Your Countdown Begins Now

Dolphins frolic in the water with their fins bobbing up and down, right beside the dock. Looking down into the water, shading my eyes from the reflection of the warm morning sun, I can see a stingray slowly cruising along the sandy bottom. The flag blows in the breeze, just enough wind to keep it steady.  Driving the U.S.A. Earlier in the week I set out to drive from Austin to the central coast of Florida, where I hope to spend part of the winter, escaping “cedar fever” season in Austin. That’s an allergy almost everyone gets after three years there that can cause flu-like symptoms for the first couple of months of the year. Those are also the coldest months, making time away even more appealing. Pioneering Virtual Work Thirty years ago, my company had an entire floor of an office building in West Palm Beach. One day one of my team members, Chuck Renwick, asked if he could work remotely because all his work was done on the phone and via e-mail (new technology at the time). He wanted to live in the Carolinas. I agreed to give it a try, and it worked so well that when


Rethinking the Impossible

The high-pitched bird whistle was one I did not recognize, yet a quick glance out the window revealed a huge osprey sitting atop the dock on the water before me. Moments later, he made the sound again, and then, with giant wings spread, he swooped down into the water and came up with a fish in his beak while making a loud whooshing sound. It was one of those unforgettable moments here in paradise on the Space Coast of Florida, where I will be spending part of my winter this year. I feel fortunate to have designed my life to work from anywhere there is a good Internet connection. And as we find ourselves traveling, we realize how little we really need. My grandmother Luella used to say that as she aged, the years passed by like minutes. I can remember it seemed like school years would never end, when I was in school and when my kids were in school. But now my years are so packed with planned activities, we go from one event to another, and suddenly it’s time to start a new year and a new cycle of events. Though I made a lot of plans


That Christmas Feeling

A flood of orange light splashes on the red Adirondack chairs surrounding the fire pit behind my Texas ranch house, making them glow orange-red. The bright green grasses are also glowing in orange.  Sitting on the red cushions of my creaking old wicker couch, the warmth of the sun rapidly removes the cool from the overnight air, making for a perfect short-sleeves-and-shorts day in the middle of winter. On days like this, I still love Austin — but when the cold comes, I fully intend to escape to get closer to the equator. Yes, I’ll admit I’m becoming a snowbird, running as fast as possible from the cold, which I no longer care to endure — though I’ll put up with it until the holiday passes. It feels more like Christmas when it's cold or snowing. But after Christmas, I’m ready for the tropics. Celebrating Together Today, all the kids are back home, college breaks have started, and I’ll proudly sit in the congregation at church singing Christmas carols with my kids at my side. I live for moments like this. Christmas Cards When I was a kid, we were all encouraged to sign a stack of family Christmas cards.


The Dark Days of Christmas

The smell of fresh-baked gingerbread cookies fills the air and the colors of Christmas are reflecting off the wall as the lights blink on the tree, as though to the beat of the Christmas carols playing quietly in the background. Seeing the tree, breathing its scent, and hearing the music fills my heart, probably because of so many wonderful Christmas memories.  Already, some wrapped boxes have appeared under the tree; no longer do the boxes have to suddenly appear in the morning after Santa leaves packages while we sleep. No more long nights of assembling bicycles, no more wrapping marathons. Now that the kids are college age, we can take our time and do things at our own speed rather than assisting the man in the red suit. Yet we still put out cookies and milk for Santa, and the nativity set remains lit all night, highlighting the Christmas star.  An Unexpected Tragedy Yet there is a dark cloud looming in my heart, since I heard that a good painter friend took his own life last week. I’m not sure exactly how to process it because this was a man as jolly and spirit-filled as Santa, always fun to be


White Dresses and Lace

Instead of the sound of rustling trees, rain hitting the tin roof of my long Texas porch, and the chorus of a flurry of birds hanging out in my twisted oaks, I’ve awakened to the slow low rumble of of an elevator, the rattle of an ice machine dropping ice into a cheap plastic bucket, and the knock on my hotel room door and shout of “Housekeeping!” I’m in Dallas. Yesterday we attended the wedding of the son of two of our favorite friends. It was a perfect day, and it’s fun to see a child we watched grow up become a man and a husband. We wish them well. Why I Hate Weddings This wedding was beautiful in every way. I don’t regret attending a bit. In fact, it was loads of fun and I spoke to some interesting folks. But there was a time when I swore I would never attend another wedding in my life. I avoided weddings for over two decades.  A Rough Moment When I was a young radio DJ in Miami, I supplemented my income as a wedding photographer. I’m not sure how many weddings I photographed, but it was one too many. My


