22 11, 2020

Acting Like It’s the Last Time

2020-11-22T00:11:25-05:00

A wall of chill hits me as I open the door to let the dogs out. I hadn’t bothered to grab a jacket or robe, so the goosebumps are standing tall on my arms and legs. It makes me feel alive.

As I sit on the steps of the old porch, looking out over the vast view, a tinge of fog has planted itself at the base of the distant blue hills as a blinding streak of light lasers itself to my eyes, forcing my hand up to shield my face. Blades of grass and tall weeds are flashing like neon as they sway with the breeze, and dancing white highlights kiss the leaves of the silhouetted great twisted oaks. We like to call this “California weather,” which comes to Texas in the spring, and in late fall once the heat has gone home for the season.

Coming Home

Later today we will celebrate one of our sons’ return from college, about eight hours away. We don’t get to see him as much as the other two, who are “drop in” distance for some weekends. We’re looking forward to reuniting our family and spending a couple of months before their return to campus.

What’s Different This Time?

All too often we take family for granted. Yet many families across the world are missing loved ones, many of whom were victims of COVID-19. What will you and I do with our families the next time we gather? How will our interactions be different — knowing we’re fortunate to have one another, or, heaven forbid, wondering if this time together will be our last?

Give Up Everything

When playing golf one day, a buddy of mine said, “I would give everything I own, give up all of my wealth, for just one more hour with my mom and dad.” It’s a story we’ve heard before. Yet how will we treat our loved ones if we’re together this Thanksgiving?

Will we revert to reacting to the buttons others tend to push in us? Will be we loving, appreciative, and trying to create special moments? Or will we open old wounds or resort to old ways?

I have friends who refuse to return home because of their wounds, because of tough memories of how they were raised, or wronged. But could they get beyond that?

No Chance for a Farewell

Another friend was estranged from her dad for close to 20 years, with no contact. She carried her anger over her past, and yet, the moment he passed, she commented that she suddenly regretted not taking the high road, getting beyond her wounds, and healing a relationship that she now cannot heal.

For those of us lucky enough to be with our families, this is a great opportunity to avoid returning to our old habits, letting go of our fears and anger. No sin is unforgivable, even the worst of the worst. And though sometimes it’s simply best to avoid people who hurt or wronged you — which certainly would be understandable because of certain actions. But perhaps, in most cases, we can turn the other cheek?

Getting Deeper

As a dad who almost lost a son to a heart attack this past January, I want my time with him (and my other kids) to be the best possible memory. I don’t want him to be eager to get back to college because he wants to get away from his family. Instead I want to engage him, appreciate him, and create special memories that will plant themselves in his brain forever.  And as a son who lost his mother about a year and a half ago, I look back with some regrets about not taking the effort and time to be there for her more, and get to know her more deeply. 

I think we fall into this mindset of “I’ll do those things someday,” but then we’re often surprised to learn we’ve lost our chance. 

Don’t lose your chance this season. 

Ask yourself, what would I want? How would I want to be treated? Be that person.

What We All Want

Those around us may never live up to our expectations, may never perform in the way we want of them. But instead of being critical or demanding, how about just letting go? How about accepting who they are, and loving who they are? How about encouraging and appreciating them? After all, that’s what we all want.

Growing to Be Loved

As a parent the temptation is to project what I want for my kids on to my kids. I’m sure they can feel the pressure, but the only thing I really care about is that they grow up to be loved, appreciated, and live quality lives. Of course I don’t want them to make the mistakes I made or to throw valuable time away. But, as I said recently, I also want them to grow from pain.

Lots of us are keeping our distance to prevent the spread of the virus, but lots of us will be thrown together anyway. When your family arrives, hug them like it’s the last time, and seek to bring joy to this time together. 

Don’t look back with regrets. Hold back on judgment, but don’t hold back on love and encouragement. Treat this time as the last time. Treat every time as if it’s the last time. One day it will be.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This year I’m going to slip out on the porch and give you a special message on Thanksgiving. Watch for it, and if it’s worth reading, read it at the Thanksgiving table.

