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 his photography career and his favorite etching of Abraham Lincoln, along with some practical items and a few little memory jewels. Then we spent three days driving to New York, making only one impractical stop … a visit to the battlefields of Gettysburg. A must with teen boys who need to learn the sobering facts of thousands of boys their age who died there. We arrived here, in paradise,on Friday.
Grime and Dirt
In the past I’ve talked about the value of looking backward so you can see how far forward you’ve come. I was reminded of this on our trip when one late night, about 1 a.m., we pulled off I-95 at a small chain motel in hopes of a few hours’ rest. As we entered the hotel, the smell of mold violated our nostrils, and the layers of grime and dirt in the carpet made us want to sleep with our shoes on.
One son spoke up. “Dad, we can’t stay here. We can’t sleep in this.” And though I knew he was right, I also knew this was the last remaining room, with no prospects of any other. And instead of instantly giving into this moment of being spoiled or entitled (or perhaps just good practical taste), I decided to make it a learning moment.
“Boys, your mom and I have taken you to some pretty wonderful places, and when I’m with her or you kids, I’ve spent the extra money, when I could, to give you a really nice place to stay. But you should know that for 30 years, building my business, I’ve stayed in hundreds of rooms worse than this, in some very sketchy neighborhoods, because I could afford nothing more.”
Though I expected some sympathy, it kind of fell on deaf ears, but I’m hopeful it will sink in at some point.
Driving down the highway for long stretches of time, with the boys sleeping or playing on their phones, my mind wandered back over decades of memories of making sacrifices, and I realized just how special those memories are.
A Necessary Evil
One year I hired a sales guy named Dick Downes to fix my sales problems at my one and only magazine, The Pulse of Radio. He said, “Eric, you and I need to go on the road for two months straight. We need to go visit every potential advertiser, entertain them, share our vision, let them get to know you, and hope they buy something.”
The Big Road Trip
I immediately responded that we couldn’t possibly afford to do it. “You can’t afford not to do it,” he said. So we set off on a two-month trip, with a couple of visits home in between. I took my last $20,000 for the two of us to live on the road for two months. (Do the math: That’s $333 a day for two people, including meals, airfare, rental car, and 30 cities.) We called it the road trip from hell. We made an agreement that we would not invite any clients to meals, and we would not tell clients we were staying in horrible cockroach-ridden hotels and driving rent-a-wreck rental cars. We saw hundreds of people over two months.
How Did That Happen?
Toward the end of our tour, no business booked yet, knowing we were playing a long game, we needed to crack this one big client who was spending big money elsewhere. They insisted we meet for dinner, and they picked the most expensive restaurant in Washington, D.C. And they ordered the most expensive wine on the menu. The bill came to $600. Gulp.
When my credit card would not go through, the waiter tactfully approached the table and said, “Mr. Rhoads, you have a phone call.” (Remember, there were no cell phones.) I had to cut a deal to leave my watch there until I could send them the money (which I did). The client never had any idea. We said our goodbyes, went back to our room, and cut our trip short. I had to call my dad to borrow enough money for us to get home. Oh, and that client never spent a dime with us for years.
The good news is that the trip worked, and our business was eventually thriving. No one at the time knew we were faking it till we made it. We were not rolling in dough, but we had enough to survive.
More Pain, Please
One of the things I realized is that my boys need to have more experiences like this, and it’s important that they know that all my years away on business trips were not at some luxury hotel sipping martinis by the pool.
As I look back on the memories, it’s the struggle that makes me the most fulfilled. It’s hundreds of nights of not sleeping for fear someone was breaking into the motel room or car. It’s eating cans of tuna between meetings because we couldn’t afford lunch out. It’s not being able to pay the bills, and almost not making payrolls.
Though these don’t sound very wonderful (and they weren’t), it makes looking backward so much sweeter.
What would we have to look back at if everything had been perfect? Some of the best memories come from adversity, and all the best lessons come from the hardest moments.
What about your struggles? Which ones do you fondly cherish? (I’d love to hear about them in the comments.)
It seems there is a lot of focus on “the good life” and living well. And though it’s nice to eventually get there, life is sweeter when we struggle.
Many of my friends don’t want their kids to go through what they had to go through. Though I can appreciate that, and though I love my kids, I pray that they will have struggles (but live through them). They make for great memories, they build great character, and they keep us humble. How can that be a bad thing?
