A Patient Veteran, A Beloved Wife, A Sweet Irish Setter And Now My Life by Rick London c2016

By now most know Lee’s and my love for animals.  For much of my life, that meant domestic animals such as dogs and cats, and the occasional iguana or hamster, but for the most part dogs and cats and horses.

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I had surmised by the time I was ten or so that I may be the biggest animal-lover in the world, thanks to my late friend Dickey Randolph who, though six years older than me, took the time to teach me about dog care. I got my first Irish Setter from him.   And though I will never forget Dickey’s kindness and goodwill (we stayed friends until his untimely death several years back), I know now it was dogs and cats I loved.

I mention that as, I’d never had anyone explain anything that important to me in detail, that stuck with me throughout my lifetime, and became one of the most important parts of who I am; and most likely began my quest as being a vegan as I am now too.

Part of that “memorable miracle” with Dickey was that I was a disabled, but not diagnosed child with Autism (and now of course an adult with autism).  I was quite hyper, didn’t make good eye-contact, and my attention-span was dismal.

He didn’t care, nor did  it bother him in the least when he returned from Viet Nam, a multi-decorated hero, and very good man.  His guidance led me to the curiosity of nature and animals, and Lee took me to further explorations into the forest to see it in all its glory and how animals behave.  I never get bored with that and it has a very healing nature, very similar to the dog I got from Dickey, “Rusty”.

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I didn’t hate cows, pigs, sheep and chickens, but I dined on them.  Along with overcooked veggies that was my staple until college, at which time McDonald’s took over as “the family kitchen”.  I look back and wonder how I ever lived through that, and in reality, almost didn’t.  I was still 35 years away and two major heart attacks from “seeing the cruelty” in what I was doing.

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Having owned one of the first health food stores in Ms. with a $10K loan from the now defunct (like my health food store) Bank Of Hattiesburg, with a preacher from Glendale, Ms. who was later bought out by an ex-math professor at USM, I had an early curiosity of health foods, yoga, running etc.  It never occurred to me that something as simple as animal protein (including dairy and eggs) was not only holding me back, but eventually killing me, and how I didn’t die on at least 4 occasions has stumped all my surgical specialists.  I am a blessed and grateful man.

I went full-fledged into that business.  Most of my “education” came from salespersons with high-school degrees and books written by outdated writers.  Food science was moving forward as fast as one could turn a page.  The animal sciences were not far behind.  I was dedicated to trying to eat right, take the right herbs and vitamins, run marathons, and you name it.

I have since learned that cooked vitamins might as well go in the toilet.  To my knowledge there is only one firm that makes 100% organic vegan raw vitamins and that is “Garden Of Life” which we buy in powder form from Amazon or Ebay.  It is amazing and one can tell the difference immediately from the ones we see advertised on tv often which have had all/or most of the nutrients and more importantly live enzymes cooked out of them, so they are useless.

I learned that herbal tinctures, in most cases are far better than the tablets or capsules as far as potency. I also learned that organic and wildcrafted are every bit as important.  In addition I learned that “organic” in China would not pass for edible in the U.S. (for herbs and vitamins).  There’s still much more to be learned.  Not all of it works. Some of it is nothing less than miraculous.   More learning.  It’s neverending.

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Enter Walmart, a new “box store” to the town and exit my store, an old overpriced relic.   I sadly closed my doors in 1981

So I spent some time educating myself regarding food sciences and animal science.

I was married in June 2010 to my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller of Hike Our Planet)who became a vegan one year later. I had already read the health benefits and how it helped the planet but that still wasn’t, for whatever reason enough for me. However I did go mainly vegetarian for a year before my conversion to veganism.

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It was impossible to watch Lee’s positive changes and not want that for myself.  I didn’t know if it could happen but I was surely willing to try.  She’d lost about 90 or so pounds and about 20 years of age.  I was astounded and still am.  But that was not her goal. It just happened.

She was very patient with me as my evolution kept going with at least some dairy or cheese and finally I said, “I’ve had it”. I thought she’d be surprised but she was not in the least.  She said, we’d both cook alternate days and eat as much raw as we could, and that is just what we did.  I had no idea I would not only actually like it, but crave it, and the thought of my old “food” never even crosses my mind.  I truly don’t think my body could absorb it.  Lee kept looking and feeling better and her mood became very kind. It was not an act.  I’ve seen lots of acts.  This was a natural evolution.  I wanted that too. (Still working on it  LOL).

