook. While many people find it annoying and frustrating, to me, it's whatever you make of it. Minor technical glitches don't bother me for the most part, and having that community at my fingertips truly is priceless.

That said, I am frequently puzzled when people do not use their actual photos as their Facebook profile image. Some use cartoons. Some use pictures of their children or pets. And I don't understand that.

Look, folks, you are not a cartoon. You are not your children. You are not your pets. You are you - first and foremost. So, ask yourself, why are you so reluctant to present your actual face to the world? Unless you are one of those Facebook "people collectors" with thousands of "friends", you like and appreciate people in your social network community. Given an opportunity, you would probably like to meet them face-to-face. And when that happens, you are not going to hold up a cartoon, or a dog, or a child, or a flower, or a house, or a panda in front of you. You will just... be you. Wrinkles and all. So why not pretend like you are already meeting face-to-face - and put your own wonderful unique face out there for your friends to relate to and enjoy?

Week 4 - teach yourself to find things out.

There are many of us out there - a small army of reference kings and queens, who know the meaning of the most obscure words, conversions for some of the most obscure and antiquated units of measure, and can quote Jane Austen, Albert Einstein, and basic trigonometry within the span of five minutes. Such people are often tapped by their friends and acquaintances with various odd-ball questions about this and that. And the question I want to ask - does anyone think we were born with this knowledge? Of course not.

Nor do we carry that entire vastness of information in our heads all the time - there is simply not enough room up there for all that stuff. We look it up. At some point, we have taught ourselves how to search for information, where to find reliable sources, and now it's a matter of a couple of minutes, sometimes less.

I encourage others to do the same. Instead of waiting for someone else to come up with an answer to some obscure question, look it up. You'd be amazed what you can Google and Wiki these days. Unit conversion tables, dictionaries, translators, recipes, physics, chemistry, algebra and geometry are all out there for the taking.

So, the next time you have a question and you are tempted to go ask someone, take a pause and see if you can tackle it yourself. Before you know it, the rest of the world will think you know everything too.

Week 5 - promote the work of others.

Despite broken links, stupid Wal Mart people web sites and an occasional creepy stalker, I do love the Internet. It has made so many things possible, including making the world wide open for small independent writers and artists. We now have the freedom to by-pass the agents, the publishers, and the lawyers, and just put our work out there.

That said, people are not telepathic. There is no way for them to know that the work is there, unless someone tells them so. As all of you know very well, I do encourage everyone to promote their own work. I have heard many writers say they found tooting their own horn distasteful and then complain about poor sales within the next five minutes. There is no way around it - if you want your work to be seen and bought, you have to promote.

In addition, it also helps to promote the work of other creative individuals. Now, I am not saying you should tell everyone about Aunt Martha's hideous holiday sweaters, just because she is your aunt. No. If you think the sweaters are hideous and would never wear them yourself, then you shouldn't tell other people about them. However, if you have friends whose books you enjoy reading, or whose art you gladly hang on the wall - then tell others about them.

This accomplishes two things. First, it helps you feel better about promotions, because now you are not just pushing your own work, but also helping others. Second, you start creating a kind of network of creative individuals, where they can find out about each other and, in turn, start putting out word about each other's work. Everyone wins.

Member contributions

Scandinavian spin on battling the winter blues.

Discovered two helpful strategies to not go nuts while out of power in the biting cold.

1) While still at home today, working off the laptop and hotspot battery, was posting my Hootsuite promos for the next week. The animals and I were all collectively huddled around the woodburning stove at the time. As I scheduled each promo - the day from now, three days, five days, a week - I kept reminding myself that when these promos actually go out, I will remember this as just a fun wintry adventure, nothing more. The power will get fixed, we will get through this with plenty of blankets and our trusty woodburning stove.

2) Brought my ultra-mega power strip with six outlets to Ingles with me in order to charge EVERYTHING while I worked. Someone else came in - also without power and trying to stay warm, saw my set up, asked if he could plug in his phone and his Kindle to charge. Before you know it, I am an official Henderson County charging station, and people are walking away relieved - they now have their phones and their reading devices to last another day.

One of those things that are simple, awesome, and life-changing for many.

A little late, but if you still have your tree out there, some great ideas there.

We should all have a football team who loves and defends our choices. This group of boys is a class act!

When we can, we do.

For my husband's birthday, we went to have dinner and stay at the lovely Pine Crest Inn. It's a wonderful bed-and-breakfast in Tryon, NC, with the second best wine cellar in North Carolina and an amazing restaurant.

While we were at dinner, two older ladies took a table next to ours. They ordered steaks. My husband also ordered a steak, which was perfectly prepared and delicious. As soon as one of the ladies started cutting her steaks, she started complaining very loudly, "This is horrible! Completely overcooked. This is inedible." First of all, like I said the restaurant there is superb - I can understand how the chef may have messed up a little bit, but I am having trouble believing it was "inedible". Second, I think when these things happen, most of us would wait for the waiter, discreetly hail him and say, "Hey, I am not sure what happened, but this is not very good, could I get this replaced or order something else?" Most restaurants, and particularly a place like Pinecrest would be happy to oblige at no cost. And it's steak - it takes just minutes to make - so the substitution could have been done very quickly.

Then this woman proceeded to get up, go into the kitchen area, all the while yelling, "Hello! Hey! Man! Dude! Waiter!" When the waiter came out, she kept saying, "This is horrible. I can't eat this. My dinner has been ruined." She then demanded to see the manager and owner - with the same message, and finally demanded another double scotch (another - I wonder how many she had before dinner and whether it affected her behavior), and went to her room. Her friend looked embarrassed, but didn't say anything.

We called the waiter over, told him that we felt really bad for him and gave him an enormous tip - since he obviously didn't get any from the rude woman. We also went over to the owner and told him that it absolutely was not the waiter's fault, and that the woman's behavior was inexcusable. It was really great to be in position to set something right for someone.

Public service announcements

Never too early to do a little spring planting research - heirloom seed suppliers.

Some really great ideas when you are strapped for space, in which to grow stuff.

Soldiers spend a lot of time waiting and even more - feeling isolated and forgotten. Authors Supporting Our Troops is a grassroots project to supply the troops with new books.

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