PS: In the pre-COVID era, I was out on 40 trips a year by air. It was too much, and now that I’ve mostly been home for a year, I’m not going to become addicted to travel again. My plan … fewer trips, but more meaningful trips.
One of my favorite weeks of the year, my Adirondack painters’ retreat, starts on June 12 as we celebrate our 10th year. It’s a fun week of painting. Everyone wants to get out now; we’re all ready to return to life again. There are still a few seats. Maybe you should join us. If not now, I’m doing it again this fall.
In August, join our worldwide pastel conference online. No travel required.
In September I have one seat left for my Russia trip. And about 20 left for my annual European art trip (collectors and art lovers).
It will be fun to get out again.
I had my two boys work for me for several years and made their life hard before they went to collage. When other employees would complain my son’s would tell them “You should be me, I live with her”. I wanted them to know what life was about before they got in debt or thought someone owed them . It worked because one is a math and science teacher the other is a CPA that owns his own business.
How right you are, Eric. It’s important to know both sides of the coin. How can we possibly value what we have without understanding what it would be like not to have.
What a wonderful story you shared with your public. Your boys are lucky to have you as a role model. I am sure you will hear that from them at some time , as we have. We were not their friends but their parents. The success of your business is well deserved. Oh, the games we play!!!! Bernie
The simple times are some of the best memories. When I graduated college and had my first job as a university designer, I got my first car, my first apartment, and had no furniture, except my twin bed from home. I sat on the floor to eat my meals which were sometimes eating one third of a can of corned beef hash with and egg over easy. I ate that three nights in a row. And for the two years I lived in that apartment, I never did have any furniture, except that I bought an old table and a chair to sit on. so I could eat at a table. My parents and two sisters came to my apartment for Thanksgiving dinner, which I prepared, and we ate on the floor before I got that table. Fond, fond memories of starting out on my own. ps, I am still very frugal. 51 years later.
Your post are always good but this one is so awesome and real. I am looking forward to meeting you in person.
I totally agree with you Eric. My mother taught me that “the henna leaves give the beautiful color when they are ground”, “ a restful night is much appreciated after a hard day’s work” and so on! Our struggles do make us stronger and humble at the same time. You write beautifully. Thank you.
Yes, our children will not develop the resiliency they need without some adversity. I was once so broke a friend gave me a bag of apples and a dozen eggs and I cried because the gift was so generous. I vowed to never forget that moment or how I got there.
Not sure how they can make great memories (I have forgotten half my life, probably on purpose) but I do believe they build up character and humility and that is very important
Some if my fondest memories are the summers we spent at a small cottage on the Chesapeake Bay. We had one common room in which we slept and lived. My Dad slept on the screened porch.
We had no running water. Each day I went to the well, primed it and carried the buckets of water back to the cottage. We bathed in a big tub in the tiny kitchen. There was a privy out back, enough said!
It was a small colony of homes. The men would drive up from the city each weekend.
Our fun was playing under the motor boats which were inverted on logs to dry out. Of course there was fishing and crabbing from the pier. Swimming could be a little hazardous as the jelly fish were abundant after June.
I could go on and on , regaling the stories , but I think you get the idea.
I wish my children could have had that experience. It taught me alot about being independent and making your own fun out of of nothing.
Eric, I love your Sunday coffees. I live in Kona, Hawaii on the Big Island and own a coffee farm. I’m not trying to sell you coffee but I have written you several letters which I’m sure you never received because you would help me. I purchased Carl Bretzkes video about painting sunsets, the digital version, but I never received it even though I wrote several letters to paint tube. I hope it’s not inappropriate for me to write to you this way but I’m hoping that you can help me with this. Thank you so much for all the great work you do and wish I could go on the New Zealand trip but when I wasn’t looking, Age crept up and bit me in the butt. Thank you, Marion
Baloney. I would not have my kids sleep in a filthy motel. I would rather sleep in a car.
Eric, I just completed a “first-timer” plein air PACE conference in Sante Fe. While I cop to being put off by the marketing side of this conference, your story rings 100% true (I’ve been there) and I applaud you for your honesty about what it takes to build a business. I myself knocked on high tech office doors, cold called small technology company CEOs, and ingratiated myself with department heads while working as a clerical “temp,” (not to mention house-cleaning) to get my technical writing business started in the early ‘90s. Its been a good life and the school of hard knocks made success so much sweeter! So, thanks for your efforts. May see you in Denver 2023.
