Feel the Joy

Mourning doves coo like a soft flute from the windows of Mrs. Holland's sixth-grade music class at my old brick elementary school. An orchestral arrangement of tweets seems to play mockingbird from all directions. And bright orange streaks of light kiss the tops of rogue bushes and twisted tree trunks. Tiny buds of future daffodils sneak out of the rich dirt, ready to reach for the sky and please the eye. Going Home I’ve not been in my hometown in early spring since I left there as a teen about to start my life elsewhere. Though I tend to make a brief appearance every couple of years, this weekend's visit is a rarity. This homecoming is a grand sendoff for the man whose last name I bear, providing a chance to reconnect, possibly one last time, with cousins and family acquaintances who share our grief. The silver lining in this dark cloud is making renewed acquaintances, hearing stories we’ve never heard, and seeing people we’ve not seen since “you were this high.” Deep Freeze While making arrangements, one of my dad's lifelong buddies pointed out that we have been frozen in time. His son, now 42 with kids, is stuck


Bright Light on a Dark Day

Dark clouds are billowing over the distant green pastures. A rickety old fence manages to keep the longhorn cattle from walking into the dirt road, which only sees an occasional truck each day. It’s the middle of nowhere, and I’m here in the camper for a much-needed break to simply relax for the weekend. I might slip out and paint the fields of bluebonnets. Following our big online artist convention, PleinAir Live, which was an intense four days after even more intense days and months of advance preparation, I was exhausted. But instead of sleeping in the following day, or sitting on the back porch, or playing in my art studio, I had to face something I’d rather not face. Boarding an airplane, Laurie, the kids, and I flew to Florida, knowing we would be spending the next few days saying goodbye to my dad and being at his bedside. Big Changes in One Month When we left there a month ago after spending almost four weeks taking care of Dad, who was up and in good spirits and alert, we returned to find him shutting down. He was barely able to talk, and, though we were only able to


Are You Doing What Matters Most?

Green Scottish pines sway outside the window of my hotel room in Jupiter, Florida. The needles are almost a foot long, rich in brilliant green and dull brown colors, with little cones sticking out at the ends of the fuzzy branches. A dark, gloomy sky looms overhead. I left here last Sunday morning after a successful four-day online art event (PleinAir Live) with word that I needed to get to Florida because my father was entering the next and last phase of his life. I dreaded the trip and what I would face. An RV Trip Just two weeks ago, Laurie and I were here for a two-week stay that ended up being close to a month. I extended it because I had a feeling that it might be the last time I get with my dad. It was worth taking two more weeks away from work.  The Best Month Ever When we were here my dad was still himself, just a little slower than normal. Talking up a storm, giving me advice, getting us ready for his next chapter, and communicating clearly. Though his treatments dragged him down, he was strong and vital, just a little less so than


Traits to Change the World

The rustic boards under my feet squeak as I make my way across the porch to the little wicker couch with bright red cushions. The wicker also squeaks as I sit down and place my coffee on the table in front of me, which has a little glass arboretum with small cactuses growing inside. It's a warm spring morning, and the birds entertain me while distant neighborhood chickens make sure we know they can sing too. A big yawn fills my face as my arms stretch out. I stayed up till about 1 a.m. working in my man-cave studio. Sometimes I go there just for silence, other times to read. I read a great book the other night called Beyond Genius: The 12 Essential Traits of Today’s Renaissance Men by artist friend Scott Griffiths and his friend Eric Elfman. The Renaissance I was fascinated by the book because it profiled great Renaissance men in history like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Isaac Newton (yes, all men; they are coming out with another book on women), and great living Renaissance men like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, John Paul DeJoria (who lives about a mile from me), and others. For the first time, someone


How to Get X-Ray Vision

Colorful fields of flowers filled the roadside between Florida and Texas on the long drive home in our motorhome. We saw massive brilliant pink azalea bushes, fields of bright, glowing red flowers, roadsides filled with white flowering bushes, and, once we were in Texas, fields of iridescent indigo bluebonnets. The scents were heavenly.  In Texas, families dress their kids in their Easter outfits and pose them among the bluebonnets. This week we’ve seen dozens of families along the road. It's a lovely tradition. I fully expected to see some little bunnies hopping out of the bluebonnets. In any case, happy Easter. He is risen. Today’s story is about a personal resurrection. Hit a Wall We returned home a week ago tomorrow. Our intended two-week vacation turned into a full month. It was the longest vacation I’ve taken in my career, and probably the most important one yet, providing me with some great lessons and perspective. After almost a year of continuous broadcasts twice a day, seven days a week, I had hit a wall. It was time. Severe burnout had occurred, but I was too driven and focused to see it. But thankfully, Tom in my office pointed out that


Are Your Pipes Bursting?

