At what age do adults realize that not every other adult has the same childhood memories that you or I do?
I was talking to my favorite Aunt Jane on the phone the other day as I do almost weekly, and she was telling me about my cousin, her grandson at age five, and all the whacky shenanigans. He will be starting 1st grade a bit late due to some hyperactivity issues, which I’m sure I had as a toddler, along with a zillion other non-diagnosed, or misdiagnosed childhood issues.
I chuckled when Jane told me how Max (my little cousin age 5 said) to her, “The doctor is a good one but he can be so irritating”.
I reminded her that (and I remember this), when I was age 3-4, living in a small white frame house on S. 28th Ave which later became AAA Ambulance Service behind the Ms. Highway Patrol building in Hattiesburg, Ms…yes the same Hattiesburg that recently was hit by a monster tornado and is the real birthplace of Rock & Roll (according to Rolling Stone Magazine).
I had a girlfriend, also age 3 named Sharmain Sharp. I pronounced all my “S’s” as an “H”. Not only that, but my favorite thing in the world to do was “Sit on the sofa with Sharmain Sharp”; so of course it came out, “Mommy Daddy, I’d like to hit on the hofa with Harmaine Harp”. Within a few days I was off to one of my many speech therapy sessions in Jackson, Ms. (Hattiesburg didn’t have one then).
As soon as they fixed that ailment, another one cropped up, then another, and another. There were so many (I clearly remember now), my parents must have decided on “acceptance”. There were no more doctors for childhood disorders. I was fortunate enough to bring several of them into adulthood with me; some that are quite cute as a toddler, and particularly scary as an adult. Oh well.
As I was describing this to my Aunt Jane, for sure she had heard about it or remembered it, nada. She laughed as if it was the first time she’d heard of it, and perhaps it was. I should not be so self-absorbed. As well as I know Jane, and I know her well, I only know a few of her childhood tales. But I thought everyone knew of my speech impediment and Sharmain….and the sofa.
One of my most visible ones to me, was a vertical form of dyslexia that I pointed out to the special dyslexia school in Washington, D.C. who noticed it immediately. At the time, I was working on a story as a producer for the show “Entertainment Tonight”, and Cher and Tom Cruise were visiting to talk to the kids. Both actors had dyslexia and overcame it.
I never completed an entire book until I was 29 years old. I remember buying it at Winn Dixie…”Being There” by Jerzy Kosinski. Oddly, I would later meet him in NYC. I explained the story to him and he seem pleased. It turned out to be one of my favorite films as well.
Though I already was keenly aware of the disability, when I returned home to Ms. I decided to be tested at their lab. They found no signs of any reading disorder. I thanked them and left…and struggled with the disorder for another two decades; though much less so than I had as a child. The school in Washington taught me to be patient, take a breath and wait for the words to return. Also, if not too difficult, to hide all but one line with a piece of paper or cardboard. I tried that awhile and it was helpful.
Then about 2 years ago my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London had an idea. It was getting near my birthday and she knew my love of the “arts and letters”. She had a theory that a Kindle Fire might solve the problem as the letters are large and not attached to paper on glass with a gray background. She was buying one for herself and decided it might help me.
She was right on target. I have read more books in less than two years on the Kindle Fire than probably (added up) all the books I’ve read in my lifetime. More importantly, in most cases, I understood the text. I’m not saying this will work for everyone, and there are still times the dyslexia returns but only briefly, and I get through the book. I remain a slow reader but I love the reading and learning process.
I was able to return to college at age 47 and study (mostly online) getting help from colleagues (who knew my situation and cared) and taught me a great deal about business and the Internet.
At that time my cartoons, Londons Times, were still a hobby. I was only doing something to bide my time after a major heart attack until my life (sad to say) would be over.
Little did I know within a year I’d start launching stores with my licensed cartoon images, and start designing giftware and clothing that had nothing to do with cartooning.
Life is funny that way. What was the proper combination to make it all happen? I don’t believe this is a one-size-fits-all-world and nearly everyone I know has learned to live their dream differently
For me, it was a mix of a little faith, meeting the woman of my dreams (Lee) who believes in me, finding people smarter than me to work with me to make things happen, hard consistent/persistent work even when one does not feel like it, and taking time away from it to play.
Lee and I play by hiking in our National Forest and taking photographs. That is not for everyone but I do believe that Nature offers a type healing that can’t be found in too many (if any) other places.
