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

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 Plus, the pressure to spend a sunny day on the water has been replaced by the prospect of snuggling up on the couch with a blanket and a good book.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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Stepping Up

Today I’m not on the back porch of my property in the deep Texas heat, nor am I on the dock in the Adirondacks experiencing the call of loons and the cool air. Instead I’m sitting in a slightly cramped airline seat, high above the clouds, en route to the closest airport to home. Wings Spread I’m not only physically above the clouds, I’m mentally above the clouds — yet drained, exhausted, and spent from the effort to create this high-level accomplishment. This, it turns out, has been one of the toughest, most challenging weeks of my life. And though it was not fighting off some disease or horrific trauma, which is about as tough as it gets, it was a high-level game of stress chess. Private My goal is to be as transparent with you as possible. I’ve shared some things others would never share. But in this case, I need to protect the privacy of those involved, so I can’t tell you what happened. But I’ll tell you the story around it. Emergency! As I was quietly sitting on the porch, painting a watercolor, my wife burst in, frantic with news she had just learned about a family member.

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Living Large

This week I received one of those calls you don’t want to get. An old friend was in ICU on life support, and the family was told to start deciding if they want to pull the plug or, if she comes out of her coma, to be ready to place her in a facility for regular treatments and tube feeding for the rest of her life.  You Next? When asked, “What would you want?” it got me thinking. Would I want someone pulling the plug if I had a chance of coming out of it? What if I came out of it and had to spend my life on a feeding tube and other treatments? What would I do? I hope I never have to face such decisions with my family and I hope they don’t have to face them with me, but I also know it’s best to have an answer, and a living will, in advance so others are not burdened.  More to Offer? And I started thinking about my friend who, in her late 60s, is mentally alert, sharp, highly intelligent, and has a lot to offer the world. Would she want a chance to do more?

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Chasing the Dream Life

Two large loons are swimming at the edge of the dock. Their cry echoes across the lake, bouncing off the distant shore, where the deep green pine trees are softly covered with morning fog, making them a pale bluish-gray color. A hawk flies overhead, and it’s so quiet you can hear the whoosh of her wings and her loud call as well. Not to be diminished, a tiny dock spider spins its web across the seat of the Adirondack chair next to me. Though the birds, the streaks of sunlight, the beautiful views may not be there for my pleasure, they bring pleasure just the same. I can choose to ignore them or to embrace their beauty. Type AFor decades I’ve been a hard-charging, “Type A” personality, working endlessly to help others find what I have to offer, and often chasing shiny objects, often in pursuit of the things the media tells us will create happiness. Five Hot CarsLooking back, I can recall gurus standing in front of their five-car garages, each door open with an expensive car in every slot. They would stand beside their jets and tell us that this can happen to us, too. And I bought into much of

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My Personal Secrets Revealed

A bright pink salmon-colored sky is glowing, with the black lace of pine trees silhouetted against its brilliant color. The lake is mirroring the sky, not a ripple in sight. The silence is beyond any level of quiet I’ve ever experienced. This is the true definition of peaceful. In the late 1800s, the Hudson River School painters were criticized for their brilliant sunrise and sunset paintings because the coal-smoke-filled skies of New York made such skies unbelievable. Yet, as I sit here on the dock of my Adirondack home, I’m a witness to confirm such brilliance exists here in this 6-million-acre protected park. The air is so pure I find myself taking deep breaths more frequently. A Boat Ride Away Just minutes from now, after coffee on the dock, I’ll put on my jacket and put the first ripples on the glass-like lake as I make my way across to a small, winding river through the weeds and woods to the next lake over, where I’ll pull up to the dock at Paul Smith’s College. That’s where I’m hosting my 11th annual artist retreat I call the Publisher’s Invitational. I’m hosting about 100 plein air painters, who will paint the

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Finding Joy in Dark Times

The best night's sleep ever occurred last night, with all the windows open, the curtains blowing along with the cool breeze, and a wonderful 65 degrees. This morning I peeked out the bathroom window to see a red cardinal perched on a branch singing its heart out. I feel like I’m in a Disney movie, living in a perfect world. Of course, after a cup of coffee and a check on social media, reality strikes. Perfection isn’t possible. At least I had a great night of sleep to improve my focus and attitude, letting problems bounce off my chest like projectiles bouncing off Superman. Walking on AirI have to admit I’m still on a high from our big artists’ convention in Santa Fe last week. It was the first time in almost three years that our family of artists has been together, with the surprise of hundreds of new people joining for the first time, and hundreds of others joining online. I knew I missed it but did not realize just how much it was missed, because my energy comes from being with other people. I had not realized how low my batteries were and how being with hundreds of others who

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Two Paths to Choose

Massive winds bend the thick trunks of scrub oak trees until it seems the roots will soon rip out of the ground. Birds fly against the wind, working extra hard to move from branch to branch, and the heat would be overbearing if not for the winds. I love nature, I love lightning, thunder and storms, even high winds … up to a point, until it becomes unsafe. In fact, I once rode out a hurricane in my car, stuck bumper-to-bumper in Central Florida as me and millions of others were trying to escape to safety up North. No cars flipped, but they were all rocking back and forth, bounding on their tires. It was more intense than any Six Flags ride and lasted for a few hours. Other than cowering in a basement corner waiting for an oncoming tornado, I think that is the most frightened I’ve ever been. The Struggle Looking back on childhood, I’m grateful for experiences that made my brothers and I stronger. I’m grateful my parents let us struggle and did not solve every problem for us. As a parent, my temptation has been to tell my kids what to do at every turn, trying

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Your Favorite Lifetime Memories

The sun is streaming painfully into my eyes. It’s bright and brilliant orange, kissing tree limbs and the tops of grasses as it makes its way to me. I tip my new 10-gallon straw cowboy hat down over my eyes to find shade. This morning’s heat is intense. Today will be a candle-melter, and not good for the chocolate bar tucked between the seats in my car. I may come back to a bowl of soup. Walking on the deck in my pointy-toed boots, I hear the sound of cowboys about to go head-to-head in a quick draw. The only things missing are spurs and a six-shooter. I’m not normally a cowboy kind of guy, but I love watching it on Yellowstone. It makes me want to pretend. Finding the Impossible In 1980, two days before my first wedding, which was to occur in my parents’ backyard on a lake, I decided it would be cool to surprise the bride with a ride down the aisle in a horse and buggy. “But where can I possibly find a horse and buggy?” I wondered. Nothing was in the phone book, and the Internet did not exist. So I started thinking about

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An Out-of-Body Experience

Buckets of BBs fall over my head onto the tin metal roof. The sound is deafening as gushes of water drop from the sky and make the roof vibrate with energy. The building shakes as monumental thunder roars overhead, the kind that is so deep that the sky rumbles and the earth moves as if a missile slammed into the ground nearby. Yet I sit here on the porch, covered and dry, feeling secure in my old Texas country ranch house where I can step back and observe the storm from safety.   Watching a storm from afar, or from a place of safety, gives you a much better perspective and state of mind than being pelted with wind-driven raindrops. If only we could look at our personal storms with the same perspective. Recently I heard someone say the difference between successful people and those who are not so successful is how they perceive and deal with their problems.  Have you ever had problems so big, so thunderous, that they become all-consuming? I can remember problems that were so big that I could not sleep, that I was pacing the floor, all my muscles were tense and I felt pressure

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