The life changes are dramatic.  Forget the goodness to the planet, and though I am tickled to death that it happens, there is nothing that would take me back to my old eating lifestyle. I say that because there is no such thing, really, as a vegan diet. Veganism is more of a learning/lifestyle philosophy.

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

Well, Lee retained the good looks, common sense and brains, and I got to feel human maybe for the first time.

Because nobody gets it perfect (I was told that would happen by Ed Begley, Jr.) on Twitter….. (It’s a long story)….I’ve decided not to become a militant vegan, and that fits me well. While I would love the planet to all turn vegan, I also know as Ed told me, “It ain’t gonna happen”.  I would love to live the rest of my life on the planet not killing any animals, but again, it’s not going to happen.  Even in the making of my computer animals are killed.  Lee and I kill insects for instance on our hikes, our ride to the grocery, etc. but not on purpose of course.

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So I wish the Gandhi-wannabes good luck, and let me know how that turns out.  When curious persons are ready, they usually ask us questions. Lee has come up with the idea to have them start with a Meatless Monday which is now a worldwide movement.

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As time goes by and they are still interested, I often direct people to YouTube to watch Sir Paul McCartney’s “Glass Walls”.  Any time I’ve growled or gotten snarly, they ran they other way and ate more meat, with guilt, more meat, nevertheless.  They didn’t want to be much like me and who was I to blame them.  So I changed, and hopefully so did they.

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Meantime I’ve put together a collection of my favorite animal cartoon gifts and tees and I have a lot more in the store collection.  A percentage of each sale benefits various animal and/or vegan causes.

Also for yet even more entertainment, there’s plenty on my cartoon website.

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Happy laughing…and eating….and hopefully shopping!

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for launching Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts from an abandoned tin warehouse in rural Ms.  He is married to his best friend and hiking buddy, his beloved bride Lee Hiller-London who owns the nature photography blog Hike Our Planet. Though of course cetaceans are animals (Dolphins, Orcas etc.) Rick keeps a separate section for his ocean mammal friends (gifts).

Cartoon Anniversaries, Obstacles, & Asperger’s Spectrum

Each year I tell myself I’m not going to get excited about anniversaries and other such milestones  (except my wedding one to my beloved wife Lee).  Londons Times Cartoons will be 18 years old Thursday, March 19th.  As most know, I launched it after several false starts in an abandoned aluminum warehouse.  It was not an easy time for me.  But I’ve discussed that often in my blog. 

It seems like every year I end up writing a blog about some of the (what I consider) unique experiences in the founding and eventual launching of Londons Times Cartoons.  That’s fun for me and it reminds me of all the “street education” that occurred (and still occurs) in the management and growth of such a project.  

This time I’m going to take a risk and talk about something a bit more personal.  For some, it may scare them away, for others, it might help them understand; and, hopefully, begin a new growth process, similar to one on which I’m embarking. It’s not what I expected but, that’s life, and I find every day to be a blessing. 

I consider it a compliment when people ask me “How did you know how to do that?”, or “How did you learn that business?”

Truth be told, there isn’t a degree in cartooning unless one attends Ohio State (which also has the largest cartoon collection in the world), and I think a few other colleges now. I didn’t have that luxury. In fact I was a dismal student in my younger days and got a bit better when I went back to school at age 47. But even then I didn’t study cartooning, but learned business and Internet skills that came in handy in the design and marketing of the Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and consequential funny gifts and collectibles. 

I did not learn until about a month or two ago that what most likely helped me a great deal (besides the motivation of my wife Lee) was that I discovered I “most likely” have highly-functional Aspergers”, a form of autism (which I’ve had all my life, but didn’t know it).  To be sure, I took yet another test from the top autism testing centers such as at Psych Central and my score was in the “more than likely has high functioning Aspergers.”

The reason for the “most likely” is that it is impossible to diagnose any form of autism without the help of a trained professional M.D. specializing in the brain sciences.  However, the test will give you a clue if one should see such a trained professional, and also even if it turns out that one “most likely” or “more than likely” has basic autism or another form such as highly-functional Aspergers, they nevertheless may want to see a professional as there are a myriad of other disorders that can be obstructive that may not fall technically into that spectrum, but have similar symptoms and can create issues in ones life that can be less than comfortable. 

