Author Archives: Gip Plaster

My First Two 100-Word Stories Have Been Published Online

“Do you write fiction?”

“No.”

And until recently, that has been the end of the conversation. As a busy web content writer, the last thing I’ve wanted to do is further strain my wrists by typing when I don’t have to. But recently, the creative urge has been stronger than the pain in my wrist.

And I discovered 100-word stories – full stories told in exactly 100 words.

These aren’t character sketches or teasers. Instead, they’re thoughtful, funny or poignant complete stories that have been stripped down to their essential parts. Since I was trained as a journalist in college, I know about keeping word choices, sentence structure and concepts simple. So why not apply my skill and desire for simplicity to some fiction?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had my first two 100-word stories published online at Friday Flash Fiction.

While being published is really exciting for lots of writers, my first journalism work was published when I was 17, and I had computer programs published in a magazine even before that. I publish online all the time, and my web content clients publish my work almost daily. So this isn’t new to me.

Still, it’s fun to see my name online in a new concept.

Have a look at these two pieces, then offer your comments on the Friday Flash Fiction site if you want:

Here To Help

A Wild Tingling

My adventure with fiction writing is just beginning, so keep watching as I take you along with me.

Photo: Pixabay

Midlothian, Texas Little Free Library And Larkin Newton Cabin

While passing through Midlothian, Texas, we decided to turn off the highway and see if there was anything worth seeing in this Ellis county town of more than 18,000 people. I have to confess, we didn’t find a lot that intrigued us. Maybe we didn’t look in all the right places. But we did see a little free library near a historic cabin.

I didn’t capitalize “little free library” because this isn’t an official one with a charter from the Little Free Library nonprofit organization. This sturdy box on a pole was designed and placed in the prominent location by a Girl Scout troop, as you can see from the photos. It’s located at 234 N. 8th Street in Heritage Park – which is also the home of Larkin Newton Cabin.




The 1848 cabin was built on land provided by a Peters Colony land grant and was moved to its location in today’s Midlothian from 3 miles to the southwest. It displays complicated corner notching, including half dovetails.

The little library could use a little careful attention, but it seems to be holding up reasonably well – even if there was nothing very inspiring inside. Two families with children were in the park when we visit on June 12, 2018 – and no one seemed to notice the little library. (Interestingly, Little Free Library #57550 is also apparently located in Midlothian, but we’ll have to visit it another time.)

It was only a quick trip through Midlothian, but at least we found something worth noticing. On the hot summer day we were in Midlothian, most people we saw weren’t noticing much.

(This post was written for a blog project that has been discontinued — but it lives on here in my Front Yard.)

Saginaw Little Free Library #45268 May Not Want To Be Found

Little Free Libraries with charter signs and numbers must choose to be listed on the Little Free Library World Map if they want the world to find them. If not, they’re essentially in hiding – limiting their reach and impact.

In Saginaw, Texas, LFL #45268 is a modest little structure that apparently doesn’t want to be found. We happened upon it while playing the geolocation game Flagstack – which involves collecting virtual flags – in October 2018. This LFL is deep inside a relatively new housing subdivision off East Bailey Boswell Road. (Since the owner may not want it to be found, we won’t share the exact address or coordinates.)

It has a shady spot under some trees near the community pool




– but the recent harsh weather has taken its toll. The simple plywood structure is holding together after our hot winter and rainy fall, but the paint is failing and the wood shows signs of water damage. The sparse contents were mostly surviving, but some were water damaged. And since we hadn’t planned a visit, we didn’t have anything to add.

Honestly, this is a nice subdivision, and it deserves a better Little Free Library. When we return to visit it again, we’re hoping the structure has been spruced up and the contents upgraded.

It looks like there are 3 published LFLs on the map in the Saginaw area at the moment. I’m hoping each Little Free Library we find in the future is worthy of its neighborhood – and worthy of the goals of the founder of the movement, Todd Bol, who died recently. Everyone deserves easy access to great books – and the chance at a better life that being open and aware can provide.

(This post was written for a blogging project that has been discontinued — but it lives on here in my Front Yard.)

Mansfield Little Free Library #19235 Really Is There If You Look Around

Text by David Boger

It’s always fun to see what new things you can discover while visiting towns in your own area. We always check the Internet to see what people recommend seeing.

When preparing for a visit to Mansfield on June 12, 2018, we noticed that there was a Little Free Library listed. (There are actually two, but we didn’t get to the second one.) Only coordinates were posted for the location instead of an address like on many. So we looked them up and noticed that they seemed to lead to a private lake. Since we hadn’t been to this part of Mansfield before we decided it needed a visit to see if we could find where this library was actually located.

When we got there we found that the spot where the coordinates took us really wasn’t accessible, so we figured that wasn’t the actual location. The street we were on seemed to go around this little lake so we decided to see if it might be somewhere on this street. Then we found it. The actual coordinates are on Cains Lane at about 32.59741 -97.14016 — although the Library doesn’t show on Google Maps.

It was a very nice Little Free Library, but it was showing it’s age a bit. We couldn’t really tell if it was used much or not but at least there were some books in it if anyone was looking for something to read.

The great thing about Little Free Libraries is that the books are totally free and there’s no due date. You’re just asked to bring a book to leave if you take a book. The organization behind these streetside cabinets is a wonderful group that seeks to inspire people to read and to build community in local neighborhoods by providing access to books 24/7.

