I want this blog to reflect how important it is for a loving married couple to work as a team. I won’t do it justice but I’ll report what I witnessed.  I have what could be the smartest, kindest, and talented wife on the planet.  And I don’t say that lightly.  Here are some reasons why.

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We can all work toward this kind of interaction skills that show love, way beyond mouthing the words “I Love You” which we all know how to do.  This is real.  It can be for everybody if they want it.  We’ve spent 7 years working and playing on our relationship and 6 of it has been in marriage.  We’ve grown, changed, and are growing up.  I like that. Always wanted it.  So did Lee.

So much self-discovery has gone into the past 5 years.  I learned the importance of veganism, not just learning to mouth the words but taking action and doing the right thing.  It was not as difficult as it seemed.

Lee and I had been hiking in Hot Springs National Park, the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen, abundant with plenty of wildlife, birds, etc.  Many have gotten to know our names. Squirrels and rabbits  don’t run from us.  Mocking birds make a special trip over to land at arm’s length and sing with us.  They know who we are. They don’t do so with everyone (as odd as that sounds).  We talk to the trees. Not all of them but the ones who like to listen “and talk back”.  🙂

Then I used to go home and make some kind of chicken or fish stir fry staying in complete denial I was eating my friends, literally.  Lee had figured it out a year before and was busy putting together new recipes for her new life.  She did not know if I would transition or not, but finally I did.

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Two things helped facilitate that.  One: Watching Paul McCartney’s “Glass Houses” video on YouTube.  Paul is a former carnivore who, with Linda McCartney had a sheep ranch.  They were busy eating their lamb chops and watching the sheep gaze out of their window. Some of them they named, and each animal would come running to them upon hearing it.  It occurred to him they were eating their friends.

Linda came close to becoming a vegan but stayed vegetarian eating some vegan dishes. At the risk of angering some, best tell the truth. Vegetarianism is not a whole lot healthier than meat-eating.  Veganism is what clears the body of it’s horrendous toxins over the years from animal proteins.

cow cartoons by ltcartoons ltcartoons.com

cow cartoons by ltcartoons ltcartoons.com

Also watching Lee in her vegan regimen and watching her skin clear up; her scowl turn into a smile, her weight dropping off like nothing I’d ever seen. I said to myself, “I want what she has”.  She told me how to get it, and she was right.  Lee is 58 years old. She does not mind that fact being known. Some women do. Lee wears no makeup. Her face is natural beauty like I never knew existed.  She does tai chi, has taught it to me, and together we are learning to take care of our bodies.  This is a lot better than the old destructive ways which were handed us from a prior generation.  Again, I am very blessed.  She is the best, by far.

Also, upon discovery of my autism and lifetime punishment for being born with it, Lee declared 2016 (in our home), the “Year Of Rick”.  She said I have helped her (not sure if that is true) but now she was/is going to make sure I get through this.  She is (doing so).

I had to go to the hospital yesterday due to an undiagnosed severe kidney infection.  My pain level was past a ten.  I didn’t take any opiates but I took about 20 more per month of my vagus nerve medicine. This is not enough to kill me, but create a vicious cycle in which it seems it would never end.

They now have my meds straight. I am fine; and am driving to the grocery tomorrow.  They thought it was be 2-3 weeks.  They thought wrong. Not to worry. It was never enough to kill me, but it was enough to add to the toxins of the untreated kidney (antiobiotics and herbal tinctures are healing that).  I will be most likely hiking with Lee again next week.

One funny thing.  The hospital, as they do most patients, attempted to manhandle me in and out. Not this time.  Lee stood by my side and put her elbow up in front of her when they tried to push her out of the way to get to me to drag me away. She let them know she was/is in charge and nothing is going to happen here without her knowledge or permission.  Talk about patient advocacy. It was something out of a very good movie. We both smiled and the hospital had a change of heart taking as much time as I needed, with Lee by my side. She left them with a cold stare (all of them) that clearly stated, “You are treating Rick in a dignified manner or not treating him at all”.  (They seemed to get the message.  I wanted to applaud her.  Everyone and I mean everyone deserves that kind of medical advocacy whether from a wife, significant other or family member.  Otherwise, treatment might be less than par (at best).  It was good.  Very good.

Lee told me anyone can do that, take charge of their medical rather than leaving the whole thing to hospital staff.  And they hopped to it.  We heard one young nurse outside our door near the x-ray room yell, “Dam she is GOOD, Brilliant”.  LOL.  🙂  And she is.

