When Struggle Meets Comfort

Deep silence and heavy fog engulf this historic Adirondack lake. The lonesome and eerie call of the loons echoes off the distant shore, creating a beautiful harmony. The skin on my bare feet meets the moisture of the fog surrounding the dock, and my arms are covered with goosebumps from the brisk morning air. I’m in my happy spot, and these happy moments with loons, fog, distant purple mountains, and the gentle slosh of water nudging the old wooden dock are the reason I have gone to the trouble to be here each summer, without skipping a single one, for 30 years. The Adirondacks are my muse, a place I started out not wanting to love because it meant accepting change and giving up a three-generation family home on a lake in Indiana. Now our presence here is three generations, and hopefully more to come. The Long Trip The journey was an unusual one this year. My boys and I left Austin on Monday, flying to Florida to assist in the cathartic process of purging my dad's home of his belongings. We loaded his car with a truckload of old family heirlooms, like the 1890s-era camera he used to start


Finding Greatness Inside

I jumped suddenly as my bare feet hit the hot wooden porch, spilling a touch of my coffee. I was lifting my feet up fast, on and off, making my way to the carpet under the couch so my feet could cool down on this hot Sunday morning. The sun is burning hot, the sky is warm, the air is muggy, and I’m ready to find a cooler spot to spend my summer. Though I love Texas, it takes a special breed to live in the about-100-degree temps that will soon make up every summer day. Hopefully, by next week I’ll be sitting on the lakefront screened porch, listening to the loons proclaim their territory. My Texas friends think I’m a wimp for escaping the intense heat, which they say builds character and strength. But, like most, I’ve spent a lifetime building character. Beyond Our Control There is no doubt, though, that adversity, challenge, and difficult times make us all stronger. Nothing good would ever happen to us if every moment were smooth sailing. Many of us would not be where we are without being forced into circumstances beyond our control. And some of us, probably very few, intentionally put


Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Gnarly twisted oak trunks are bending over as if to pick up a lost leaf from the spring grass. Leaves are making a shuffling sound as they move violently and are pushed out of their comfort zone in the strong wind. Dark, almost purple clouds, are billowing over the distant blue mountains like Indy race cars competing to get to the finish line. My ears are filled with the whistling of winds coming from different directions … like a chorus of flutes. I’m reminded of “In Like a Lion” as spring makes its way to the backyard of this tin-roofed Texas ranch house. I’m out on the back porch, coffee close at hand, and happen to look down the entire length of the porch. There’s another one at the front of the house. It, too, runs the entire length of our home. I never want to take these porches for granted. Imagine This... When I was about 30, I dreamt of owning a house with a big porch, a tin roof, and a view of a mountain. Now, here I sit, many years later, living that dream. Years ago, when I was first introduced to the Adirondack mountains in upstate


The Magic Formula for Life

Spring birds, like a symphony of high notes, along with the bass notes of mourning doves, create a spring song like no other. Bright spring greens fill the trees and the ground below, accented by deeper green cedar pines. As I look down, I notice the boards on the deck of the old porch have peeling paint, a reminder of summer projects ahead. All around, spring is my favorite season… that is, until summer, then fall and winter. Thank God for the variety. What I like best about spring is that it's a season of hope, and it’s hope we all live for. It comes in different forms, but, unlike a magic lantern, Santa Claus, or possibly-unanswered prayers, our hope, in many cases, is in our own hands. Stop and think about what you hope for. There are clearly things we can hope for but can rarely affect personally, though we each need to do our part if we can clearly see the role we should play. Two speakers at my father’s services recently, recalling memories of my dad, repeated his mantra, which is exactly the one I grew up with. He would say… “If you don’t think you can,


Feel the Joy

Mourning doves coo like a soft flute from the windows of Mrs. Holland's sixth-grade music class at my old brick elementary school. An orchestral arrangement of tweets seems to play mockingbird from all directions. And bright orange streaks of light kiss the tops of rogue bushes and twisted tree trunks. Tiny buds of future daffodils sneak out of the rich dirt, ready to reach for the sky and please the eye. Going Home I’ve not been in my hometown in early spring since I left there as a teen about to start my life elsewhere. Though I tend to make a brief appearance every couple of years, this weekend's visit is a rarity. This homecoming is a grand sendoff for the man whose last name I bear, providing a chance to reconnect, possibly one last time, with cousins and family acquaintances who share our grief. The silver lining in this dark cloud is making renewed acquaintances, hearing stories we’ve never heard, and seeing people we’ve not seen since “you were this high.” Deep Freeze While making arrangements, one of my dad's lifelong buddies pointed out that we have been frozen in time. His son, now 42 with kids, is stuck


Bright Light on a Dark Day

Dark clouds are billowing over the distant green pastures. A rickety old fence manages to keep the longhorn cattle from walking into the dirt road, which only sees an occasional truck each day. It’s the middle of nowhere, and I’m here in the camper for a much-needed break to simply relax for the weekend. I might slip out and paint the fields of bluebonnets. Following our big online artist convention, PleinAir Live, which was an intense four days after even more intense days and months of advance preparation, I was exhausted. But instead of sleeping in the following day, or sitting on the back porch, or playing in my art studio, I had to face something I’d rather not face. Boarding an airplane, Laurie, the kids, and I flew to Florida, knowing we would be spending the next few days saying goodbye to my dad and being at his bedside. Big Changes in One Month When we left there a month ago after spending almost four weeks taking care of Dad, who was up and in good spirits and alert, we returned to find him shutting down. He was barely able to talk, and, though we were only able to


Are You Doing What Matters Most?

