Category: "One Thing a Week"

You are not forgotten

August 31st, 2012
You may be wondering when the next Back to Basics post will happen. I rarely miss a week, but due to a combination of vacations and workload, I've temporarily suspended posting beginning August 11, 2012. But like a kid with a book bag and a lunch box, I'll be back soon. And I most certainly have not forgotten about you.

This Week's Small Step: Cheer

August 11th, 2012
Can you imagine practicing for hours, driving for miles, and walking into a single spotlight to deliver a performance to an audience of people you've never met? “Do they like it?” “Do they like it?” The worrisome thoughts battle with the need to concentrate all the way through the song, the entertainer never really learning the truth until the end, that defining moment of applause. For all the performers -- the ones on stage and the ones you live with everyday -- let this week's One Small Thing reminds you that you have the power to vindicate someone’s hard work with one simple gesture. You can always...


As a non-performing musician who adores musical performances, I am sensitive to the thoughts and reactions of those who work so hard to entertain. These creative creatures add, beyond measure, value to a society that has forgotten how to entertain itself. Yet they are sometimes so easily taken for granted, as if the audience assumes the artist already knows how good she or he is; what reason is there for bothering to point it out? A desire for positive feedback rests in all of us in some way. When talking about your day's achievement around the family dinner table, if the only response is the sound of chewing and swallowing, it can all feel pointless. We might know in our own minds and hearts that we did well, but an approving endearment builds our confidence and makes us want to keep doing more, to keep practicing, keep improving, and keep performing.
Similar to daily life, all the investment and passion and showmanship of the artist on stage gets funneled into one thing: the reaction of others. A tough life it must be, that of a musician, for having to base so much on something they cannot control. They cannot know if it's just a stuffy audience that refuses to give up a round of applause; they can only hope for an enthusiastic group, one that will graciously deliver praise when due. And which audience do you think adds vitality to the moment for everyone? Which do you think makes the second set stronger and better? Which performance ends in "wow?" In order to keep the music flowing and talent growing, we have to let them know we approve, that we appreciate the passion, that their output sparks an energy in our ears and hearts and minds, breaking the otherwise dull silence.
Few of us would deny, no matter how humble, that we do best with a little encouragement, and as the saying goes, you reap what you sow. Want the band to play with energy? Send them a little energy of your own. Want more appreciation? Display appreciation for others. Musician, painter, actor, or little girl dancing in the kitchen who yells, “look at me,” people need you to cheer for them when you like what they do. Never assume the child, the friend, the spouse, or the performer knows you like their act. Acknowledge their talent. Cheer. The Write Beat's "One Small Step a Week" series offers suggestions for simplifying life in order to slow down, reconnect with Nature, and live in a way that is in better harmony with our surroundings. Back to Basics home page

This Week's Small Step: Let the Sun Brew It

August 3rd, 2012
I owe my sister for showing me this one years ago. During a summertime visit to her rural home in the hills, she offered me some just-brewed, homemade, iced tea. However, instead of retrieving a pot from the stove, she walked out the back door. She returned with a glass pitcher in her hand, one that I soon learned had been sitting on her picnic table for an hour or so. After all these years, I still employ her simple trick so often I decided to make it this week's One Small Thing:

Let the Sun Brew It

In the pitcher were five tea bags floating in water that was heated purely by the sun. "I love my sun tea," she said as she squeezed the last drops from the spent tea bags before pouring the brew over ice. "You don't have to boil it?" I asked. "Nope." I was hooked. Sun tea does not get as dark or strong as boiled tea, but it still has a wonderfully refreshing flavor. I find it delicious without sugar or sweetener. Sometimes I do add a few leaves of mint to the brew or a slice of lemon to the glass. And different herb blends can yield a variety of flavors just like hot tea. I serve it from the same pitcher in which it was brewed, no additional dishes to wash. And I never have to heat up the kitchen with a hot burner or unnecessary steam. Plus, unlike boiled tea, sun tea for me comes with two pleasant thoughts: a memory of warm day spent with my favorite sister, and a dose of appreciation for the power of my favorite star. How to Make Sun Tea Fill a glass pitcher or jar with tap water and add a quantity of tea bags that suits your taste.
Set it in the sun and wait.
Remove the tea bags, pour, and enjoy.
The Write Beat's "One Small Step a Week" series offers suggestions for simplifying life in order to slow down, reconnect with Nature, and live in a way that is in better harmony with our surroundings. Back to Basics home page

