The Art of Backing Off

Speeding through the hills on the winding road, I desperately rush from the house once I see the drawer where we keep the coffee is empty. First, I scoured the shelves in the pantry, then I remembered Laurie telling me, “Don’t forget to pick up coffee.” But, alas, I forgot. So to the car I went. As I reached the intersection between our country road and the big four-lane feeder, it was emptier than a teenager’s gas tank, a rare sight. Usually mornings are packed with bumper-to-bumper Austin traffic. So I take my time, ease out, and make the one-minute trip to the gas station — which I’m dreading, because how good can the coffee be, after all? I’m surprised to see machines with grinders, and hopeful, but alas, the watered-down coffee is not my normal rich brew. Guess what I won’t forget to do today?The air is thick with humidity, slightly cool, but signaling a nice warm day, though I’m guessing without glancing at my screen that it will be rainy. I like rain; it removes the pressure of getting out and keeps me home to do a stack of projects that have been building up and calling out


The Someday That Never Comes

Glancing into the dark woods, small streaks of dancing orange light kiss the trunks of the trees, and a few select leaves. Moments pass, and these same trees and shrubbery are flooded with brilliant golden light. Looking off to the distant horizon, a glowing orb has just awakened and is peeking above the edge of the mountain, whose purple edges are glowing with the halo of light, much like a Joe McGurl painting. Home to Great Artists I’m tucked away in my warm studio, sitting in the model chair, looking out over the property. The world famous artist’s cabin sits proudly in the distance, having housed some of the most important artists in the world; they stay within her log walls when shooting art instruction films and documentaries. Two weeks ago it was Tennessee legend Dawn Whitelaw, last week Kathie Odom, and this week Carl Bretzke, who does the most amazing nocturne paintings. A Sketchbook for the Smithsonian Inside you’re greeted with an old riverstone fireplace, walls covered in antique photos of Native Americans in hand-cut tin frames and paintings in hand-carved tramp art frames. The walls are adorned with paintings from visitors past, who often leave something behind. On


The Power You May Not Be Using

I feel the gift of nature, the feeling of being alive as I stare out over the fields covered with dew, the distant blue mountain, and the rays of light beaming through the twisted old oaks that fill the rough grass with shadows. Nature, somehow, feels more alive this morning, as I realize I’m in a mode of praise when I could have been grieving. If you read about last week’s worst day ever, you may not know that after 10 sleepless nights in two different hospitals, my son walked out as a miracle, surviving what most never survive. Groundhog Day In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray wakes up each day and repeats the exact same day, over and over. It’s comical, but also somehow profound. Our son was living his own Groundhog Day, and we were not sure it would disappear. When the brain is shocked or given massive amounts of sedatives or amnesia-causing drugs, inflammation causes short-term memory loss. Short-Term Memory Loss For four days after my son’s heart attack, while he was perfectly conscious and seemed normal otherwise, we would tell him what he experienced. “Your heart stopped. They revived you. You were clinically dead,” we


My Worst Day Ever

Awakened from my sleep this morning by the sounds of beeping heart monitors, loud alarms, frequent interruptions by nurses, the bright fluorescent lights, and the chatty nurses’ station nearby. The hospital is no place to rest. This morning is our sixth day here. This morning I’m going to recount what I think was the biggest horror my wife and I have ever experienced.  Dinner Interrupted On Monday at 7:30, while we were having dinner, the phone rang. Since I did not recognize the number, I almost didn’t answer. I assumed it was another unwanted telemarketing call, but for some reason I answered. The voice on the other end said, “This is Brady’s friend John. Brady has had a seizure, what should I do?” I immediately told him to call 911 and tell me where they were.  Within moments Laurie and I were en route to the bingo hall where they had been playing. Minutes later, we reached this boy's mom on the phone; she was close by and got there before we could.  Play-By-Play On her speaker phone, she’s doing play-by-play, with perfect calm. We could hear things going on in the background: “He isn’t breathing, he has no pulse.


Free The Beast Inside You

Deep, dark fog swallows the sky around me. A soft drizzle makes the twisting tree trunks blend into the distance. The distant mountain has dissolved into the sky, and the leaves shine with the color of sage while the bright red Adirondack chairs by the firepit stand out against the blurred background. It's another chilly morning here in Austin on the long back porch under the metal roof, here at the old homestead. Well rested, I’m ready to conquer the fog and go exploring. I’m always exploring. I’m curious. I’m trying to get to know other people and their stories. A fellow artist introduced himself, clearly and confidently, during the seminar I attended last week. Yet according to him, clarity and confidence were not always the case for him because he grew up with a severe stutter that never left him. Like a Leper In school, his fellow students treated him like a leper, leaving him with no friends just because he could not get a sentence out easily. His own parents treated him differently than his siblings, as though he were flawed mentally, when his only problem was the ability to get words out of his mouth.  Dangerous Assignments


You May Be Uncomfortable Reading This

Scratchy wool socks and a worn old sweatshirt don’t seem to be enough to warm my chilled body this morning. We had a temperature drop from our unseasonably warm winter last night as clouds billowed through the sky at the speed of a freight train bringing carloads of cold as its cargo. Yet tradition is a must, and unless it's unbearably cold or hot, writing you from this long old covered porch overlooking the 40 acres behind me is my one superstition. Coffee and thoughts are always better here, in the secure comfort of my special spot on the squeaky wicker couch. Walking Under Ladders Superstitions are kind of weird to me. Yet, though I put my trust in God, I still think twice before walking under a ladder or opening an umbrella indoors. It seems powerfully odd to me that a well educated, perfectly intelligent being like you or me would think these old wives’ tales have some power to change our lives.  Telling Your Fortune I feel the same way about horoscopes. Things come true — not because some writer at a newspaper somewhere sees it in the stars, but because the power of suggestion makes things happen.

