About Me

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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, October 7, 2014

Big Little Change digest - October, 2014

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - stop slouching.

Sorry, I'm going to be your mother for a minute. Or grandmother. Or aunt. Whoever it was that told you to stop slouching.

First of all, it's bad for you physically. Slouching jeopardizes your lung capacity and limits the supply of oxygen to your body, including your brain. It also weakens your torso and shoulder muscles, putting too much burden on your spine, thus distorting it and leading to back pain.

Second, it forces you to look down, limiting your field of vision to mud, dust, asphalt, cracks in the sidewalk, and dog poop. If you go through the world seeing mostly those things, you might eventually come to believe it consists of nothing else.

Third, slouching communicates all the wrong things - to the world and to yourself. Slouching says "I don't care" or "I don't really want to be out here so I am going to try and hide inside myself" or "I am not at all proud of myself, I am ugly and should be kept in a broom closet under the stairs." Not good.

Lift your chin up, roll your shoulders back, and walk through the world like you own it.

Week 2 - prioritize your people.

You know that thing they say during the safety demonstration on an airplane - the one about putting on your own oxygen mask first and then assisting others? Too often people forget just how much this concept applies to the rest of our lives.

Many of us have someone we take care of - a spouse, a parent, a child (or multiple children), our pets, our coworkers, and so on and so forth. It's a long list. More often than not, somewhere in the middle of it all, we forget to put on our own oxygen mask, so to speak. We forget that in order to keep up this pace, it's kind of important we don't run ourselves into the ground by constantly attending to the needs of others instead of our own. The worst self-offenders are those, for whom the pace built up gradually - by taking on a little more, and a little more, "oh, no problem, sure I can do this", "it's not that bad, honestly", and so on.

Step back. Look at EVERYTHING you are doing. And I do mean everything. Split it into categories - what you absolutely must be doing and for whom, or else, in the words of Phantom of the Opera, "the disaster beyond your imagination will occur"; what you can stop doing without any serious consequences (I am sorry to say - but your kid whining "why can't I watch TV" is not a serious consequence, nor is "but that's our shoe shopping night!", or "do you expect me to reschedule my golf?"); what can you delegate.

Make yourself number one priority - not because you are mean or selfish, but because if you keel over from piling up too much on your shoulders, there will be no one left in your place, and everyone who depends on you will suffer. The next on the priority list should be people who are most helpless without you and well and truly cannot do what you do for them. And so on.

On with your oxygen mask - and off you go!

Week 3 - decide what you want to be known as.

While watching a documentary about the creation of the show "Fraggle Rock", I discovered Jim Henson was known as "The Great Appreciator". Even when someone was messing up, he somehow found something nice to say - and the best part about it was, it was always sincere and genuine. That's a great thing to be known as, isn't it?

Give some thought to what you would like to be known as. A Great Motivator? A Great Collaborator? A Great Facilitator? A Great Innovator? The possibilities are endless.

Week 4 - find wisdom in unexpected places.

There is a reason there's an entire book called "Tao of Pooh". ... Or that Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the places you'll go" is one of the top books on the reading list of many smart, successful people. Compassion, wisdom, inspiration, and answers to some of life's hardest question need not come from something written by a PhD. Sometimes, it might come from a child, a cartoon, or a book you last read when you were in kindergarten.

I leveraged one such source only recently, when desperately searching for a way to console a friend, whose life has been nothing short of hellish in the last two years. At a loss for words, I went to one of my own personal favorites - Jim Henson's "Fraggle Rock" - and posted a link to "The Friendship Song" on my friend's Facebook wall. It said everything I wanted to say and more - and so much better than I ever could. Most of all, it spoke love. Which was exactly what was needed.

Member contributions

A big little change I've made recently is to be consciously grateful whenever one of my sons interrupts me when I'm working. It's almost always because they want to share an important part of their day with me or gain comfort of some sort.

And having a little boy come running into my room to give me a picture he's drawn or get a kiss and a hug is a bajillion times better than the interruptions I used to have to deal with in the corporate world: "Emergency meeting in the board room - looks like another round of layoffs has happened."


So, SO grateful to be here and not there...

Talk about attracting the right ideas when you have the right mind set. This morning, my husband was reading a Target Training International training manual and stumble over this quote that directly relates to the power of small changes, "People stumble over pebbles - you've never heard of anyone stumbling over a mountain."


Vancouver does its best to take care of its homeless. It's sad that this is necessary, but at least it's something. Having some sort of roof makes a huge difference.


What you can do with a tiny plot of land if you garden smart.


An on-going Big Little Change initiative - help one of the members to get a better home.


More efforts to help the less fortunate.


A great "make a difference" story from NBC.

Public service announcements

A highly comprehensive and educational piece on bees.

New steps taken to prevent deforestation.

San Francisco kicks out plastic bottles.

Find your local garden swap.

Positive trends (they do exist) over the last 5 years.

California bans plastic bags.

Recommended reading

- What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter

- Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Doctor Seuss

- Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

- Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

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