The Dramaless Strain (How Older Hippies Reduce Drama) by Rick London

       It was a very good day today.  Most of my days are very good.   For the younger crowd, you might have called your psychiatrist to make certain your Prozac prescription was renewed for the next 250 years, but for me, it was ideal. 

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       Number one, it was drama-free.  I love days that are drama-free.  Don’t get me wrong; I do understand the ups and downs that life can purvey, but I worked very hard for very many years to live a life that involved very little drama.  My younger days had more drama than Les Miserables on steroids, so you can imagine how grateful I am for the serenity.

       My beloved wife Lee and I drank our delicious smoothies (which she concocts every morning) and enjoyed it while reading several newspapers online and getting a little work done.     Someone once asked me how many newspapers and periodicals I read and I really don’t know the answer so I just gave it an educated guess, “About twice as many as Sarah Palin”.

      A little before mid-afternoon, the weather was turning mild; about 65 degrees without a cloud in the sky.  That is the perfect time to hike the Hot Springs Mountain Loop.  Lee and I were both excited because a lot of the wildflowers that had been elusive or gone all year, were and are back.  So are a lot of the birds and butterflies.   This might not sound like much, but remember, we had a whole year of severe droughts and forest fires followed by a brutal blizzard which destroyed about 75% of our beloved forest.  It felt like a death in the family.  All the wildlife was gone for a month. Not a bird. Not an insect. Not a wildflower. 

      Then suddenly we saw a few warblers here, a cardinal there, a few butterflies riding the wind and occasionally landing on the lone wildflower.   Today, still very bare in many parts, little bits of green are returning and pink and red buds and berries are peeking their way out of the end of tree branches.  For a better view of this drop by Lee’s HikeOurPlanet.com.   To see a comparison of what it was like, say 2 years ago, simply go into her archives.  It truly looked like a Peruvian rain forest.  It has a long way to go before it is back to that, but we’re patient, and we still love it, and all it offers.  Lee heard a deer today. Sadly one ran downtown two Sundays ago and into a store window.  Chances are it was searching for food.  It did not survive. 

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     At the top of Hot Springs Mountain two large robins greeted us up close for a photo-shoot.  Lee was too busy shooting and trying to name some rare wildflowers so I took “The Magic Box”, Lee’s old camera that I inherited, and made sure the robins got equal time. 

     We’ve got bears, panthers, mountain lions, snakes, wolves, foxes, and just about every animal you could imagine.  They are surprising in that they are shy.  They do not look at humans as their prey.  Bears are about the most unpredictable and we carry extremely loud alarms which they do not like, causes their ears pain and they move along.

     Today, we heard a wild turkey toward the end of the hike.  We could tell where it was, but it was very shy and not in the mood for human companionship.

      We came home and turned on the tv and ate a lot of whatever was left in the fridge.

      If you look up, you see “the typical day of a semi-retired 58 year old”.  What makes me laugh is that it just seems like yesterday I couldn’t wait for my subscription of Rolling Stone to arrive, see which bands were the hottest, when they were coming to the nearest venue (which used to be The Warehouse in New Orleans), a place many of us have incredible memories, and even more incredible non-memories. Well, you know they say if you don’t remember the 60s or 70s you were probably there.  And though I’m no longer a party person, yes I did inhale.  Don’t worry…I have zero political ambitions.

     But today, I had a drama-free life.  I came up with a few gift ideas for my shops which I’ll make tomorrow, and then at about 6pm CST starts Shabbat.  Ironically, I was born Jewish, Lee is studying to be, and she knows 100 times more about how it is celebrated than I do.  But I’m a good student, and I know I like challah so I imagine I’ll be quite the mensch….a drama-less mensch at that.

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, designer and cartoonist. He founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) in 1997 which became Google’s #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 2005 and have remained at that ranking for the past 7 years with nearly 8 million visitors.  He also designs more serious gifts and collectibles at such shops like his RickLondonDesigns.com which carry famous quote gifts.    He is married to popular nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who runs the nature blog HikeOurPlanet.com.  

 

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Where Do I Live? In The Here & Now…Sort Of….By Rick London

         Sometimes people ask me where I live and I tell them I live “in the now”.  Of course that is not totally true because when things get rough, even given years of excellent therapy, I find myself living in the “then”.   Generally cold weather and overcast skies will send me scurrying to the “then”; not unlike snowbirds from Canada settling in southern Florida for the winter, yearning for the “good old days”.

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      But given my life, and all its ups and downs as a writer, I can honestly say most of my time is spent living in the now.  And it’s not because I am better than anyone else, or even understand the way the world works better than anyone else.  I don’t.  I just happen to like who I am.  I like that I know how to stand up for whom I am (healthy boundaries).  I don’t tell lies to people, not even “little white lies” so that they’ll feel better. I’m not perfect. I’ve chopped down some cherry trees (and didn’t admit it), but I strive to be honest.  Sometimes that hurts people’s feelings, but in the long run, most tend to appreciate constructive criticism. And sometimes I’m wrong.