At first this scared (and embarrassed me).  Then I learned that often people with this type of autism spectrum can often focus in ways that others cannot.  To me, that kind of focus is “normal” or at times it feels odd that others (unless they have this spectrum) don’t often have that kind of focus).

Oddly it didn’t surprise Lee.  She knew from my vagus nerve stimulator that for my system to function properly, I need “mechanical assistance” (and no, not like Lee Majors).  Her guess was, in fact, high-functioning Aspergers because of my “High level focusing abilities”.  I took that as a compliment.

My embarrassment diminished when I started researching it and learned that the very man who gave me the most advice about the business and world of cartooning, Charles “Sparky” Schulz also had it, as did Alfred Hitchcock according to reports from autism/Asperger’s Asperger’s support sites

Upon further research I also  learned some other notable names who most likely have or had it during their lives are/were Stephen Spielberg, Bill Gates, Dan Aykroyd, Thomas Jefferson, Jane Austen, and Isaac Newton  Albert Lim Kok Hooi, M.D. Doctor of Oncology reported in the Feb. 24, 2011 issue of The New York Times that most historians believe others who had it were Beethoven, Mozart, Mark Twain, Isaac Newton, Michaelangelo, and Darwin.

Also on that list is Jim Henson, Isaac Asimov and Bob Dylan and many others.   It’s worth a view of the list.  If you find you have it, I believe you’ll realize you’re in good company. 

At this point, I can only imagine you thinking, “Is Rick so delusional he thinks he is in the categories of those master craftsmen and women?”

No, and that is the reason I am writing this blog instead of one of my gratuitous ones that repeatedly notes the most “fascinating history in my mind” of my story of entering the world of cartooning and product designing. 

Not in the least.  But I take the time to document them, to remind myself that the disease is not just a disease, but a blessing/gift as well, and, anyone can have it, and it is should cause no shame, in fact, if anything, one might even say it is something in which to take pride.

In 1995 or so, I read a best-selling nonfiction book titled “EQ – Emotional Quotient” by Dr. Daniel Goleman.  

He was diagnosed with autism back in the days when those diagnosed with it were kept out of school, I guess so as “not to infect others with it”.

When he reached adulthood, given his own research, he was able to prove IQ was not the only measurement of intelligence, and in fact EQ was not only another, but much more important than IQ in making ones way in the world.  It is the emotional process of using ones intelligence.

He took the GED with no education at all and aced it.  He later went to Yale and Amherst and finally received his PhD.

Goleman co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning at Yale University’s Child Studies Center which then moved to the University Of Illinois at Chicago where he co-directs the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers.  He sits on the board of the Mind & Life Institute.    Here is a very interesting TED Talk he gave on EQ not long ago. 

After reading “EQ”, I took a chance and called him and explained my life and fear of education because I was so dismal at it.  He chuckled and told me (in a nutshell) that it is possible in adulthood to work on one’s EQ and raise it to the level.

I stumbled through much of his direction and programs as I possibly could over the years and returned to college at age 47.   I did fairly well on scholarship and even aced advanced math (I had failed all math growing up and in early college days.  

I also had launched Londons Times Cartoons Gifts and later Rick London Quote Gifts, but several serious health issues hit (seemingly all at once) and I was forced to stop college as I was falling behind.  That was heartbreaking as I was finally enjoying the learning process.  By the same token, the college (and I) were a very good match, and I learned a great deal about running a business using the Internet.  I even learned how to digitally design products (which I still do on a daily basis).

I then got married to my wonderful wife, and we both spend days doing what we love, hiking, nature and wildlife photography (she’s teaching me) and growing our business.  I am what you might consider a happy person as is Lee.

Finally, there is a common thread, I can see, in all my “anniversary blogs”. That thread is, “It is never too late to begin chasing ones dream”; and “it’s a shame if you don’t when you really can”.  I don’t mean necessarily “quit the day job” and jump in.  I found great pleasure in chatting with various masters including Charles Schulz learning how the cartoon business works.  I got joy in reading books on the topic and as the Internet grew, reading websites that “taught” various aspects of it.

