How to Be an “A” Player
The sun streams through the window waking me. At first I’m feeling lost, out of my routine, until my brain catches up and realizes I’m not home, but away in a strange bed. A glance out the window treats my eyes to billowing clouds, streaks of sunlight and distant snow capped mountains. I’m desperately searching for a coffee maker, and will probably have to get dressed and go to the lobby. My family and I landed here in Colorado last night, and today is the culmination of two years of preparation by dozens of people on my team. It’s the beginning of a five day learning, painting and friendship adventure, called the plein air convention. Yesterday was the start of a two day Lori Putnam workshop, which continues today, and today is an essential day for plein air beginners. Then at 4 pm, the big show opens and it will be my busiest week of the year. Why I Dislike Weddings When I was a wedding photographer, I discovered a thing I called Wedding Letdown. Brides would spend a year or more in preparation for their big day, and then in a few short hours it was all over. They
The sky is glowing an iridescent blue like a Maxfield Parrish painting, with twisty silhouettes of tree branches reaching high to patches of leaves. A slight swaying in the trees draws my eye to the distant gay mountain, where a few stars glow in the still-darkened sky. Morning has broken. In my junior year of high school, I was somewhat lost and confused. I had one interest only, being a DJ on a local college station with no listeners, populated by nerds like me who loved the idea of being on the radio even though we were talking to the wall. Grades were never my strong suit, and college wasn’t on my radar because a career in radio was already my plan. I loved the attention, and stardom, in the form of radio, was what I was looking for. But Carolyn Parsons had a different vision for me. She was my Humanities teacher, in a class that I struggled with. She was as hard on me as anyone ever was. “Get your act together, Rhoads, you’re better than this,” she would say. Though my star may have been shining among my friends, nothing I could do would please “Mrs. P.,”
The Seasons of Living
Massive thunderstorms pounded our metal farmhouse roof. The rattling sound was overwhelming, but this morning the sky is clearer than usual, the birds are happy after their bath, and it’s a stunning day filled with wildflowers and the scent of beauty in the air. There is a big debate in my mind whether spring is my favorite season. What I love about spring is the rejuvenation, the beauty that comes after the harsh cold. And I love spring fever, when we’re all eager to wear shorts, flip flops, and sunscreen. I flash back to winters in Indiana that I thought would never end, times when we struggled with the ice, the cold, the dark gray days, dead car batteries, cars sliding off the road and getting stuck in snowdrifts. I could never get warm, and we couldn’t wait for spring to appear. Experiencing Winter Recently I’ve watched friends and family experience their own personal winter. Tough times of fighting disease, unexpected tragedy, family trials, addictions, financial or legal troubles, and losing cherished family members. I often feel guilty that I’m experiencing spring when they are suffering. But we all tend to cycle in and out of good and tough times.
Do You See What I See?
Do you pay attention to light? This morning I woke up a little after sunrise, and the sun was slamming the sides of the trees outside my window with colorful warm light in the early glow. Parts of the tree were in shadow, while little spots were illuminated with color. Little twigs and leaves popped out against the dark purplish distant background and lit up like little firecracker explosions. In the distance I see the silhouettes of trees in front of a brightly lit pasture of glowing greens and slight reds against the fog. The morning dew reflects little moisture bombs on every blade of grass, making them glow with light. Golden Hour Years ago I was attending a broadcast convention, walking down the streets of Boston with friends, when the golden hour approached and illuminated the sides of the brick buildings with a pink-orange glow. The clouds above were gleaming with yellow. I stood and marveled at the light, but when I pointed it out to my friends, they just said, “What is it we’re supposed to look at?” At that point I realized I had been given the eyes of an artist, and that my friends weren’t likely
What’s on Your Radar?
This Texas ranch house is shaking with the thunder that seems almost continuous from the massive storms. Water is pouring down in buckets as I sit dry and well-protected on the long wooden porch. Finally I can take a deep breath without inhaling pollen spores, since they’ve been dampened down by the rain. My heart is filled with joy, not only because of this day, but because I try to find joy even on the most difficult days. Easter Memories This morning my mind took me back to 5311 Indiana Avenue, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A little brown house my parents bought for $50,000 (today its value is $233,000). It was a model home for a new neighborhood called Woodhurst. We would color eggs in the little kitchen the night before with my mom and dad. My brothers and I would wake up on Easter morning and have to find our hidden Easter baskets, and then we would become energy bunnies after eating most of the chocolate in one sitting. Then I would put on my little bow tie and my red sport coat, and I’d strap on my hidden James Bond 007 gun holster under my jacket and head
The Urge to Fight
Nature’s colors are beyond anything any artist is capable of reproducing. The color harmony of this morning’s sky, filled with peach, pink, purple, green, yellow, and gray-blue. The spring greens on the twisty oaks, and the thick carpet of blue flowers, this year the best I’ve ever seen them. I feel blessed to stare out at the backyard, the distant view, the deep lavender mountain, during a moment of perfect peace. I look forward to my quiet time when others still sleep, when it’s just me, my thoughts, and my faithful dogs. Trying Something New Two weeks ago, I tried something new. I decided to celebrate spring by asking people worldwide to join a broadcast from my backyard. I called it a global “paint-out” — a gathering of artists to paint. I invited some friends and ended up with about 30 local artists painting in my backyard, while we saw people all over the world watching and painting together. Suddenly the art world is flooded with paintings of one scene. Chainsaws Galore Doing a live event always has its challenges. Millions of tree branches were downed in the recent ice storms, and cleanup will be a yearlong process for many.
