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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, December 1, 2014

Big Little Change digest - December, 2014

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - learn how to tell people what you do and own it.

Considering how much quicker connections between people are made these days and how much more extensive their networks, it is truly puzzling, why doesn't everyone have their elevator speech prepared and memorized. In this world, where it is so much easier to find the right person to help out with the right thing at the right time, the ability to explain what you do and why it's important has to be essential.

Many of us who can explain our occupation in under two minutes have a tendency to undermine it. "Oh, I'm just an admin." "Oh, I'm just an editor." "Oh, I'm just a project manager." Stop it! Even if you are not passionately in love with your job (yes, I've been there, I know what it's like), as far as anyone else is concerned, what you do is fascinating, important, and crucial to... well... maybe not the survival of mankind but definitely the survival of the company you work for. You are tough, you are knowledgeable, you are confident, and you are ready to take on anything. If you are, indeed, not in love with your current job - those are the characteristics that will help you find another one.

If you are self-employed, the well-worded, to-the-point, competently delivered elevator speech is just as important, because your next client, next referral, or next reader might be just around the corner.

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Week 2 - know what you want and ask for it.

You might not always get a positive answer, but hey, you'll be no worse than you were before you asked. On the other hand, you never know who and when might come up with just the thing or the idea you've been looking for.

Consider all aspects of your life - home, family, work, income, health, responsibilities, etc. Think of the challenges you are facing in each of these areas. For each area, write down on a card, what needs to be done or has to change to alleviate the challenges.

And then start asking. Obviously, it's not as if you can just walk up to anyone and say, "Give me a million dollars to solve my financial problems". BUT you can share with your circle of friends or with a group you are a member of - here is my problem, here is how I want to solve it, any ideas what would make the solution possible? The brainstorming is bound to be all over the place and generate a lot of ridiculous ideas. But there are bound to be some good ones that you haven't thought about because you have been looking at the problem for too long.

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Week 3 - let go of something you used to love.

It might be your wedding dress. A CD given to you by your ex. An outfit you wore when you christened your children. It might be something that still evokes positive memories, or something that used to mean something positive but no longer does. You don't love the object itself anymore - you are only holding on to it out of guilt, or duty, or for sentimental reasons.

In fact, consider everything in your home - do you truly love all you have or are these things just debris of years past, the "has beens", the things that are only there because of their past claims to fame in your life? Let it go. The memories won't go anywhere. If you want to have some sort of a reminder, take pictures of them and make a "my past" scrapbook. Only surround yourself with things you well and truly love, things that reflect the best of you and the best of your life.

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Week 4 - replace one thing on your grocery list.

It's tough keeping yourself and your family eating well and healthfully. First of all, so-so eating habits are tough to change, and second, with demand still low, organic and gluten-free products still cost significantly more than the regular stuff.

So, to soften the blow, start with just one thing. Next month, replace just one thing with a better, healthier, or more environmentally-friendly option. For example, replace General Mills' Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal with one from Cascadian Farms or Kashi. Replace regular rice with brown rice. Replace regular pasta with a gluten-free one. Replace soda with a sparkling-water-and-fruit-juice combo. After a month, replace another regular item. Then next month - another one. In a year, you will have replaced 12 things on your shopping list with something that's better for you and yours.

Member contributions

Thanksgiving might be over - but many people cook a turkey for Christmas as well. In case you can't remember cook times and are suffering a whole bird...a bit of help. And no, I did not write this, but I only cook a turkey once a year...and thought you all might be in the same (and if you're living in leftovers--I have recipes that will take out ALL of the LEFTOVERS (even the lima beans) over several meals--that aren't soup.)

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Madison, Wisconsin takes a new, fantastic, and positive approach to helping the homeless.

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Just had this thought while talking about voter challenges.

If you have a kid in high school or in college - that would be an interesting project for him or her. Especially, if the school is in or near a poor neighborhood. Organize a voter literacy program. Many colleges (especially community colleges) now have a community service requirement as part of the standard curriculum. I am sure something like that would absolutely count toward that requirement.

Some years ago, I had a chance to work for a college located in the inner city Charlotte, NC - one of the toughest, poorest, grittiest areas of the city. The kids at the college helped out with several programs - like tutoring school children from the neighborhood (since schools there were pretty awful - and not because of the teachers. Think movie "Dangerous Minds" but first-graders.), grocery collections for the poorest households, summer camps, as well as resume and job search assistance for the grownups, free writing tutorials, etc.

A high school or a community college - someplace with classrooms and a library - is a good place to set something like this up. If you are a grownup of some means, and have the ability to do so, or have a community that can get behind this - consider doing this as well. I am spread a little thin right now, however, if you do go for it - let me know, and I'll be happy to help you promote the effort and spread the word.

Public Service Announcements

'Tis the season when not everyone gets to celebrate the season. Here is one of the ways you can help.

DeviantArt is once again running its holiday card project for people stuck in hospitals over the holidays.

Red Cross is also running a Holiday Cards for Heroes project.

Friends! If you do a lot of your holiday (and other) shopping on line - go through eBates and see if you can get a discount. I've saved a lot of money with them overtime.

Off-the-beaten-path holiday shopping

- Kim Caudell's etsy store

- Uncommon Goods

- Viva Terra

- Bittersweet Herb Farm

- Old World Specialties

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