Rick London is a writer/cartoonist and designer. He founded Londons Times Cartoons in an abandoned tin shed in Hattiesburg in 1997 which has become Google’s #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts since 2005. He is married to popular nature photographer Lee Hiller-London who runs the popular nature blog Hike Our Planet.
I have written a variation of this blog on several occasions over the years, but as each year passes, I (hopefully) learn more and understand the essence of what I do in life to achieve more fulfillment; to feel better about self, and others. I don’t always do it right, but I always try.
I have learned that we are most definitely not what we do. What we do, say…for a living, is but a tiny part of our spirit and soul. But it is just big enough to nourish it in a great way. A lot of people call it “our talent” and I can go with that. But from where does talent derive? Some think our parents, a teacher or teachers, God, the Universe, etc., and none can prove any of it. I would venture to say it is often a combination of all of the above, but that is not what is important. What is important is that we do something with it.
I have learned over the years that some of the happiest people I know do something with their talent; not the talent that “was handed to them”, not some talent or job (or career) someone coerced them into doing for their own agenda, but people who scratched their own talent that they got to know, play with, try, fall, keep trying, and finally succeeding to watch it blossom. Likewise, some of the unhappiest people are the ones who did, and do the opposite. And of course those tend to point fingers and blame people who have actually tried and done something (whether it be a commercial success or simply a hobby the nourishes their soul), for their own failures. People need “a demon” to blame. We who are actually trying to do something call those people “obstacles of our past”. I hope you learn to look at them that way too. They are the naysayers. They are the envious. They do not belong in your parade.
The good news is it is never too late to grow one’s talent. And one can do it without “quitting the day job”. It can be done little by little, and now, with such easy access to the Internet, it can be learned quite easily. If one can’t find the information in research, most colleges teach courses in almost any field of interest. A lot of people don’t even give it a shot for fear of the outcome, fear of failure, fear of people asking why would I take up “this kind of hobby at my age” etc. That’s sad.
Andrea Bocelli didn’t start singing opera seriously until the age of 34. Some ‘experts’ told him it was too late to begin. Phyliss Diller became a comedian at the age of 37. She was told by many club owners that she was “too old” to become a success. Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, was 43 when he began drawing his legendary superheroes and his partner Jack Kirby was 44 when he created The Fantastic Four. Julia Child didn’t even learn to cook until she was almost 40 and didn’t launch her popular show until she was 50. Elizabeth Jolley had her first novel published at the age of 56. In one year alone she received 39 rejection letters but finally had 15 novels and four short story collections published to great success. Mary Wesley was 71 when her first novel was published. Talk about not giving up!
Ricardo Montalban had his dream house built at the age of 68. That was when he was finally financially able to do so and he went full-speed ahead with it. Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing as a columnist in her 40s. Contrary to a belief begun by the TV series about her family, the popular Little House books weren’t written when she was a young girl at all. They were written and published when the ‘girl’ was in her 60’s! Grandma Moses started painting in her seventies (she quit embroidering due to arthritis) but never gave up. The list goes on and on from Thomas Edison to Albert Einstein (both of whom are thought to have had learning disabilities).
Fortunately, I love trying so many things that require writing and design, I am not really sure “what I am”. So nobody can really say I’m a success or failure at anything. To me, I am a big success simply because I had the nerve to try it. Some monetary gain has happened, but that is not even that much of a factor for me. I started when I was 43 and I am now 58. On March 19th it will be 15 years. And though I don’t put myself on the level with any of the aforementioned giants, I can look at nearly most of them, given what I’ve read about their lives, and think of them as “spiritual mentors”.
And though I create cartoons with my Londons Times Cartoons team, I really have just as much fun designing gift products bearing those images and marketing them. I am fascinated by things I never learned and I was terrible as a young student due to a myriad of misdiagnosed and non-diagnosed medical disabilities. Some of them still present obstacles but that is okay. I returned to school at age 46 after a major heart attack and studied subjects I needed to know in business and Internet and after another major heart attack at age 56, I was already halfway completed with a totally different gift line that does not involve humor or cartoons. When I began recovering, I started right back with it.
I started learning social media, and by then Twitter already knew who I was (I imagine numerous of their future or current managers were colleagues of mine in school, and they verified my account upon my asking). Please follow me: I’m @RickLondon. Anyone who has tried to verify a Twitter account who is not a film star, tv star, Bill Gates, or The Hilton Hotel chain (and trust me, I’m none of those); I’m told it’s easier pulling hen’s teeth.