If you’re interested in either finding a Little Free Library in your area or maybe even creating one, you can find all the information you need on their website. They partner with many organizations and companies like Disney and Random House to provide greatly discounted books to owners of the libraries as well as themed Little Free Library boxes.

This is just another wonderful surprise we found when out traveling around the area.

(This post is from a shared blogging project that has been discontinued — but it lives on here in my Front Yard.)

Little Free Library #63536 And David’s Trip To Mineral Wells, His Hometown

Text by David Boger

As a former librarian, I’m always excited about sharing new information and books with people. Imagine my surprise when I shared a unique source of books with people in my hometown on the Remember When In Mineral Wells… group on Facebook and found that many people in the area didn’t know about this special little place offering free books.

You see, while visiting Mineral Wells on June 9, 2018, I went to check out a Little Free Library that’s located west of downtown at the corner of Holly Hills Road and Austin Street. This library was built by another retired librarian, Melissa Morgan who said on the Little Free Library site that she had “always dreamed of my own free library” as a way to share free books with her neighbors. So she got her family involved and together they built this library which sits on the side of Morgan’s property away from whizzing traffic and their front door.

While this little library was exciting, the rest of my visit to my hometown was rather depressing.

I went to the neighborhood where I grew up. The street looked as if they hadn’t had any repairs in the more than two decades that I’ve been gone. And the house I grew up in was now nothing like when I lived there. I had seen it on several visits previously but now it has aluminum siding and lacks many of the decorative features of the house I lived in. I’m not sure I’d want to live in that part of town anymore.

I went and visited the public library where I worked for over 20 years and was disappointed to see that the parking lot didn’t appear to been repaved since I left there in 2005. And the sign in front of the building had not been maintained and looked to be deteriorating too. The main things that I saw which I considered positive about the town were that building on the main street were getting repainted and that there were businesses occupying these buildings.

It’s a very interesting adventure to revisit your hometown but, as I found when I did, you need to be prepared to see a mix of good and bad.

(This post was written for a shared blogging project that has been discontinued — but it lives on here in my Front Yard.)

Goodbye, Two Graf Life!

Sometimes, a project fails. Sometimes, it’s completed. And sometimes, a project with no real plan never goes anywhere. That’s what happened to Two Graf Life, a good idea that I never really gave a chance. In its nearly 3 years in existence, I managed to write only 27 posts for it.

So I pulled the plug. I deleted the blog, let the domain name go and moved on – just a few days ago. Now, those 27 posts along with the About page that introduced them are here for you to enjoy.

After all, you deserve more than a one graf life.

About Two Graf Life

Welcome to Two Graf Life, a secret blog project by Gip Plaster. You see, I started this blog without promoting it online or telling anyone about it. So if you’ve found it, I hope you’ll consider yourself lucky. There’s some really interesting stuff here. And if you know me personally and have found it, you’re doing even better.

This is a personal blog cut down to size — without fluff. It’s simple in a way that those bloggers who write 2,000-word posts could never imagine. Every post is just two paragraphs. Why only two paragraphs? That’s plenty of space to address any one issue or comment on any one thing. If I have more to say, I’ll say it another time. My time is valuable and so is yours, so there’s no point going on and on about any topic. When you’ve made your point, it’s time to stop.

The 27 Posts Of Two Graf Life

A First Post That Says It All

April 12, 2016

Maybe I shouldn’t give everything away in the first post, but I’m doing it anyway. This is really a test post to make sure the blog is working right, but lots of things in life are about testing the waters. I’ve created this blog because I’m a forty-something guy who still hasn’t figured out the purpose of my life, and I’m going to explore life’s many purposes here with you — just a couple paragraphs at a time.

Here’s what I know so far: a meaningful life must include people, places and things that feel important. It doesn’t necessarily include travel (as so many bloggers suggest) or a big family (as so many bloggers suggest). But what are the essential components of a good life? What needs to be rejected? And what does it mean when a test post sets such a broad pathway for a blogging project? Let’s find out.

 

Another Blog Nobody Reads

May 3, 2016

Is that really what the world needs? There are thousands — maybe millions — of blogs online that no one reads. Why should I start another? But some blogging projects are more for ordering the minds of the people who create them that for reaching an audience. Still, I suspect people will soon be reading — and commenting, even on old posts like this one that no one saw at first.

There’s something very liberating about writing for no one to read. You’re free to say what you like. I write thousands of words for my writing clients every day, and some of those never get read either. It makes sense that I’d write a few for myself as well — even if they never find an audience. It’s cathartic if nothing else. Besides, there’s no harm in writing a blog no one reads. The words may eventually reach someone who wants or needs them.

 

When You Need A Plumber…

May 7, 2016

When you need a plumber, the first and smartest choice may be to become a plumber — at least for a few minutes. When it was time to replace the inside of our toilet tank recently, I kept putting it off because I remember how hard it was last time. But I have experience now. While I could have shelled out a couple hundred dollars to have my toilet fixed, I opted to use $12 of my money and less than an hour of my time to solve this minor plumbing issue. It worked out fine, and it was much easier and quicker than I remembered it being.

I like the idea of being the change you want to see in the world. I like the old Army advertising slogan encouraging you to be all you can be. And sometimes, what you need to be is a plumber. There’s nothing scary about it or even particularly complicated. You simply have to learn the skill in the same way you learned to groom your beard, paint your nails or blow into a trumpet. And the sound of a perfectly functioning toilet after months of gulps and glurps is indeed music.