      Every now and then a new writer or cartoonist will send me a portfolio of his or her work.  And that is not because I am a master of what I do, but that I’ve been doing it for over a decade and am published and licensed in numerous places, and generally that is the goal of most writers and/or cartoonists.  If one has willfully entered this “trade” with the idea of retiring to a home in Malibu, might I suggest a career in plumbing or medicine. 

     I have made it a point to always give an honest assessment of what someone has showed me.  If it has potential (in my mind), I let them know as soon as possible. If it is dismal, I let them know that (in a tactful manner) that I don’t believe it has commercial value.

 The good news is that creativity, the arts, writing etc. can all be learned. And better more advanced instructors can help one advance rapidly.  I was fortunate to have a mom (starting early in my life) who was quite astute in the arts and letters. I later found mentors, some of whom were the best in the humor writing and cartooning business, and even later, upon returning to college, some of the best professors in the business of teaching college courses.  So I really have no excuse not to be able to produce and produce often and be creative often. And still, I sometimes miss the mark.

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      There is a certain generosity about the arts and letters which at first glance goes unnoticed.  But given that the purveyor of this creative mass is put into a fully focused form, and manifested into some kind of medium meant to share with others, not knowing if the creator is going to make one penny or not, but gives totally of oneself, sharing one’s inner soul (yes even in humor), it is a pure act of giving.  There of course are times when the creation becomes a “commercial success”. To me, it is still a sharing situation.  There are plenty of ways to make an easier living (than sharing one’s soul with the world), but the artist, writer, painter, musician etc. is willing to “give what it takes”.

     My wife Lee Hiller-London started climbing and hiking the mountains of Arkansas in early November 2009.    She owned a small digital camera which was more for personal use than commercial, so she knew the chances may be slim of any kind of commercial success, but she had found a new dimension of herself by hiking, taking photos and documenting what she saw.  She became a photo-poet.

      In spite of a lot of obstacles, a new form of commerce began taking place on the Internet called “digital design” in which one transfers one’s art, photography, text etc. onto clothing, gifts, cards and other collectibles.  I had been working in digital art since 2005.  It did not take her long to pick up the craft and she was off to the races.

      In time, she was able to buy a high-end professional camera and her brand, “Lee Hiller Designs” began to flourish.  Within 3-4 years, she had taken tens of thousands of photos and hiked hundreds of miles in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.

     Though I now have inherited her old camera (and enjoy taking nature and wildlife pictures a great deal), it is not my major muse.  I still enjoy writing offbeat cartoons which I use for my Londons Times Cartoons.  I find great inspiration in the forest, often using animals, trees and other living things as the theme of the cartoon.  I jot down ideas while hiking and develop them when I get home from the adventure.   When my head is clear of all cobwebs (after a hike), which it generally is, I can create with the best of them.  If I’ve been closed up at home for several days (which happens) due to weather or some other reason, I am lucky to be able to spell my name correctly.

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      Writing, painting, drawing, music, etc. does not have to be for celebrity, money, or fame.  In fact, it is more often done for personal achievement than audience feedback.  For the first few years I was in cartooning and humor writing, it was only as a hobby, and I was curious how far I could take it before anyone even noticed I was doing it.  I never expected to get published much less my own line of products.  I don’t think my wife Lee did either (she’s actually a much better artist than me).

      Yet, I can remember a ½ lifetime ago, around age 28, moving to New York, haunting the comedy clubs trying out my newly written material, bothering scouts from Letterman and then Johnny Carson etc.  Fame was the key. I felt I would not be happy unless I made my appearances and “knocked ‘em dead” on those shows.  Yet the more I pushed to get what I wanted, the more the universe pushed back to tell me it was not what I was getting. 

     In retrospect, all that is part of growing up.  At age 44, when I decided to settle on cartooning, and later product engineering and designing, it was for me. I truly thought the pursuit of any kind of acknowledgement from my peers or the public was over.  The great irony is that that is when it started. 

     I began Londons Times in 1997.  By September 2001, my team and I had created about 3000+ mostly color cartoons.  I’d also written hundreds of e-zine articles and songs.  And then came a major heart attack.  My cardiologist suggested I let go of anything that was stressful.  By then, cartooning and writing had become stressful, mainly because I’d gotten so involved in it, I never learned to smell the roses.  If I was succeeding, that is, as a business, I would have never known it.  I was just too busy doing it.