Green Scottish pines sway outside the window of my hotel room in Jupiter, Florida. The needles are almost a foot long, rich in brilliant green and dull brown colors, with little cones sticking out at the ends of the fuzzy branches. A dark, gloomy sky looms overhead. I left here last Sunday morning after a successful four-day online art event (PleinAir Live) with word that I needed to get to Florida because my father was entering the next and last phase of his life. I dreaded the trip and what I would face. An RV Trip Just two weeks ago, Laurie and I were here for a two-week stay that ended up being close to a month. I extended it because I had a feeling that it might be the last time I get with my dad. It was worth taking two more weeks away from work.  The Best Month Ever When we were here my dad was still himself, just a little slower than normal. Talking up a storm, giving me advice, getting us ready for his next chapter, and communicating clearly. Though his treatments dragged him down, he was strong and vital, just a little less so than


Traits to Change the World

The rustic boards under my feet squeak as I make my way across the porch to the little wicker couch with bright red cushions. The wicker also squeaks as I sit down and place my coffee on the table in front of me, which has a little glass arboretum with small cactuses growing inside. It's a warm spring morning, and the birds entertain me while distant neighborhood chickens make sure we know they can sing too. A big yawn fills my face as my arms stretch out. I stayed up till about 1 a.m. working in my man-cave studio. Sometimes I go there just for silence, other times to read. I read a great book the other night called Beyond Genius: The 12 Essential Traits of Today’s Renaissance Men by artist friend Scott Griffiths and his friend Eric Elfman. The Renaissance I was fascinated by the book because it profiled great Renaissance men in history like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Isaac Newton (yes, all men; they are coming out with another book on women), and great living Renaissance men like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, John Paul DeJoria (who lives about a mile from me), and others. For the first time, someone


How to Get X-Ray Vision

Colorful fields of flowers filled the roadside between Florida and Texas on the long drive home in our motorhome. We saw massive brilliant pink azalea bushes, fields of bright, glowing red flowers, roadsides filled with white flowering bushes, and, once we were in Texas, fields of iridescent indigo bluebonnets. The scents were heavenly.  In Texas, families dress their kids in their Easter outfits and pose them among the bluebonnets. This week we’ve seen dozens of families along the road. It's a lovely tradition. I fully expected to see some little bunnies hopping out of the bluebonnets. In any case, happy Easter. He is risen. Today’s story is about a personal resurrection. Hit a Wall We returned home a week ago tomorrow. Our intended two-week vacation turned into a full month. It was the longest vacation I’ve taken in my career, and probably the most important one yet, providing me with some great lessons and perspective. After almost a year of continuous broadcasts twice a day, seven days a week, I had hit a wall. It was time. Severe burnout had occurred, but I was too driven and focused to see it. But thankfully, Tom in my office pointed out that


Are Your Pipes Bursting?

Birds are tweeting after a week of agony from coming this far north a little too early. Piles of melting snow and ice remain after our rare arctic blast this past week, which has been one for the record books here in Austin. We were fortunate and never lost power, and even then, with the furnace trying to keep up, it was cold in the house and we had frozen and burst pipes. But hope is showing its face with some warming sun this morning.  It’s been a difficult week, where 4 million were without power for three or more days, freezing in their own homes, and it will be a big loss for insurance companies and a gain for plumbers who will come in from every state. We’ve put in our request because of those burst pipes.  This week is a reminder of the old Scout motto … be prepared. A last-minute trip to the grocery found the shelves bare, and the city issued a boil-water order to those of us who still had water after those burst pipes. Thankfully, we had what we needed. Be Prepared Some of us will forget it all three days into the sunshine,


Choose Wisely

A steady drizzle of frigid droplets falls upon the old porch. My normal view of blue or purple hills in the distance is grayed down to barely visible, and the air is so cold, it feels as if I could throw water into the air and watch it turn to ice crystals.  I arose early with my head spinning with ideas, putting my toes into the warm blue corduroy slippers with the wool lining. I’ve pulled an old sweatshirt over my head, and a blanket is wrapped around all of me other than my arms and fingers, which kiss the cold keyboard. Solid Advice Last week artist Stewart White was visiting and imparted some advice to my kids. Simple, yet meaningful. He told my son, “If you just finish what you start, you’ll be ahead of most people.” And he suggested to my daughter, who stared down at her phone the whole time, that it’s good to engage with people, look them in the eye, and don’t stare down at your phone the whole time. I thought Stewart's advice was spot on.  Three Important Lessons It made me think … if I could choose only three things to tell my


How, Exactly, Do You See Yourself?

Tiny little bright green buds are peeking their heads out on the bare branches of the giant trees around me, trying to find out if it’s safe to come out for an early spring — mild temperatures are signaling the beginning of spring here in Texas. The old screen door makes a creaky sound amplified by rusty springs, the door slams behind me, and I’m finally back on the long porch that goes the distance of this old Texas farmhouse. Sadly, my neighbor moved and took his cattle, but the view is pretty terrific just the same.  Spring in the Air Growing up in the Midwest with cold, snowy winters, spring was always a welcome sight. Spring fever would have us out without coats on a sunny day, even though it was still 30 degrees. We simply could not wait for the arrival of spring. And, like the feeling of a first love, spring is about seeing things through fresh eyes and having something new to look forward to. And about the time we get used to it, we’re looking forward to summer, then fall, and even winter. We’re a fickle bunch, we humans. When we lived in Florida, we


Eric Rhoads
Entrepreneur, writer, artist, marketer, and speaker.
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