Loved this column. I’ve told grandchildren about the time when my husband had just had a heart transplant so I worked two jobs- one for the insurance for about 6 months. Yes I was exhausted with two middle schoolers at home and a recovering husband…but you do what you have to do. The grandkids need to be reminded of this every so often when they think there is just no way they should have to stress themselves with too much work.
So true, Eric. Thanks!
I am always surprised at what brings people to the Lord. It isn’t the easy good times ,….usually chaos, pain or at the “end of your rope” and no place to go. My husband and I had bought a new car dealership in the late 70’s and a beautiful old house in this new to us town. The house was $45,000 and we were not sure we could afford it but we bought it. The early 80’s bought a recession to the NW…..and the country. My husband’s family always attended church and he had been to church camps etc. as most of us were at that time. With the economy tanking there were a couple of months that we drew no money out of the dealership……..You pay your employees first and as much of your bills as you can. At the end of one month….after paying our employees we had $57. left in the company account. This is a new car dealership and we had $57. My husband went to the Lord and vocally said to Him…”The dealership it Yours” It changed my husbands commitment to the Lord and his life. Little by little things changed. Within a year and a half we were putting well over a million a month through the dealership….but the commitment to the Lord never changed from then on. Sad….but I’m afraid it is “hard times” that brings many people to our Lord. The Lord has the answers……we often don’t see them in the middle of problems…….only when we look “back”.
This is a wonderful message on memories. My 90 years on this planet are filled with many ups and downs and I cherish every one of them. I have very few regrets….my two sons, Fred and Scott, are l8iving with me now and treat me like a queen. All I do is stand at my easel and paint! What a life I have had . Whenever my Maker calls, I am ready.
Love and hugs to all the world,
A very true story indeed! My husband and I built a family business on something we had no background in! Only a science background helped with the foundation of knowledge we needed to make a living and pay the bills. My son got to be a kid while he was a kid and now in a gradual way he’s taken over the business, has some real pieces of equipment my husband and I didn’t have. Now he has other challenges to face that aren’t part of our experience in business. Life changes and if you pay attention to details, the challenge can be well worth it! In life and art there’s no easy answer, just do what you need to do that’s in front of you and do it well!
Good article……appreciate you doing them…..our kids need to hear our stories.. maybe it will help prepare them for the future…..keep up the good work you do Eric..👍👍👍👌👌👌🙏🏻🙏🏻
I agree 100%. Allow your kids the chance to begin their life and LIVING as soon as possible.
That was wonderful sharing of your heart !
It reminds me that as we want to pursue and bless the future generations, we always want them to have regard and respect for the past. It makes us and them into people they will be . Good or bad ; but with color of unique lives lived !
Enjoyed reading it.
My sons will be survivors no matter what happens. They know that their mom is a good artist now, but they also know that mom worked for 8 years as a prison correctional officer, then 8 years as a prison correctional case manager and finally finished out a 27 year career as a probation officer so we could pay the mortgage, phone bill, electric, fill the heating oil tank and put groceries on the table and pay for family health insurance. The older two remember us eating a lot of eggs from our backyard chickens and eating homemade ice cream for breakfast sometimes when we ran out of cereal. They remember friends who would drop off an “extra” deer during hunting season so we could have meat in our freezer and helping mom process the deer that was strung up on a tree (sometimes by the light of my car head lights) so nothing was wasted. They remember chores that involved weeding the garden, helping me can or freeze vegetables, cleaning out the chicken coop. If a stray cat or dog showed up and they talked me into keeping it, it was their responsibility to care for the beast. They each got a small allowance for comic books, an occasional soda or some junk food; but if they wanted something bigger (like a new bike) they had to do extra chores or go find a neighbor to pay them for mowing the lawn, weeding their gardens, or shoveling snow. When they first started out on their own, I helped out when I could, but they learned to eat cheap and team up with others to rent apartments and work through the inevitable issues that come in human relations. They are currently all employed and living on their own and I’m grateful to be able to gift them generously during the holidays and for their birthdays. I’m proud of what I have accomplished and I’m even more proud of what they have accomplished despite being the kids that wore WalMart shoes and clothing purchased from the GoodWill Store.