Not to worry, a verified Twitter account gives me no credence above anyone else, nor does it make me smarter, prettier, or richer than anyone else. I was as surprised as the next guy to have one. But it has turned out to be a very nifty tool in running a business and luring a large loyal following.
So you can see there are perks in at least trying. My wonderful wife Lee Hiller-London aka Lee Hiller who has Lee Hiller Designs and runs the popular nature/wildlife photography blog Hike Our Planet, did not start her line/brand until 2009. I didn’t have a clue if she was going to make a name for herself or not in that business, but I was proud of her for trying. Still am. As it turned out (and turns out) she is a “design/and arts machine) and sometimes she is at it nonstop all day, when she’s not hiking (and another perk I get is to tag along on the hikes) plus learn to take nature photos from the master with her old Sony camera (which she calls “The Magic Box”) Long story.
3 years have passed rapidly and Lee has about 30,000+ gift products bearing her licensed images that sell everywhere from Sears to Amazon and through many associates in between. One can’t help but feel proud. She has a work ethic that anyone would want; and on those few occasions she makes errors, she simply researches it, improves it or fixes it, and keeps going. I like that attitude.
So if you’ve wanted to write a book, write one. If you just like to write, write. Today there are so many outlets. Like this one. Blogs are very popular. Magazines and newspapers have scaled down and are often looking for freelance contributors. I’ve written for both (and radio and tv). You just never know who needs what you write, and you never know if you’ve got what it takes, unless you try. And if, at first you don’t have what it takes, that’s a good sign. It means you’ve got learning and growth to do in that area, and to many (including me) the learning is the best part. The “Ah-ha” moment is a sort of magic.
If you want to dance, dance. Want to learn ballet? Learn it. Take lessons. Martial arts? It’s never too late? I can no longer do the Ishinru style I was trained to do in my younger days but Lee has been teaching me Tai Chi which we do about almost daily which I have grown to love.
There is so much you can do. So where do you start? Go to Bing or Google. Type in the subject. There you have it. You are on your way. Please don’t give up if something doesn’t happen right away. You are on a “learning journey”. Remember I’m on my 15th year and Lee on her 4th. We love the learning as much as the doing, and we learn something new everyday. Good luck and most of all have fun!
Rick London is a freelance writer, cartoonist and designer. He founded Londons Times Cartoons in 1997 which have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008. He is married to nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London founder of the popular nature blog Hike Our Planet and founder and creator at LeeHillerDesigns.com. London also founded Rick London Designs which is a shop of Famous Quote Gifts including the graphics of those who penned or said them.
It’s 2012. Whoaa. Who’da thought it? I hate using other’s lines but to quote Eubie Blake (later often used by Mickey Mantle), “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself”.
The quote is obviously facetious but there’s a little bit of truth even in facetiousness. I really would have. But back in the days of my youth, I was quite certain there was no cure from which what I ailed. I longed to live fast and figured I’d probably die young. I got the living fast down right; no doubt about it. I spent most of my youth and later my adulthood in trying to experience every experience that could ever be experienced, do so as quickly as possible, and then move on to the next. I kept a great diary.
This paragraph is for the young people who think “this sounds like a great idea”. It’s not, trust me. I was blessed and humbled to have intervention by some amazing souls along the way, including my now beloved wife Lee Hiller-London or, if you’re on Twitter, @LeeHillerLondon. By the time I’d met Lee, however, I’d slowed down quite a bit and was even living in a town smaller than the one in which I was raised, Hot Springs, Ar. which Lee and I call “home”.
To be fair, and I know it sound macho and renegade, but I truly lived through things that perhaps if life were fair, I shouldn’t have. A few were, (but not limited to) going through a windshield with no seatbelt…they were not required when I was 17 years old in my 1970 Dodge Superbee which I bought from my favorite auto-dealer “Harry Dole Dodge” in Hattiesburg, Ms that I kept for a total of 3 months before totally totaling it. Forget my “hippie years” (I know I did, or never remembered them). There were way too many reasons I should not have lived (many of them involved my liver). Ironically, this many years later, the late Harry Dole’s daughter Sherry is now Lee’s and my favorite animal artist. She is amazing.
