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Home2019-08-06T13:52:30-04:00

The Best Advice I Ever Received

In the middle of a deep sleep and a wonderful dream, suddenly the quiet is harshly interrupted by the sound of the whining that wakes me up. As I let the dogs out for the morning, the brisk cold air hits my skin and rapidly awakens my otherwise sleepy state of mind as a perfect, richly colored orange glow sits at the horizon and its light bathes the trees in color. I may have preferred to sleep in, but when the dogs get me up early, I always get to see the sun come up. It’s a beautiful sight I never tire of seeing. The other day a friend asked me, “What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?” I paused, thought deeply, and said, “I’ll have to get back to you on that. It’s a tall order.” And it is, because I’ve been blessed with so many people in my life to offer advice. My dad always offered amazing advice and ideas on business, as did a few of my mentors.  I’ve been thinking about this topic all week, because it’s not easy to determine what was the best advice ever. What about you? What is the best

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Number One

My tradition each Thanksgiving weekend, following Turkey Day, is to paint the fiery red tree across the street. Some years it’s freezing cold and I’m out there in my warmest clothes, and some years I’ve painted in shorts. This year, the tree is dead. No color. I’m not sure why. I’m not certain yet if I’ll paint it anyway. But after all, traditions are traditions, right? One of my traditions, triggered by the holidays, is to start thinking about next year. I remember telling my team in January, “We have lots to get done, and before you know it, it will be July.” This time it feels like my year went by even faster than normal, maybe because I’m traveling again. In any case, I missed getting everything done. But because there is time to reflect, especially as things tend to slow down, I try to ask myself these questions. Perhaps they will be questions you want to ask yourself. If I could accomplish only one thing in the next 12 months, what would that one thing be? Why is it important? Is there anything else that will get in the way of that one thing? Here’s the skinny: I

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The Dogs Got My Turkey

How the Dogs Destroyed Our Thanksgiving Way back, almost 30 years ago, the moment my wife and I got engaged, we immediately went to the animal shelter to adopt a dog.  We found nothing, and, discouraged, we resigned ourselves to a trip every week or so till we found the perfect companion.  But as we were walking back to the parking lot, a man was walking in with a box of puppies. There were eight total: four tan baby Golden Retrievers and four black puppies whose breed we could not tell. “Same litter, different fathers,” he suspected. I guess “mom” got around. We played with them all and picked the two with the biggest personality. It was a tossup. I fell in love with a Golden and she fell in love with a little black one. Which do we pick?  We each had our favorite, we each had fallen in love with one — so we picked them both. Of course we all think our dogs are the greatest dogs ever, but these really were.  After they turned about a year old, we were preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t recall if we were going elsewhere and taking the turkey

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The Mad Genius at Your Thanksgiving Table

Beyond the old porch, brilliant orange light falls on the trunks of twisty oaks and their rogue branches. A deer wanders in the distance, immune to the frantic barks of our two dogs, who are inside looking out. I too am inside, to remain in the cozy heat of our first fire of the season. Embers glow red hot, pops and cracks entertain as flames generate warmth on a cold morning. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies remains after last night's baking adventure in preparation for the day we offer thanks. Embrace the Pain Holidays like the one coming this week serve such an important purpose, reminding us to truly be thankful for everything and everyone in our lives. Even being grateful for our problems and challenges, which prepare our hearts for the difficult reality that we lack control, and that we need to learn hard and important lessons we would rather avoid. Those Who Bring Out the Worst For many, a gathering that includes arguing with Uncle Harry and family battles over politics or football teams will feel strangely comfortable, as many gather for the first somewhat normal Thanksgiving since 2019. We’ll be remembering to be thankful

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How to Do the Impossible

The crack of thunder and a quick flash nearby made me jump out of my seat and spill a bit of my coffee. That was a little close for comfort, as I sit here on the porch during a massive thunderstorm. The giant, almost endless rumble of thunder, the flashes of light, the fast-moving clouds of all colors, and the buckets of heavy rain making a fabulous sound as they hit the tin roof — the sidewalks and grass are flooded, but I’m dry and safe here on the porch. Bowling Balls As a child I used to put the garage door up and sit in the garage looking out at thunderstorms. Cracking jokes like “God is bowling” when thunder hit … and as a younger adult, I  used to dream about one day having a house with big wide porches and a tin roof so I could sit outside during heavy rains. Today, I’m living the dream. What you think about is often what you get. Under the Covers As a kid, I fell in love with listening to radio DJs on my little transistor, with earphones and under the blankets so my parents would not hear me up

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How to Kill a Monster

How to Kill a Monster Creamsicle orange covers the horizon, with the mountain silhouetted against it. Billowing clouds are lit like glowing hot air balloons as the sun stretches its arms to show its brilliant color across the sky. The spooky sound of cackling crows in the twisted oak trees is unusual around here and can only be attributed to Halloween just around the corner. Halloween Past In childhood I found a lot of joy in dressing up, going door-to-door through the entire neighborhood (and the one next to ours). We would make an extra effort to go to the mansions several blocks away, thinking somehow they would be handing out Ferraris instead of the standard candy, but we were always disappointed. I remember thinking, “If I were rich, I’d give kids cool stuff the other houses don’t give out.”  Cases of Candy My best friend Stu and I would take pillowcases with the goal of filling them up each night – there were usually two nights for trick-or-treating. We were not allowed to take the candied apples, but we loved the lady who gave out dimes. We were tempted to change costumes and keep going back, but we never