Having been a professional artist for 45 years now there have been hundreds of times when the choice was made to buy art supplies over food.
i traded for every possible thing or service and lived by bartering, often having no money at all. After travelling across canada by hitch hiking and completeing the concept for the series of paintings later to be used as the gifts of the 1988 olympic winter games i worked every day turning the ideas into art. The sruggle never really ends it only changes. i do not fly to europe anymore with $1.00 in my pocket but the chances/risks are no less real. For the last 12 years the challenge has been to survive the numerous spinal and heart surgeries and thereafter get up out of the hospital bed and paint every single day. In the process having had to relearn 3 times how to walk, read, write and speak with my granddaughter as my tutor. Just had the latest heart surgery 3 weeks ago [thats why decided not to go to pace] . despite this have 4 art books of my art ready to go and actively working on others. life is mostly getting on with it and not giving up. painting is life and life is painting. richarddixonfineart.com
This is so beautifully written and makes so much sense. It brought back memories of our trip across the United States from Toronto to California and back with our two kids in the rear seat nursing their pillows, to be used if a accommodation could not be found. I remember staying in a motel in Wyoming that had a huge hole in the wall that someone had obviously used a fist to create. It was an eye opener for our children but we learned to make the best of every situation and we cherish the memories and the time we spent together. It was the trip of a lifetime.
I have been working since I was 14. Worked my way through law school. I went to undergrad with lots of sorority types, and to law school with lots of young men and women who had never worked a day, some of whom had a lavish gap-year thanks to mom and dad. As soon as I started work at my law firm, the difference in my background became obvious. A person who has always had to make important decisions, without knowing what the outcome will be, and without a safety net, is better at assessing and taking risk; is better at managing client expectations, and is much better at dealing with adversity. At times I wish my adolescence and college years had been more carefree, but I have done well. Looking forward now to a carefree retirement.
HI Eric…Enjoyed story about road trip… Next time get your sons to outfit a van as a comper!
Eric, I don’t always read your newsletters for various reasons, but today I had time. We are about the same age so much of what you tell resonates. Thank you for today’s tale of a journey that is filled all the emotions of life’s uncertainties and the will to succeed driving you. It helps that you are a good story teller.
2010, I was working as a retoucher in publishing. Jobs like mine were being sent overseas and I felt needed to raise my Photoshop skills and move into retouching for an advertising agency. I felt I could NOT do it. I was sure I was not smart enough. But I had to, and I did. That feeling of success and accomplishment, of feeling like the whole town should throw me a parade, was worth every tear of fear I had shed. My life was changed forever with the question, “What else can I do?”
What a wonderful and thought provoking way to start my Sunday. I would love to meet you one day. Thanks for your reflections.
I truly enjoyed reading your Sunday coffee, thank you. I think struggles makes us the people we are. Difficult at times, yes but certainly enriching in the long run.
Happy Sunday everyone.
Well said! We never be learn important life lessons when everything is going as planned! It’s the AFGO’s that teach me the important lessons (Another Friggin’ Growth Experience). I take nothing for granted. Professionally, I’m still “emerging” so money is very tight and days are very long but each small victory is so sweet! I savor it more because I works so hard to get here. Nothing was given to me but the will to keep going!
I want to re read article about artist’s statements. How can I access it?
So much enjoy the Sunday Coffee posts. I look forward to it every week.
When my kids were little I worked for non-profit agencies. I wanted my kids to know that things weren’t easy for a lot of other people. I would take them with me when I was delivering food baskets for Christmas. Every year before Christmas, I would have them clean out their toy chests and group out those toys that were in good shape ,but that they no longer played with. We would then take the toys to the homeless shelter or the migrants camp. Giving their toys to children who had very little, gave my children the opportunity to learn that there were people who lived differently than we did. They were more grateful for what they had and the importance of helping others.
This put me in mind of a motel we stayed at in the Carolinas about 25 years ago.
There were some permanent residents . We got little sleep either night as we were treated to police and ambulance sirens each night. We watched the lights of same reflected on our ceiling through the space between the top of the wall and the ceiling. Fortunately, there was no gunfire.
We also stayed in motels whose towels were so worn, you could see through them.
This was in the years we travelled a lot for business, so the hotels were just for sleeping.
We struggle and we made it, then we spoil our kids. That is life. Eric, I always love your stories
Please respond to my e-mail inquiries.