PS2: I’m really excited. Here I was worried about surviving and staying in business, and because we pivoted to virtual online art conferences, we’re going to make it. Yay! But I’ve got to keep it going to keep all these wonderful people employed so they can make memories for their families. If you think you might like to learn watercolor, even if you don’t believe you have the talent, sign up for my Watercolor Live learning event in January. Somehow we’ve managed to get the very best watercolor masters in the world to teach, and we’ve also created a Beginner’s Day. I’d be grateful if you would check it out and maybe give it to someone as a Christmas gift.

Acting Like It’s the Last Time2020-11-22T00:11:25-05:00
15 11, 2020

Listen for the Whisper

2020-11-11T15:25:41-05:00

As I opened my eyes, the trickle of water startled me fully awake. Then, once I stopped panicking, thinking the pipes had burst, I realized Laurie and I were camping along the Frio River in our little camper. This was the maiden voyage, and we’re hoping to get to know each other all over again, remembering the best vacation we ever took before kids, which was a couple of weeks in a camper. 

As we speak I’m in a folding chair outside so I don’t wake Laurie, and the sun is streaming in my eyes as the grackles squawk loudly. The reflections on the water are like a color wheel, and later today it will be warm enough to take a dip and kayak down the river a piece. It’s a joy to have a weekend off and to start our empty-nesting life together. 

I’d be lying if I said I was totally disconnected. After all, I still have a cell signal, and hopefully this is still showing up in your inbox. 

Internet Legend

There is a story floating around the Internet about a young boy who tells his pastor father that he would like to go out and pass out flyers to tell people about how God loves them. It was cold and rainy and his dad didn’t want to go, but since they were in a small town, he allowed his son to go out alone. 

Knocking Loudly

The son passed out all but one flyer and was about ready to go home, but he stopped at one more house and knocked, and there was no answer. He knocked again — still no answer. So he walked away. But something made him turn around and knock longer and louder. Soon a frail old woman answered, and the child said he was sorry to interrupt her, but he just wanted to tell her that God loves her and he thought she might like the flyer. She was kind to him, and thanked him.

Interrupting

The following Sunday in church, the pastor asked if anyone wanted to share anything before closing the service, and that old woman said, “Yes, I’d like to.” She had lost her husband, it had been a couple of years, and she was lonely, worn, and tired. She had decided to kill herself, and was ready to go ahead with it when she heard the knock. But the knock went away. So just as she was about to do something that couldn’t be undone, she heard the knock again. She decided it must be important, so she went down to answer the door. 

The story goes on to say that from this little angel of a boy, the hope she received gave her a renewed spirit to live. She had appeared in the church for the first time in her life.

When this story arrived in my in-box, I enjoyed it, passed it to some friends, and then started thinking about my own life and the moments where perfect timing occurred. In some cases it was timing to help me, and other times it was the right timing to help others.

A Frightening Day in Business

One day, about 20 years ago, my bookkeeper told me we could not make our payroll that week. We were $18,726.56 short. I asked if anyone owed money we could collect. There was no one. I just knew I was out of business and had to lay people off. Clearly, at that stage of my life I was not very good at planning or managing. 

Being Exact

Earlier that week a man named Mike had come to work for us. He had just returned from a church retreat and explained that he learned it was important to pray for specifics. So, I went into my office, worried and tearful, and I asked for help. Exactly $18,726.56. And though I asked, I did not really believe I’d get that help, so I was trying hard to sell what I could and try to collect something in advance. 

Two Angels

With only two days to go till payroll, I had no solution and was ready to inform my team that I could not pay them. My receptionist buzzed me that I had a call, and it was a client, Marty, from one of the radio networks. I can remember his words clearly. “Eric, because it’s the end of the year, we have some leftover budget. Can we prepay some ads for next year?” Of course, I said yes, but he did not indicate how much or when it would come. Yet the next day a FedEx arrived with exactly $18,726.56 on the check. The exact amount needed to save our business.

Two people had stepped in on my behalf. Mike, who told me about specifics, and Marty, who called to prepay. That moment strengthened my faith. 

