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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.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Big Little Change digest - April, 2015

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - find something that needs fixing and fix it.

You know the drill. The light bulb in the hallway that's been out for ages. The dowel between two chair legs that's been loose since forever and needs to be glued into place. The missing buttons. The falling down pant or skirt hems. Those things.

They might not seem like much, but remember - our brain, particularly our subconscious sees and processes things differently. And so, those little things accumulate, in the back of our minds, as signs of shabbiness, poverty, even squalor. Plus, they are constant irritants. I mean - how many times have you stubbed your toe in the dark because that light bulb is out? Or had to scramble for an outfit change when you realize that particular pair of pants had a seam coming apart?

Set aside some time - maybe just 30 minutes a week - and go looking for things to fix around your house. And fix them. If you don't have materials to fix them right then, make a list of what you need to get, get it, and fix it next week. Slowly but surely, there will be fewer stubbed toes, rickety chairs, and clothes held together with safety pins - translating into less stress and a better environment for you and yours.

Week 2 - teach a child.

My dad taught me about the solar system using Christmas ornaments and twirling them around one another. My maternal grandfather taught me to read from street signs and store marquees. Those of you who have children of your own do this all the time. But many of us forget.

The state of education in the industrialized world is, shall we say, inconsistent. So, consider what you can do personally to rectify the situation. It doesn't have to be anything big - although if you feel an ambition to start a remedial education program, by all means, go for it, and let me know because I want to contribute. But small contributions to the education of children are great too.

Some of the conferences and training seminars I've attended in the past often included parents who brought their kids with them. During breaks, I made origami frogs and airplanes, which invariably brought over some curious tyke who wanted to know what I was doing and how it worked. A conversation would develop. About frogs. Ponds. What frogs ate. What other things lived in ponds. Around ponds. Or about airplanes. And what made them fly. Why they didn't fall down. And all it took was a piece of paper folded a certain way. smile emoticon

Week 3 - do a 360 review.

While many people scoff at all things corporate, there are certain exercises and techniques originally developed in the corporate environment that are pretty good and can be used well in our every day lives.

One such exercise is the 360 review. In a workplace, these are done when performance reviews are coming up. Each person contacts his or her team mates and clients and asks three questions. "What should I stop doing? What should I start doing? What should I continue doing?" The answers can be very consistent or might vary greatly, but whatever they are - they are always surprising and insightful. They are later used to set up goals and, sometimes, modify behaviors.

Consider approaching your friends and family with the same questions. Yes, it is bound to be scary. And no, there is no guarantee some of the answers won't be startling or even unsettling. However, you are bound to end up with some very useful information that will help strengthen your friendships and improve your family life. If you are doing this with your family, to keep it fair, have everyone else participate in this exercise as well. See what you can come up with.

Week 4 - stop using "just" before your occupation.

Very often, when you ask people what they do for a living, they put the word "just" before their answer. "I'm just a teacher." "I'm just an admin". "Oh, I'm just a nurse". That one little word minimizes what you do in your own mind and in the minds of others. It makes it sound as if what you do doesn't matter and is not really worth doing, but that's what you are stuck with. Stop it. Never, ever, ever put the word "just" before what you do. Instead, not only answer proudly, "I am a writer." "I am an admin." "I am an engineer" "I am a nurse" but also sit down and write every way, in which your job makes other people's lives easier.

If you are an admin - you are taking off other people's shoulders the burden of paperwork and numerous calls, you are the one who knows where everything is - from paperclips and lightbulbs to computer screens and keyboards. If you weren't there, havoc would ensue, and other people's lives would be that much more stressful.

If you are a writer - your books feed people's minds and expand their imaginations. They take readers to other places and times. You are practically a TARDIS dealer - and you don't even need a time lord to do it. And so on. You get the idea. There is a reason you are where you are. You are needed. You are important. What you do is valuable and helpful. Never forget that.

Week 5 - buy something nice and donate it.

This is actually a derivative from a wonderful story by one of the Big Little Change members Gev Sweeney. At Christmas time a couple of years ago, she bought an enormous stuffed animal, marched by the line of parents buying gazillion toys for their kids, and donated the stuffed penguin to the Marines collecting toys and donations for the annual Toys for Tots effort.

We should do this sort of thing more often - not just during the holidays. When you have the means, the next time you are shopping, buy something brand new, then drive to whatever is your preferred donation organization and give it away. It's like giving a present to a friend you haven't met yet. It's awesome.

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Member contributions

My sister-in-law had to drop me early at 6:30am before she went to work. It was a 2 hour drive from delaware. My flight was at 11:30am. No problem. Then they cancelled my flight so while in line waiting to get on another flight I met bill. He was so nice and we talked for the hour and a half it took to change our flights. He told me about his family and how his daughter had just gotten married in Vegas and they had a wonderful time and then he went on to tell me how he had PTSD from watching a coworker being crushed in a machine at work. In this back and forth conversation I explained how my daughter and son both had PTSD and why. It was such a compassionate talk. Then I met another young women with Parkinson's disease she told me she had her PHD in eastern religion and we proceeded to discuss my buddhist practice. She said I had really inspired her when we talked about my children. Then I met another very nice young women when I was out smoking. I was complaining about being in the airport for 12 hours. She had just come from Asia and had spent Sunday (16hours) trying to get a flight to the U.S. It made me appreciate only waiting 12 hours. But my favorite person I met was Stephany. She has CP and is 35 or 37 years old and we had the best conversation about how it was when she was growing up. We talked about Alli and she gave me a completely new perspective on my beautiful girl. All in all it was a long but amazing day. When your stuck at the airport try to connect with people they are wonderful and can really put your life in to perspective. I'm very blessed.

I was the recipient of a random act of kindness yesterday. I used to work in a different building. I was in the same building as the electronics lab and so got to be friends with all of the guys down there. I rarely see them now that I'm in another building. We had freezing rain yesterday and they was a light coating of ice on my car windows. One of the lab techs saw me out there starting to scrape the ice off and came over to help me. Although I have the proper tools and am fully capable of doing that, Dave just jumped in and scraped my back window. I thanked him and gave him a hug. It was appreciated.

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Public service announcements

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LA uses city land to offer free veggie gardening.

A 10-year old enterpreneur starts a line of soft drinks that uses honey instead of corn syrup.

Businesses set out to fight the anti-LGBT legislation.

School basketball team stands up to a bully to defend a cheerleader with Down syndrome

Environmental innovations:

- Smog-fighting building

- Solar chargers

- Solar panels

Neighbors buy vacant buildings to support local businesses.

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