With the advent of the Internet, we can all chase our dreams, beginning as hobbies, as most of them do, and enjoy the ride and the path as it becomes more clear on a daily basis.  It grows and changes and so do we.  I wish you the greatest success in whatever journey you decide to choose (or have chosen). Nothing, really, can stand in your way, if you choose not to let it. 

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Rick London is an animal and nature-lover and supports both causes.  He is a writer, musician, cartoonist, and designer.  He is best known for his offbeat comic Londons Times Offbeat Comics & humor gifts.  He is married to nature wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who operates the highly-visited nature blog Hike Our Planet and designs her own line of designer gifts

Here are a few of our Londons Times Cartoons created over the past 18 years.  Hope you enjoy.  Sincerely, Rick

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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.  

 

Beware Of The Sighs Of March by Rick London

 March is almost here. It marks several anniversaries that usually only I remember because they were milestones in my life.

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     On March 10, 2007, my late dog “Thor” died in my arms on the floor.  The vet believes (from his teeth) that he was approximately 22 years old.  Some don’t believe me when I tell them but actually for dogs on the b.a.r.f. diet (biologically appropriate raw foods) that is about medium age.  Many have reported having had dogs that lived to be close to thirty (human years) and cats that lived into their twenties.   There is a lot on the Internet about the b.a.r.f. diet for pets.  Thor went vet-free until nearly the end.  And he was an extremely happy soul all the way until his final journey on this planet. 

      March 19th marks the 15th anniversary of Londons Times Cartoons.  I announced that it was 15 years last year but I was mistaken.  I started it on March 19, 1997, and this year marks the 15th.  It had other names “London’s Bridge” and then “London’s Fawg” and finally I settled for “Londons Times”. I instinctively knew that might not be such a great idea by 1999, but we had so many cartoons with that credit at the top, I felt a bit silly trying to change it again.   Some of the web analytics assured me that most people looking for it, type in London Times. I didn’t believe it at first until people would call or write or whatever and call it “London Times”.

     I published our 15th anniversary book last year on Kindle, but it didn’t sell nearly as well as the 1st one, so maybe I’ll re-release it.  Who knows. I usually don’t know until the day or the day before I decide to do something like that; that seems oh-so-important, but of course is not at all.

     Occasionally people would ask me, “Won’t that big newspaper in London, England come after you for swiping their name?”.   Actually no, since their name is The Times Of London and only those who are not aware of that call them The London Times.  Other’s would say, “Are you strange? Isn’t your name Stetelman and ya’ll were part of that real estate group down in S. Mississippi?” 

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Yes, but nobody could remember, pronounce, nor spell Stetelman.  That is, in fact, fine in a town with a pace as slow as the one in which I was raised.  But, try living your life in New York City or Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. spending half your days spelling or pronouncing your name when you’re moving at warp speed, and you listen to advice.

      I had an agent in Washington who was younger than me, but smarter, and he asked me, “Have you ever considered changing your name to something easier?”  My first response was, “How does Floyd Stetelman sound”?   He didn’t even smile.  He said, “If you are going to ever make it, you better have a name someone can remember.”

     I suggested “London”.   He said that London is a great name and easy to remember but “why London”.  Well that was my mom’s maiden name.  He said “Go with it”.  That was 1988 and I’ve used it ever since when doing cartoon, writing or design business.

    One of the most interesting observations to me, after a lifetime of spelling my name for people, and how uncomfortable they feel for having to ask, is how comfortable they feel saying, “London, oh like the city”.  My wife, Lee Hiller-London, more often than not uses her own last name “Hiller” in her work.  I like her name. It’s easy to say and spell, and we get our business done rather quickly sans any spelling for anyone.  Now maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole Hiller.  Or maybe just a bad pun. Sorry baby.  It was there…in my head, so I typed it.  X0x0  Sigh! 

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Rick London is a writer, designer, cartoonist and songwriter.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons in 1997.  It has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008.  He also founded Rick London Designs which is a wisdom/life/motivation/inspiration quote gift shop where he designs gifts of famous quotes with graphics of those who penned or said them.  He is married to Lee Hiller-London founder of Lee Hiller Designs where she designs her own brand of unique gifts and home decor. Both enjoy hiking in Hot Springs National Park which is their home, and Lee Hiller-London is a professional wildlife and nature photographer.  You can follow them on Twitter @RickLondon and @LeeHillerLondon.