Perfect Timing

When I heard the story about the little boy, my mind flashed to that moment. But it also flashed to several moments when people had said things like, “I can’t believe you called and said that, it was exactly what I needed at this moment.” Or, “You brought me an answer I’ve been struggling with.”

Can You Hear Me Now?

There are some who believe we are all interconnected on almost a cellular level, and that we’re on certain “frequencies” with others. That’s beyond my level of understanding, and I don’t really know what to believe, but I can say that something or someone is connecting many of us.

Needing Someone

Probably dozens, maybe hundreds, have connected with me at the perfect time. They have helped me or I have helped them. There were times when I was lonely, sad, depressed, and feeling blue and someone suddenly showed up for no reason at all, pulling me out of it. 

You Talkin’ to Me?

When we started the daily broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube, I started hearing from hundreds of people who would say things like, “How did you know I needed to hear that today? You were speaking directly to me.”  It happens to Laurie and me all the time. We’ll go to church and think the pastor is targeting us with a tailored message. “How did he know?” we’ll wonder.

I can even say it happens more than ever, which I think is because I’m learning to pay attention to the little tugs, the little tinge of feeling that I need to call someone or visit them. 

Sweet Inconvenience

And like the little boy in the rain, it seems that every time I don’t want to do something and I do it anyway, I never regret it because it turns out to my benefit or that of someone else. Before our recent Fall Color Week, I was so used to being home that it was a struggle to get up at four in the morning to catch an airplane. The night before, I was whining about it because I was experiencing back pain, and I strongly considered asking someone to step in for me. But I sucked it up and went, and the result was that I had several good things happen to me, including invitations into two good galleries and a possible donor for my TV show. But also, in several instances, I was able to help people who had nowhere to turn because of personal tragedy. In each case, I heard something like, “I don’t know what I’d have done if you had not been here for me.”

Though I’ve trained myself to be a planner, I’m very much a pinball, bouncing from one paddle to the next, in response to the callings in my head. 

Has this happened to you?

Have you had moments where you were connected at the perfect time with the perfect person with the perfect message? 

One of the reasons I encourage silence and thinking time, and not spending your life on small and big screens, is that the quiet helps us tune in. Someone needs you for some reason, and when you get that quiet whisper in your ear or that tinge to call someone, do it.

And if you can’t be troubled because it seems like too much work or inconvenience, do it anyway. It will be a sweeter result because of the sacrifice.

Someone once told me that every adult is a hurting little child inside, and that they may be too tough or macho to speak up. But if you can open up a crack, be there for them, and listen, you might change their life.

How Could This Even Be?

I’ve told the story many times of being stuck in a cab for an hour — and it changed the entire direction of my life forever. Why, on that day, did I lock my keys in the car? Why did I decide to take a two-hour cab ride instead of calling a local locksmith? How was it that the cab driver was in Miami but happened to be from West Palm Beach and able to introduce me to the art instructor who introduced my heart to art? 

You may say it was serendipity or coincidence. Maybe. I like to think there was a plan that put me in a vulnerable position, stilled my heart, made me talk to someone I otherwise wouldn’t talk to, and got my attention. 

Special Delivery 

I continually encounter people who it feels were sent to me, as if they were angels on earth. And I’m continually surprised that a random feeling I should call someone results in my being that angel for them. I’m guessing it happens to us all, which I suppose means we are interconnected somehow.

At this time when half the population is frustrated or hurting, and a time when people are worried about COVID and other crazy things in the world, listen for the tinge.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Just for grins, pick up the phone today and call three people you have not talked to for weeks or months or years. Just tell them you were thinking about them and wanted to say hello. Engage. And look for an opportunity to say something nice about them or bring up a fond memory to lift their spirit. Don’t ask for anything, and don’t tell them you’re calling because I suggested it. Don’t e-mail. Call. That call might lift a spirit, change a mood, offer an idea, or provide something you need. Don’t think about it, don’t over-examine it. Just do it.

Speaking of “just do it” and life-changing events… when we did our two other virtual art conferences, I heard lots of “This was life-changing.” I’d like that for you. Even if your brain is saying, “I can’t paint, I don’t have talent,” go visit WatercolorLive.com and just do it. You’ll find something new inside you, and you might love it. 