The Power of Hope

Upon returning from her adventure, going back to Kansas with a click of her heels, Dorothy uttered, “There’s no place like home.” I feel the same. After being away for several weeks, visiting Sweden, Spain, and Florida, I have returned to my long wooden back porch at my Texas ranch house, looking out over the arid plants, twisted and gnarly oaks, and distant purple mountains, enjoying the crisp morning air and the remaining vibrant hues of autumn. I’m still basking in the gift of Thanksgiving, having had the triplets home, gathered around our table, and feeling as though nothing ever changed and no one ever left. And I’m comforted that each is doing well and finding their way. Yet today, everyone heads back to their roles elsewhere, and we start our quest to get everyone back again for Christmas. Yet I can’t help but reflect on the Thanksgiving spirit that still lingers in the air. A spirit of gratitude, of togetherness, of compassion, and most importantly, of hope. I can never articulate it, but it’s as though someone sprinkled magical fairy dust on me, starting about last Tuesday. Suddenly, I was consumed by true gratitude for the people in my


Say Hello to Your Future Self

Everything is blowing around … palm trees are bending, giant waves are crashing and spraying, wind is whistling, and the hurricane shutters are rattling loudly as a huge storm makes its way across the state. In the distance I can faintly see the towers at Cape Canaveral, and this week I’ve had the treat of watching rockets soar into space while the air around me vibrates.   When I was a kid, I went to the 1965 New York World's Fair, where we saw prototypes of Dick Tracy-style talking watches, flying cars, phones with TV screens so you could see the person you’re talking with, and robots who would do your work for you. We were told that one day TVs would hang on the wall like pictures. Rockets were something that happened annually, if we were lucky, and now rockets go up more than weekly. Now I can talk on my Apple Watch just like Dick Tracy, and my phone is the communicator from Star Trek (the only thing missing is the ability to beam me up). I can talk to anyone in the world on my screen. Flying drone cars are available now, as are jetpacks so you can


The Cure for Burnout

Rolling out of bed naturally, I head to the bathroom, flip the light switch I’ve hit every morning for over a decade — and something feels wrong. I’m not struggling to find a switch or bumping into walls or tripping over suitcases. Today is the first normal Sunday I’ve had in weeks. It's glorious.  There is no better feeling than the coziness of my own bed and the familiarity of my own house after weeks away.  I just returned from three weeks abroad, plus a week of driving, and a week at one of my artist retreats. I’ve been living out of a suitcase and realizing that I’ve not had a mental break in over four years. The candle has been burning at both ends, and the life of constant business, events, shows, columns, and running a company had me lost, burned out, and even a little unenthusiastic.  Yet this week, I’m a new man, refreshed and filled with ideas and the excitement to implement them. Problems and challenges bounce off my chest like bullets off Superman. I no longer have to fight through miles of spiderwebs in my brain. My burnout is gone. Funny thing — I did not


Fat, Bullied, and Sad

There is something spectacular about waking up at 6 am in the woods, especially in October. Tall, moss-covered trees tower through the fog as morning light just begins to stream in, highlighting some colorful leaves and some crunchy dead leaves on the ground. In a moment I’ll put on my hiking shoes and crunch across the leaves at this kids’ camp where I’m hosting my Fall Color artist retreat. Soon, we’ll share stories over eggs, bacon, and pancakes with warm Adirondack maple syrup. Being here with friends reminds me of summer camp. A week seemed like a long time away when my parents sent me off to YMCA camp in Indiana. I wasn’t looking forward to going because I had poor self-esteem, and I did not cherish the idea of taking a week of my summer to hang out with more bullies. Fat and Embarrassed At 10, I was severely overweight, frequently bullied by other boys, and often mocked for being fat. Unlike most of the others who were trim and fit, I was unable to keep up in gym classes and embarrassed when I was the only kid who could not climb  the rope in the middle of the


