Sprinkles hit the ceiling of the old great room of the home built in 1850, as rain is tapping on the tin roof above my head. I sit here in silence as my eyes gaze around the room in awe of the craftsmanship of intertwined decorative slats, a massive stone fireplace, and a carved star mounted to the ceiling to designate where to find the North Star. 

Rich History

Worn red antique rugs cover the wooden floors. Kerosene lanterns are mounted to the walls, never removed when newfangled electricity was added. An old fringe-shaded Victorian lamp stands at attention in the corner by the diamond-paned windows, surrounded by furniture made from twigs, an antique chessboard, a stuffed hawk, and a scale model of a classic wooden boat. 

This old lake home and its contents have not changed much since the place was built, other than plumbing and electricity added. The long dining room that could seat 20 was once alive with the conversations of the six families who have lived here in the past 170 years and their guests, and it’s my desire to have multiple generations of my family carry on the tradition. 

In Search of the ‘Golden Pond’ Life

When my dad first discovered this lake after a search to find a place like the movie On Golden Pond, his goal was to keep his family here for generations, as many of the families on this lake have done. There is peace and rejuvenation and solace in the lake’s beauty, and in the sense of tradition. 

For me this place is more important than any on earth I’ve discovered so far. The air and water are pure and cleansing to the body and the mind. Three months here, even though I’m working, provides the battery recharge to be able to mentally take on any challenge in the coming year, especially in an election year with the fallout from whatever happens.

Let’s NOT Talk Politics

In case you haven’t noticed, I avoid politics like a root canal. I don’t like to talk about it, watch it, or be a part of it. If you’re thinking I’m about to make a statement about last week’s debates, the current situation, who I loathe or who I support, you’ll never hear that from me.

I don’t like politicians, but I’m grateful there are people willing to subject themselves to life under a microscope in service of their country. As I’ve stated before, I was offered a chance to run for U.S. Senate and turned it down because I can’t imagine a more horrible life.

Change Your Mind

Here’s the thing … no one can ever change your mind. Only you can change your mind, and that rarely comes from someone trying to convince you. Change comes only when you use your own brain, have an “aha moment,” and are willing to challenge your own possibly lifelong assumptions because you took the time to keep your mind open and to study for yourself. 

Me trying to use my platform to get you to vote for someone would be foolish. I need every reader or customer I have. Why would I irritate half of them by revealing my political stance? I guess I’m just not rich or famous enough to not care. 

Politicians Make Me Giggle

It makes me giggle when politicians try to pretend to be ordinary people who can relate to us. You know, “I used to work the coal mines before walking 10 miles to school in a blizzard, and then I’d work 15-hour days on weekends to earn money to support my mother and my 18 brothers and sisters.” I’m sure some really did have modest starts in life. But once they became elected officials at a high enough level, they became part of an elite class with privileges none of us can imagine. I’m sad to say that I tend to think most of those life stories are made up, designed to get us to relate to them. It doesn’t work. 

Welcome to Political Season

So as we enter this political season, when the media ramps up the rhetoric and tells you why one candidate is like Hitler and the other is perfect — all designed to get ratings up and keep you watching intently — I want to offer some advice. Oh, it’s not voting advice. I’ll continue to love you no matter how you vote. 

    1. Use your brain. Don’t trust anything anyone tells you. Find out for yourself.
    2. Avoid extremes. If people are making crazy statements about a candidate, ask why.
    3. Study the opposite point of view. I get fresh content from X (formerly Twitter) and can read up on the other side of the story. Don’t assume you know. There are smart people for and against any candidate. Find out why. Read their opinions. Don’t just go with the party line.
    4. Avoid “9 out of 10 say this” arguments. Just because someone is a scholar or an expert does not make them right. Nine out of 10 Harvard professors don’t have to worry about how to pay your rent.
    5. Don’t let them tug at your heartstrings. Politicians love to use children as pawns. You know, “kids in cages,” that kind of thing. Do you think anyone running our government would actually let that happen? 
    6. Ask yourself: What do they have to lose? Why are they trying so hard? Is it really about the future of the country? Or the future of their own power and position?
    7. Don’t get emotional. We’re easily controlled when we’re emotional. 
    8. Follow the money. Almost always, money is the motivation behind everything.
    9. Avoid peer pressure. Vote your heart. Don’t pick a candidate because your friends think they are cool. 

A Leader at the United Nations

I once met a very wise and powerful woman who knew every world leader of her time, including every living past president or national leader, because of her work in the UN. After a visit by the president of a major country, she was asked this one question: “Would you trust this man with your grandchildren’s lives?” Her answer: “Not for a moment.”  

Who would you trust with your family? Is your quick answer based on something someone else told you? Or something you learned on your own?

The Goal of the Media

I grew up working in the media. Most of the people I worked with would do anything for an extra rating point. I mean anything, even something illegal if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. The media’s sole job is to make you watch more, build the ratings, and get you into an emotional state so you’ll keep coming back for more. Watching just 15 minutes of any news broadcast can put you into a hypnotic state and keep you there for hours. The same is true for social media. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything wasn’t about party lines? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if someone said, “The other side is right this time”? But that rarely happens anymore. Things are overly polarized. 

Remember Independence Day

I’m not referring to last Thursday, I’m referring to the true meaning of independence. Preservation of our country is critical. No candidate will be perfect. Both will make terrible mistakes. No matter who wins, the media will love them and hate them at times, and they’ll tell you who to love and who to hate. Don’t let them do it. Use your brain.

Don’t Be a Pawn

I can’t watch or listen to anything right-wing or left-wing. I distrust most of what they tell me because they have an agenda that goes beyond driving ratings.There is not a single balanced TV network. I pay attention to a few people who seem to be reasonable and balanced and who are not on TV or radio, then draw my own conclusions. These people are hard to find, and sometimes they lose my trust. Keep an open mind and pray about it.

My Embarrassing Voting Record

I’ll go into a voting booth and lay down my vote, something we should all do so our voice is heard. But there are usually some people on the ballot for local or state positions that I’ve never heard of. I feel bad about that, because too often my votes are based on whose signs stood out the most or if they are a part of my party. Do I know their policies? I’m embarrassed to say I rarely do. We owe our communities and states more than a mere glance and a shoot-from-the-hip vote. These people are determining our taxes and our school policies and our policies regarding the state and the freedom of our communities. And just belonging to a party is no longer a reason to vote for someone; we’re seeing people on both sides betray their own party — for the right reasons, or for the wrong ones.

Take the privilege of voting seriously, as though your life depended on it. But don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. You’re bigger than that.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I walked a thin line here because my intent is to stimulate thought, not try to make you guess my political stance or preference. I will never try to influence you. I just hope more people will stop allowing themselves to be influenced (if that’s even possible).

My heart at the moment is to spend the rest of today on the dock, hoping the rain leaves and the sun comes out, so I can play the rest of the long weekend. 

Speaking of play… 

Pastel Live, the world’s largest online pastel conference, is taking place in September. If you want to learn to paint, pastel is the easiest medium. You don’t have to learn to mix color — like crayons, you lay down colors and get incredible, vibrant results. You can learn more at pastellive.com.

Realism Live is coming in November and Watercolor Live in January, and our new Acrylic Live in March. You can sign up for any of them now.