Listen for the Whisper2020-11-11T15:25:41-05:00
8 11, 2020

Pray for Pain

2020-11-06T15:14:39-05:00

Quiet and stillness fill the cool Texas air. Not a single leaf is fluttering, and the deep orange morning light entertains my eyes with streaks of color as it blasts the front porch of my art studio. Morning or afternoon light glow is something I never noticed before picking up a paintbrush. 

Silence is a good thing on any morning. I love awakening early, before anyone else is awake, and sitting quietly with my thoughts. There is a special place, right between getting up and waking up. It’s as if it’s a time when my thoughts are more abstract, more free.

Hello Silence, My Old Friend

Today silence is especially welcome. We are all numb from a year or more of election drivel, of intense dialogue coming at our brains from every direction. I’m wishing all the political signs would come down, and I’m thankful the advertisements have stopped. I’m ready for silence, for quiet, for peace. Though I’m not sure that wish will come true anytime soon, which is why each of us must look for the means to find solace in our own way.

Trophies for Every Child

Sadly, there are sore losers, and frighteningly, I’m seeing more name-calling and anger than any time in the last year. In a world where every child receives a trophy, where we must not hurt any feelings, it’s a time when we all have to swallow a dose of reality.

How We Deal with Losses

No one cherishes the idea of losing, but in any contest we enter, we understand that not everyone will be a winner. We are each dealt our cards, and we have to handle the outcome. It seems to me that how we deal with our losses is what defines who we really are. Are we dignified and high-road? Or are we low-road and sore losers? 

Each time any of us is challenged by a loss or by adversity, we’re made stronger. Pain always equals gain. And though we don’t want to face our pain, we always grow from it.

Why? Why?

Though it may seem odd, my prayers are not a wish to Santa Claus in hopes of gifts for Christmas. Though I’m tempted to ask for more, or for perfect outcomes, or for winning, I try to ask for what I need, but in all cases, I simply ask for God’s will. I figure He knows a lot better than me. And, as I browse my life, I’m thankful that my prayers of the past were not all answered. Though our losses may be painful and seem unreasonable, there is always a plan, and trusting in that plan and learning lessons is helpful. Learning to trust may be the hardest lesson of all when things in our lives don’t seem to make sense. Why would this happen to me? Why not? Maybe pain is forging a lesson we all need.

When Pain Is OK

The absolute best things that have happened in my life have always emerged from the most difficult and painful moments. It’s when maturity sets in. Those moments make you raw, which makes you sit up and take notice of things you were not seeing. That’s why I want my kids to lose from time to time. Though I pray for their safety, I also pray that they face adversity and difficult challenges, because I know that will serve them better than perfect lives. I want them to experience pain, I want them to be frustrated and challenged, I don’t want them to win every contest or do everything they are trying to accomplish in their lives. Their lives will be better, more appreciated, if things are not always as they wish.

A Tough Moment

Flashing back to fourth grade, my life was crushed. My Ds and Fs resulted in my being held back because I’d come in before I was ready to go to school. I was suddenly an outcast. My friends from kindergarten moved on while I stayed back. I was a marked man. And it was no secret from the third-graders, who were now my equals. All of this resulted in a very difficult time making friends. It was a painful time, and I was very angry at my parents. I did not understand it, and I was not mature enough to realize that it was no one’s fault but my own. I blamed my parents, teachers, principal, and others, but I never accepted the blame for my own actions. In hindsight, it made me stronger, made me work harder, made me come out of my shell, and helped me develop skills and coping mechanisms that helped form who I am today. It was not fun at the time, and I’m sure my parents had a tough discussion about whether it was the right thing, but it was.

Pushing a Little Harder

Now that my kids are in college, I look back and realize they needed more pain growing up. They needed to work harder, they needed to be challenged more. We kind of let them decide what they wanted to be involved with, and we felt sorry for the kids whose parents forced them to play sports or take piano lessons. But we may have been wrong, because pushing kids beyond their own wishes develops important skills, and the pain of all those kids pushed to do things resulted in their developing talents and self-esteem, and perhaps a work ethic that gives them an advantage. Though I have few regrets, I can see some lacking life skills because we protected them from pain. 