 

It’s Time To Get This Started

June 11, 2016

Finding ways to express myself is important to a more stable and happy future. Could the same be true for you? I’ve found it difficult to find happiness and fulfillment recently, and one of the biggest obstacles standing between me and greater contentment is a feeling of being disconnected, stifled or unable to connect with others. Sharing two paragraphs with a very small audience won’t solve that problem, but starting each morning by focusing on offering a positive message based on my life experiences certainly can’t hurt in my quest to move forward with my life.

So it’s time to get this blog project started. I’ve put up a few explanatory and test posts in the last few weeks as the idea for this project was formulating in my head, but I feel like I’ve reached an important point in my life — one from which I can now move forward. More on that later. For now, I hope you’ll find a way to move forward from whatever challenges you face as I use this blog project as one of the tools to help me have a happier and more fulfilled life.

 

Crisis Point

June 13, 2016

I can’t pin down exactly what’s been happening in my life that led to a lower level of happiness and satisfaction than ever before, but I know that I’ve reached the crisis point and am ready to climb out, move forward and reach greater heights than ever before. As a tall person, achieving the height of personal satisfaction should come more naturally to me.

I can’t point to any incidents that have resulted in reaching this crisis point, but I feel it within in me. And I feel a stronger desire to overcome this mid-life obstacle than ever before. Life can wear us down at times because there’s so much to do, so many negative influences to which we can succumb and so many ways we could have done better in the past. But the future holds endless possibilities when we put aside our insistence on dwelling on the negative and look at how many circumstances are working toward our good. I feel pretty good right now, and I hope you do too. Let’s maintain some positivity as we move forward from our crisis points and move in hope toward a future with so much potential that it can’t be contained.

 

Maybe The Good Life Doesn’t Need To Include Travel

June 14, 2016

So many people advise that travel is an important part of reaching a full understanding of life and your place in it. But I’ve always had a problem deciding how I feel about that. I’ve been inspired by churches, natural beauty and human-created marvels in cities near and far, but I often don’t sleep well in hotels and don’t like driving or riding around all day. Sometimes I wonder if my mind has the ability to create better experiences that I can find by exploring the world.

I don’t have an answer here. But I think this much is certain: life isn’t empty, hollow or narrow if you can’t or don’t travel. Travel is one way to expand your horizons, but it certainly isn’t the only way. Meditation, attending local events and meeting new people also expands your viewpoint. The important thing, I think, is to keep doing new things to challenge yourself. Otherwise, life gets dull and stagnate.

 

Midlife Crisis

June 16, 2016

What’s a midlife crisis? According to my dictionary, it’s a crisis of identity and perhaps self-confidence that happens to some people as we get to early middle age. That sounds like what’s happening in my life. It’s interesting that many sources also include the idea that people start buying things they don’t need and start trying to act younger as they enter a midlife crisis. But I don’t want to be young again. And I don’t want any more stuff.

In fact, I want less of most things. I’ve found that being surrounded by things makes me nervous and even unhappy. To find greater happiness, I need less junk, a clearer head and more meaningful and interesting things to do that make a real difference in the world. I don’t need a Corvette, and I hope you don’t either. My midlife crisis is about simplicity and usefulness, not about showing off how many things I’ve acquired. And some definitions of a midlife crisis include erratic behavior that hurts people, and I don’t want to hurt anyone.

 

I Think It’s Called Contentment

June 16, 2016

The feeling that I’m searching for in life is an elusive thing called contentment. It’s more than just moments of happiness. It’s a long-term and perhaps permanent feeling that everything’s okay — and maybe even very nice. It’s a consistent baseline feeling that I don’t always have. Having contentment means there’s no room in your life for despair and that temporary setbacks like bad news and bad circumstances don’t completely derail your life.

The goal for my life — and perhaps for you — is to expand the contentment that I sometimes feel to form a safety net under my whole life that keeps low moments from going too low. With that net in place, it’s easier to recover from the hard times because the climb back up to normal isn’t as steep or as high. I’m on a journey toward permanent contentment, and I’m glad you’re with me.

 

An Appointment To Get At The End Of The Line

June 17, 2016

When a tire store near me first started offering appointments, I set one up to have my tires balanced and rotated. When I got there, they told me there was a long wait. That’s no problem for me, I said, since I have an appointment. I was informed, however, that an appointment qualified me to get at the end of the line when I arrived. Years later, I tried an appointment at the same shop and arrived 15 minutes early. When I asked what was taking so long to get started since the shop wasn’t busy, I was told that they were waiting for my appointment time before starting on my car.

Yes, those things actually happened. Even though the people at the store seemed reasonably intelligent, they couldn’t see past their misunderstanding of company policies to see how ridiculous these two situations were. They were caught up in rules. Why make an appointment to get at the end of the line when anyone walking in can do that? And why delay the work of someone with an appointment until the clock looks right? If you don’t understand the problem with these two situations, you just might be too caught up in silly rules and nonsense yourself. And I hope you aren’t.

 

Writing Is My Compulsion

June 21, 2016

As you’ve probably already guessed, writing is a kind of compulsion for me. You see, I don’t usually plan what I write when I’m writing these essays. I simply start typing, and a relatively well-organized bit of text emerges. The process of writing like this helps me arrange my thoughts in a way that I can’t do if I’m not writing. The process of putting a couple of paragraphs of heartfelt prose into the world makes me feel better. This doesn’t happen when I’m doing writing work for other people, however. It’s something special that happens when I write without an agenda.