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      So I stopped and returned to college; something I’d not done in several decades.  I figured going to college online would be a breeze. After all, nobody looking over my shoulder, go at my own pace, etc. Not so. It was more difficult than any state college I’d attending (and I’d attended my share of them).  All work was state-of-the-art as the courses had been modeled from MIT.  I was out of my league and I knew it.  All assessments were proctored by the local school system.  Though it had to be the most difficult learning experience ever, it was also the most pragmatic. Nearly everything learned there came into play at one time or another when I finally decided to start back at cartooning again.

     By 2005, I had completed about 8 credits out of 20 to graduate.  Then a serious illness struck and I needed surgery.  It took me several months to recover and I was able to finish 3 more credits before an even more serious illness hit and put me on the sidelines.   The school was patient and would have let me continue (even at my slow pace) but being online, at the time, they were heavily monitored by the NEA, and I was on grants, loans and scholarships. 

They asked me to send them my medical records which I did, and they went to bat for me but it was not enough.  So I was unable to finish which broke my heart for a good while.  Then in the middle of my work the thought hit me, two of the most successful people on my school advisory board, Bill Gates and Michael Dell never finished college.  Not that I’m in their league but the fact is they didn’t.  There was no reason I should quit trying in my work just because academia didn’t work out.  So I carried on.

Please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy making money as much as the next fellow.  But as I was getting to know myself along the way, I learned a valuable lesson.  Money, for the sake of just money, that is, working at any job or career just because it pays well, even if I abhor it, is a loser’s game. The funny part is, one learns that lesson after the first paycheck.

“Well that wasn’t enough money. I’ll work harder and make some more”.  Then comes the next paycheck. “Oh, I see I’m going to have to double down on the work, and really pull in the dough.” And that cycle never ends. Ever.  One can be making millions if not billions, and still that dark cloud is hanging overhead. It’s a race for money and nothing else.  One’s moral compass can easily get knocked out of kilter. 

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One gets so busy making money and keeping up with the Jones’, he/she forgets the importance of helping those closest to him/her like brothers, sisters, mothers, close friends etc.  So they distance themselves and go on highly visible missions to Haiti or Central America to prove their charitable worth.  And the world is watching them because they know.

 It is truly no way to live; and I didn’t want to go to my grave that way, and I was surely headed in that direction.  I was blessed to get out of that vicious cycle.  “Show-off charity” is disturbing at best, especially for the giver, as he/she knows he doesn’t have the guts or courage to give to those who need it most in his/her own family, community, etc.

 I’m not saying that going to other countries and supplying blankets, food and other relief is not a wonderful thing, it is.  But if it is a substitute for helping those you love, or once loved, it is a travesty that borders on being criminal.

So, here I am “training myself” not to worry about what “will happen then”.  What will be will be. Que sara sara.  Whatever.

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So it’s Friday. Tonight Lee and I will be shutting down the pc’s for several hours and enjoying Shabbat which we observe each Friday at sundown.  We’ll do our Torah study in the morning and at sundown tomorrow, catch up on work and other silly stuff that are obligations which exist so we can keep the lights on and gas in the cars.

Then, like all mature adult couples, Lee has rented two episodes of “Portlandia” for us to watch tomorrow night and she’ll make some fun organic gmo-free dish with sesame seeds and such in place of that evil Orville Reddenbacher gmo-heavy oversized Chernobyl popcorn.  And all those years we thought he was our kindly grandfather figure.  He’s simply the kindest face in a huge corporation that blows up its corn to 3 times its normal size using GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) compliments of Monsanto. And corporations are not people, my friend…and neither is popcorn.

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Rick London is a freelance writer, designer, songwriter and nature-lover. He launched London’s Times Offbeat Cartoons And Funny Gifts which have been Google & Bing #1 ranked for 7 years.  His stores such as Rick London Gifts offers funny tees, mousepads, mugs & other funny collectibles at reasonable prices.  He is married to popular nature wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London and they live and hike in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas to commune with Nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

Just Say No To Life Coaches & Just Do It & Other Roads To Happiness by Rick London

Another year has just about ended, and I feel good, even though I feel bad too (I will explain that in a moment).

Lee and I were watching a Netflix Pixar animated film the other night and I ran straight to bed and didn’t get up until the next day. That was 6 days ago and I’m just starting to feel better. I won’t go into the torrid details, but let’s just say they were mostly “toilet details”. Not so great.

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The weather has been cold and damp. And then there’s the tummy ache (not too long after recovering from tooth surgery). I’ve not been able to hike (or even do Tai Chi).

So its during times like this that I slow way down and be grateful. So how do you be grateful? This is not a one size fits all “be grateful” world, I have found. I may be grateful about one thing, that would make someone else bored, and vice versa.