Tough Love

We have a small monthly cash budget we give our kids in college. They don’t really need much money because meals are covered, but a little for gas or extras is helpful. But we’ve made it clear: They get it on the first of each month, not a day sooner, just like a paycheck, and they have to make their money last. This week one of our kids is already asking for his December money in early November. Though it’s tempting to help, we said no. He needs some pain, he needs to learn to manage his money, he needs the reality of life, and if he needs extra, he needs motivation to go make it. The pain won’t be fun, but it will be better than not having learned how to manage his money once he has a family.

None of us wants to face the hard decisions in life or the tough love moments with our families, yet it’s losses, failures, and pain that make us stronger. We can’t all get our way all the time. Therefore hold your head high, be a high-road person, and move on. And ask, what am I supposed to be learning from this moment in time?

What about you? What lessons should you be seeking?

Eric Rhoads

PS: There has to be more to life than working all the time. Due to quarantines, people are discovering they need something more. As a result of the forwarding of this blog to others, and tens of thousands subscribing, and my “pitch” that art is good for each of us and enriches our souls, I’m hearing of people all over the world who are trying art for the first time. Many are signing up for lessons locally, others are using our videos online, others are watching me at noon ET daily on YouTube and Facebook, where I have artists teaching, and still others are watching the free 3 p.m. ET video of the over 600 art instruction videos we’ve produced. I find this very encouraging, and I want to help you grow and discover yourself through your art.

A foundation in art is critical, and it starts with learning what we call values (lights and darks). I have a few free lessons to get you started. Hope you’ll check them out. 

Our online virtual conferences are really bringing the world together and teaching thousands of artists worldwide. Our next is in January; it’s called Watercolor Live. Watercolor is a terrific place to start, and we’ve got the world’s finest artists on this 4-day event (Beginner’s Day is one of the days). It’s a great way to dip your toe in the water without the expense or commitment of an in-person event.

Pray for Pain2020-11-06T15:14:39-05:00
1 11, 2020

Which Button Will You Push?

2020-11-01T11:54:11-05:00

The ground is saturated with water, and puddles reflect the deep blue sky above. It’s too cold to write you from the porch this morning, so I’m huddled in my art studio in the chair normally used by models. My heater is blowing warm air over me as I try to shed the goosebumps from the cold. It’s chilly and almost freezing. Fall in Austin lasted less than a week, dropping from the 90s to the 80s and then to the high 30s. The leaves haven’t even changed. I’m hopeful that later on color will come and the temperature will return to the 70s. 


Though we’ve been back less than three weeks, it seems the lake was an eternity ago. I miss its deep green pines, and the scent of pine in the air. I miss our rustic old 140-year-old home, which has no road access, and of course I miss our friends there. But summers are short and life continues elsewhere. And it’s good to be home.

Visiting Dignitaries

Near us on a neighboring lake where we spend our summers, residents have hosted many prominent guests, including every sitting president since Eisenhower, Supreme Court justices, secretaries of state, prime ministers, foreign dignitaries, and actors. About 25 years ago, Gorbachev was a guest of a local resident. 

From Russia with Love

Following the visit of the then-Soviet leader, who at the time was in the midst of perestroika, his hostess was asked by someone … “Would you trust him with the lives of your grandchildren?” Her answer was that he was very charming, very competent and engaging, a remarkable human, and very impressive, but no, she would not trust him with the lives of her grandchildren.

Sometimes questions clarify everything. In spite of all of Gorbachev’s accomplishments, that question brought out the truth. 

A Big Week

This week each of us is faced with a decision. Many believe it’s a life-or-death decision for this country. And if you ask most, in both parties, the world ends if their hero is not elected. Sadly, decisions like this are often more emotional than they are practical. Our emotions control us, and sometimes I catch myself making decisions because I don’t like someone’s personality, their demeanor, or the way they talk. Yet if I had to put priority on what really matters, the emotional reasons would fall toward the bottom of the list. 