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I have learned a lot, a whole lot.  I don’t think I would have learned much of any of it with Lee’s assistance.  She is magnificent.  I am the most blessed man in the world, to hell with the “most interesting”; I’d rather be blessed any day, and I know I am.

I am no guru, but please take care of yourself.  Eat right to the best of your knowledge.  Find doctors you trust and follow their orders.  If you don’t trust your doctors, find others. There’s plenty of good ones out there.

Don’t scapegoat people.  Don’t isolate them and make them feel different.  Karma often comes knocking one day along that dreary path.

Be good. Be good to yourself and others.  Laugh a little. Do something good for someone who cannot (at this time) do anything or much back.  Maybe they never will be able to do so.  God smiles upon that kind of thing you know.

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for his launch of Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts from a tin shed in rural Ms in 1997.  It has lured nearly 9 million visitors since that time and has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoon since that time.  He is married to the love of his life Lee Hiller London founder of nature gift store LeeHillerDesigns.com and popular nature blog Hike Our Planet.

It’s Just Another Day by Rick London

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     It’s just another day.   When I awakened that McCartney’s tune “Another Day” came in and out of my mind…though for the life of me, I couldn’t remember all the words.  So I looked them up. Don’t you love The Internet?

     Every day she takes a morning bath, she wets her hair

 Wraps a towel around her as she’s heading for the bedroom chair

 It’s just another day….

     I got out of bed, kissed my wife, and brushed my teeth (maybe I should brush my teeth first in the future), and asked myself, “Why did that particular album have such an impact), and, now that I’m 58, how far have I come since that time?

     I was 15 years old (1970) when the album was released.  I was still wearing out my fifth copy of the White Album which had only been released a year prior to that.   Imagine how prolific the Fab 4 had been.  Imagine.  And now McCartney was flying (nearly) solo with Wings (including his late wife Linda). 

    I grabbed some clean sweats (my latest haute’ couture) and headed toward the fridge only to notice I was out of SILK organic soy milk which has become my latest daily breakfast (along with organic coffee du Kroger’s own “Simple Truth” brand) .   These are not product placement posts, friends, I promise. I doubt those folks even know I have a blog much less even who I am.

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     So, I hopped in the car and headed out to Kroger to get some more SILK and ended up finding another $62.75 worth of stuff we needed (after my Kroger card discount), purchased it and headed back home.   By then, Lee had already drunk her daily green tea breakfast and was on her second digital design for her gift line, and I’d not created anything for my own.  My mind was on one thing and one thing only.  Liquid soy protein milk.  Have I lost it?  Nahhhh. I’d never had it to lose.  

      After my “fix”, I headed for the computer to check my  email, only to find I could not send or receive any.   Only an error message that looked like my computer had been breached by the Chinese, taken to the pawn shop, and sold for $50.   I knew what it meant.  My feeble webmail was full and I had to empty it which took about 20 minutes out of my day.   I thought once I was an entrepreneur, people would run to my side to tackle such chores like that but nooooooooooo.  So I emptied the email box while Lee was making our delicious morning fruit/veggie smoothie.  Ever since she started making them over a year ago, she always asks me if I want one. I have never once refused. 

     So I look up at the news as my email slowly empties to see the talking heads tell me my country is going out of business.  My first thought is, “Is the cost of living in Tahiti high” but then remember I love where I live and nix that thought immediately and know, having worked in news, that things are never as bad as reported.  If news were reported as a “neutral static event” not many ads would be sold.

       I sit down to digitally design some products but nothing comes to me, so I write this blog instead. It’s just another day…….

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and designer.  He founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 1997 which has been Google #1 ranked since 2005 and Bing #1 ranked since 2008.  He is married to popular wildlife/nature photographer Lee Hiller-London who runs the nature blog HikeOurPlanet.com.  You can follow them both on Twitter @RickLondon & @LeeHillerLondon. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

A Summary Of My Adult Life & Lifestyle by Rick London

       I was strolling through Kroger’s several days ago and noticed that it’s organic, vegan, non-gmo section has grown to about 25% of the store and that made me happy (and sad). I’ll explain that in a moment.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times, my beloved wife Lee has been a positive influence on me in that I am on a vegan diet and a great deal of it is raw.  The way I feel now, compared to the way I felt prior to two heart attacks is day and night.