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Home at Last

Opening my eyes today, a new scene shocks my brain. “Where am I?” I think. Only to realize I’ve awakened back in Austin after several months away. As I meander to the porch, I’m hit with a blast of cold air, realizing that, having left in June, I completely missed months of the over-100-degree furnace. Fall is in the air, but color change here is often subtle, as is the case now. Though the tree in front of my neighbors’ home will soon change to a fire red, inviting me to paint it once again, as I do each year. Usually when I’m away, I fill in with a “best of,” but this time, away in New Zealand for a couple of weeks and then on to Maine for my Fall Color Week artists’ retreat, I completely forgot to do it, so your Sunday mailbox may have been a little emptier than normal. Hopefully absence has made your heart grow fonder. I know I’ve missed writing. The reason for my absence was, first, a much-needed week off, then the trip to New Zealand where I hosted a group of artists for almost two weeks, and then off to Fall Color

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Deep Tradition Makes for a Rich Life

The whoosh of wings overhead swoops downward as a giant bald eagle dives toward two loons, who rapidly dive to avoid his massive talons. A slight fog is beginning to lift as cool meets warm over the lake, and a tint of rust is starting to reveal itself among the trees. After a bout of overcast, gray, cloud-filled skies and constant drizzle, it’s warm, already sunny, and about to be a perfect lake day in the Adirondacks. I sit here with you in an Adirondack “Westport” chair — which has been on this dock since 1902 — iPad in hand where previous generations used pen and ink for their waterfront missives.  A Busy Day Today the lake will be a flurry of activities. There are sailing awards, with the transfer of 120-year-old silver sailing cups that the winners display for the coming year before their return for the next recipients. The traditional Labor Day tea will bring the lake community out in its finest and will end with sadness and hugs to community members who will depart tomorrow until next summer. We are among the few who will remain, but just through the first freeze, since our only source of

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Passing Out Gold

Have you ever been somewhere so quiet, you can hear only a slight ring in your ears? As I walked through our old lake house, it was so quiet, my steps were amplified across the wooden floor. When the door slammed behind me as I entered the old octagonal screened porch (built in 1894), the slam startled me because there was no other noise. No water lapping, no boat sounds, no birds tweeting or loons looning. It truly is the sound of silence as the lake is enveloped in fog, so thick I can’t see more than darkness across to the other shore. It’s just me, alone with my thoughts. A Caring Artist Last week after one of my daily shows, I was talking to artist Gabriel Stockton about a problem that needed to be solved with an obstinate person who was being difficult. He said, “I just speak light, and I look for gold in every person. I speak love, and beauty.” He then told me that his goal is to do this with his children. “Imagine how much confidence they will get if we stop speaking about their flaws and start speaking about the gold in them.” I

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Creating Your Masterpiece

Creating Your Masterpiece The perfect summer day … warm but not hot, breezy, no bugs, a glass of iced tea, and the sound of laughter from kids in a passing boat as they water-ski into view. That’s what it was like around here most of last week. One of my sons had four of his best friends here for the week, and their joy radiated around the entire lake. One said, “This is the perfect summer camp.” It’s still early, but another perfect lake day is expected today. I grew up on Lake Wawasee in Indiana. My grandparents had an Airstream in a trailer park across from the lake, and we used to go up for fishing and swimming. My dad did the same thing with his grandparents; we were the third generation on the lake. Driving Without a License When we were teens my dad and mom managed to buy their own place, across the lake. They provided the perfect summers for us, filled with barbecues, water-skiing, sailing, hanging out at the sandbar with hundreds of other kids. I remember being able to drive a boat before I got my driver’s license and the freedom of the wind in

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Inspiring Greatness

The roof on the old octagon-shaped screen porch overlooking the lake is being slammed with massive raindrops, making things very loud. The normally cheery, bright skies have been hijacked by dark billowing clouds, an occasional flash of light and a rumble in the distance, and a stirring wind. I tell myself it’s why I love the Adirondack Mountains, and the rich green forests that need to be watered regularly. Plus, the pressure to spend a sunny day on the water has been replaced by the prospect of snuggling up on the couch with a blanket and a good book. And though I try to read every day before bed, a large chunk of time to catch up is welcome. It’s in books that I stimulate new ideas, and I learn the secrets and shortcuts of people who have already done great things. A Lot of Work! One of my dirty little secrets is that I hate to prepare for speeches. Few realize what it takes to do it well, which is why, when I spent years doing a series of speeches, I had one or two I repeated at different venues. A great talk or speech takes time. For instance,

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Get Prepared

Paradise isn’t hard to take. I’m squinting my eyes as the bright morning light reflects intensely on the water. Two loons are silhouetted near the dock in front of me. I’m comfortably sitting in an old olive green original Adirondack Westport chair — the engraving on the back says 1904. It's cool, slightly breezy, and the coffee warms me before the day grows a little warmer. If it gets too hot (unlikely), I may jump in for a swim, and later today I’ll go paint in my little wooden electric boat. I have lots of summer memories, but one moment was especially unnerving.  Panic Time When I was a kid, my dad woke us from a sound sleep early one Saturday morning. “Get up. Pack a bag for a week. Be ready in two minutes. This is an emergency.” Of course, I rolled over until he woke me again. “What’s going on?” I grumbled in my most sleepy, not-awake voice. “There’s no time for that, but this is life or death. I’ll tell you in the car.” Nuke Threats In the 1960s we were all on high nuclear alert. In school we had drills where we had to get under

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