I get asked every now and again how I met my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London. I know it sounds “iffy” but we met on Twitter about four years ago and have been married for three years. We worked together on a project designed to get a Presidential Medal Of Freedom to Dame Elizabeth Taylor. It’s a long story. Though we didn’t succeed, we created a lot of buzz on Twitter and the White House even called me to “Stop The Campaign”. That’s an “LOL”. They were mad.
One of the White House PR outreach interns had given me an important private mailbox that filled up rather rapidly and was overflowing. I cooperated and stopped the campaign. We did manage to get the story worldwide with a Reuter’s Wire hit which was fun. Don’t even ask how it happened. Neither of us are celebrities (to my knowledge). But it was fun and we learned a lot rubbing elbows with several.
Lee, a former Power seller of EBay, had finally closed her store when EBay came under new management and the huge crowds that used to be there to buy vintage goods (which was her specialty) had virtually dried up. EBay Motors and expensive electronics seemed to be all that was left selling there.
The town is made up of probably 60%+ of tourists who fell in love with it and moved here. I was one of those, as was Lee. It is easy and fun to call home now. We live right on the edge of the 2nd oldest National Park in America and hike and commune with nature often. We’ve seen every kind of animal and wildflower imaginable.
Lee had a lot of talent and willingness to learn. I had returned to school and studied Business Information Management at Western Governors University as a nontraditional adult student about fifty years old. I think BIM amounts to learning how to navigate the Internet, SEO, social media, pinging, etc. I am still not sure what all I learned, but I seemed to learn it well. Digital design was one of the many things.
Lee had been an expert seamstress growing up, so her ability to learn digital design watching me came naturally and she got much better than me at it and had thousands of items in the marketplace within a few months. I was very proud. Her items were selling well. We were designers for household names (Hollywood celebrities) and for our own lines. We loved, and still love working together, and share the same living room office overlooking Hot Springs Mountain.
June 18th is our anniversary. We’ve now been married a little over three years and I love Lee now more than I did in our courting days. We’ve learned a lot of things. We both work in the arts and letters so contrary to what traditional society used to say, the liberal arts was a very good choice of majors. We work in the same living room office. Sometimes hours go by where we barely say a word but we can “feel each other there”.
And we have our own little private code symbols to remind the other we’re still here. To the average couple in which the intense concentration of design is not part of their lives, they might think, “What’s wrong with them?” And the answer is, “They are supporting each other in their work. When they’re finished they will talk…..or hike….or do tai chi, or go to a gallery or museum, or a combination of more than one of those.
One thing we like to do is communicate to each other on social media. We once used facebook often but we found it was eroding our motivation to do business so we’ve cut it back to weekends and a lot more work gets done. This decision was made for summers (since our businesses are so seasonable) and it gives us a chance to design more items; otherwise, though we love our old friends and new ones we’ve met on facebook, if we had our druthers, we’d spend all the time with them. But we work for ourselves and are our toughest bosses, hence we sometimes make major decisions.
On the other hand we can keep our Tweetdeck open for Twitter. Since 90% of what we do on Twitter is automated and pre-scheduled, we don’t have to spend a lot of time on it. The only time we do is if a message comes to us that needs answering and one of our associates is not able to answer it. This may seem mercenary, odd and unfriendly, but actually it is the opposite. Our friends and followers of our brands have come to expect quality, and for us to provide quality (since we design our own), it takes time, concentration, and the ability to push it through to the marketplace.
There are several schools of thought regarding social media. When Lee and I started Twitter we did personally interact with a lot more than we do now. We enjoyed it and still do enjoy it the occasional times we do it. Lee has a great deal of followers who enjoy discussing nature with her.
A lot of our business overlaps. We both do digital designing. We both work with a lot of the same manufacturers. When we have an issue or a problem, we know we can talk to each other about it and try to remedy it. And often it is remedied in a timely fashion as we both understand the issue.
I realize not every couple has this luxury (of working together, living together, loving each other and creating together. So if a couple asks advice on how we do what we do, I honestly wouldn’t have an answer. But I do have a theory based on what we’ve done and built. Try to find things that you have in common with your significant other. When ground rules are made, make sure to follow them. Don’t make them for one and not the other.
Make plans to do things together that you enjoy. A couple does not have to spend a fortune to love each other; in fact the opposite. Both of us have performed plastic surgery on our credit cards and pay as we go with cash or debit cards. We barter when need be. I’ve bartered my first 8 years (bartered 99% of the time) of my cartoon business. Lee is at a point, and the economy is ripe for more businesses open to barter and she’s learned it fast. I still barter when I can, but nothing like what I did to keep my cartoons alive in the early stage of the project. Barter sustained me when I first started. I had no money. There are still products and services that are not within my budget that, though I can do without and often do, more often than not, I can barter; and it is always a win-win.
Lee and I hike together, photograph wildlife and photography together (she’s teaching me how), and do as much as we can of things in which we both have an interest. And that doesn’t mean going out every weekend.
We both love oldies music and discovered Herman’s Hermits, The Grass Roots & The Buckinghams will be playing at Oaklawn Theater next month and we definitely plan to go. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but to us it is. And it’s just another fun memory we’ll be able to discuss for years.
Create memories. Good ones. Life itself can create the bad ones for you but don’t take them seriously. Health, economy, etc. etc. all create memories (not necessarily good ones) that are not very much within our control. The trick is to not take those too seriously, but take them seriously enough to take care of them, and go out of one’s way to create the positive ones.
Speaking of health, when Lee moved to Arkansas, she was way out of shape and had some extra pounds on her. She does not mind me telling that, especially that now she has (not dieted) but changed her lifestyle to vegan and is hiking often. All her old clothes are at the Salvation Army because her new ones are size small to medium and her waste is a 25. All that happened within 3 years. Her skin is smooth and young and she wears very little makeup when she wears any at all.
It’s also contagious; no not the cosmetics behavior (I never wear lipstick for instance) J but the motivation to regain one’s health, shed pounds and clear the arteries. Both of us have been on the vegan diet (Lee for 3 years and I have for 2 years) and more and more of it is raw food, and nearly always organic.
Again, I’m not suggesting an individual clones the other. Lee has plenty of things that she does on her own of which are “within her domain” and don’t interest me, and vice versa, and that’s healthy.
My point, and theory is, so many couples we know focus on their differences, and of course there are and will be differences. We have decided to focus, not on our differences, (there are plenty), but on our “same-nesses” and how grateful we are to have the life we have. And that makes our relationship and lives a success, not how much money we make (some months we make plenty and others we’re like dorm students), not how many friends we have (we have friends all over the world, but the friends we see the most often have wings or four legs), etc.
And life remains very good. I love you Baby.
Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and designer. He founded the #1 offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times in 1997. It’s been top ranked by Google since 2005 and Bing since 2008. His wife Lee is a popular nature photographer and runs the popular nature blog Hike Our Planet. She also designs gifts and collectibles from her photography and art and showcases them at her various home decor and clothing shops such as Lee Hiller Designs. Both are avid outdoorspersons and stewards for Hot Springs National Park which they hike and take care of weekly.