Your Talent. Think You’re Too Old To Make It Blossom? Think Again. By Rick London

  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.

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      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. 

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      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”.       

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        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. 

Rick London c2011

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     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! 

Shark Folk Singers by Londons Times Cartoons

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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. 

 

Failure, Not Giving Up, Nature, Religious Roots, My Wife & Resiliency of The Human Spirit By Rick London c2012 LTCartoons.com Celebrates 15 Years With New Kindle Book & More

Failure, Not Giving Up, Nature, Finding My Religious Roots,  My Wife & Resiliency of

The Human Spirit By Rick London c2012

LTCartoons.com Celebrates 15 Years With New Kindle Book And Much More

LT Cartoons 15th Anniv Book Click To Enlarge

 

“They’ll never change me.  I won’t  conform”.  That was my mantra starting at age 13, or somewhat like it, and I held onto it  well into my thirties. What I didn’t realize is that I was conforming all along.  Even in my wild daredevil years, my hippie years, my atheist years, my “I’ll never talk to my family ‘cause they don’t deserve me years, my standup comedy in NYC years, my screenwriting in L.A. years, my Scandal Tours in Washington years, I was changing and conforming.  That was a little over fifteen years ago; and though I was dreaming of a quiet mountain or ocean life away from the maddening crowd, I was still young, adventurous and probably a bit too addicted to life’s dramas.  After all I was also very self-absorbed and most drama could easily be “all about me”.

To quote a notable late President, “Make no mistake about it”, I’ll add “I was all about me”, and didn’t think much of what I could do for you, your wants, needs, or much else.  I look back at that scared young man, really a boy in a man’s skin, who was frightened.  Of what, I never found out, but too scared to slow down.

Oddly enough, my beginning of adulthood began (in my mind) upon the founding of my Scandal Tours bus tour in Washington, D.C. in which I did a lot of media interviews nationally and internationally but that is not what refined me. What refined me was dealing with a professional group of people in the hospitality industry. They were a lot nicer than comedy club owners, taxi cab and bar owners (odd jobs during comedy), PR Moguls (I did my internship in 1983 in NYC and they were worse than cab co.  and bar owners.  They had egos the size of Newt’s proposed moon colony.

Fifteen years ago I at my hometown in Hattiesburg, Ms and after a plethora of exciting and some high-paying jobs, I took a job selling advertising for a brutally mismanaged local CBS affiliate (but it was a job) and allowed me to take care of my mom who had contracted cancer and only lived another four years.   I made a few new friends while I was home, and became very close to them. In fact they became like family to me.  I stayed in Hattiesburg, Ms almost another two years just to be near them,and though I had blood family there, I was banned from them (which was a very good thing at that time too). The reason for the ban (according to mutual friends (who always told me what they said was “I shamed them”.  (They never said what the shame was) but I forgave them years ago, which is how I was able to create as I did.  Holding on to family (or other grudges keeps one stagnant. They stop growing from the moment they decide to hold on to their resentments, and eventually die bitter and sad.

I Was Finally "Winning"& Had No Parents To Call (Click To Enlarge

Of course it would be wonderful to see my nieces and nephews whom I was never allowed to watch grow up, but the gift from God is I got a beautiful life, a beautiful smart talented wife, live right on the edge of a mountain and people pay me for something I love to do. That does not replace rubbing elbows with my blood kin, but it surely is as fulfilling as a life as for which anyone could ask. I continue to stay in touch with some of my hometown friends via email and facebook who were so supportive in my struggles there. Life was hard enough without my sales job but I was also launching a cartoon.  This did not bide well in a town not known for its unwavering support of such creative ventures. Hattiesburg has some wonderful people, places, and ideas, but humor and humor in the arts is definitely not their forte’.  In fact laughing, to the last of my recollection was next to a cardinal sin.

I lost my job at the TV station after an argument with the incredibly bigoted manger, and experienced a bit of his venom, before I learned the full-power of my own wrath. I was highly intimidated by him at the time and did not try to fight him. I simply took my unemployment and left.  Today would be a very different story.  He would not want to come close to me now. My wrath and ability to use it is (I’m told) relentless and scary. The good news is I never bring it up unless in defense.  I  tend to be quite peaceful.  I am proud of my ability to use it, speak my mind, “out” people who are doing wrong, and use the system to set things straight if need be. There was a time when I was not aware I had that kind of power.  I know one thing. I wouldn’t want to go up against me; yet I’d sure enjoy being my friend (if I were another person).  I can be a good friend too; in fact much better than a person than purveys wrath.

