My eyes opened this morning to a new scene — at least, new since June. Twisted oaks, high grasses, all being baked in the hot Texas sun, unlike the most squishy moss-covered grass in the Adirondacks. My tender toes burn as I hit the deck outside and hop rapidly to my old brown wicker couch. A bead of sweat hits my forehead and rolls down my nose like a rogue rollercoaster. I’m simply not used to summer in Texas. The cool Adirondacks have spoiled me. 

I came here to host my Pastel Live conference, which ended last night, and today, as soon as we can get on the road, I’ll drive my daughter to her second year of college and the first “in-person” year she will have. Laurie and I thought we were empty-nesters last fall when school began, but alas, Zoom classes are easier from home than from a 10” x 10” cinder block dorm room, and the food is better. I’ll return to the Adirondacks for summer and fall tomorrow and we’ll try this empty nest thing one more time.


Between segments at my event, I’ve been glued to my screens, watching in horror as we all see a helpless situation we cannot control. I’m so used to being able to control things or help in some way, yet I’ve been racking my brain with no solutions.

But I ask myself, what if I were there? What if I were in that situation? What would I do?

How would I protect my family?

How would I escape? 

I also ask myself, could that happen here?

What Would You Do?

Growing up Rhoads, my dad would always ask us questions like that. What would you do? He trained us for contingencies and always told us the unexpected often happens, and things you don’t think can happen, do happen.

Do or Die

I can remember talking to my father-in-law, who was a German soldier in WWII, who told me that the atrocities that happened surprised them all because, as he said, things like that don’t happen here. Suddenly he found himself forced to be in an army that supported things he did not support, things he did not want to be a part of. And he watched men in his line who were insubordinate be shot on the spot. He could not believe his eyes.

Those living in the Land of the Free have not seen a war on our soil since the Civil War. We’ve been blessed. But just because it has never occurred will not prevent it from happening. Which is why I have to ask my preparation questions. What would I do if..?

Though I usually preach positive thinking, some will say my contingency thinking is negative. Perhaps, but it’s better to have some ideas, some plans as a backup.

Watching the news, we’re seeing disaster because they underestimated the situation and did not have enough contingency plans.

What about you?

Contingencies relate to every part of your life. What would you do…

  • If you lost your job?
  • If the banks crashed and there was no access to your money, and ATMs did not work?
  • If there were unexpected food shortages or stores were closed?
  • If the power went out for a couple of months?
  • If city water plants were shut down for a month?
  • If there was no cell phone service for days, weeks, or months?
  • If the Internet no longer existed?
  • If GPS stopped working?
  • If another country attacked our homeland?
  • What if my house burned? 
  • What if someone broke in while we were sleeping?
  • What if my house flooded?

As I ponder these things, I wonder if I could even drive somewhere to get away. I have not had a paper map in a decade, and I would not be able to access the addresses of my friends and family because my phone has died, Google doesn’t work, and online maps are no longer available.

My kids have probably never had a map in their hands. 

Am I telling you this because I’m expecting something? Absolutely not. But history tells us that the unexpected happens and that sane people can become crazy fast.

Blown Away

And contingencies don’t have to be about the things mentioned; they can relate to anything in your life. Let me give you an example. One year, when I was living in Florida, I got stuck in the middle of a hurricane on the turnpike. It was a dangerous and scary situation. I thought I was going to die. So after I survived, I told myself, “Never again.” When future hurricanes were coming, I’d leave town two days before everyone else did. Sometimes they hit and I escaped, sometimes they missed and I had a nice weekend in a hotel somewhere. For those of you in New York and Boston and along the East Coast, there is a storm that might be headed your way. Are you ready? Have you thought about the contingencies?

I recall a storm that knocked power and water out for three weeks. You could survive with a contingency plan.

Last year during “Snownado” in Texas, we were snowed into an area that had no plows, no power, no water. In hindsight, we saw it coming on radar. We should have taken a vacation to Florida.

The last thing you want to do is have an unexpected disaster and to do what everyone else does. By thinking of every possible solution years in advance, you’ll know exactly what to do the second it happens while others are trying to figure out solutions.

As a parent, I feel an obligation to play out scenarios in my mind. I may never tell my kids about them, but in some cases I’ll be ready, have solutions, and be prepared. In other situations, I’ll be blindsided.

More Than One Solution

In any case, it’s worth a discussion. What are five things you could do if any of those situations actually happened? The worst thing you can do is say, “That will never happen,” because when you say it, BOOM, it will happen!

Cognitive Dissonance

Most will stare with their jaws dropped in disbelief, which is valuable time lost. There are stories of people who predicted the Holocaust and were mocked as crazy conspiracy theorists, but they escaped and survived. The rest had cognitive dissonance. They just refused to believe this would ever happen among people they trusted. 

Rumors and Clues

My dad once told me of meeting a cab driver who had been a wealthy farmer in a country where they were hearing rumors that farms would be taken over. She urged her husband to take a family vacation, just in case. He told her she was nuts: “It won’t happen here.” They took out the cash they could, took a vacation to another country, and while they were gone all the farmers, including their friends, were killed. They had to survive on their vacation money until they could get jobs. They were the lucky ones who paid attention to the clues because, as my dad said, “There are always clues.” He once said, “Always consider that the opposite of what you’re being told will happen. What then?”

Am I trying to scare you? Of course not. But I care, and I want the best for you, and if you think things through, this little note could save your life someday. Of course, I hope it never comes to that, but being prepared is never a bad idea. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Speaking of being prepared, hundreds and hundreds of people are now prepared to do pastel painting because of our online Pastel Live conference, which we just completed. The next one is Realism Live, which will prepare you for all kinds of painting. Check it out.

My Fall Color Week artist retreat is going to happen in late September in the Adirondacks. It will be a week of fun, painting, and meeting new friends, no matter what level of painter you are. Come join us.

Also join us on our Fine Art Trip to Germany and Austria this fall, and my Russian Painting Trip in September. At the moment, it looks like both will happen.