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      So how could I have feelings of sadness that veganism and organics have become so mainstream.  It goes way back to my twenties when I discovered herbs. No, not the kind they are legalizing in Washington and Colorado (though, yes I discovered those too and I did inhale and I’m not apologetic about it), but a woman I knew, a minister’s wife, had terminal cancer and the medical community sent her home to die.  She’d come from an old country town where folklore medicine was still popular.  She started taking chaparral tea by the box load.  Within a year the doctors declared her cancer-free.

      And though the story is only testimonial and there is no science behind it, it had a great impact. She outlived most of her doctors.  There was no Internet.  It was in the mid-1970s and I was selling real estate for my family business which I found extremely boring and unimportant. There were plenty of Realtors in the world who loved it. Why did that industry need me?  So I walked away and opened a health food store after spending months in the library studying herbs, vitamins etc. 

     Even though nearly everything I learned was incorrect, and I even got “educated” with more information by vitamin and herb salespersons after I opened my shop, there was a great placebo effect, and it did motivate me to eat better, healthier foods. 

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     And even though I was running marathons, taking karate and moving up the ranks and improving my lifestyle, there was still a price to pay for owning such a business in a narrow-minded thinking town in 1978.  Isolation, misunderstanding (or being misunderstood) lies, rumor, innuendo, casted aspersions and you name it.

     “Why won’t Rick come to dinner anymore? Is he that conceited? Is he okay? He’s gotten into all that weird witchcraft herbal stuff”.  That was the public sentiment.

     Still, I carried on for three years until I just couldn’t afford to keep the doors open any longer.  The store (The Sesame Seed) was directly across the street from the local university and 90% of my business came from the school.  It was not enough. It broke my heart to close it.  It became a part of whom I was.

     Time went by.  I ended up living in Miami, NYC, and Washington, D.C.  And though I visited health food stores and bought vitamins and herbs and such, I noticed others (and myself) not getting healthier, but not getting sicker.  We were living, but we weren’t thriving.  However, our peers, for the most part were getting sicker, and some sadly were dying. I worked in major media and the stress was usually a boiler pot.  More often than not most grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor and came back into the studio or ran over to Congress or whatever to gather the “B-Roll” for the satellite feed going to a Senator or Congressperson’s local news station. 

Kenny Rogers Cartoon

By Londons Times Cartoons C2011 http://www.LondonsTimes.us

      Fast forward 15 years. I had lived in L.A. and studied screenwriting, and my mom became ill and I returned to my home of Hattiesburg, Ms.  After she died, I settled in my favorite small town paradise, Hot Springs, Ar. 

      This is where my soon-to-be wife Lee Hiller-London eventually moved from Oregon, and she was already on her way to an exercise (hiking) and better foods program. After moving here she soon became a vegetarian.  I followed her footsteps within a year, and then she became a vegan.  She got to the point where she could hike 3-4 mountains at a time and barely breathe hard.  She was getting in shape so fast I couldn’t help but be curious.  But could I eat organic vegan food?  Could I make the goal of it being “mostly raw foods?  I made that my goal too.

      Within a year after Lee did so, so did I.  Suddenly I went from staying home most the time except to go to the grocery or M.D. to hiking 2-3 times a week anywhere from 2-5 miles each times.  Our mountains are steep, so it is not anything like walking 2-5 miles.  It is a real aerobic working similar to long-distance running.

      I also learned (doing my own research on the Internet) that vitamin pills are useless.  They are heated and that renders anything that was once valuable for the body useless.  I discovered a brand that was “flash-glanced”, which is very close to raw and retains a good bit of the live enzymes etc.   But even those were not perfect.  Lee discovered a brand called “Vitamin Code” that are totally raw and totally organic and 99.9% vegan (it has sheep lanolin for the vitamin D but they do not kill or injure the sheep to obtain it).   So I order “Wiser Men’s 50+ Vitamin Code” on Amazon each month.

      I also learned that herbal capsules or pills are also useless. Most have zero medicinal properties and those that do are so minimal one might as well not take them.  Organic (and hopefully wild crafted) herbal tinctures are the key.  And no herb works very well without taking it with extremely hot cayenne tincture. 