Do you have something in your life that you feel compelled to do by some inner force that you don’t understand? If you’re compelled by money, a family member or something else, that’s not the same thing. But if there’s something in your life you feel motivated to do for no particular reason, it’s probably really important. And you won’t find happiness unless you find ways to do it.

 

Am I Actually The Luckiest Guy In The World?

June 22, 2016

Some might say that I’m among the luckiest (or most blessed, most fortunate) people in the world. I have someone to love and have since I was 17, I have a job writing, which is something that I love — and I set my own hours. I rarely work all day, and when I do, it’s by choice. But why do I often feel like something’s missing from my life?

I know that my life doesn’t involve as many friends as I’d like and it doesn’t involve as much variety or as many new experiences as I’d prefer. But really, is there all that much wrong? Do you have the same problem I do? Do you often wish for and hope for things toward which you aren’t working? And do you fail to notice just how much you already have going for you? You may be a lot luckier — more blessed or even happier, perhaps — than you realize.

 

Writing Is Also Therapy

June 23, 2016

I mentioned that writing is a compulsion for me — something I must do. But it’s also a kind of therapy that helps me organize my thoughts and get things off my chest. In fact, when I don’t have a blog project or some other way to express my feelings, I don’t feel right. No other means of expression impacts me in the same way that writing does.

You must have something like that in your life. What do you do to clear your head, improve your perspective and simply make you feel better? I’ve heard others mentioning that swimming, hiking and doing jigsaw puzzles can have a therapeutic effect. For me, it’s typing words onto a page, just as I’m doing now. I feel better already.

 

Finding Time For Happiness Instead Of Work

June 29, 2016

I write hundreds of words every day — and thousands of words many days. Yet most of the time, it’s only the writing that I do for myself and my own projects that really makes me feel good. Interestingly, I have trouble finding time to write these two paragraphs for Two Graf Life even though I’m always writing. In a way, that means I’m having trouble fitting happiness, satisfaction and contentment into my life.

Are there things you really enjoy doing? And do you have trouble finding time to do them? If that’s the case with you as it is with me, I would suggest that there’s a flaw in how your life is organized. While it isn’t always possible, why not put pleasure ahead of all else? You, your family and others who are important to you come before work, errands and chores, don’t they? So why are our lives organized as if work is what’s most important? It just doesn’t make sense.

 

Are The Sore Shoulders From Writing Or Worrying?

June 30, 2016

When I type a lot in a day without much variety in my activities, my shoulders get sore. Or at least I think that’s what happens. I sometimes think that worrying about hurting myself by working too much is harder on my shoulders than the work itself. If I could take a more relaxed attitude, there might be less pain in my life.

Do you do things every day that cause you pain? Could it be that the pain is the result of worrying about the things rather than the task itself? It may seem like a strange idea to you, but I believe most of my pain issues are caused by stress, worry and attitude. While typing can cause pain, so can stress and worry. So why not join me in trying to put aside actions and thoughts that derail your life unnecessarily?

 

“I Failed To…”

August 27, 2016

I have a relative who often says “I failed to write that in my checkbook” or the cashier “failed to give me a receipt” — when what she means is “I didn’t” or “he didn’t”. It must be really hard on your self-esteem to consider every small misstep or tiny variation from the usual routine a failure. I’ve never failed to do anything, but I have made a few mistakes along the way.

Even if you’ve experienced something that seems like a failure, it’s important to realize that the situation is only temporary. If you’ve failed someone you love, failed to write something on your grocery list or failed an important test, you’re not a failure. You’ve just experienced a temporary blip, a momentary power failure or a fleeting fowl-up. But when you let failure language creep into your everyday life, you’re setting yourself up for real failure. And you don’t want that.

 

I’m Focusing On Medical Issues For A Season

October 22, 2016

With some members of my family focusing on medical issues for a while, I’ve decided to focus on a few medical concerns of my own and get a physical. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the doctor. Dwelling on health issues seems to magnify them, so I prefer to avoid them. Doesn’t it make you feel worse to think about your chronic issues? Isn’t it easier when you just ignore them and get on with your life?

But some health issues can’t be completely ignored. While I don’t like the idea of focusing on what may be wrong with me, I’m allowing it in this season because there’s already a lot of talk about medical problems around me anyway. And there are some things with my own health that really need attention. I hope that by the time spring comes, I’ll be experiencing a renewal in my own life. And then all this focus on medical issues can fade into the background — where it belongs.

 

Rethinking The Medical Profession

November 1, 2016

On my old blog, So Much More Life, I wrote a post called Does A Simple, Minimalist Approach Work With Health Care? I didn’t express an entirely favorable view of the medical profession. And I still don’t like the idea of placing our health in other people’s hands. But some recent health issues in my family have proven that excellent medical care is available in some cases.

Still, the American healthcare system is needlessly complex and often uncaring — and I don’t like big systems much anyway. But this system works in many cases. When you need healthcare, I hope the system works for you. When combined with prayer, meditation, a positive attitude and support from others, our medical system can be one part of staying healthy. But I don’t recommend that you turn your well-being over to anyone — even if they’re trained professionals.