HELLO DEAR PAINT FRIENDS:
Please let me know , a complete itinerary, date time, from where ,the total cost for the RUSSIA and EUROPEAN trip. Also what is necessary, ie Passport, Luggage what to take , and what not?.
Do i bring Paint supply, how much is allowed, and what not.
Please give specifics, so may i can make plans.
This is the second inquiry.
Hi Eric, I think I’ve read every one of your Sunday Coffee posts. How many years has it been now? Sometimes I don’t get to it until my evening coffee..or later, like tonight. I feel compelled to write because you mentioned the Adirondack trip and after 9 years of wishing, I’m finally going while, as my husband said, I’m still upright and breathing. I’ll probably win the oldest participant contest (I’ll be 80 in September) but I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
I’ll see you on the 12th God Willing, the plane isn’t late and I don’t get lost driving from Burlington!
PS..I just scrolled up to see what seemed like 100 comments. This was a popular post today. We just moved to your state, Indiana, from 22 years on the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City, Michigan and 10 winters in Sedona and you know what? We really love Indianapolis! Who knew?? See you soon.
I remember making vases out of empty tin cans that were covered with broken egg shells and then painted with different colored inks that my husband brought home from his work in an printing ink co they turned out pretty good considering what they were made of!! First year of marriage after leaving art school didn’t leave much extra money for my artistic endeavors but ingenuity kicked in
GREAT STORY WELL TOLD
Thank you for todays” Coffee with Eric” and Every Sunday! It gives me much to look forward to and to reflect on. Your children are so blessed to have you to teach them about how life can be when you are just starting out and how hard it is to make a living and you do what you have to do to make it happen. We have all been through trying times during this last year and a half. You were so blessed to have your father as your children are to have you. I am confident they will remember as you have with your father. I lost my father when I was fourteen.
Somehow I cannot thank you enough for all your daily lessons and teaching! For not only to Your Children but to all of us Children in the Art World! Prayerfully I can post my original art work soon.
Thank you for sharing this.
I needed it to hear it for myself and my dreams as I do when thinking about my sons. We should know each other’s experiences.
We all really need to tell our stories… which up to this moment I rolled my eyes at and thought “another gimmick”. But my god, we need to hear other people’s experiences. Individuals, communities, cultures and nationalities – each with a unique perspective/point of view. It helps to understand where they’re coming from.
That’s the only way we can make it work.
I can relate. We came to US from Canada 25 years ago. Although Canada is a great place to live we had to leave for reasons too long to describe here . I am a nurse and had a job booked for me in a small town in the south. I arrived with no credit, no place to stay, no money in the bank. The nurse manager picked me up at the airport and proceeded to drop me off at a motel, which I couldn’t afford. I asked if I could stay with her … I would cook, clean, look after her kids and dog after my shift. She agreed. I still can’t believe I went through all this and more. I made sure our sons knew this story. They are men now and all of our lives turned out great , but the journey was not easy… I feel like a stronger more grateful person for all of it. So I can relate, Eric.. thank you for you insightful writings.
Struggles: at the age of 35, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the prognosis was 5 years or less, I am a RN and my income was needed in the household but I was not able to work while I had surgery and did a year of treatment with chemo and radiation. At that time I was married with an 8 year old and 6 year old. I did a lot of holistic health care taking care of my mind, body and spirit. Shortly after I was finished with treatment I found out that I was pregnant. I felt it was a gift from God that life goes on. During these times with only one income we had major financial struggles. Soon after Hannah was born I needed to go back to work and worked for 8 years in the ER until I was diagnosed again with breast cancer. Again I had surgery, chemo and radiation. To help get through financially I tapped into my retirement fund. I was still young and it was apparent to me that I would not be able to reach retirement. After treatment I did go back to work as well as went to school and got my Masters in Nursing Education. Fast forward to today, my children are grown, my husband continues to be my rock and they all went through my struggles with me. Ironically now, I am 68 years of age and do not have the financial stability to retire. I am still working as an RN as well as I have been painting regularly, started my own website, and I am selling paintings (this has evolved thanks to all you have done to keep us going through Covid). I may not get to do the retirement that everyone looks to attain in their later years of life but I have so much more. I am appreciative of the little things, my family means the world to me and they feel the same toward me. I do not have a fancy new house but I have a home where there is much love. I look forward to learning more about the arts and painting as much as I can. And even though I may never be able to retire I am truly enjoying life. See you in the Adirondacks. Mary Freida
Struggles along the way are always interesting. During my years of travel i would often fly or drive to destinations for exhibitions not knowing how i would get back or even survive. once cleared heathrow customs with 1$ in my pocket and $1000 remaining on the credit card. Came home with100,000 and went from sleeping in a van before the exhibit to 5 star hotels at the end.