If life had a soundtrack, I’d be listening to the quiet strum of soft guitar music as I sit here on my back porch overlooking the Texas hills on this pre-sunrise morning. Distant hillside homes, towers, and blinking lights are softened by the fog of this humid, almost-warm morning, waiting patiently for the sun to reveal what’s in store for the day. For over a decade, this porch has been my muse, my quiet place, allowing me to stare into the distance inside my mind and gather my abstract thoughts. It's where I sit when I feel lost, where I sit when I feel the need to escape, and where I sit to find myself. It's where I create, where I write, where I ponder each day. A Backward Glance Looking in the rearview of life, it sometimes starts me wondering what lies ahead, what will keep me engaged, excited, and driven. What more can I do? What needs to be done that hasn’t been done? Do you ever wonder about those things? Where will you and I find new ways to change lives, to improve lives, to help others live their dreams? It's a question I often ask, with
Anger Consumed Me
A warm breeze kisses my skin as I am at last able to return to the old porch without the need for a blanket or a jacket. Brightly colored purple blossoms ignite the spring trees, and tiny buds indicate soon-to-return Texas bluebonnets that will carpet the ground in blue. Spring is here, finally. I’m blessed that we have a short and usually mild winter here in the center of the Lone Star State, only a couple of freezes and one massive ice storm to deal with so far. And though winter is my least favorite, I love living in a place where seasonal change occurs. Being able to open the windows and sleep with fresh air, no heat or AC, is among my favorite things. Sum-Sum-Summertime Of course, summertime is the ultimate. So many summer memories occupy space in my gray matter. Each summer my grandparents would hop in their new Chevrolet (my grandfather traded his in every year) and we would make the full-day drive to Tennessee. They always packed a picnic, and we often stopped to visit other family members along the way. Get in the Car Now! At first, I was resistant when they would ask me
A beautiful brown buck, with a giant rack atop his head, gracefully feasts on the downed tree branches left over from the big ice storm a couple of weeks back. The remaining trees sway to and fro, and dim light with a slight touch of pink fills the sky over the distant hills, which I can see even better since the storm cleared some branches out of the view. I sit here in this soon-to-be-warm moment reflecting on my past, deeply grateful for each experience, including those that did not work out as I had hoped. Reinventing Radio In 1998 I wrote an article in Radio Ink, my radio industry trade magazine, predicting that one day consumers would get their radio and TV online. The feedback on the article was negative; in fact, I just about got laughed out of the radio industry. Yet for some reason, I had the ability to see down the road. I was so consumed by this concept that I started a radio industry conference about the future of the Internet and its impact on the industry. Though it was successful because people wanted to know more about these new things called websites, they could
Which Side of the Battery Are You?
Glowing pink is radiating up to the gray and purple morning sky, against the silhouette of distant rolling hills. The morning sun signals hope for the day. Gray-green broken branches fill the ground, in piles the size of houses, left over from last week's ice storm. A brisk breeze shakes the trees as if to test the strength of the remaining branches.The sound of a flight to who-knows-where tumbles in the sky above for a brief moment. Each day when I awaken, I start with hope. I hope it's a good day. I hope I do good work. I hope I’m productive. I hope I am a good example to others. When I open my eyes, usually at the request of the whining dog in the crate on the other side of the room, I place my bare feet on the ground and I rub them back and forth. It's a routine I’ve done for decades, and to me it’s like revving my engine. It builds my energy and sets the tone for the day. It launches me! Don’t Worry, Be Happy Last week a friend commented to me, “You’re always happy. What’s your secret? Life can’t be that perfect.”
Are You a Groundhog?
Branches dipped in ice decorate this heavily treed rural property like a winter wonderland Christmas card. Tall, crystalized weeds shine like thousands of sequins on a New Year’s Eve dress. Like dancing lace, crystals reflect the dim gray light. Sheets of ice transform my deck into a skating rink, and there are thunderous cracks as overloaded branches fall to the ground, wreaking havoc, destroying dozens of trees, and turning my yard into a war zone of fallen wooden soldiers. This freak winter ice storm will soon pass, but weeks will be needed to remove the splintered wood and thousands of downed branches. Frozen in Time Sometimes we, like the branches, become frozen in time, the crystals of stability and success holding us back. Then suddenly, the crack, as the weight breaks off our branches, leaving us exposed and broken. Nature is a beautiful thing. Stability and predictability are cozy, comfortable, and easy, but there is deep value in being broken, though we fear the unknown. Never in our prayers for needs to be met, for life to be stable and easy, do we think about what comes next. Rarely do we pray for discomfort, conflict, pain, or change. Yet these
At Your Service
Fog and mist fill the bright, colorless morning sky and soften the edges of treetops in the distance. Softness in the air even covers the trunks of gnarled and twisted scrub oaks. The weeds and grass are glistening with water droplets, and the long deck that runs the length of the house is wet where the roof offers no cover. The red Adirondack chairs placed in a circle around the fire pit are reflecting the light from above and are glowing. As I let the dogs out this morning, they sniff in circles, tracking bustling creatures from last night.It’s Cozy TimeSometimes a cozy morning like this calls for a couch, a blanket, the sounds of silence, and a good book. I begin my morning routine before I dip my fingers into the cesspool of social media. A daily chapter of the old family Bible has proven to offer perspective and to impact every daily decision. Almost every day it feels like it was written just for me, addressing today’s specific issues or concerns. It eliminates my fears and anxiety and gives me wisdom.Long DaysThe past five days were 12-hour work days away from my office, prepping and hosting our annual online