 

Questioning The Benefits Of Being A Complainer

November 8, 2016

I’ve never been shy about sending an email when I don’t like something about a restaurant or store. I even complained to the state insurance board when an insurance company refused to issue a refund I deserved — and eventually got it. But I’m questioning the idea of complaining to big companies and institutions now. I’ve noticed that fewer companies respond or offer any compensation now, and I don’t think putting all that negative energy out there in the universe really does any good.

As a side job, I’ve written some management responses for online hotel reviews for a large Internet company in India. I write a lot of content for them too. I know that when I write the review response, it means the people in charge at the hotel may never read the review. I also know that all the complaining I read in those reviews seems petty, silly and useless. Who cares if the gravy at breakfast wasn’t very hot. And does it matter that a tile on the bathroom floor was cracked? Do I sound that way when I complain? Do you? Complaining may not be part of a happy life.

 

Building A Full Life From What’s Around You

November 15, 2016

I believe it’s possible to build a great life from what’s already around you. If you live in a situation that isn’t your ideal — too rural, too high up or too noisy, for example — you can learn to make the best of it. If you live with people who don’t support you fully, you may be able to adjust your interactions with them to make the best of what they have to offer without being brought down by their negativity.

You see, it’s tempting to say that life will really get going once you solve some of your problems. But those problems are life. You’ll always be surrounded by issues that need your attention as well as people and situations that are less than ideal. But there’s no reason to let those small failings become major obstacles for you. Life is, as they say, what you make it. While it may be motivating to strive for more, what you have now could be plenty for today. Don’t you agree?

 

Growing Up To Play Games

January 3, 2017

I didn’t participate in sports when I was a kid, and I didn’t play many other kinds of games either. I may have played Chinese checkers with my parents or messed around with Connect Four, but I didn’t allow much time in my life for game-playing. I certainly didn’t watch others play games like football or baseball on television. But I find myself playing games now.

In 2016, I got involved in two different hobbies that are essentially scavenger hunt games. And I like them. My work as a writer keeps me inside, and these games get me out and around. I’ll tell you more about the games later, but I thought you might find it interesting that I had to grow up before I became interested in games. I’m in a phase in my life where I welcome frivolity, and I hope you are too.

 

Don’t Be A Hard Shell

June 23, 2017

When I was a teenager, I overheard a conversation between my mother and the pastor of the church that she and I attended. She was telling the pastor that some of our relatives are “hard shells” — which he correctly understood to mean they were associated with the Hard Shell Baptist — or Primitive Baptist — church, a very conservative sect. The denomination doesn’t believe in working with other congregations on mission boards and other projects. They keep to themselves and practice the old ways.

“Maybe someday, somehow, that shell can be cracked,” our pastor said. Maybe. My relatives involved with the sect died years ago, but it still exists. And I’m happy to let people practice whatever religion they want — as long as they don’t try to interfere with other people and their beliefs. But I don’t like the idea of being old-fashioned or rigid. Do you?

 

You Deserve More Than A One Graf Life

July 6, 2017

There’s a reason this site isn’t called One Graf Life. Life isn’t meant to be a one-act play, a short story or a single paragraph. I believe life is meant to have multiple phases, facets and sections. If you’re living a one paragraph life — where everything aligns to a single idea — you’re missing so much of what this world and your existence have to offer.

When you get a chance, change the subject — or at least approach the subject of your life from a new way. Try to live a two paragraph life — or one that’s made up of three, four or even more parts. When you do, you’ll see that some of your firmly held beliefs slough away. What’s left is your core. It turns out that when you explore life from multiple perspectives, you learn more about what matters most to you.

 

A Focus On Words In 2018

January 10, 2018

For 2018, I think I’ll focus on words. Words are my job, and words are my passion too. Today, even simple messages are often presented in a graphical format — like memes, for example. But great words stand on their own. They very literally speak for themselves. In generations past, generating images wasn’t as easy as it is now. And communication was deeper and more thorough, even if was less often.

Maybe this will be the year when words rise again, at least in my life. I work with words and play with them too. I use them as I was trained to use them, and I break a few rules when it suits me. I ask questions. I give answers. I offer advice. I comment. And for all of these forms of expressions, I use words. I love images as much as anyone — and I take a lot of photos. Sure, sometimes a picture can speak a thousand words, but words can conjure up great images too. Will you join me in focusing a bit more on the unmatched power of words?

 

RVs Were The Original Tiny Houses

January 11, 2018

During a discussion with a full-time RVer recently, I had an unoriginal thought: RVs are the original tiny houses. While tiny houses are part of the downsizing movement that seems to be sweeping — or at least creeping up on — the world, thousands of people have been living by choice in travel trailers, recreational vehicles and similar abodes for years. They’re saving money and sometimes saving their souls.

I think a lot about housing situations because I’m not entirely happy with mine. Yet I already have what most people are striving for: safety, comfort, just enough space and a rural setting, among other things. So what am I worried about? I’m concerned that there could be a better way for me to live that I haven’t discovered yet. And it would be foolish not to consider all my options. Are you living your best life in the best possible living situation?

 

Not So Routine After All

(unpublished)

Yesterday, we left the house a little earlier than usual for a day when we didn’t have any scheduled plans. It was getting cold later in the day, and we wanted to be home before that happened. I find comfort in keeping to a regular routine sometimes, but I also really enjoy doing things differently when it suits me.

By leaving early, we got home early, and I got a lot of writing work done that I wouldn’t have finished otherwise. We also saw a sheep and some goats at the mall, which we hadn’t planned or expected. (They had been brought in for a morning children’s program.) When you shake up your routine, you might find the unexpected as well. Isn’t it time to throw out the program, at least for a day or two?