Some of the best connections rose out of the times when i struggled the most.
The opposite also came about periodically, like doing a deal and losing a cool 1 million in a mere 30 days. ouch!
None of it compares even remotely to being screwed down to a hospital bed after spinal surgery with no ability to communicate, able to blink thats all, and moving the first toe after 6 months. then years learning how to speak, walk, read and write.
However never forgot how to create art.
OMG, always moving, but this one really came from a personal space. You are quite a guy. I appreciate what you are doing.
I sincerely hope to look back as you have from a positive position. My partner and I started an The Red Trillium Art Studio in Troutdale Oregon at the beginning of Covid. Our goal was to provide a place for artist and novice to learn about creating art. We had full schedules that quickly became empty schedules. We have had a few classes over the last year as well as monthly fund raisers to keep the lights on. Government assistance has been none existent. It’s been really tough but we preserve hoping we will be a thriving business. Out true mission is not to make money but to make artists.
This is the third time in 24 hours of having a conversation with someone about the times I didn’t know where the next meal was coming from. I’ve never been homeless, but I’ve been close. My mother denied me things as a child with the phrase ‘we can’t afford it’, when in fact I knew we could, and she has no idea how that affected me in a positive way – to never assume that there would be a next meal, or a roof over my head.
Love your story – and your emails.
Eric, I Love all of your Sunday Coffee emails.
This one deserves a Pulitzer Prize for your beautiful story-telling along with its’ encouraging and uplifting life lesson.
12 years ago I retired from a Fortune 500 company and now I’m contemplating starting my third career. The CEO of the company’s father was a successful lawyer and his son was expected to follow in dad’s footsteps. The son would rather play with his friends than go to college. The father said, ok, I have an acquaintance at a steel mill, and you can work there until next fall when college is in session. After
that summer in the mill the son not only got his law degree but saw the value of earning a position in management, and soon was the head of his own law firm. That firm was hired to find a replacement for our companies outgoing CEO, and after careful consideration the son decided he was the best candidate and recommended the board to hire him. They did, and our company had a record of increasing profits every quarter for 30 years.
Teach your sons to do hard things!
The idea of struggle…..my parents lived through the great depression and they didn’t want anything to be like that for their children. It wasn’t. We had plenty of everything and in comparison with many others, I was spoiled. I didn’t realize how amazing my early life was until I went to college and went home with roommates on the weekend now and then and saw what their lives were like in Iowa, not New York where I grew up. No, I never had to struggle financially, but it was very sketchy at times in my life. Still, nothing like what some go through. Experiences can certainly shape us, but it is what we do with them that counts. Hopefully, I have done things that would make my parents proud.
30 years ago when I began my professional art career, I entered every possible show and received rejection after rejection letter. I said I was going to wallpaper my bathroom with rejection letters until I got to frame my first acceptance one. While I never did that, I do still have my first acceptance letter and there have been many more since that bumpy start.
Love! So much wisdom in these words….crafted from experience. Been there, and know you speak truth. Thank you!
This was a great post. I always say “ no one goes through life unscathed”.
Sooner or later, we all struggle.
Although I’ve had family, physical and financial struggles in my life, two experiences really shaped me:
My parents were divorcing in South America when I had the opportunity to come to the US as a scholar shipped boarding school student in Massachusetts. I was 13.
English was my3rd. language and I did not speak it well. I could not go home on weekends or holidays. When school closed for Thanksgiving and spring break , I had to rely on other girls to take me in. I had no $ for pizza nights, movies or shopping outings. But I knew this was an opportunity and I was there to study. So I did. Being 13, alone in a country is difficult, but I learned so much about myself. And I fell in love with books and paints. That one year changed my outlook forever.
In that respect, college was similar. Once again, I was alone in this country, with my family overseas.
Once again, I was a scholarship student with no money, and no place to go on weekends and holidays. I waitressed. I studied.
I was lonely and homesick but I persevered.
Looking back, those two experiences gave me discipline, and a belief that I was capable of hard work and perseverance.