Finding Your Gift

A gentle rain drizzles upon the lake. There’s a foggy silhouette of pine trees in the distance, getting bluer and whiter the farther away they become. Close up, majestic pines surround my screen in the octagon-shaped lakefront porch, with dark lace-like branches and needles obscuring the view. Just the way I like it, nestled in and safe like a warm blanket, while the sound of droplets landing on the water tickles my ears.  Visitors tell us our little porch is very special because it darts right out to the edge of the lake. Inside, the ornate woodwork on the peaked ceiling is something builders tell me could not be replaced today because there are few craftspeople who would know how. The diamond-paned windows were handmade, along with the house and porch, in 1894. Doing It By Hand I try to imagine building this house at a time when there were no power tools, sourcing logs from this boat-access-only property and carving them into a masterpiece. The house was built by some young man who was trained by his father, a master woodworker who was trained by his father. A chain of training over generations.  Why, then, is there no one


What Are You Not Hearing?

I’m chuckling to myself as I sit here baking in the summer sun. This summer we had record rain and cool temperatures, with exactly five total “sunny warm lake days.” Now that all the lake residents are gone, summer has finally arrived. The best is about to come as fall color begins to peek out of the green forests. I’m getting ready for a glorious fall. Soon I’ll experience color so vibrant it makes my eyes hurt and the crunch of leaves under my feet, the smells of apple cider and fields of pumpkins. Fall is my favorite time here in the Adirondacks. Fresh Eyes I love seeing things through the eyes of others, especially fresh eyes. This week I’ve had an artist visiting from Australia (Colley Whisson) who had no previous knowledge of the area, its beauty, and its unique architecture. I loved the wonder in his eyes seeing the area for the first time, as he often points out things I no longer notice.  Things Leap Out Any time we can walk in the perspective of others, we see things we can change or correct, and it helps us appreciate what we have. If I have a guest,


Worried About Worry

As I walk out of my cozy waterfront cabin on a lake in the Adirondacks, the old screen door slams behind me. It’s a sound that brings back memories from childhood. Entering the kitchen, the smell of coffee brewing seduces me to pour a cup of my own. I then walk across the creaky wooden floors to the old screened-in octagon-shaped porch overlooking the water and plop myself down in the same wicker chair as generations before me.  There is little as soothing as the water, the movement of pine forests swaying in the distance, and the occasional canoe passing by. It’s where I sit in the mornings to follow my morning routine, and where we sit in the evenings to catch up on one another’s day.  Farewell to Summer Summer, here on the lake, ends tomorrow, when most residents return home. Overnight, things will get silent and a boat will be a rare sight for the few remaining stragglers who stay on to experience the fall colors, which are beyond spectacular. Our final event will be a gathering of lake residents to hand out sailing trophies and say farewell till next year.  Pretending People post about all the things


What If the Worst Happens?

My hands were burning as they hit the steering wheel yesterday afternoon after the car had been baking in the 110-degree Texas heat. The ground is dry, and the grass caramel-colored as if slightly scorched. The car is like a visit to a sauna until the air conditioning cools it down. Even the nights are in the upper 90s. When we moved to Texas, we did so knowing our summers would be spent in the high-altitude cool summers of the Adirondacks. Though it was always hot when we returned to get the kids into school, we never endured the entire summer, and the heat usually ends by late September. But this week I had the pleasure of waking up in the Texas heat because I came back to host my online Pastel Live event. A Moment of Silence for Maui I rarely comment on current events, but like you, I’m devastated to hear of the tragedy in Maui, one of the biggest tragedies in our country’s history. And like you, I’m feeling helpless, wishing there was more I could do to help. We’re working with a few art initiatives to help raise money, but somehow it does not seem sufficient.



When something is taken away, or about to go away, we want it more. After living at the lake since early June, I have to leave the cool weather, high altitude, and beautiful green forests for the excessive temperatures of Texas. I’m clinging to every last moment, sitting here on the dock and filling my lungs with air so pure it cannot be described.  I close my eyes and listen to the lapping of water against the dock, the wings of eagles as they swoop overhead (yes, you can actually hear them because it’s so quiet here), and the frantic call of the loons to warn their families about the winged threat overhead.  What’s new becomes routine, barely noticed, until the threat of disappearance.  The Threat of Loss This week our little dog Chewy had to “go under” for a necessary but minimal procedure, yet we were warned that there was a slight chance he might not come out of the anesthesia. Though he already gets lots of attention, the night before we were all treating him like we might never see him again. The fear of loss made us pay attention to how meaningful he is to us. He


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