 

Putting Clean Laundry In Dirty Baskets

January 13, 2018

When our washing machine stopped working a few months ago, we visited a laundromat for the first time in about 12 years. We saw something that I think is incredibly strange: people would bring in dirty laundry in a dirty basket, wash the clothes, fold them carefully and then put them back in the same basket to take them home. They were putting clean clothes in a dirty hamper.

I see all kinds of life lessons in this action. Most importantly, someone who puts clean clothes into a dirty basket can’t be present in the moment, careful or mindful. And they certainly aren’t progressing very far in the game of life. Do you make mindless mistakes like that in your daily life? If so, why not be more attentive? Why not be good at everything you do? Why not be careful, mindful and sensible? When you pay attention to the details of life, you may find that life treats you better.

 

“You’re No Different Than Everyone Else”

January 26, 2018

That’s what the dentist told me. He said that most people think their dental problems are unique, but most people’s issues are actually very similar. He said the mouthguard he recommended and that I bought would work for 98 percent of people. But mine didn’t. Fortunately, he’s a person of integrity, so after trying to make adjustments, he gave me my money back.

It’s true that we share many things in common with those we think are different. There’s a lesson in that. But do we really share similar dental issues? I’m beginning to think mine really are unique, and that’s okay. There’s a lesson there too. Sometimes, we’re alike. Sometimes we’re just slightly less alike.

What Is The Boar’s Head And Yule Log Festival In Fort Worth?

With only four performances over two days in January, it’s easy to miss the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival, a decades-long tradition at University Christian Church. But many people intentionally skip the event because they don’t understand what it is.

Truthfully, it’s difficult to explain even for those who’ve attended several times.

On Epiphany weekend at University Christian Church near TCU in Fort Worth, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. That’s because the annual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival — usually called simply “the Boar’s Head” by those in the know — is an event that never quite culminates. But a lot happens. More on that later.

Simply put, it’s a festival of processions. People in lavish costumes wander around, generally in search of the Christ child. There’s music from handbells, soloists and an orchestra. It’s quaint, strange and charming.

[This article originally appeared on my Fort Worth Secrets website, which has been discontinued. It’s from April 2016.]

About The Boar’s Head And Yule Log Festival

If the name suggests to you that this festival is something ancient, you’re on the right track. The festival is based on the legend of an Oxford student who kills a wild boar with a book of ancient philosophy when the unfortunate animal interrupts the presumably self-important student’s studies.

A few churches around the world have turned the celebration of this so-called triumph into a Christian festival, giving it additional significant and added symbolism. As told at University Christian Church in Fort Worth, the boar represents evil that has been overcome by the teachings of Christ.

The church has put on the festival every year since 1976. It concludes the 12 days of Christmas and is held on the weekend nearest Epiphany, January 6.

A cast of brightly robed kings, peasants, Beefeaters, dancers and others join musicians from the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra to put on the event. Some 300 people participate while hundreds gather in the church’s sanctuary at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to watch.

Enjoying The Boar’s Head

What do I mean that this festival never quite culminates? In most church events, the procession comes before the main event, but at the Boar’s Head, the procession is the event. It technically all culminates in the opening of some doors to view the baby Jesus and his family, but the show is about the processions of peasants and kings alike.

When you attend the Boar’s Head, you’ll see a ritual that has changed very little since the church first started putting it on. Costumes have gotten brighter, many faces are different now, of course, and the music has been slightly updated, but it is essentially the same presentation.

You can enter for free and no tickets are required, but paid reserved seating is available.

I used to attend this event regularly but now find that a visit only every few years is plenty. Since I remember in great details the details that rarely change, attending every year isn’t essential or entertaining anymore.

Still, this festival about the church overcoming evil influences is somehow still relevant and somehow still managing to draw full or nearly full houses for its four performances.

To say that nothing ever happens during the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival is being unkind, but to say that there’s no culmination of the event and little satisfaction as it draws to a solemn but hopeful end is, unfortunately, accurate. Nevertheless, it’s a spectacle that everyone needs to see once — and then you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth experiencing again.

Good To Know

  • Arrive an hour early for a good seat. Paid attendees sit at the front, but they miss much of the action. Since the size of the event is part of the spectacle and since all the players move up and down the aisles, the best seats are somewhere slightly back from the middle of the sanctuary.
  • Attending the later presentation on either day may mean waiting outside to get in, and the weather is often cold that weekend. Attending the earlier one means you can walk right in.
  • Photography is generally only allowed at the 3 p.m. event on Saturday. Call ahead to verify this if you plan to take any pictures.

Learn More

University Christian Church

Live Music At Central Market Fort Worth: Great Bands At A Grocery Store

Central Market isn’t a secret at all, but free live music isn’t something people expect from a high-end grocery store. Still, hundreds gather every Friday and Saturday night from March through October to listen to Fort Worth music acts that vary from great to poor in quality and cover many musical genres.

While the idea of a grocery store as a music venue takes some getting used to, I’ve listened to more live music at Central Market than anywhere else. That’s because the price is right, the atmosphere is fun, the regulars are generally agreeable people and many of the bands are top quality.

[This article originally appeared on my Fort Worth Secrets website, which has been discontinued. It’s from April 2016.]