This Week's Small Step: Try Another Vehicle

July 27th, 2012
It's exciting to hear people talking about alternatives to the combustion engine. Battles are waging over who can come up with the best alternative while even the trusty gasoline motor makers are back to touting fuel efficiency now that consumers see the benefits of buying a less thirsty car. Sadly, advancements have gotten hung up on infrastructure. The powers that be are fighting over which technology should replace the gas pump. But why try to find one solution for 300 million people? Why not empower each of those 300 million to come up with their own alternative, whether they want to try brand new inventions or stick to old-fashioned wheels? Many Americans already own a non-vehicular mode of transportation. They're stuffed into garages and storage lockers, brought out only when it's time to recreate. What if we tried putting those possessions to use as transportation? We won't know until we give it a shot, so for this week's One Small Thing, I say:

Try Another Vehicle

Maybe it's a quick jaunt to the bank. Or a visit to a neighbor. Or if you're really serious, a trip to work. One time in the next week, see if you can complete a task -- one that you would normally do with your car -- using one of those non-motorized (or lightly motorized) recreational vehicles your already have. Such as a bike...
a canoe...

a golf cart...

a sailboat...

a little wagon...

or a big wagon...

Any alternative you can think of, one that's already been invented, one that is anything but a car.
The Write Beat's "One Small Step a Week" series offers suggestions for simplifying life in order to slow down, reconnect with Nature, and live in a way that is in better harmony with our surroundings. Back to Basics home page

One Thing a Week: Pick One Substitute

July 20th, 2012
I'm a firm believer in the power of good nutrition. We ask so much from our bodies: seeing, hearing, feeling, stretching, pulling, pushing, reaching, thinking, smelling, tasting, breathing, dancing... And, in return, our bodies need fuel – high octane ingredients for a machine that is forever being pushed to its limits. Yet, no matter how knowledgeable I am about the food choices I SHOULD make, I still fall victim to temptation and gulp down the ones I shouldn't. Plus, as soon as you tell me I can't have something, I usually just want it more than before. So for this week's One Small Thing – as we all struggle to improve our diets – I suggest we:

Pick One Substitute

I probably don't have to tell you which foods you should avoid.

You already know what they are. Plus, one diet does not fit all. Your "problem" food may be different from your spouse's or your neighbor's or your coworker's. In a perfect world, there would be no bad-for-you foods on any grocery store shelf, but the real world is filled with indulgent freedoms that our minds love, but our bodies do not.
The key is recognizing and stopping when we've ventured too far, moving from permitting a little gratification to forgetting which is more important to satisfy, the taste bud or the need.
I once kept a food diary per a holistic doctor's instructions. She reviewed all that I had eaten in a month, and then gave me orders to eat defined amounts of nutritious "healthy" foods. She identified things that I was to consume every day, foods that were otherwise lacking in my diet, leaving gaps that were negatively effecting my health. My initial reaction to her list was, "I don't eat that much!" She responded, "That's why every calorie you put in your mouth has to count." I couldn't argue with her there. Even though I generally ate well, it was clear that I could do better, and her goal was achievable because it wasn't about avoidance, it was about pursuit.
Like the quitting smoker who chews on celery sticks, I find it easier to stop a bad habit when a good one is around to fill its place. So instead of focusing on all the things you shouldn't have, focus on one thing this week that you know you should have.
What is it that you know you need more of in your diet? It can be in a broad category such as a vegetable, or it can be a specific item such as spinach. Then, add it while subtracting (a.k.a replacing) an empty or harmful food, one that a fine-tuned body cannot figure out how to use, one that strains the system as it is purged, or worse, stored for future processing instead of put to immediate use.
Here are a few substitutions I made. These all began as simple steps, as trials, and have now become commonplace:
  • A dish of berries, yogurt, and granola versus a convenience-store breakfast sandwich.
  • A tomato-and-cheese sandwich versus a bologna-and-cheese sandwich.
  • Rye bread versus white bread.
  • Organic milk versus conventional milk.
  • Over-the-stove or air popped corn versus microwave popped corn.
  • Water versus soda.
One food item. One substitute. For the one body you're going to get. What's your one thing going to be? The Write Beat's "One Small Step a Week" series offers suggestions for simplifying life in order to slow down, reconnect with Nature, and live in a way that is in better harmony with our surroundings.