Not long ago, I learned from men and women much wiser than me, that a lot of being grateful is taking action doing what I love doing. For many, I know, that is easier said than done. Many my age, or older, or younger, have never “done” what they love to do, and have acquiesced to the fact that it “ain’t gonna happen”. Either a well-meaning parent forced them to major in business when they were more cut out for creative writing, Maybe they set up their own obstacles. Maybe they looked at peers who were “already legends” and said to themselves “no way”. There are a million excuses and I bet I’ve used 999,999,999 of them. What’s my excuse for not using a million? I couldn’t think of the last one. 🙂

But doing what one loves to do does not necessarily mean “your career”, though of course its nice(r) if that be the case. Kafka was an insurance clerk while he authored his books. In other words if one starts where they are, rather than trying to conquer the world the first week, month or even year (though it could happen), and stop worrying about what others think of “their new hobby” or whatever one wants to call what he/she is learning, then one is well on the right path.

If there is not enough information on the Internet on how to launch and run whatever venture in mind, there are always Internet classes (or local college classes); I took Internet classes at a real accredited four-year college and was very pleased with how pragmatic the education was. That was not the case in my earlier years of college at state universities. It was not all their fault. I was a late-bloomer; after years of being a blooming idiot.

Can’t afford college? There are plenty of grants, scholarships and loans for adults returning. That’s how I did it. But academia is not for everyone. There’s mentorships. A lot of well-trained professionals will take you on if your story is convincing and you only ask for a little of their time.

Most books in libraries are now online, and there are plenty of used books for pennies on the dollar at Amazon and other online bookstores.

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Our generation was flooded with clichés’ which meant well, but didn’t tell the whole story. “Just say no” and “Just do it” were but a few. Both were easy to repeat, but for many they were not so many upon which to take action.

I think they should have been written more like, “Just say no to drugs, alcohol and/or promiscuous sex. It will not always be easy. There will almost always be peer pressure and the need to fit in. This is only a temporary situation. In the long run, if you say “No” to these powerful negative forces which can impact your life forever, you will be forever grateful and happy that you “Just Said No”. I think kids and even adults could much more have easily understood those steps.

I would have written Nike’s “Just Do It” to “Just Do It A Step At A Time. Don’t jump into anything without knowing what it is. If you are planning to run, don’t run a marathon the first day. Learn how to train for a marathon first. If you are starting a business, learn a bit about it. Don’t worry about the results. In fact don’t worry about anything. Just do what you have learned and if that doesn’t work, learn another way to do it. The information is out there. And now with the Internet, it is out there at the click of a mouse. If you “Just Do It”, you’ll be happy doing it. But if you’re always focused on the finished line, you’ll forever be sad”. Of course Nike would never be able to fit that into an ad, nor would the ad be feasible.

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I ran two marathons in the late 1970’s. On the 1st one, I was focused on the finish line. I barely finished. It took 4.5 hours and over 2 months to fully recover. The next year I trained the same way, focused on the scenery and other runners and had fun, finished in a little less than four hours, and less than a week to recover.

I find the same is true of anything in life. And if you can do whatever it is you want to do with a friend, its that much more fun. I am fortunate that my wife Lee Hiller is my best friend and I love her dearly. Though are businesses are not identical, much of the way we create our products and market them are the same. We are both nature/wildlife lovers so we both have yet more fun while she’s working in the forest (with her camera) and I’m running around like a kid chasing animals. We teach and learn from each other on a lot of topics.

Today there’s a new breed of snake-oil salespersons known as “life coaches”.  They charge anywhere from several hundred to thousands for their videos, audios and ebooks, claiming to have “the answer to life”. Trust me.  They don’t.   They generally steal, edit, and regurgitate great quotes from the early literary and philosophical masters and take credit.  Some are so brazen, they don’t even edit and still take credit. In any case Wordsworth negated everything they do before they even existed with his famous quote, “To begin, begin”.  It’s really no more complicated than that, and don’t let anyone tell you it is. It’s simply NOT.

If “doing what you love” at mid-life can happen to us at mid-life, it can and will happen to you. Simply start where you are and “Just do it…but remember….first you…etc etc then you etc etc” 🙂 and enjoy! The best is yet to come.

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I’m a goofy vegan mountain man trying to do the right thing and occasionally I hit the mark; more often I don’t.  I love my wife nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller London who  creates the blog Hike Our Planet.  I enjoy cartoons, and founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts which have been Google’s #1 ranked on the Internet since 2005. I like to design clothing and shoes and do so at Wisdom Shop which has gifts with famous wisdom quotes and Shoes That Amuse, which has shoes and gifts with famous love quotes.  Oh, and I recently opened a shop with a lot of famous caricature cartoon gifts and clothes called The Rick London Fame Shop.  If you shop with me, happy shopping.  Every one of our 1/4 million items are vegan-friendly and come with a 100% 30 day money back guarantee.