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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.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Big Little Change digest - August, 2014

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - pay someone's tab.

Some time ago my husband was buying coffee at a truck stop. There was a policeman in line ahead of him, and when the man ordered his cuppa Joe, my husband stepped forward and paid for it.

It doesn’t have to be anything big, but doing such things is great fun because there is pretty much no doubt you’ve just made someone’s day.

Watching someone in line ahead of you is a small precaution if money is tight. That way, you know what that person is having and whether or not you can afford a little bit of feel-good generosity.

Who knows? If you are prudent with your budget and keep your mind out of the broke mindset, you might be able to take on someone’s entire dinner at a nice restaurant.

Week 2 - read to learn.

Identify an area where you know you need improvement or a skill you want to learn. Find a book about it – and don’t be lazy about it, do your research and make sure it’s really the right one for you and what you want to learn. Make a point to read one page or one chapter every day. Some of the best books out there are conveniently divided into small sections, perfect for perusing during lunch or sneaking in just before bed.

Week 3 - have an anthem.

It doesn't necessarily have to be your favorite song. But maybe something that brings your life into focus. Something you put on during hard times, when you struggle to achieve what you need to achieve.

I personally found the idea silly, until I stumbled onto the anthem of my own one day, and, somehow, it stuck. I kept returning to it for all sorts of reasons - when I worked on my fitness goals, when I tried to define my purpose in life, when I struggled to explain to people why I work on the things I work on. Somehow, one song, helped me bring it all into focus, and now, when I find my attention diffusing, I play it, and it pulls me back together.

This is my anthem. What is yours?

Week 4 - don't hate the meat eater.

Or a veggie eater. Generally, don't hate a consumer of specific goods, just because the goods that person chooses to consume are different from your own choices. This train of thought came out from seeing many posts on the internet - from vegan and vegetarian sites - showing the terrible conditions, in which farm animals are kept. I agree - some of those are truly awful, and this should not happen. However, why focus on one bad aspect of one industry, for no reason other than to stick it to people who eat something different than you do?

The truth is - there are many processes that are great. All sorts of processes that are part of manufacturing of all sorts of goods. Some smart people got together, looked at them objectively , figured out the good, the bad, and the ugly and cleaned them up. And then there are processes that suck. Processes that haven't changed in decades. And those processes are behind many products - for people who eat meat and for people who don't eat meat.

Take cotton, for example, "the fabric of our lives" - you would think, what could be less harmless than that? Right? Well, if your cotton goods come from anywhere in Central Asia or the Middle East, it is possible that the cotton for them was picked by children during some of the hottest portion of the year.

Or wool. Yes, many merino sheep growers have modernized their processes and are now treating their animals in a humane and careful way. But in some cases, the deal remains the same as it was 70 years ago, as described in "Thorn Birds". Sheep are still dipped in toxic baths to rid them of external parasites, they still get a giant syringe full of meds rammed down their throats to rid them of internal pests, and they still occasionally get gouged by shears when the fleece is being collected. That's where your favorite sweater may have come from.

A few years ago, the state of Georgia decided to crack down on farmers using undocumented immigrant workers. So, the state demanded that the farmers fire all their foreign workers and hire American ones instead. It was a disaster. The crops went unpicked and a lot was lost. In an interview, one of the farmers said he found his American workers sitting in the shade 2-3 hours every day, instead of working, saying the work was "too hard". It IS hard. So hard, in fact, that apparently, an American worker, after being unemployed for months, will quit that job after a few days. But immigrant workers soldier through it. So, your last salad may have been picked by the hands of someone working in 100-degree heat, with no safety regulation to protect him, no benefits, no health insurance, and no limits on how many hours a day and days a week he has to work.

Instead of telling terrible things and posting terrible pictures to make one group of consumers feel bad because you disagree with their choice of food, why not look at the whole thing globally? Where is our stuff coming from? How is it produced? How are the materials delivered? What can we do, as consumers, to favor those suppliers who use better methods?

Member contributions

Recycle and feed the dogs - all in one.


t's something we've all been talking about. The final message is were stress eating/drinking, cooking/preserving if we can (evidenced by the chocolate baked goods and berry jam at my house--never mind the shelf of Leinies). The ultimate message here. Take care of your neighbor. Who is that, you may ask? The person next door, down the street, or halfway around the world. Take care of each other, because sure as hell those in power won't do anything but take care of themselves.


Anne Lamott

Many mornings I check out the news as soon as I wake up, because if it turns out that the world is coming to an end that day, I am going to eat the frosting off an entire carrot cake; just for a start. Then I will move onto vats of clam dip, pots of crime brûlée, nachos, M & M's etc. Then I will max out both my credit cards.

I used to think that if the world--or I--were coming to an end, I'd start smoking again, and maybe have a cool refreshing pitcher of lime Rickeys. But that's going too far, because if the world or I was saved at the last minute, I'd be back in the old familiar nightmare. In 1986, grace swooped down like a mighty mud hen, and fished me out of that canal. I got the big prize. I can't risk losing it.