About Live Music At Central Market

The Fort Worth Central Market has offered live music for more than a decade, since shortly after the opening of the store in 2001. The massive patio — one of the largest in town — along with the ample parking and the convenient location make it a natural live music venue that draws listeners from all over the city and beyond.

The connection between the Central Market brand and live music goes back even further. The original Central Market location in Austin opened in 1994 and also has a generous patio with an adjoining private park. Other locations in the chain feature music, too, but the original Austin location and the Fort Worth location are the only ones with large, accommodating patios that draw in big crowds.

Central Market is a high-end chain from H-E-B, a grocery store company with a long history in Central Texas that has only recently brought its large and impressive H-E-B grocery stores to the Dallas-Fort Worth market. The idea behind Central Market is to provide an upscale grocery experience and upscale take-home food as well as classes and other amenities that draw people to the stores. There are now nine locations, all in major Texas cities.

Bands at Central Market Fort Worth play most Fridays and Saturdays in March through October, usually from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Music At Central Market: Getting The Most From It

I’m a regular for the free live music concerts at Central Market and have been for many years. The quality and type of music provided has varied considerably through the years. Things seems stable these days, however, with more good bands than bad. There’s also more variety that in some years.

Crowds got large and out of control in years past, and management stopped booking some audience favorites, opting instead for solo acts and acoustic groups in an effort to limit attendance. Imagine that: a venue trying to keep guests willing to shell out for food and drinks away. Fortunately, saner ideas prevailed and management is once again booking a good mix of bands.

To make the most of your Central Market live music experience in Fort Worth, watch the store’s online events calendar to help you decide what nights to visit, then call ahead to make sure the announced band is actually performing. Last-minute schedule changes and weather-related cancellations are common.

Be sure to check out bands you don’t know much about by seeing if they’re popular on Facebook and looking at some YouTube clips or listening to some MP3s on the band website, if there is one.

Remember that arriving early is essential if you want a seat on the main patio section near the stage. Many guests arrive before 4:30 p.m.

Some seasons, I’ve had strong negative feelings about Central Market because I’ve made the mistake of taking a personal interest in this venue. Many assurances to me have turned out to be just so much talk, but the live music at this grocery store has been an overwhelmingly positive part of my life in recent years — and one that I miss when it occasionally flakes out.

Good To Know

  • It’s impossible to overstress the importance of arriving early. The best tables are almost always gone by 5 p.m., and crowds come even earlier on the best evenings. If it’s cold or excessively hot, however, few people show up even if the music goes on.
  • Bring a cushion of some kind because the wooden chairs are uncomfortable for many. I get around the discomfort by sitting on a towel — and standing up a lot!
  • Outside food and drink is prohibited, but this is a grocery store and café, after all. Coolers are also prohibited. Prices for food and drinks are generally expensive, but there are some affordable choices, like a one-price fountain drink you can refill all night, child’s spaghetti, macaroni and cheese and sandwich meals and relatively inexpensive chips, bulk dips and fresh-made breads.
  • Most prepared foods are served chilled, so make your selection early enough to take advantage of the microwaves inside.
  • When the patio is full, try the second-floor balcony. There’s also an inside dining room upstairs with a microwave and the best free wifi reception in the store.

Learn More

Central Market Fort Worth Events

The Fort Worth Civic Orchestra Has Remained A Relative Secret Since 1977

You might think an organization that’s been around since 1977 would develop a following, but if that’s happened for the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra it’s difficult to tell.

While yearly Teddy Bear concerts aimed at collecting stuffed animals for the Fort Worth Police Department draw crowds that sometimes come close to filling the venue, many concerts don’t draw much of an audience.

That’s a shame.

[This article was originally from my Fort Worth Secrets website, which has been discontinued. It’s from April 2016.]

About Fort Worth Civic Orchestra

Fort Worth Civic Orchestra has four concerts each year. They’re free, open to the public and held at the Truett Auditorium at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. The orchestra also performs as part of the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival at University Christian Church every year in early January.

The purpose of the orchestra is two-fold: to provide the community with great symphonic music and to allow musicians who want to play but aren’t necessarily professionals an outlet. In recent years, seminary student musicians have also been included in the orchestra.

The group was formed in 1977 to bring classical music to the area at a reasonable price and to serve as a reading orchestra for volunteer musicians. It quickly reached 65 members and performed across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Early members included teachers and students as well as retired professional musicians and others. In the years that followed, community outreach was added.

In 2002, the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra came under the baton of current director Dr. Kurt Sprenger. In 2009, the orchestra moved to its permanent performing home at the seminary, where Dr. Sprenger teaches. Still independent but with a performance venue, rehearsal space and storage, the orchestra seemed poised for great things.

But why don’t more people know about this orchestra and attend it’s events? It’s probably because of a lack of advertising, infrequent updates to its website and Facebook page and other marketing lapses. While hundreds experience the orchestra during the festival at University Christian Church, it seems that relatively few of those attendees realize the orchestra has performances of it own.

My Experiences With The FWCO

Since the orchestra moved to the seminary, I’ve attended nearly every concert. I’m no expert on symphonic music, but the music ranges from excellent to lacking polish. Often, however, the performances rise nearly to the level of the Fort Worth Symphony and other professional organizations.

The type and quality of the programs presented varies considerably. Some recent concerts have offered less than an hour of music and left some audience members dissatisfied, but other programs seem well-crafted and professionally done. This inconsistency may be part of why audiences are sometimes small.