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      The heat in cayenne tincture is measured in scoville units.  The hottest organic cayenne tincture I’ve found is 100,000 H.U. (heat units).  I have purchased 200,000 h.u. but it is not organic. I mix the organic cayenne tincture in with about 12 other organic herbs including one herb that is not organic, but it really doesn’t need to be as it grows on trees in the Peruvian rainforest. It is called Samento which is a form of cat’s claw, but it is toa-free cat’s claw.  It is by far the most potent immune system herb on the planet leaving others like ginseng, Echinacea etc. in the dust.  Herbalist consider cayenne tincture “the taxi herb” because it “knows” where the diseased or inflamed spot is, and carries other medicinal herbs in the mix to it to “do their magic”.  Cayenne tincture has “magic properties” of its own, including preventing heart attacks and strokes, and reduce inflammation, blood pressure, etc. 

      But let me explain the sad feeling.  Part of it was being ostracized by the medical community (mostly) back in the 70s.  Later I found myself in circles that didn’t have any interest, so I received zero support in trying to watch my health.  I worked on a time watch and deadlines were daily. Fast foods were tailor-made for people with my lifestyle.  These days, I’m older and hopefully wiser and probably could have pulled it off (even in the fast-paced world of world market media). 

      The other day I read a story about Thomas Jefferson who was very much against slavery and wrote many papers on it (while he was a slaveholder) and obviously even more than that with one of his slaves. 

     As much as I admired, and still admire Jefferson, I wondered how he could ever have done something that cruel and hypocritical such as holding a slave.  I decided to research.  All the papers in the world that he wrote against slavery did not make any changes in anyone’s minds. 

       He tried for years.  One can only surmise that he finally came to the conclusion that “If you can’t beat them join them”. 

        Though his dilemma was much larger and more famous than my lifestyle issues could ever be, they surely felt similar.  I had tried and finally given up.  His challenge of abolition of slavery was much larger than my challenge of abolition of putting bad things in my mouth.   I’d lived other people’s lifestyles around me, letting them be the arbitrator of how I lived, instead of being a good leader and at least giving it a harder try to reverse the negative habits in my friends (and me).

Convenience Store Cartoon

By Londons Times Cartoons c2011 http://www.LondonsTimes.us

       Easier said than done.

      However, if one is alone, or even better has a good friend and/or life mate (and in my case both; my wife Lee) who agrees wholeheartedly with nature, fresh air, vegan foods, organic herbs etc. etc. it makes it so easy. And there’s no reason to give up, especially watching both of us get healthier and feeling healthier. 

       It takes what it takes. 

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, cartoonist and gift designer. He founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 1997 which have been #1 Google ranked since 2005 and Bing’s #1 ranked since 2008.  Follow Rick on Twitter @RickLondon or his cartoons @LTCartoons.   He is married to popular nature and wildlife photographer and blogger Lee Hiller who has HikeOurPlanet.com.  You can follow Lee @LeeHillerLondon.  Together they enjoy nature and hike often at their home in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.

To Create Or Not To Create…That Is The Answer By Rick London c2012

             It seems rather pompous and arrogant to write a blog about creativity or “being creative”.  I have altruistic reasons for publishing it, however. It’s not because I believe myself to be a Michelangelo or Beethoven incarnate.  It is that, because I work in a creative field, and have for a long time, I get asked numerous questions about the process.

    Since I’m no expert on creativity (I don’t think any really exist) because I couldn’t tell you for the life of me from whence it originates, nor has anyone else convinced me that they know (yet numerous have tried). I can tell you what I believe though and it is not what I believed a decade ago and I have a sneaking suspicion it is not what I’m going to believe a decade from now.

     My own belief system is that we (human-types) are spiritual vessels of something much larger than ourselves (I call that much bigger thing “God”) but I don’t insist you do; nor even believe as I do. I’ve met many very talented creative individuals who believe my theory is full of fault, and that’s okay with me. It’s a free country.

     So whatever your belief system of how “creativity sparks”; just know that there is an energy; made of magnetism and/or electricity (the brain produces plenty of both…ask any brain surgeon) and the more we can rid that organ of “junk” or as many often call them “cobwebs”, the more our “vessel” is open to creativity.

    So if you are new to creativity, or thinking about it as a hobby or even a career, you might ask, “Rick, the cobwebs are gone…the creativity is here..Now what?”. 

     Use it!

     But how. What do I do?

     That actually should be my question to you. What *do* you do?  Do you sing? Play the guitar? Write poetry? Take photographs?  Write books or articles?  The list of possibilities goes on and on.

