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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.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Big Little Change digest - January, 2015

Happy new year to all! I hope everyone had a magical holiday season and is geared up to an amazing year filled with positive changes for all.

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - find a place in your home to grow something edible.

Yes, I know many out there have animals and children in the house, and not enough space. Be creative. Hang a pots-and-pans rack off the ceiling and hang small planters off it. Screw hooks into the ceiling and walls and use hanging planters people often put on their porches. Figure out something.

Once you have the "where", pick things that are hard to kill for the "what": rosemary, dill, mint, oregano, lettuce, basil, chives, microgreens, etc. If you have children - that's an excellent way to teach them responsibility. Especially if they've been asking for a puppy or a kitten. You can tell them - they have to keep the plants alive, and then maybe we'll see about that puppy.

The great thing about all this is, first of all, having living things at home (especially if you live in the city) has been proven highly therapeutic. Second, it's always fantastic having fresh greens and herbs close on hand. Even if you have to use the "hanging gardens" approach.

Week 2 - learn a manual skill...

... or a couple. Look, of course we all hope the world will not hit the fan to a point, where we are completely stripped of all modern conveniences. However, it's always nice to have a couple of survival cards up your sleeve just in case.

So, as you survey all you can do, evaluate your skills from the standpoint of survival and sustainability. What would be helpful if you had to rough it for a while? Can you chop wood? Do you know how to make a fire without matches? Have you ever cooked on a camp stove or on a woodburning stove? Do you know how to grow things? How to preserve foods? How are your first aid skills? Can you make clothing or at least mend it reasonably well? Have you ever done laundry sans the washer and dryer?

Most these things are fairly easy to learn, are practical, useful, and give you a great sense of accomplishment - you realize you are not as "soft" as most of the TV-watching, car-driving, fast food-eating first world humanity has become.

Week 3 - remember you are someone's ideal.

I don't mean "ideal" in a sense that someone wants to write an ode in your name or make a sculpture of you (although, what the heck - you never know!). I mean that some aspect of your life today, where you are at this very moment, is where someone else is trying to get. It could be anything - income, job, fitness, fashion sense, your talent for gardening or for making things, your parenting ability, your organization skills.

This occurred to me when I was jogging at the park and realized some people bigger and slower than I was were looking me with the same mix of admiration and envy, with which I looked at slimmer more athletic men and women passing me on a second lap in a row. I am not the most athletic person by any stretch - I know I still have a long way to go. And yet, apparently, where I am NOW is someone's goal - possibly even a BIG long-term goal.

When you struggle, remind yourself of that. You HAVE achieved something. You HAVE completed things. You HAVE gotten to some point that is still far in the distance for other people. You are someone's inspiration. You are someone's ideal.

Week 4 - celebrate your wholiness.

I dislike the expression "my other half". Almost as much as I dislike it when someone successful gets on stage at a training or celebratory event, points at his or her spouse, and says something like, "And this is the brains of the operation - I definitely married up."

First of all, we none of us are halves. We are all whole people. Just because something is missing in our lives by way of a relationship, does not make us half-a-person. And if we are in a relationship - then we have two whole persons together, trying to make it work. And that ought to be celebrated.

Second, by saying that your spouse or significant other is the "brains of the operation" - even as a joke - not only are you implying you are stupid, but you are also insulting your spouse. Because what you are essentially saying is your spouse is so bad at picking partners, that he or she married a total idiot without even looking. That has to stop. There are things you love your spouse for, and there are things your spouse loves you for. You both contribute something equally important to the relationship. It's not the competition, it's not the idiotic stereotype of "I am the smart one - she is the pretty one" or some such.

You are whole, the love of your life is whole, your friends are whole - off with all of you to get together, sort out your differences, revel in your shared passions and celebrate your wholiness!

Member contributions

Sometimes, the small thing comes from a big company. In terms of the company's dollars, this is a tiny gesture. In terms of the smile on the little boy's face - that's not so small, at all.

I did something today I haven't done for many years. I gave a stranger a lift. I was making an appointment to see a dentist and while I was waiting, a young woman asked for a phone book so she could call a taxi. I was there maybe 20 minutes and this woman was still there waiting for her cab. As I was leaving I turned to her and said her taxi was really taking his time. She was concerned she was going to miss her bus. Not just a local bus but Greyhound. I knew the bus station is in town, maybe 5 miles from where we were so I offered her a ride. We had a lovely conversation. Turned out she is a recent dental school graduate and was interviewing there. They were running behind so her interviewed ended late. She had ½ hr to catch the bus at 2:30 or she would have to wait until 10pm. She offered to pay for gas but I didn't want that. I told her to do a favor for a stranger. Pay it forward.

I was at the grocery store today and the bagger accidentally dropped my jar of spaghetti sauce which broke the seal. He looked at me like I was going to blast him. I just said, guess I'm having spaghetti for dinner! Remember, especially this time of year with people a little on edge, that plans can change, things aren't set in stone and go with the flow. Also, remember the people you come in contact with are just as stressed as you are. Take an extra second to look at their name tag, smile and say Have a good day, Jane or Merry Christmas, Tom. You have no idea how good you can make them feel.

Public service announcements

What you need to know about Locks of Love

Next year - rent your Christmas tree.

Give a year of school

Recommended reading

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

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