But creme brûlée, nachos, maybe the random Buche Noel? Now you're talking.

The last two weeks have been about as grim and hopeless as any of us can remember, and yet, I have not gotten out the lobster bib and fork. The drunken Russian separatists in Ukraine with their refrigerated train cars? I mean, come on. Vonnegut could not have thought this up. Dead children children on beaches, and markets, at play, in the holy land?? Stop.

The two hour execution in festive Arizona? Dear God.

And let's not bog down on the stuff that was already true, before Ukraine, Gaza, Arizona, like the heartbreaking scenes of young refugees at our border, the locals with their pitchforks. The people in ruins in our own families. Or the tiny problem that we have essentially destroyed the earth--I know, pick pick pick.

Hasn't your mind just been blown lately, even if you try not to watch the news? Does it surprise you that a pretty girl's mind turns to thoughts of entire carrot cakes, and credit cards?

My friend said recently, "It's all just too Lifey. No wonder we all love TV." Her 16 year old kid has a brain tumor. "Hey, that's just great, God. Thanks a lot. This really works for me."

My brother's brand new wife has tumors of the everything. "Fabulous, God. Loving your will, Dude."

My dog Lily's ear drum burst recently, for no apparent reason, with blood splatter on the walls on the entire house--on my sleeping grandson's pillow. Do you think I am well enough for that? Let me go ahead and answer. I'm not. It was CSI around here; me with my bad nerves. And it burst again last night.


Did someone here get the latest updated owner's manual? Were they handed out two weeks ago when I was getting root canal, and was kind of self-obsessed and out of it? The day before my dog's ear drum first burst? If so, is there is an index, and if so, could you look up Totally Fucking Overwhelm?

I have long since weeded out people who might respond to my condition by saying cheerfully, "God's got a perfect plan." Really? Thank you! How fun.

There is no one left in my circle who would dare say, brightly, "Let Go and Let God," because they know I would come after them with a fork.

It's not that I don't trust God or grace or good orderly direction anymore. I do, more than ever. I trust in divine intelligence, in love energy, more than ever, no matter what things look like, or how long they take. It's just that right now cute little platitudes are not helpful.

I'm not depressed. I'm overwhelmed by It All. I don't think I'm a drag. I kind of know what to do. I know that if I want to have loving feelings, I need to do loving things. It begins by putting your own oxygen mask on first: I try to keep the patient comfortable. I do the next right thing: left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. I think Jesus had a handle on times like these: get thirsty people water. Feed the hungry. Try not to kill anyone today. Pick up some litter in your neighborhood. Lie with your old dog under the bed and tell her what a good job she is doing with the ruptured ear drum.

I try to quiet the drunken Russian separatists of my own mind, with their good ideas. I pray. I meditate. I rest, as a spiritual act. I spring for organic cherries. I return phone calls.

I remember the poor. I remember an image of Koko the sign-language gorilla, with the caption, "Law of the American Jungle: remain calm. Share your bananas." I remember Hushpuppy at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild, just trying to take some food home to her daddy Wink, finally turning to face the hideous beast on the bridge, facing it down and saying, "I take care care of my own."

I take care of my own. You are my own, and I am yours--I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other's. Thee are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.


This is cool... I especially like the bit where he hands the hat to the bloke and then takes a new one out of the bag, suggesting that they would be doing the same thing again somewhere else...


When our old mailbox fell over and we installed a new one, I insisted on picking up one of the larger ones, even though it required a bit more finagling with installation. I use USPS Click-n-Ship all the time, and this would make it easier for me to ship slightly larger packages. Also, our mailwoman wouldn't need to drive up our precipitous driveway in her decrepit truck when delivering packages to us.

Gerry recently ordered a lot of stuff, and today it ALL came in. Strapped to the stack of packages was a note from our mailwoman, "Love the new mailbox." And a smiley face.

Public Service Announcements

10 Foods to help fight inflammation.


The latest developments in sustainable fabrics.



Heifer has added more options to the catalog! Consider popping in and checking out what's new. If you can't afford an entire gift, you can always buy a share. The least expensive ones - flocks of chickens and geese - are $20.

Considering how many moms-to-be in second and third-world countries would have easier pregnancies and healthier babies if they had access to fresh meat and eggs on a regular basis, and how many kids could avoid calcium and protein deficiency if they had a glass of milk and some chicken soup - all these make a huge difference. There are also options to donate trees and bee hives - also fantastic


Recycling an old unused building.


We desperately need more of these.


A huge victory for volunteer roadside libraries!


Ass-kicking use of solar in Australia.

Recommended reading

Lighten Up by Peter Walsh

Everyone Communicates - Few Connect by John Maxwell

Work It! by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo

Mini-Farming by Brett Markham

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