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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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Big Little Change digest - September, 2015

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - Small change challenge reruns - what surrounds you?

I am ripping this off directly from Trinny and Susannah Take on America: what your clothes say about you. Because why try to improve on something that has already been said perfectly?

"Look around your home. Is it tired, cluttered, and just a little bit dirty? Take a day to go around your house to touch all of your possessions and choose to have them in your life. Then get rid of everything that is not chosen. Now you'll be living in a home where everything feels loved and in its place.

"The weight of clutter around you is doing more than taking up space in your house, it is weighing heavily on your peace of mind. ... Separate the things you truly love, the things you truly need, and all the things that you are holding onto through feelings of guilt or fear. If you can't find good homes for the latter, category, toss them. Put the things you need where you can easily find them, and display the things you love where they can be properly admired and shown off to others." – Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine

Week 2 - Small change challenge reruns - scale it down.

Some time ago, I heard someone say, "I have a wedding to go to in three weeks, and I just can't seem to lose enough weight – I am stuck." It was one of the most depressing things I've heard in a long time. First of all, why do you feel compelled to lose weight for someone's wedding? Did your friends invite you to the wedding on the condition that you will be thin? Why not get something fabulous that looks good on you NOW – and go, and have fun, and not give a damn about how much you weigh?

I have read bridezilla stories, when the bride did request all her bridesmaids and sometimes even her female guests to lose weight for the wedding "to look good in the pictures". If that is the case, it's time to end that particular relationship, because your friend is a selfish jerk. And once you have ended that so-called friendship, throw away the scale. There, I said it.

I am serious. The bathroom scale might not be the root of all evil, but it's close. It makes you its slave and messes with your head.

If your weight – be it low or high – is not keeping you from being healthy, then forget it. For me, this became a lot easier, when I stopped making my diet and exercise about the weight, and started making it about my health, happiness, and fitness. What a change in attitude that was! Only took thirty years, but hey, better late than never.

Love your body for the amazing thing it is – and love it the way it is now. Feed it, water it, take it out for massages, and dress it well. And the scale can eat its heart out.

Week 3 - Small change challenge reruns - know your buttons, hot and cold.

Isn't it amazing, how we can gracefully soldier through all manner of hardship, illness, breakup, and death, but sometimes a casually dropped comment by someone we don't even know very well can leave us feeling gutted? These days, with all the social media exposure, the latter can happen pretty much at any time. So, to save yourself some emotional energy, it helps to know what might set you off in the wrong direction.

There are, of course, the basics:

• Know how much abrasiveness you can take in people and what they say.

• Don't ask a question if you think you might not like the answer.

• If you choose to bring up a controversial topic, be prepared for some disagreements. Things like that happen. It's life.

In addition to knowing what stings you, it also helps to know what relaxes you and helps you feel better. Here is an example: like so many other people, I often go grocery shopping after work, which is always tough. There is an upscale consignment shop next to one of the grocery stores I go to. The store always has a beautiful window display, including gorgeous wedding gowns, pretty purses and hats, and vintage jewelry. I love beautiful things, and I know that looking at them always perks me up. So, when I pull out of the grocery store parking lot, I always make a point to drive by that consignment store and look at the window.

I also keep a wide selection of music in my car, and know exactly the effect each CD has on me. Opera Babes' Beyond Imagination is girl power. Garou's Gentleman Cabrioleur is sass. Elton John's Good Bye, Yellow Brick Road is a bit of rage and a bit of nostalgia. Knowing this allows me to either boost the mood I am in or change it, if necessary.

A positive trigger can truly be anything – a sight, a sound, a scent, even a touch, or a combination of some or all of the above. Identify your "good" buttons, and keep them handy.

Week 4 - Small change challenge reruns - don't wait to be asked.

This is a TOUGH one. I know many people who do this brilliantly. And I know many people who struggle with this. Heck, I would be struggling with this, had my parents not made it a habit for me since I was little. I continue cultivating it today, but treating my surroundings the way I treat hidden object games I love to play. It's that carefully nurtured ability to walk into a room and instantly see little messes (that often tend to grow into big messes if you don't watch out). By making a point of noticing things and taking care of them before they become disastrous or just profoundly annoying, I am doing the future me a huge favor. It is also a big hit with me when my husband takes care of something that is bothering me without my having to point it out and ask to fix it.

Even if you are not living with anyone else, this works for just your personal well-being. Small clean-ups and fixes, done regularly, eventually eliminate the need for the dreaded spring cleanings. There is a brilliant book by Peter Walsh called "It's all too much", in which he talks about this very thing – taking your house back from clutter in small, manageable portions. He really understands, how overwhelmed people get with this sort of things, and the book is a great positive boost.

Week 5 - Small change challenge reruns - paper or plastic? How about neither?

My husband and I didn't always bring our own bags, although he started making it a habit before I did, having bought some excellent knitted net bags like the ones he’d seen used in France (they call them ”filets”). The main challenge was to make sure that we remembered to bring them with us when going to the grocery store. Because we can both be epically absent-minded, the solution ended up being to accumulate enough bags to keep some both at the house and at the car. That way, even if we forgot to bring them into the store – it was just a quick run out to the car to grab a few before checking out. I also started carrying one of those "fold up REALLY tiny" bags in my purse – and got several, to keep in different purses, because I change them fairly frequently. We have now been paper-or-plastic free for ten years, with very few exceptions.

To combine a good habit with a good deed, make a $25 donation to the World Wildlife Fund, and they'll send you some excellent roomy bags (at least, that was their giveaway at this writing).

Big little stories

- Woven homes - a hope for many.

- A random act of kindness - we need more.

- Why we should fight tooth and nail to keep libraries open and thriving.

- Keep someone company.

Big little news

Having discovered in the course of my interactions with schools and colleges the extent of budget cuts to the arts, languages, and literatures programs, I am starting a capsule book donation program (because I am in-freaking-sane) to supply foreign language and literature departments with less-known works by foreign authors. The t-shirt campaign is an effort to somewhat offset book purchase and shipping costs. I will be adding more designs shortly. Presently, Down With the Language Barrier tees can be purchased here and here. Thank you in advance for participating!

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