They were very hard lessons, but I’m infinitely grateful.
Love your Sunday coffee letters
I hope to make it next year to your retreat!
Just loved this Eric! So spot on !
In 1988 I started as the Arts Coordinator and taught art at the State prisons in Rhode Island. In 1995, the funding was discontinued and I took a
job there as a paraprofessional for education classes. Because I believed art was very important, I resumed teaching art but for free in 1996. Art
changed lives, and created self images that didn’t include violence. So I was paid for four days a week but for three nights, I taught drawing and
painting. I was making little money but it never mattered. Every day I knew that what I did or said that day made a difference. In August of 2020,
I decided to resign because of fear of the pandemic. So I think I have had an extraordinary career for 32 years and was able to change lives
with the talent I had been given.
Hi , look forward too Sunday coffee every week.
In 1980 I was accepted into an art fair, called New Artists at Madison Square Garden. In those days, I typically had $200 to my name. I was somewhat employed as a carpenter, but mostly trying to make it in the art world. I had no credit, no loans, no assets available. To prepare for the event, I had prints of my art made, I framed many pieces, I built a rooftop cargo carrier for my old Toyota wagon, etc. I realized I would need an assistant for the hordes of customers, and found a woman through The Village Voice ad pages who took on the job. Fortunately she agreed to offer me a couch to sleep on in Greenwich Village.
Unloading the art in front of the Garden was a rude awakening to New York reality. There was no place to park. I saw another poor artist get towed in the middle of his unloading! Only by hiring a bum off the street was I able to get everything in, in time!
The show display was badly designed. An entire block of booths fell over. You could hear the glass breaking as dozens of artworks hit the floor. Worst of all, the promotor had no good plan for bringing people in. Four days of show went by, with people trickling in by ones and twos only. Mostly we artists just stared at each other.
On the second day, my car needed repair! I limped it over to some shop that my assistant recommended. Another bill.
When it came time to reload, I had her start packing while I went for the car. It had a flat tire! People streaming into the Garden for a basketball game witnessed a madman slamming tools around as I struggled to get the spare on in time.
By the end, I had spent at least $1000, including several hundred to the assistant. My total income was $22 for two prints. I met no gallery owners or other influential people from the art world.
As I drove away from the city, a sheet metal patch on my car rattled louder and louder and finally tore loose to join the debris on the side of some expressway.
It was 20 years before I could work up the nerve to visit NYC again.
To end on a positive note – A fellow in my hometown heard my sad story and came to my studio a few weeks later. He bought $600 worth of art, on an installment plan. That helped me recover!
I think this article was your best one yet. It really hit a nerve with me today I enjoyed it very much. Hoping you a have a great day.
I just finished reading this post and boy it made my day (morning-and yes I’m drinking coffee right now). You see, I am now in my 60’s and am a busy professional artist. Just typing those words is surreal. I have spent the bulk of my life doing everything but paint. I won’t bother you with my whole story except for this part: in 2012 I had a severe mental breakdown. I had to leave the work world, leaving great health insurance for my family and a good salary. I was (am am) lucky to be put on Social Security disabilty so I now have some income and insurance albeit no insurance for my wife. Anyway…I had always wanted to be an artist, so to stave off the depression and severe anxiety I began to paint. It has been my lifeline. Literally, as I had even made a really good attempt at suicide (the one book I took with me to the hospital was about oil painting!) Now I find myself in the middle of a new life whereby I am a successful artist. I have 3 galleries which sell my work and I partcipate in plein air events in the midwest area. I have won numerous awards and have even taught workshops. Looking at me from the outside you would never know the struggles that got me to this place. The only clue is the tattoo on my lower arm with my therapy prompts boldly inked for all to see. If you ask me about my tat I will gladly tell you I got it done after my suicide attempt to help me in controlling my illness. I want people to know that I “made it” and there is always hope (and even rebirth) if you can find the way. Well, I’m off to paint for the Cedarburg, WI plein air event (I won 2nd place in 2017-another surreal thing to type) so I’ve gotta get going! Thanks for all you have done for us artists and best wishes on your upcoming trips!
Always love reading your Sunday Coffee missives . Today’s story reminded me of the quote: “We are often, so busy giving our children what we didn’t have, that we forget to give them what we did have.”
