The scent of balsam fills my lungs as I take long, deep drawn-out breaths not just for the scent and the freshness, but for the medicinal effect on my state of mind. Adirondack pines reach their roots out to the edge of the water to drink its mineral-rich nectar, which invigorates its deep green needles to spread like open arms, welcoming us back in the Adirondack Mountains. The eerie call of the loons reminds us that they will soon congregate to make plans to fly south. Instinctively they know the cooling air and water will be their formal invitation to a winter in Florida. 

Soon, probably in a week or so, we’ll start to see the first indications of brilliant reds pop out for an early fall, with the rest of them a few weeks to follow. Rarely do we get a chance to see such brilliant fall color, when our mountain turns red and the reflections of color will dance in the water. Our forced summer returns for school have prevented our time here in this soon-to-come season of beauty. We’re looking forward to it, though deeply missing our newly appointed college students.


Roasting in record 106-degree temperatures for the remainder of the summer did not seem like an option, so Laurie and I returned to the lake as empty-nesters. After an exhausting 10 days back in Texas to pack and prep our babies for adulthood, we made three round trips to three colleges, putting in well over 1,000 miles driving and seeing parts of Texas and Arkansas we’ve never seen. We’re adjusting to the quiet, and occasionally break into tears for no apparent reason. It’s a new season, which we dread and look forward to.


This morning, like any other Sunday morning, it’s quiet, though the kids are not sleeping in and won’t be coming in for a late breakfast today. And it feels very empty.

A walk through the cabin is filled with mementos of times together as a family that triggers sadness, and then joy. Joy that we made it through the years of raising kids, sadness that it’s all suddenly over, and adjusting to the quiet. Suddenly there is pressure for both of us to “entertain” the other. It’s a strange place to be, an adjustment. If you’ve been there, you know. My friend Peggy told me she broke out crying at the grocery store because she only needed two chicken breasts instead of enough for the whole family. But we’ll adjust.

No Pressure!

I choose to look at this as a fresh start, a new season, a new opportunity. I realized that I was painting less because I wanted to spend time with the family when I would have been painting. And, if I want, I can apply myself more, and throw myself into my work to accomplish things I have not had time for almost two decades. Laurie feels suddenly creative again because the pressure of daily household management is gone. We’re looking forward to seeing how that is manifested.

Sometimes life throws us curveballs. I’m thankful we don’t have to adjust because of a disaster, a health issue, or worse. But in those times it also feels empty, because empty is simply the need to fill a void we have not anticipated filling. Yet as soon as it’s filled, the emptiness is reduced, never completely gone.


This new season has been a learning experience, and reinforcement that how we choose to process our new circumstances has a huge impact on how we react to them. Though empty, I’m encouraged, because I’ve convinced myself that I can’t cling to the status quo when it’s been taken away — therefore I can only adjust, or stay stuck in sadness.

I’ve had moments in my life when I’ve stayed stuck without knowing it, pining for the past that has moved on, wishing for something to go back the way it once was. I’ve wasted too much time wishing something had not changed, cried too many tears, and watered too many years. I’ve decided it’s no longer an option.

Have you been stuck?
Are you stuck now?
Are you clinging to something you wish had not changed?

Lick your wounds and make up your mind to not allow too many cobwebs to form before the next chapter begins. Take fast action because every day is precious, and being stuck, depressed, or bothered by change, isn’t healthy for too long.

We do it in lost relationships, the passing of loved ones, even in politics. Yet moving on is always the answer. Change what you can change, accept what you cannot, and take action toward the new chapter. 

Remember, our stories define us, and we can change our stories. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: I know you throw hundred-dollar bills around like they don’t matter, but I like a bargain whenever possible. The new Realism Today online art conference promises to fill your life with painting and drawing joy. Chances are you’ll want to attend, so if so, August 30 is the date the price goes up $100. Why pay more if you don’t have to? Learn more at

This week I’m announcing more superstar artists who will be part of it (you can see me live daily on YouTube and Facebook at 12 noon Eastern, including today, which is day 151). Go to either and search streamlineartvideo to find my daily live broadcast.