    My wife Lee is an amazing nature/wildlife photographer.  She was not taught how. She didn’t have a known mentor to my knowledge; she simply picked up a camera and learned “on the job”.  She’s a published author and has thousands of licensed products with her photography and artwork (which she also taught herself) images which sell worldwide.  She is teaching me photography now and I must say I’m getting fairly good. In any case I surely enjoy it, not to mention the health consequences of our mountain hikes.

     In my case, Let’s take writing because that is what I do?  Nearly every writer has an influence (or group of influences).  Not to worry; there is a huge difference between influence and plagiarism.  An influence may be someone who has been dead for years or someone still alive. It may be someone you know or have never met.  But it is someone with whom you can identify in one way or another.  When they sing, write, paint, or whatever they do, your brain says to you, “I understand how he/she thinks”.

    A lot of people call that “being on the same wave length”.  I call it “having opened the vessel in a similar way.

     Let’s say you loved the piano as a child, took lessons, but reality bit and you stopped, got married, raised a family, and never looked back.  But in the back of your mind, you asked yourself, “I wonder how far I could have gone if I’d pursued my music?”  I asked myself that several years ago as I’d played and loved the guitar in my teens. I told my wife Lee and for my next birthday was a beautiful acoustic guitar.

       I am probably best known for my cartoons, Londons Times.   But I don’t even draw my cartoons; I think them up (the concepts, write them and assign them to one of my team illustrators).  I spend a lot more time designing and creating our licensed gifts than I do thinking up “funny things”.  I get great enjoyment out of that, but I didn’t at first. 

      After about a decade of having fun with my creativity, it suddenly occurred to me this might also be a business (this creativity thing).  So I read biographies of creative people I’ve admired such as Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, various Beatles, etc.  I learned I had a lot to learn.

     So I took my creativity a step further. I was almost 50 by then when I re-enrolled into college to learn business and Internet Technology (IT).  That, in combination with my now-honed humor writing skills might take me places. At first, I was a bit disappointed. Then I realized I was not enjoying the creative process, enjoying “its magic”, but projecting into the future trying to know the outcome.  There’s little or no pleasure in that.

    Needless to say, being mid-life and taking the first step is the scariest part.  There is a tendency to “do it perfect”, “have some kind of degree in it”, “conquer the world overnight”, “where’s my overnight fame/success”, etc.  Generally it does not work that way. There’s some walls to walk (no actually BANG into).  And that’s a good thing.  All of the “doing it half-a$$” etc is all part of the learning experience.  And the whole “success thing” in creativity is not what we learned in school; though, yes; it’s great to make money with it, as long as that is not the focus and primary motivator”.    If you get it in your mind, “This is going to be about fun and learning, not fame and fortune, then you are more likely to find fame and fortune than those willfully looking for it.  Really.    No I’m not wealthy, nor the most famous guy on the planet, but I’m very happy.  That was not always the case.  My quality of life is very good, and continues to get better. I love the creative work I’m blessed to do, and love that I have time to mountain hike with my beloved wife Lee.   I believe creativity to be “a gift”, and if we dare to use it, we get rewarded (in one way or another…sometimes in numerous ways).

My cartoon “became famous” when I’d already stopped doing it for over a year. i was back in school.  Suddenly charities were calling and emailing for signed prints to sell at auctions. Fans were emailing from around the world for my autograph. I thought it was a joke (at first).  That was around 2005. So I asked my manager to put up a counter on the site.   Since that time, Londons Times main website has lured 7.8 million visitors.  We’ve created 1/4 million gifts, tees, mugs, cards etc that are sold by Sears, Amazon (and hundreds of associates there).    I still didn’t know what all that meant.  Then Twitter gave me a verified account (then reserved for celebrities and major corporations). I thought that was a joke.  Now I have 30,000+ followers at Twitter.    It all happened while I was not in the least “seeking fame or anything like it”.   I was in school and occasionally writing cartoons and enjoying that creative process.  It’s been 15 years since I started. I have two books out.  One is number one in its genre at Amazon and I have one at Barnes & Noble.  Still, its the creative process that fulfills and if one is enjoying that, generally one is paying the bills.  For many years I took jobs and I didn’t necessarily like them.  In fact I hated some of them.  But they enabled me to tweak my skills.  It took years.  I’ll be 58 next year and just getting started.