Stomping If They Don’t Get Their Way

As always, I avoid sharing my political beliefs or opinions, and I’m turned off by celebrities who try to sway voters with their influence. (Though I’m no celebrity — it would be shallow of me to think people could be swayed by my influence.) I have more respect for individual thinking than to believe you can’t think for yourself. Even celebrities who have threatened to move out of the U.S. are just stomping their feet because they might not get their way. They always threaten, but they never do it, and none of us care anyway. I’d be more heartbroken over losing a neighbor I loved than someone I like in the movies who I don’t even know.

The Finger

On Tuesday our index fingers will waver between which button to push, which lever to flip. And it’s important to remember the weight of your decision. It’s not a casual decision, and it should not be based on who has the best ads, who has the most negative things to say about the other, or some probably-misinformed opinion shared with anger on social media. One Twitter post said it best: “If one negative ad can sway you as a voter, you’re not thinking about this deeply enough.”

The Death of Journalism

Though non-political, I am disturbed by the polarized nature of information. Balance does not exist anymore. We tend to watch one outlet or another that supports only our own viewpoint. None seem to represent both points of view — though that’s what true journalism once did — and we are all worse off for it. Those of us who try to do balanced homework may not be able to find reliable information anywhere. When was the last time you tuned in to hear a different point of view and were willing to just listen and not judge?

So, since unbiased research via the media doesn’t seem possible, how do we decide which button to push? 

Is this the time for the question about trusting the candidates with the lives of your grandchildren or future grandchildren?

You see, the weight of your decision comes down to that — with every vote, no matter what party. All issues, social issues, party leanings, courts, and future decisions boil down to our future, the future of our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. And it’s about our own lives going forward.

Most people put less time into their voting decisions than into choosing from a menu at dinner.  My friend and mentor Keith always reminds me that decisions of importance require thinking time, and critical questions. 

The Future of Your Family

If you think of each question you have with the grandchildren and future generations test, it may help bring clarity to your decision making. Thinking in questions helps me remove the emotion from my own decisions. 

If you knew someone who wanted to have control over the future of your children and their children — even a little bit of control — wouldn’t you have questions for them? Maybe dozens of questions? 

Think about the questions you had when you were choosing a preschool, a music teacher, a coach, or a college. What may be at stake now is the way your children will live their lives for years to come. Think of the questions you’d want to ask about that, and think about how the candidates for president and vice president (this is crucial this time, given the ages of the presidential candidates) would answer. Could they show you a future your children and their children can thrive in? 

Bad or Worse?

Here is the reality. No one in their right mind would run for office. People do it for a lot of reasons, and too often for gain or power or other less than noble goals. Therefore our choices are not always great. But, frankly, I don’t care if I like a candidate as a person, that’s my emotions talking. I care if they will protect the future for my grandkids.

Bear the Pain

Last week I talked about following your own heart, and not doing things because they’ve always been done a certain way. And though you may think one vote won’t matter in your state, it will. And none of us have a right to complain if we are not voters. So stand in the rain, wait in line in the hot sun, do whatever it takes to make your voice heard. Don’t start thinking your vote doesn’t matter because you heard rumors, polls, or press reports. Vote anyway. And don’t let anyone stop you, intimidate you, or make you think bad things will happen if you vote one way or the other. And, when listening to others, ask yourself if they are the person you would take advice about for the future of your grandchildren.

Vote with thought behind it. Know what you’re voting for. Think about the future for your kids and grandkids even if you are young. Listen to your heart, but not your emotions alone. Ask critical questions. They will serve you well.

Eric Rhoads

PS: For 221 days we’ve been “on the air” for you (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter) at noon ET with me interviewing guest artists and at 3 p.. with art instruction videos. Join us. Go to any of those platforms and search my name or StreamlineArtVideo.

Last week’s Realism Live was the world’s largest virtual art conference. It was a huge hit. We had lots of fun, including bringing Bob Ross in for a visit from Heaven. You can see it here.

Now we’re launching the world’s largest watercolor conference with the best watercolor artists in the world. It takes place in January, but the price increases on Black Friday. Check it out at www.watercolorlive.com. We even have a Beginner’s Day.

Which Button Will You Push?2020-11-01T11:54:11-05:00