The Teddy Bear concerts usually feature a singer and a performance of two pieces written by children’s carol competition winners. Special performance pieces have also sometimes been performed at other concerts, and sometimes the programs veers away from only classical music.

While I’d like to see more consistency, more attention to programming and more people in the audience, Fort Worth Civic Orchestra concerts are usually vibrant and interesting events. And Truett Auditorium’s rotunda lobby space is something to experience. While everything looks very Baptist and is clearly a bit worn around the edges, this area and the auditorium itself are great for the purpose.

But it’s a shame that more people don’t get to experience the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra and it’s four-concert season for themselves. Will I see you there next time?

Good To Know

  • While wheelchair access is available from a side entrance, the building is not very user-friendly. There are no handrails on the grand staircase outside and there are steps into and out of the rotunda before reaching the auditorium.
  • Parking is free and close. Park in any of the spaces in front of the auditorium, even if they’re marked for faculty.

Learn More

Fort Worth Civic Orchestra

Granbury Gallery Nights Are Laidback Day Trip From Fort Worth

If you’re looking for a simple, quiet and perhaps even romantic way to spend an evening, why not get out of the city for a while? Granbury is a quick and easy day trip from Fort Worth or anywhere in North Texas and has more to do than most cities its size. I recommend trying out a gallery night, held the last Saturday of every month. It’s a laidback way to see some great art, meet some interesting people and get to know this quaint little town.

Granbury has all the things you’d expect from a small Texas town: a historic courthouse square with unique shops, some home-cooking restaurants you’ll enjoy and more. Plus, there’s the especially scenic lake right in the middle of town. But you may not know that the city has a small-but-determined visual arts community. This includes a real art gallery downtown as well as several other venues on and near the square that also display surprisingly high-quality artwork at affordable prices.

[This article originally appeared on my Fort Worth Secrets website, a project that is now discontinued. It is from August 2016.]

Getting To Know Granbury Gallery Nights

Many people who visit art galleries never buy any art, and I suspect that’s the case with most of the visitors to Last Saturday Gallery Night & Art Walk in Granbury. Organized by The Galleries of Granbury, this even is similar to the twice-yearly gallery night events in Fort Worth, but Granbury’s event happens every month.

While not all galleries participate every time, venues that stay open late — usually from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. — for gallery night include:

  • Artèfactz, a store with many different booths inside. One belongs to an artist who is usually present, and you can often find an artist demonstrating outside this shop as well
  • Dora Lee Langdon Center, a historic home where art from a featured artist or group of artists is displayed. Meet the artist and learn more about the home too.
  • Shanley House, a historic building that shares a parking lot with the library. Amateur artists are often on display, but check hours since this venue sometimes opens late.
  • Uptown Arts, the backroom of a boutique called The Bridge. There’s art jammed into the room everywhere and a nice patio out back where you can get a breath of fresh air.
  • Your Private Collection Art Gallery, a real gallery displaying works by professional artists. This is the hub of gallery night activity and perhaps where you want to start and end your evening.

Other venues sometimes participate as well. Most venues offer refreshments including hor d’oeuvres, wine and beer, and many artists are present to meet you. A trolley can help you get from one venue to the next, but all within easy walking distance of each other. The details for each month’s event is available on the Galleries of Granbury Facebook page.

My Experiences In Granbury

To make a gallery night in Granbury a complete experience, you need to venture beyond the galleries a bit too. You can easily visit all the galleries on foot and see everything within an hour and a half. But I encourage you to take things a bit slower and to see what else in town might attract your attention.

First, some other shops on the square may be open late for you to enjoy. You might also be interested in booking some tickets for the current show by the Granbury Theatre Company at the Granbury Opera House, also on the square. Several restaurants surround the square too.

If you’re looking for familiar chain restaurants, most of those are out on Highway 377. The array of choices is larger than in most small towns. If you want dependable chain near the square, try Babe’s Chicken Dinner House or Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. Fuzzy’s is a great place to stop after you’re done with gallery night and grab a taco if you aren’t already full up.

A great city park hides behind city hall and next to the Shanley House. Sunken below the road, you can step in and step away from your art walk experience to enjoy some time to yourself. A walking path will take you off into the sunset if that’s what you want.

Lake Granbury is a long, narrow lake, so it seems to be everywhere you look in Granbury. There’s even a small public beach with boardwalk just off the square that you might enjoy. You can also book a room near downtown and stay the night. If you’re a foodie, Granbury’s huge H-E-B grocery store might be an attraction for you since most of us who live in or near Fort Worth don’t have access to this affordable chain that also offers gourmet choices.

Whatever you decide to do in addition to visiting the galleries, make Last Saturday Gallery Night & Art Walk your reason for visiting Granbury. Then expand the experience into a completely fulfilling trip by exploring some of the other things to see and do in Granbury.

Good To Know

  • There’s plenty of free parking around the square in Granbury, and public restrooms are available too. I usually park at city hall and have never had to compete for parking. You can park around the courthouse or in another lot closer to the lake as well.
  • Ignore what may appear to be rudeness and customer-unfriendliness at some of the shops around the square. You may see signs warning you about bringing your children inside some shops or indicating that the shops don’t have public restrooms. But enjoy these shops anyway if they happen to be open when you’re there. Most shopkeepers seem to be much friendlier than their signage indicates.

For More Information

Galleries of Granbury Facebook page

and also

Historic Granbury Merchants Association
Visit Granbury