I formed a team for my cartoons because though I can draw a little, I can’t even close to the vision I have had for my cartoons; which, if I was to do it the way of my vision would be part fine art/part cartoon; and it would appeal to people of all demographics, though not always. But it would never be so erudite that only I got it, or a few friends and me.

In My Younger Days I was Driven & Unpredictable (Click To Enlarge)

I no longer work in corporate America. The corporate America I knew in the 70s-90s for the most part doesn’t even exist anymore.  Besides at 57, though I’m not the brightest bulb in the cabinet, I know more than many in my field.  It did not hurt that I went back to college at age 48, to one of the finest business and IT schools in the country that was/is accredited and offers a full load online.  The only catch was assessments/tests had to be proctored at a local college or public school board.  I started in 2002 right after a major heart attack and finished 3 years by 2008 when I had to stop due to several major surgeries.   I was getting my work done, and at times on scholarship, but after surgeries I was just too slow in finishing assignments.  But I still tried; gathered all my medical records with all the surgeries and they simply couldn’t do it. I know now it was not their fault but the Pell Grant people who were unable to audit closely enough how I was, since WGU did not have a physical campus.

But what an administration and teachers.  Our board consisted of all the governors (except Ahhhhnold) from 13 Western states, Bill & Melinda Gates, Michael Dell, Google, HP, and a host of other household names who set the tone of our curriculum. And you would think online would be a cinch. It was brutal.  But it was worth it.

To emphasize how much has changed; I was a terrible student in my early days at USM and Richland College (in Dallas) and managed to accumulate about 90 hours. Not one of them were pertinent or even counted.  WGU made me start over from scratch, though they did let me take several assessments without classes (and I passed them) based on life experience (but those reminded me of everything every PhD candidate told me about dissertations).

No, I didn’t learn everything, but I learned how to be professional in business; but not perfect.  I tend to get better daily but I step backwards at times. I learned what businesses do right and what they do wrong to clench the deal, and even more importantly to keep it.

I

I Just Wanted Money! (Click To Enlarge)

I am married to the most beautiful, bright, kind woman in the world.  We work in the same home office which is our living room and have the same view of Hot Springs, Ar. main mountain oddly called “Hot Springs Mountain”.  She is studying Judaism online and Hebrew on Rosetta Stone but that is not why she is so sweet.  She was Episcopalian for our first two years of marriage and I certainly never tried to persuade her to pursue my path but it was/is attractive to her so we study and learn it together.  We observe the Shabbat for 24 hours over the weekend and she makes incredible Challah.  Lee kindles the fire…..right after turning off the Kindle fire she’d just fired up. We study and practice Judaism each week. We will start going to synagogue in a few months about once for month just to meet others in the Jewish Community. It’s all exciting to us. It means big positive changes and we’re happy.

Gomez Mill House Museum (Click To Enlarge)

For now, as service, Lee and I are directors of social media for my maternal family museum Gomez Mill House, which is the oldest extant Jewish dwelling in N. America. They are celebrating 300 years next year and Lee and I built their Twitter and facebook page and do that marketing for them and help the director with non media promotional ideas.  That is fulfilling for us.  In my direct maternal line-of-fire lineage are poetess Emma Lazarus “The Great Colossus” (on the base of the Statue Of Liberty) and Benjamin Cardozo (one of the most well known U.S. Supreme Court judges ever and every major law school still considers him the premiere interpreter of the U.S. Constitution 

We read prayers from the Torah. It is bringing me back to my roots (that I never learned) since I grew up in such a secular home. I say secular; I believe my parents were fairly religious but they never demanded attendance of service by the young’ns.  Please don’t get me wrong. I love Christianity and half my family is Christian. My paternal grandparents were Baptists. I didn’t know many Jewish kids growing up; maybe 2 or 3 and still the majority of my friends remain Christian and a mix of others and a few with no religion. I never judge by people’s belief but by character.  I rarely ask their religion unless it comes up. I always celebrated Christmas with my childhood friends. And as much as I loved that, still do, I always wanted to learn my own religion too. And finally G-d is giving me that opportunity (and Lee) and we couldn’t be happier.  We hope to make Jewish friends but we would never give up our friends of other religions (or non-religions).  We really believe G-d doesn’t make mistakes and we are all his children.  And for my atheist and agnostic friends “The Universe doesn’t make mistakes and we are all right where we’re supposed to be doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing”.

