"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.
Weekly small change challengesWeek 1 - exercise your mind.
My dad always said, "Mathematics is gymnastics for the brain. When you exercise, walk, or lift weights, you might not be training for the Olympics, but it's still a good idea, because it helps you stay healthy and strong. It's the same way with mathematics. You might not be going for the Nobel Prize, but it's still a helpful thing to do for your mind."
I am not asking you to start solving systems of differential equations for fun – that's my job. And I know some of you would rather fold fitted sheets than do anything mathematical. However, I do encourage you to find a series of things that help keep your brain in shape. Crosswords. Puzzles. Sudoku. Memorizing and reciting poetry. Playing adventure games with lots of riddles and hidden object scenes. Reading books that challenge you and make you think. Find SOMETHING.
There is a lot of research out there that suggests that exercising and challenging our minds in a variety of ways helps stave off aging and the onset of dementia. So, let's do ourselves a favor and start whipping our brains into shape.
Week 2 - Park that cart!
You are going to roll your eyes and say, "That's too easy!" Agreed. It's very easy. Which makes it all the more mysterious why more people don't do it. So, the next time you are at the grocery store, please do return the cart either into the parking lot stall or all the way to the store. If you see someone who had just gotten out of their car and is headed to the store, ask them, "Hey do you need a cart?" and let them have your cart. Easy-peasy!
Week 3 - clean it up.
I love the states that encourage people to recycle by charging a little extra per container and then reimbursing shoppers for each can and bottle at the grocery store recycling stations and machines.
When I lived in Rochester, NY, paid recycling had an entire culture around it. Like all large American cities, Rochester did have its homeless. But they knew they could always gather up a bag of bottles and cans by the side of the road, turn them in at the grocery store, and get enough money to buy a sandwich and a cup of hot coffee. College campuses and apartment complexes often let their minimum-wage groundskeepers and night concierges have their recycling to help boost their earnings. Parents could always send the kids out to clean a section of their street and a few yards and let them keep the recycling money for movies and ice cream. In a small way, that ever-present, ever-rewarded recycling habit impacted almost every area of life.
I understand not all of us live in states that offer this wonderful option. We can all start petitions to our state governments to implement this. We can all become ruthless to litterers throwing trash out of their cars and onto our streets and report them whenever possible. In the meantime, it’s still not a bad idea to gather up your kids and their friends and go on a cleaning walk around your neighborhood. Those of us living along smaller country roads are all familiar with the frustration of dealing with inconsiderate people using our roadsides as trash bins. But we do have a choice to work off that frustration by taking the initiative to clean up. So what if we weren’t the ones who made the mess? We are the ones who have to live there – we might as well clean it up.
Week 4 - Go primitive and rough it.
My husband and I live in the mountains of North Carolina, in a no man's land between the small towns of Hendersonville, Mountain Home, and Fletcher. There is no cable where we live (they literally haven't pulled it this far up the mountain yet), the satellite reception is sketchy, and frequent thunderstorms often knock out electricity. As we are on a well, no electricity means no operational well pump, ergo, no water. Excessive rainfall also causes flooding on the roads, which can make it impossible for us to get down the mountain. The same thing happens when there is a snowfall or an ice storm – the roads become impassable and one must simply wait and be patient.
While all this can be rather inconvenient, we do our best not to freak out when these things happen. Keeping ice, drinking water, plenty of canned goods and firewood for the woodburning stove on hand is routine. People in this area are seldom daunted by having to haul water from the nearest creek or using camping stoves to prepare meals when Mother Nature is feeling cranky.
Of course, this area, with its mountains and vast national parks, draws many tree huggers, hikers and campers, because half the time, living here is like being on a camping trip where you can bring along your house. And you know what? I recommend it.
You can rough it by going hiking or camping, or you can try it at home, if you want a safety net. Consider what you would do if you had to entertain yourself without any electronic devices. What sort of a meal can you prepare on a grill or on a camp stove? Can you bake potatoes on hot coals?
And what about your kids? Are they so plugged in that they would go nuts without their game consoles and cell phones? What would you give them to do?
It's amazing how much you find out about yourself and people around you when you have to go without modern conveniences. It's also an excellent tool to prepare for true emergencies.
Big Little Stories
- All hail the Doctor!
- We've done this a couple of times - it's an awesome feeling.
- Turning Things Around level - Expert.
- Because everyone deserves a holiday.
- It doesn't all suck.