      I know if I can do what I did, anyone can.  And I say that with no faux humility. If they will but practice getting in touch with that “inner creativity”.  One need not understand or even attempt to. Just make a pledge to spend a few quiet hours a day or night with oneself and write ideas, think ideas, or do your ideas.  Repetition builds professionalism, and professionalism builds clientele; if that’s what you want. Or, it can be a wonderful hobby if that’s not what you want.   Personally, I enjoy keeping the lights on. 🙂

    I went back to creating and enjoying it.  When people labeled me “a cartoonist”, it didn’t anger me, but that is only a tiny part of what and who I am. I am a person who collaborates to create cartoons. I’m a songwriter and musician.  I’m an editor. I’m a writer.  I am a designer.  I am better at some of those things than others, and some of them bring in an income and some don’t.  But when one makes the income part the only part that motivates them, they catch themselves in a trap, losing touch of the magic of “opening the inner vessel to the universe to allow the creative process to take place.

    I do my best writing while hiking in the forest which I do often. But that’s not the only place to create.  Some do best in a quiet bedroom.  Some after meditating. Others in a library full of books with lots of people around.  Some in a park.  Creativity is not a one-size-fits-all activity.

     Creativity can be a double-edged sword I must warn.  If you don’t want to really know yourself, don’t delve deeply into the world of creativity.  You will begin to examine your life (whether you want to or not), and in my opinion we all really want to, most of us have never been given lessons as to how. 

      Of course we know Socrates is cited as quoting, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.  And though I agree with the spirit of his quotation, I wouldn’t go that far.  I would say though that “The examined life is a lot less confusing and happier…and if all it takes is pursuing something creative for an extended period of time, even an hour or two a day, then why not?”

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Rick London is a writer, musician, and designer. He founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons which are Google and Bing’s number one offbeat webcomics and funny gifts.  His wife Lee Hiller-London is a designer and nature photographer with the popular blog HikeOurPlanet.com.

How To Survive Depression When You Don’t Have It; & A Few Thoughts After 15 Years Of Cartooning & Design by Rick London

March 19th, 2012 will mark the 15th year of my “creative venture that couldn’t be done”.  Amazon Kindle just put up my 15th anniversary compilation book, but the 13th anniversary continues to sell better. That’s okay. It was never supposed to happen. In fact I wasn’t suposed to be able to do it.  So many said so. And that’s why I smile as I type this. 


My 15th Anniversary Book Cover (Click To Enlarge)

Walther Bagehot once said, “The greatest pleasure in life is in doing what people say you cannot do”.    

    Walt Disney said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Edison, Einstein, Thoreau, Emerson, Galileo, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Dali, and many other writers, artists, and, you name it, have similar themes that run through their most famous quotes that is, “There is great pleasure in doing what everyone said couldn’t be done”.

 I’ll preface the rest of this blog with, “I don’t put myself even close to a league of any of the aforementioned giants, please trust me on that..I’m not that grandiose”. I can honestly say, that most of them were “spiritual mentors” and/or were and continue to be influences.

I was born into a family in which I was expected to be “heir to the throne” of a family business; a family real estate business.

I used to joke that when I was born, the nurse put me in my mom’s arms and said, “Congratulations, Ms. London, it’s a Realtor.”

Slow Realtor (Click To Enlarge) by LTCartoons.com

That used to cause a resentment for me, but now that I see the whole picture,  and why God, the Universe or whatever caused it to happen, all I can say is “thank you, thank you, thank you.  I couldn’t have dreamed this life.  Is it perfect? No.  But it is very very good, and I really could not have imagined it.

I was no good at real estate (nor much else) as I had a rare disease that affects the vagus nerve and there was no treatment (had it all my life) in which the vagus nerve, the largest nerve in the body, does  not function, or barely functions.  It is often misdiagnosed for depression, mental illness etc.  It’s neither.

I was told I had garden variety depression for 28 years and treated for it.  I didn’t have it and no treatment was helping me improve.

About 1998, I read an article in New Yorker Magazine on clinical trials for a new implant called theVagus Nerve Stimulator or VNS made by a firm in Houston called Cyberonics.  It had been approved a decade earlier for TRE (Treatment Resistant Epilepsy) but was not yet approved for TRD (Treatment Resistant Depression) which is a misnomer as it is not depression at all, but merely mimics it.  It is estimated that about  20 million people have it who think, as do their doctors, that they have depression or schizophrenia or bipolar or “name your poison” but they don’t Most of them have never heard of VNS and very few of their doctors have either.