Cuz Emma Lazarus (Click To Enlarge)

I now have about 6 online shops with approximately ¼ million products.  Lee has a beautiful nature photography blog (she mountain hikes more than I do but I enjoy when I go along with her several times a week and often I go solo.  She has 30K+ products she has designed which can be seen at LeeHiller.com. Her brand is growing rapidly and she makes new products from her nature/wildlife photography and also from artwork. It is well worth the visit.  Her book “Nature Of Love” with gorgeous photos and love muses to me is available at Barnes And Noble in physical form, and Amazon in physical form and on Kindle. It is worth viewing.

Cuz US Supreme Ct Judge Benjamin Cardozo. Everybody tells me he looks like MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Click To Enlarge

15 years ago, I would have told you I was probably going to end up selling some kind of product in or near Hattiesburg, and die drinking and very unhappy.

G-d had other plans.  I am very happy.  I love my life. Lee and I are non-partyers nor will you ever find us drunk or drugged. I take that back. On the times I have to go to the emergency room for say heart, kidney etc; they will sometimes prescribe drugs that make me drowsy, but not for long periods of time, and never “the party kind” that are sought by “drug seekers” as I cannot take them.  Until my “Embarrassing Experience” a few months ago for the toxic insect bite on a very sensitive place; it had been a year and five months since I’d visited the ER (but it was for a huge kidney stone and you would have gone too. I promise”.

Is life perfect? Of course not, but whose is? The point is, I never imagined it could be like this, and that I would get to call my own shots, doing just exactly what I love to do. But I do.   I have 2 books on the market our 13th and 15th Anniversary Cartoon compilation books available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.   Kindle approved my 15th Londons Times Anniversary today “Where Have All The Hippies Gone?” and  it is also available for free for those with Kindle Prime in their lending library.

A lot can happen in 15 years.  From the time I was born, until the time I turned fifteen, seemed to be the longest 15 years ever in the history of the world.  Now I often think of ways to slow it down so I can savor it.  And low and behold there is.   I look at Lee and say, “Hey baby, wanna go climb a mountain” or “Take a Hike”?  And we do; and time stands still in a paradise we never ever thought we could imagine.

Work hard.  Obstacles happen.  Each is a lesson.  Don’t give up, or better yet if its not working for too long DO give up and change course. Be flexible.  Take risks but not careless ones. I really believe this can happen to anybody.

Regrets?  Sure.  If only I’d known all this when I was sixteen…or even thirty six…but better late than never 🙂

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Rick London is a freelance writer, songwriter, cartonist, entrepreneur, author and designer.  He launched Londons Times Cartoons aka LTCartoons.com in 1997 in an abandoned rural ms warehouse/shed. It has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008. He owns other designer shops such as RickLondonWisdomQuoteShop.com and LoveQuoteGifts.com which sell gifts, tees etc with famous quotes and graphics of those who said them usually with an artistic background on each product. he owns Rick London Fame (which features tees, mugs etc of caricature cartoons of famous people) and his own line of cartoon tees of famous people & clothing RickLondonWear.com.  He just launched Race4TheCase.com which features iPad Iphone iPod cases, skins and laptop sleeves featuring his cartoons and wisdom quote gifts. His wife Lee manages numerous sites that can be found at http://www.LeeHiller.com featuring her wildlife nature photographer and home decor and office gifts.  Though you can find Rick London’s coffee table cartoon compilation books at Barnes & Noble, you can find both the coffee table and Kindle editions at Amazon.com.  His Kindle Cartoon Books are $1.99 and free at the lending library if  you have Kindle prime.

 

How To Be Happy…Really…Just Don’t Listen To Me…Or AnyBody Else by Rick London

by Rick London c2011

I believe if someone truly had the “happiness recipe”, their financial worth would eclipse that of Bill Gates & Warren Buffet combined. They’d be so rich they could march in the 99% in torn jeans and an unshaven face in a rustic temporary cabin that he’d paid off the corrupt city administration to set up (permanently).