At age 28, I figured, I should up and move to Miami because I’d gone to USM with a friend who had moved there. We were roomies for 2 months before we both “needed our space” and I rented a room in a strange little old lady’s home who claimed (over and over again) that she was once a flapper at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Though it’s cruel, to be fair, she more closely resembled Flipper (but meaner…much meaner). Oh, and I didn’t have a job, but just knew I would be a great journalist; and, I drove in on the night of the Overtown riots, only to hear (and nearly be hit by gunfire and such). But I was Superman…or so I thought. I did manage to land a job at Miami’s Community Newspapers but that’s a whole other story altogether.
Fast forward a few years and I was in NYC doing standup comedy in nightclubs in Manhattan, NJ, The Bronx, Brooklyn and you name it. I did a PR internship during the day, or on other days worked in a health food store, and often bartended and/or drove a cab. I think I slept an hour or two a night. I lived through that.
Did a stint in Washington, D.C. because I was well aware that “I must be a journalist” by now and though I landed a few cushy jobs, I never did much with them and opened my own bus tour company. I sold it and went to L.A. to learn screenwriting because that was just part of “living fast” and I felt I’d not lived fast enough. I learned how to write movies and wrote a few but nothing got very far past development; not even “Elvis And Godzilla” (I’m not kidding, a giant Elvis calmed the giant beast with songs like “Return To Sender” and “Heartbreak Hotel”.) I’m sure I got plenty of laughs by Hollywood directors and producers (but not for the right reasons). Then came the giant Northridge Earthquake which swallowed my entire home. Only because my barking golden retriever pup “Otis” barked loudly five minutes before it hit, did I escape obvious doom. Thank you G-d (and Otis) once again.
Fast forward 5 years and I’ve suffered a major heart attack, then appendicitis, then another major heart attack (which was rougher) and kidney surgery, and here I am. It took what it took. I laughingly told Lee who has also experienced some scary times (some of them health related), that I really didn’t know I was going to live this long or I would have planned. So now I’m planning.
What does that mean? Again, this is (hopefully for the younger persons out there). Education is important; no its “the key”. Fast crowds seem glamorous but if you inspect “fastness” with a microscope, you won’t find a happy soul…really. Lots of smiles and laughter, but just surface; lost in a masquerade.
Eat better. Lee and I are eating vegan now. Again if I had known then what I know now, I would have started that a long time ago. Drugs, alcohol, etc also can seem glamorous as can the crowds involved. That s the big illusion. They seem so. I promise, they are not.
We clean and decorate our home. Our walls are full of Lee’s amazing nature/wildlife photography scattered with a few of my silly cartoons. We budget for another plant or two every month and we put up about 2 cartoons and two of Lee’s photos per month. Every time I look up, I enjoy where we live. We get to see what we do, and we have nature inside living with us when we are not outside playing in it.
I would have immersed myself in more nature (as Lee and I do now) with hikes that we enjoy. We don’t speed through them. We’re often passed by joggers who “just want to get it out of the way”. I used to own all the best jogging shoes made and ran two marathons. That was all part of “living fast”. Jogging is healthy, I believe, but like anything one can overdo it, and even ignore responsibilities.
I know what you’re thinking. Rick is trying to “be perfect” or “better than”. Am sure it seems that way but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s too late for that.
I am listening to my inner voice. It tells me what really makes me happy. Not someone else’s fleeting opinion. Someone else’s agenda of what I should do or be is truly their issue and none of my business. I love what I do today and there’s not a lot of “glamour” in it, but a lot of fun. And life should be fun. Not always fun. But if one finds oneself in a situation where it is not fun at least some of the time, as an adult, it is our responsibility to find what “that fun is”. It might be numerous things. It might be one or two things. As long as it is not harmful to oneself (or others), most likely it is a nice contribution to society, and really, for what more could one ask out of life?
I’ve been described as “A goofy vegan mountain man who means no harm”. I’ve actually been called worse, but will leave it at that. I founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons in 1997 which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005 and Bing #1 ranked since 2008. I like to design things as well and have several lines “Rick London Designs” and “Rick London Funny Gifts” which can be found at Zazzle & Printfection & Google Shopping and available @Amazon and @Sears. My best friend and wife is Lee HillerLondon. Please follow us on Twitter. She’s @LeeHillerLondon & I’m @RickLondon. We both enjoy social media.