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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.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Big Little Change digest - February, 2017

Weekly Small Change Challenges

Week 1 - Dress up for no reason.

People ask me this all the time, "You work from home, you hardly ever go anywhere - WHY do you bother getting out of your pajamas?" Because. That's it. That's the answer. It just does it for me. Some days I wear something nicely casual. And some days I might go up a notch and dress as if I have a special event coming up later - like a visit to the theater or a cocktail party. I might go to the grocery store like that or for a walk through downtown. And feel good.

Try it. One day - for no reason at all - pull out something you normally save for a big presentation or a party or some such, put it on and wear it. Listen to yourself when you do this and notice the difference in how you feel and carry yourself.

Week 2 - Declare war on somewhat bad habits.

Some bad habits are obvious - smoking, doing drugs, drinking too much alcohol, driving around without your seat belt on. Some, however, are not so straightforward. In some cases, they are rather nice, in fact. Just... little indulgences, pick-me-ups and such.

The Starbucks addiction. An occasional high-end cup of coffee - I can dig that. "Occasional" being the key word here. But every day - twice, sometimes three times a day? Even if all you get is one basic coffee first thing in the morning, every morning - say a tall Caffe Americano for $2.49. That's over $900 a year. You can buy a top-of-the-line coffee maker AND take a nice weekend vacation. And for most people it's not just one cup and it's far from basic. There are now coffee makers that can be programmed in the evening and have your coffee ready for you in the morning. Get one and set that money aside for something fun - like enrolling in a foreign language course, going somewhere you've always wanted to go, or paying off your debt (yes, it IS fun - when you see that zero balance on your credit card statement).

Daily TV watching is another time waster and health underminer. Someone said to me recently "sitting is the new smoking". True. People sit for their jobs, sit in the car on the way to and from work, and then come home and sit there in front of the TV. Stop it. You don't need to waste 730 - 2190 hours a year doing that. (That's 30 - 91 days, by the way, or 1-3 months per year an average American watches the damn box.) You can get all the world news in 10-15 minutes from BBC web site, your shows - from Netflix, and your games - over the internet. The rest is celebrity gossip, political wrangling, and other stuff you don't need to waste your time on.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to seek and destroy these sneaky habits and, as the comic artist Oatmeal would say, defeat your Blerch.

Week 3 - Remember what you are doing right.

When something is not working - be it the latest sewing or home improvement project or trying to increase your income - the question most of us tend to ask (usually with great bitterness and frustration) is, "What am I doing wrong?" It's not necessarily a bad question, but more often than not, people forget to follow it up with, "What am I doing right?"

Look, you somehow made it to this point in life, the one you are in right now. Considering the risks and horrors the panic segment on our news informs us about every day, so many of us still being around alive and relatively well could be considered a legitimate miracle. Which means - you have done something right. Find out what it is and hold on to it.

Yes, radical changes are sometimes necessary in order to turn around anything - your marriage, your business, your kids' academic performance, your self-esteem, and your life in general. But don't throw out the baby with the bath water - don't assume that just because you are not a spectacular success EVERYTHING you are doing must be wrong. Get rid of the crap, but make a point of identifying and keeping the good stuff. We've all got some. Promise.

Week 4 - Find wisdom in unexpected places.

There is a reason there's an entire book called Tao of Pooh. ... Or that Dr. Seuss' Oh, the places you'll go is one of the top books on the reading list of many smart, successful people. Compassion, wisdom, inspiration, and answers to some of life's hardest question need not come from something written by a PhD. Sometimes, it might come from a child, a cartoon, or a book you last read when you were in kindergarten.

I leveraged one such source only recently, when desperately searching for a way to console a friend, whose life has been nothing short of hellish in the last two years. At a loss for words, I went to one of my own personal favorites - Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock - and posted a link to The Friendship Song on my friend's Facebook wall. It said everything I wanted to say and more - and so much better than I ever could. Most of all, it spoke love, which was exactly what was needed.

Week 5 - Read to improve your life.

Many self-help books have a bad reputation, because, it's true, a lot of them are crap. However, that is not a good reason to discard them altogether. They are not all the same and many can well and truly change your life in a positive way.

Pretty much everyone in the “Big Little Change” group on Facebook is an avid reader - with more than one book going on at the same time. Make a point to identify the area of your life you would like to improve and add a book on that subject to your current reading material. Here are some ideas:

• Self-esteem, discipline, goal-setting, follow-through, life changes – "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield, "The Difference Maker" by John Maxwell, "What to Say When you Talk To Yourself" by Shad Helmstetter

• Turning dreams into plans - "Put Your Dream to the Test" by John Maxwell, "The Charge" by Brendon Burchard

• Style, clothes that fit, dressing appropriately for various occasions - "What Not to Wear" books by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine (for women); "Off the Cuff" by Carson Kressley and "Dressing in the Dark" by Marion Maneker (for men); "Dress Your Best" by Stacey London and Clinton Kelly (for both men and women)

• How to decorate and entertain (including on a budget) – "Freaking Fabulous" books by Clinton Kelly and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" by the Fab Five

• Making a house a home, making the most of small spaces - "Style" by Thom Filicia and "The Not So Big House" books by Sarah Susanka

• Life in general - biography of any person you admire and whose achievements inspire you.

Big Little Stories

Start your year off on the right foot. Recycle.

You GO girl!

An amazing story of love and caring.

Since our meteorologists CLEARLY don't know math or thermodynamics, instead of the predicted 3 - 6 inches of snow we got 7.5, plus snow drifts (wind - happens in the mountains). Gerry popped down this morning and cleared the snow off our cars and around the side of his car to make it possible to get to them.

5 minutes ago, he called me over to look down from the balcony (we both parked at the bottom of the driveway). He pointed and said, "I didn't do this. I have no idea who did this." Somebody cleared all of the snow around both our cars and created a clear area for both of us to back out onto the road comfortably. Whoever you are, mysterious stranger, we love you. Thank you!

The next time someone tells you there's something you can't do because you don't look right, don't think right, don't talk right? Kick them in the nuts and do what you love!

This is from today's issue of my employer's newsletter


Sew Far, Sew Good

Longtine Blue Ridge volunteer Ginnie Wearn uses her hands - and heart - to make a difference for patients in Spruce Pine.

Cut, sew, wash, stuff, and sew. Repeat.

Ginnie Wearn has perfected that process over the past nine years she has volunteered at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine. "I make pillows for patients that are undergoing chemotherapy treatments," said Wearn. "The pillows help support their necks and arms, making their time at the hospital just a little more comfortable."

Wearn, originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and now a resident of Spruce Pine, began volunteering after she felt compelled to do something useful with her time. "I love helping others," said Wearn. "Not to mention it keeps me busy, I am not the type to sit around and stare at a TV all day long."

In total, Wearn estimates she has made over 5,000 pillows for patients at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital. "I am constantly at my sewing machine wondering how many more pillows I can make," joked Wearn. "I especially enjoy making pillows themed for Halloween and Christmas."


A chemotherapy infusion can last from 30 minutes up to 150 minutes.

Of course.... a better answer would be - reform your country so no one EVER goes homeless again. But that takes time. Meanwhile - well done.

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