But of course…I digress.

I don’t have the key to happiness nor am I in the 1%.  And happiness is far from a “one size fits all business”.

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I have some friends who travel and no matter what else, they are happy.  Some other friends are more than content to go to church on Sundays or Synagogue on Friday and share their spiritual experience with others, and they are constantly smiling.  Some of my friends seem happiest when they are working and away from their families, and others feel a sigh of relief to be away from the office (or wherever and with their families).  Again, this is not a one-size fits all world when it comes to figuring out what makes one happy.

And it changes, at least in my own experience.   And I am fortunate to have a soul mate who seems to find happiness in many of the same things.

We are happiest when our health is good.  Ok, that’s a universal.  So we’ve researched and are trying everything possible to try to be as healthy as we can. We don’t smoke or drink. We commune with nature via mountain hiking or just strolling to the park and always come back with a smile (even if we headed there with a frown). Nature is a quick cure and recipe for (at least getting rid of “the grumps”).  We both feel a deep spiritual connectedness in our Ouachita Mountains.

We laugh.  But we don’t laugh for laughing sake.  There are many “feel good psychologists and life coaches” who tell us to laugh”. I believe that is a big mistake….not to laugh laugh at inappropriate times (and things); but to recognize when something is funny to us, and let go.  Again that’s not a one size fits all world. Humor is subjective.  Just because someone likes one comedian, TV show, newspaper or webcomic, does not mean you will, and vice versa.  The importance of knowing when/why to laugh is important because it helps us know more about ourselves and our own boundaries.  And knowing and conquering the “hidden demons” in our psyche is half the battle.  Good humor is one of the greatest weapons.

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Having faith seems to be universal.  But don’t get me wrong.  I am not promoting one religion over another; or any religion.  I know many atheists with plenty of faith and same with agnostics. I know many who claim to be the most religious with little or no faith.  They are generally the ones who preach the most.  I always want to tell them “Don’t Preach To Me, Show Me With Actions”.  Words mean very little to a spiritual educated adult.  We learn and “are sold” by example, not by how “religious you are”.  Jerry Sandusky was very enthusiastic about his church.  Most of us understand the value of words vs. the value of actions.  We’re not fooled and we’re not impressed (with mere words)…which are often diametrically opposed to actions).

Another point I’m (trying) to make is we can’t find happiness by trying to absorb or copy someone else’.  It truly is an “inner job”. Those looking outside oneself will most likely do so until time runs out and we don’t want that.

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Trying one’s passion is of the utmost urgency.  I don’t have to tell you that. No matter what you are doing and how much you are making, you have a dream that you’ve stuffed way back in the corner of your mind.  I don’t mean quit your day job, but give that dream the respect it deserves.  Study it on the Internet or through books.  Take lessons. Do whatever you have to do to make it a part of your life.  In my case, almost at midlife, I finally did that and I love the creative process so much, it truly feels like play, much more so than work, and people actually pay me to do it.  It almost seems unfair, but Lee reminds me that “it makes people laugh”, so I suppose it is a service, creates jobs, etc and is somewhat important in the entire scheme of things.

In any case, it gives me much greater satisfaction than numerous jobs I’ve had that paid considerably more.  And same is true with Lee and her hiking/photography/design business at Hike Our Planet.  It gives her a great sense of joy which is very contagious and we feed off each other in a fun creative manner (some call it brainstorming).  We call it “just plain fun”.

Finally, nobody’s perfect.  My words don’t always parallel my actions, but that is my goal; and I know my moral compass is in a good enough place to where I’ll never go so off-track as to the horror show at Penn State.  The name of the game, I believe, is not to be perfect (Emerson, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Picasso) and so many others have warned us many times, “Looking for perfectionism?  Look somewhere else because you’ll never

find it”.  It’s all about progress, and a healthy respect for others seeking progress, not perfection.  And for the most part,  I stay happy.

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I am just a plain nutty vegan mountain man who loves my wife, hiking, the mountains and pie (if it’s vegan).  I founded Londons Times Cartoons in 1997 which has been Google #1 ranked since 2005 (hey that’s 7 years now) for offbeat cartoons and funny gifts.  And I like to design shoes, clothes, gifts and such in such shops as Shoes That Amuse and Wisdom Shop.