A little struggle and sacrifice won’t kill them. My daughter, now grown and mother of two rambunctious boys called me one day. She is a PA for a very busy medical practice. She asked,
“Dad, when does it get easier?” . I paused for a moment and then replied, “I don’t know, when I get there I’ll let you know”.
All the best, and Milessa and I look forward to the Russia trip!
In your Sunday Coffee last week you quoted Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach which made me smile. I was a client of the The Strategic Coach for 24 years and had Dan as my coach for over 15 years. I would think you would find it extremely helpful. It was invaluable to me and so many great ideas came from the other members who were like minded, forward thinking, get new big stuff done now people. I graduated from the Coach after selling my business but continue to have a “thinking day” once a quarter to keep organized, on track and growing using the Coach Tools.
I love Sunday coffee and appreciate your commitment to writing/sending every week. Thank you
Where we have been gives us a choice of where we are going.
One of the struggles that I faced and look back on now fondly happened when I was 19 years old, a mother of two children, one 16 months and the other 3 months (both in cloth diapers). We lived in the country on a stretch of road that was part of provincial highway system and was being redone. They blasted and dug the road bed down until you could only see the top of the cabins on the yoke trucks. Because of the blasting our well for our water supply was destroyed. For that whole summer we struggled to first prove that our well was finished and then after many visits by officials to finally get approved for a new well. I spent that summer every week wrapping our laundry and the diapers in bundles, tossing them down to my then husband and one by one the children and finally myself to get to our car. The road was closed to traffic and we carefully had to drive out around mounds of road debris to get to the crossroads on which my former husband’s parents lived so I could wash our clothes and get fresh water to carry back home. This was back in 1976, we couldn’t afford the disposable diapers and there wasn’t automatic washers used.
8 years ago (this is in the struggle category) I had a freak fall and landed on a sharp rock, breaking every bone in my elbow. My forearm was flat backwards against my upper arm. My first thought was, after I realized I was looking at an arm I didn’t recognize as such, was that I was glad it wasn’t the 1800s. I ran in called 911 and at the hospital was told it was the worst break they had ever seen. The upper extremity trauma specialist wasn’t even sure she could save the elbow. I told her please try. I paint, play the viola, knit, garden and need my arm to pursue these passions. She was amazing. During the next year of tri-weekly physical therapy and a second 7 hour surgery, my mother, father and sister died 11 months apart in Florida. I am in PA. I flew down there about every 6 weeks to help with my family’s end of life issues. Amidst the difficulties and deep sorrow, I found I had more friends and support than I ever imagined. For 60 days, orchestra members and friends brought dinner over. I jokingly had mentioned to a friend that if my husband cooked, I would be eating Subway sandwiches all the time and she set up a sign up on line for dinners. In one day it was filled for the 2 months. Friends drove me to physical therapy, took me out to lunch and art shows that were local. Children in my life came over to play games with me. In physical therapy, I ran into people I hadn’t seen in ages and my therapist couldn’t believe I knew so many people. I was told when I was there it was more like a party than a torture chamber. I even made knew friends while there. Even in the midst of challenges, there are silver linings that get us through.
I love your Sunday letters, Thank you. You brought back some memories of our start in business. People always thought we had it easy, but they didn’t know the behind the scene story. I never forget what made our life so wonderful and I am forever humbled.
Someday your boys may learn and hopefully value the lessons of that road trip.
About 10-12 years ago I wrote an end of the year bonus check to my most junior staff member for $100. I’ll always remember it because the account had less than $200 in it. From that point we have built it up to a consistently comfortable level.
Wonderful thoughts about struggle, Eric! On a road trip with my son to see Crater Lake in Oregon, we ended up in a motel just like the one you describe. Dinner was from the only place in town – a gas station that sold Subs. Neither of us will forget that bug-infested, moldy-smelling motel! But, my son’s response – “this is a great experience, we’re seeing how lots of people live and travel” – I am a proud mom.
Eric, I look forward to reading your Sunday Coffee every Sunday morning while I’m drinking my coffee.
You are right that struggles build character. Early in our marriage I had our son. I had planned to go back to work, but once I held him in my arms, I couldn’t.
Ok, my husband said, we will have seven dollars left at the end of the month. So I stayed home. I first and biggest argument in our 41 years of marriage was when I bought a $5 basket to cover the black plastic pot of the huge house plant in our living room.
We laugh about it all the time now!