Birds are tweeting after a week of agony from coming this far north a little too early. Piles of melting snow and ice remain after our rare arctic blast this past week, which has been one for the record books here in Austin. We were fortunate and never lost power, and even then, with the furnace trying to keep up, it was cold in the house and we had frozen and burst pipes. But hope is showing its face with some warming sun this morning.  It’s been a difficult week, where 4 million were without power for three or more days, freezing in their own homes, and it will be a big loss for insurance companies and a gain for plumbers who will come in from every state. We’ve put in our request because of those burst pipes.  This week is a reminder of the old Scout motto … be prepared. A last-minute trip to the grocery found the shelves bare, and the city issued a boil-water order to those of us who still had water after those burst pipes. Thankfully, we had what we needed. Be Prepared Some of us will forget it all three days into the sunshine,


Choose Wisely

A steady drizzle of frigid droplets falls upon the old porch. My normal view of blue or purple hills in the distance is grayed down to barely visible, and the air is so cold, it feels as if I could throw water into the air and watch it turn to ice crystals.  I arose early with my head spinning with ideas, putting my toes into the warm blue corduroy slippers with the wool lining. I’ve pulled an old sweatshirt over my head, and a blanket is wrapped around all of me other than my arms and fingers, which kiss the cold keyboard. Solid Advice Last week artist Stewart White was visiting and imparted some advice to my kids. Simple, yet meaningful. He told my son, “If you just finish what you start, you’ll be ahead of most people.” And he suggested to my daughter, who stared down at her phone the whole time, that it’s good to engage with people, look them in the eye, and don’t stare down at your phone the whole time. I thought Stewart's advice was spot on.  Three Important Lessons It made me think … if I could choose only three things to tell my


How, Exactly, Do You See Yourself?

Tiny little bright green buds are peeking their heads out on the bare branches of the giant trees around me, trying to find out if it’s safe to come out for an early spring — mild temperatures are signaling the beginning of spring here in Texas. The old screen door makes a creaky sound amplified by rusty springs, the door slams behind me, and I’m finally back on the long porch that goes the distance of this old Texas farmhouse. Sadly, my neighbor moved and took his cattle, but the view is pretty terrific just the same.  Spring in the Air Growing up in the Midwest with cold, snowy winters, spring was always a welcome sight. Spring fever would have us out without coats on a sunny day, even though it was still 30 degrees. We simply could not wait for the arrival of spring. And, like the feeling of a first love, spring is about seeing things through fresh eyes and having something new to look forward to. And about the time we get used to it, we’re looking forward to summer, then fall, and even winter. We’re a fickle bunch, we humans. When we lived in Florida, we


Suspending Belief

A blanket of quiet has covered the sky, which is dropping flakes of white powder softly on the ground. The branches are sagging with the extra weight, and the creaking tree limbs are decorated in white lace. Our yard has become a magical winter wonderland. Last Sunday was such a day, when this normally temperate part of Texas was coated in snow. Soon after I wrote to you, we started out with rain, which was quickly transformed to little balls of sleet, and then the sky opened up with sheets of snow. Three inches rapidly accumulated, and I did what any self-respecting child would do. I started a snowball fight with the kids upon arrival at the church parking lot, and when I got home, I went painting in the snow. How fun!! When it snows here, once every two or three years, it takes us by surprise. It's simply something we don’t expect. Writers often talk about “suspending disbelief” when watching or reading a work of fiction. But sometimes we have to suspend what we’ve believed and accept what is.  Life can be filled with moments of suspended belief. Words I Did Not Expect As a child, I never


The Storm Is Upon Us

The house is rattling as though bombs were going off nearby. Flashes of light are frequent and get more in sync with the thunder as the storm closes in. Pellets fall upon the tin roof above the old porch, making a deafening sound, and water streams everywhere around me except for this one dry spot. Lightning Strikes When I was about 8, I visited Tennessee with my grandparents, and we were at Aunt Maxine’s farmhouse. Staring out the window at a storm, I heard a loud CRACK that shook the ground, and I could not believe my wide eyes. The thick old oak in front of the house was instantly split in half, just a few feet from my window. For perhaps the first time, I had a realization of the power of storms, and just how fleeting life can be. Tornado Alley I can remember being afraid of storms as a child. Growing up in Indiana, tornadoes were a fact of life, and their devastation was beyond anything I could fully comprehend. As a child I was a worrier; I had ulcers because I worried so much, and I was totally afraid I was going to be a tornado


How to Get Through Life with Joy

There is magic in mornings like this. The house is still and quiet as I walk barefooted on the old wooden floors to the porch that surrounds this Texas ranch house. The sky right before sunrise is misty, and filled with pastel-colored light. Soft purples and blues can be seen in the distant hills, which have lost all detail as they stand silhouetted against the pink and yellow sky. Moments later, the top of the mountain is a glowing yellow, and gradually, the entire mountain is engulfed in light. I love the moment where the light meets the shadow and the tip of the mountain glows, creating a middle color between the bright sky and the dark shadow. To me, as a painter, it’s one of the hardest things to capture, but so pleasing when I get it right. Dreams and Ideas Though I cannot tell you the cause exactly, vivid dreams have been filling my head since the week of Christmas to today. Each day I awaken energized with new ideas, new concepts, and new ways to change the world … or at least my little world. I’m recalling experiences with others that never occurred, and recognizing the people


2020 Vision

We are living in interesting times, and each of us has experienced something that is a part of history, a time future generations will look back to through our eyes. Though I knew most of my great-grandparents, I don’t have too many memories of their stories. But grandparents offered many a tale, family lore, tales of struggles and interesting times.  The Great War I can remember my Grandfather Walter telling stories about World War One. Not so much stories of war, but life in the army. I can remember sitting at the little yellow 1950s breakfast table in the kitchen of my grandparents’ Webster Street house as he told me I needed to learn to eat faster. “In the military they gave us only about five minutes to eat, and if you don’t eat fast, you won’t get enough, and you won’t know when the next meal is coming.” Yes, he converted me to a fast eater because I was too poky. Al Capone Days My other grandfather used to tell tales of living in a boarding house in Chicago during the Al Capone days. I seem to remember him saying that Chicago at the time was like the Wild


Eric Rhoads
Entrepreneur, writer, artist, marketer, and speaker.
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