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How to Grow Wings

It's ironic. We spent two weeks to get sun and warmth, but instead got clouds and rain. Today, waking up in Austin, the sun is shining, the temperature is warm, and the glow of golden light greets my morning, putting a big smile on my face. Last week during the storms, the rain, the dark clouds, and the high winds, everyone was hunkered down, staying inside as much as possible, trying to stay warm and dry. Yet as I looked at the sky from inside, I noticed some giant birds were taking advantage of the high thermal winds, frolicking about like surfers who had found high waves.  Instead of hiding out in a tree, they were soaring more than ever, taking advantage of what the rest of us thought were bad conditions. I could have watched them for hours. A Call for Help Last week I received a message on social media from a man who said he's been watching me for years. He runs a business and asked me for some time so I could offer him some advice. According to him, “I’m amazed at how much you get done and want to know how you do it.” I’ll


The Happiness Myth

Fierce winds are blowing, flags are flapping, palm branches are bending, and the boat is rocking back and forth beyond a gentle pace, yet not too uncomfortably.  A thick layer of gray-blue clouds covers the big sky, and in the distance rows of condos are lined up on the beach like soup cans in the pantry. Boats of all kinds surround me, including mega yachts owned by celebrities, though we’ve had no celebrity sightings. We’re here in North Palm Beach, living through the holiday break in a marina, aboard a boat.  Grateful for the Break I’m feeling very grateful to be here in warm weather, even on a blustery and windy day, able to sit in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, having time in close quarters with our kids, being able to reconnect with other family, and getting extra time with each of them. As I said last week, I’m doing a lot of listening and a lot of thinking about life and happiness. No doubt we all want to be happy, but too often we look to others or to things or events to make us happy. Let me give you some examples… If I get that promotion and


’Twas Was the Sunday Before Christmas…

Often in the middle of the night, I’ll awaken, get up, and realize I’m in a strange place. Yet another hotel room in this road warrior life. Before mobile phones and smart watches, I’d sometimes roll over, call the front desk, and ask where I was. Hotel rooms blend together over time, and sometimes you simply forget where you were when you checked in the night before, especially on a tour of 10 cities in 20 days.  This morning I immediately know I’m not home, but it’s no hotel room. Instead it’s our annual Christmas journey as a family, living aboard a houseboat in a marina in Florida. It’s a tradition we’ve followed every Christmas for years.  Splash Splash The water is splashing against the sides of the boat, ever gently rocking it, lulling us to sleep. Though quarters are tight, it brings family closer and away from our home distractions of homework, housework, studio work, and office work. It’s a break we all look forward to, but the best part, of course, is time with family, a treat we don’t have as often as we would like. It’s also a treat for our good friends who use our home


Perspective and Pain

The old screen door slams behind me and the boards under my feet creak as I walk to the old wicker couch, whose basket weave also makes a sound as the weight of my body sinks into the red cushions. My cozy gray fleece jacket is all I need; the morning is pleasant enough to return to the porch. Beaming strongly into the yard, the orange-colored sun silhouettes a giant buck and his Christmas tree of antlers as he slowly grazes the smorgasbord of natural treats in my yard. The distant mountain is a light purple gray against the bright yellow-white sky. Last week, I disappeared. I’m sorry I was not there for you. But I had a good reason. I am the father of teenagers, after all. Sage Wisdom Advice comes as needed, as I alluded to recently in Butterflies and Angels. One friend, Dr. Dave, swooped into my life last week, as if knowing I’d need his advice soon. I had been talking about a stressful week at work when he told me that our natural tendency when we’re going through stress or crisis is to sleep less, drop our routines, eat poorly, and not take good care


Butterflies and Angels

The crunch of crispy leaves under my feet leads me into my cozy warm art studio, which is backed up against some massive pine trees and at the base of a small hill. The fireplace on the porch is flaming furiously, the wood sounds like snap, crackle, pop, and the scent of smoke is soothing. Yet writing on the porch had me blowing into my hands and wringing them too much to stay warm as my fingers hit my cold keyboard, so I’m here in my studio.  Color hits this part of the country late, and this week is our peak week, just before most of the leaves flutter to the ground in high winds. Speaking of fluttering, we all know butterflies exist, but what about angels? Have you ever encountered random angels who drop into your life at just the perfect time?  Drop-In Visitors I can tell you I’ve never seen an actual angel with wings, the kind described in the Bible. But I’ve had angels drop in, serve a purpose, and go away. Have you? I have also experienced people who fly into life, dazzle you by bringing the beauty of big smiles at a time you need


Slaying the Dragons in Your Head

Streaks of yellow light are streaming toward me through thick purple fog and silhouetted gnarly oak trees. I shiver as I try to extend my porch time once more before winter. Warmth hits my goosebumped skin as the light increases, and the sides of my old cabin are washed with a rich red-orange glow.  Stage Exhaustion Last week exhausted me — being on stage, using my voice more in one day than in most months, giving and getting hugs from enthusiastic artists, wall-to-wall meetings between stage time, entertaining our VIP guests and faculty in the evenings till the wee hours. And exhausting as it was, I feel like the luckiest man alive to be able to serve others and give them a special week of high energy, learning from the best artists in the world, and time with old and new friends. Joy and Exuberance A recent realization has been that my art is bringing people together, and even if I have to put my ability to do paintings on hold so I have time to do things like last week’s Figurative Art Convention & Expo, it’s worth it to see the joy and exuberance in the faces at FACE.


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