My feet are crunching across the floor, covered with crinkled wrapping paper and bows. Pine needles not only scent the air, but the now-dry tree is shedding them where I step, en route to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee.

Yesterday, I barely left my spot on the modern blue couch in our living room. I pick that spot because I can see everyone as they open their gifts and can get a good angle for photographs. I always take more pictures than I need, because I love remembering Christmases past, and this too will become a memory.

Christmas Eve

As a child, visiting my grandparents for Christmas Eve, I’d stand on the stairs in the small living room and read the story of Christmas from the Bible. We carry that tradition forward, always remembering the reason we’re here before we terrorize the gifts under the tree. And to make it last, we open one at a time, taking turns so we can all pay attention to the person opening. Then we all hang out together all day, eating cookies and snacks, playing with our new gifts, and just enjoying yet another wonderful Christmas.

A Sweet Farewell

Tears welled up in my eyes yesterday, and again today as I remember that this is the first Christmas without my dad, who left us in March. I’m also melancholy about the loss of an aunt, uncle, and cousin this year, plus a few friends. My dad loved Christmas so much that he was the first to get his tree up and would not take it down till February. When the pandemic hit, he decided to leave it up year round since there would be no guests to wonder why it was there. Of course it turned out to be the last year of his life, so he had Christmas all year, which made him happy.

Being Present in the Moment

If there is an upside to these losses, it’s that I’m paying closer attention to those I love, trying not to pretend they will always be here and instead being present, knowing they are a true gift in my life, and knowing at such times that it could be our final Christmas together. I pray not.

Perhaps the loss of loved ones, or the prospect of more losses from the pandemic, is making me softer, more responsive, and more tuned in to connect with the people I love and admire.

This past week, when things were a little slower, I made a point to pick up the phone and chat with people I’ve missed talking to, because I cherish them and don’t want to look back in regret that I did not take the opportunity.

Going Deeper

I’ve asked myself, What would I say if I knew this was the last time I’d speak with them? The result has been some conversations with a deeper connection, more careful listening. Instead of dominating the conversation or trying to make it all about getting in the things that I want to say, I’m simply absorbing, listening to their voice, to their personality, and admiring them for who they are.

Why haven’t I done this all along?

Life is so busy that we tell ourselves we will get around to connecting with people. When they are gone, we regret not doing it.

I’ve noticed that when I’m intentional about absorbing the love of others, I’m more patient, more interested, and just simply basking in the moment, quirks and all.

Though Christmas has now officially passed, the absorption continues. And, hopefully, it will continue forever. If anything good has come out of the past two years, it’s the appreciation of seeing people we could not see, talking with people we cannot visit, and being more deliberate listeners and absorbers.

What if we lived every day with an absorber mentality?

What if we lived as though today was our last?

What if we treated every conversation and encounter as if it was the last time we would see our friends and loved ones?

I tend to be busy and wanting to get on with things, always checking my phone, always wanting to be busy or productive. But deliberate absorption of others is a gift. It’s changing who I am and how I behave.

What about you?Who do you need to absorb?

Eric Rhoads

PS: If I had a magic carpet or a reindeer-driven sleigh, I’d visit you personally today, just to learn more about you, absorb who you are, and to personally thank you for the time and attention you’ve given me. You have given me a gift, knowing that I can reach out most Sunday mornings, share my thoughts, and know that some mornings you’re paying attention, or even sharing them with others. For that, I thank you. Since I don’t have any magical transportation, please know I’m thinking about you today, and I’m grateful.

From time to time I mention my faith or quote a Bible reference. For some that is politically incorrect or offensive, which has resulted in a couple of people refusing to read any more Sunday Coffee. Please know I never want to offend anyone, but It’s just part of who I am. From time to time I’ll even share something I heard at my church that moved me, like this sermon.

Years ago I asked a mentor of mine if business ever gets easier, knowing he had been in business for 60 years. He said it never gets easier, but it always changes. The past two years have been the most challenging and difficult in my career, though there have been many difficult years. But I’m thankful we got through it, though it was not easy because we’re still surviving without in-person events, which is where we make our money. Our virtual events have helped us survive, and I want to thank you for attending. Hopefully they have been good for you too. Our next one, Watercolor Live, is in January, and it would make a great after-the-holidays treat.

Here are some other things going on in the business…

  • Last week we released our Kevin Macpherson Magic Grid Landscapes video, which is beyond amazing and has become the biggest seller for 2021. Another top seller is our new Camille Przewodek video on color.
  • Last week I mentioned that it’s a good idea to get signed up for the coming Plein Air Convention & Expo, which is planned for May in Santa Fe. We think it will sell out early because we’re all ready for a family reunion. This past week we sold a huge number of seats, and the hotel is telling us we might have to limit the number who can come. If we have to take 200-400 fewer people, you’ll want to register now to make sure you’re able to go. And, to make you more secure, there is a 100% refund in the event we have to cancel or you don’t feel safe. Also, we have a pre-convention workshop with Kevin Macpherson that will sell out even faster.
  • My Russia painting and museum trip will happen next September. We just changed the dates slightly; the new dates are now posted on the website. We were sold out and will be again soon.
  • Last week I wrote about a man who became an amazing painter just from watching the videos we produced. I met with him this week (he was visiting Austin) and was blown away to hear his story. Zero in-person art instruction other than in childhood. Yet today he is producing incredible artworks (he showed me many). He is living proof that you can learn to paint well from video training. If you want to see our library of artworks, you can see them at PaintTube.TV.
  • This week I sent out a note to all of our friends about a big change. Years ago we started Streamline Art Video, and later acquired Liliedahl and Creative Catalyst. This week we announced all three brands will become PaintTube.