I had to wait another seven years to get the treatment and do a lot of pre-planning.  Some of it included contacting Cyberonics and getting a caseworker before FDA approval.  The other was let the doctors know the meds and talk therapy was not working so they would try a variation of many different ones, just to be sure it was not depression, as eventually (if it really is depression), it would improve with at least one of the variations. It never did.

On January 25th, 2005, I woke up from the surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Little Rock.  A week later, all the “depression” was gone; mainly because it had never been depression in the first place.  I am not certain which was more painful while fighting the disease before having the implant, the disease itself, or the punishment from a very superstitious culture who felt people didn’t get such diseases unless they had distanced themselves from God.  I had to live with that pnishment from so many ignorant people on top of fighting the disease which was being incorrectly diagnosed and treated as such.  

I was very lucky. Not many in the U.S. received the treatment when the FDA opened a very short window for it.  The large pharmaceuticals and even the American Psychiatric Association, and insurance giants fought it vigorously, and with that much power, the FDA made it virtually impossible to get, unless someone can shell out $50,000.  So only a few of us got it when it was covered. It is still not impossible to get it (even covered if one needs it), but they must be willing to try nearly every modicum of treatment for depression there is and have a Cyberonics caseworker monitoring his/her progress or lack thereof.

I have no resentments from that though.  Had all that not happened, I would not have been able to “do the impossible”; all the things people, including family, said “he’ll never do”.  “He shames us” was the word I often heard from mutual friends of my other blood family.  “He’s lost his way. If he’d just go to the right church and really pray”.  Some of the armchair diagnosis was so ridiculous that they were almost funny, if they’d not been so sad. It made me wonder how they treated their own family who ran into issues in which the doctors did not have answers.  Thank God I had the common sense to move close to one of the top 12 research hospitals in America, University Of Arkansas Little Rock.  St. Vincent’s is on their campus.  Had I not, and not received the VNS implant, I am positive I would have left this planet at least a decade ago.  I am a very blessed man.

 

So what were the consequences of finally getting the right diagnosis and treatment?  I returned to school and learned a great deal about business information management, digital design, and IT marketing.

I took LTCartoons to heights that no other offbeat cartoon has even come close.  Of course in any case where someone starts “looking good” like I did, there were many others behind the scene. I will elaborate later.  In just eight years LTCartoons.com became Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts on the Internet.  Then MS opened Bing and within a week we not only were ranked #1 there too, but own the whole first and most of their second search page.  We have remained #1 on both ever since and it is now 2012; seven years later.

 

My main site LTCartoons.com now has 5500+ mostly color cartoons and my various online stores showcase app. ¼ million licensed gifts and collectibles bearing our imagines.  I say “our” because that was what I was talking about…others making me look good.  Most cartoons we see today in the paper are teams these days.  The lone cartoonist still exists, but the teams are just as prevalent.  I am the concept guy, writer and “blueprint guy..that is the designer of the cartoons, describing details etc and assigning each to the appropriate illustrator) who I know can render it best.  Then I begin digitally designing the products.  I have our main manufacturer 3Drose to thank, Zazzle, Amazon and Printfection to thank for that.  Also who would have thought Amazon and Sears Marketplace would be my primary partners? If you’d told me that even a decade ago, I would have suggested therapy (for you).

I have a very sweet kind wife who loves me as I love her. We have a mutual respect for each other too and many similar interests.  Yes we have issues on which we disagree but the positive far outweighs the negative.  We are in similar businesses (both design) and though she’s a nature photographer and mountain hiker, I am not a photographer, but an avid hiker and nature lover so we enjoy many long mountain hikes together.

My Beautiful Wife Lee

 

We both share a love of God and a similar perception of Him.  We don’t push that philosophy and/or ideals onto others, but that adds more bond to our bonding.  We both care about life, all life, human and animal.  We’re both vegan and eat organic foods most of the time.  We started mid-life (as well as hiking) but hey, better late than never.  And for it was after 2 major heart attacks and for her after surviving cancer.  So we are proof that it is never too late to start anything new.

I have two books out now. Londons  Times Cartoons 13th and 15th anniversary and both Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell them as well as many independent book stores around the world.  Lee has a beautiful photography book out “The Nature Of Love” with similar sellers.

Around 1994, I read a very good book on the psychology of creative entrepreneurialism that I think was called “Blue Thunder” or something like that.  I read something in it that I really didn’t believe at the time. I was forty years old. It said that almost anything you’ve done in your life and career up until age fifty doesn’t even count because the mind of modern man and woman really doesn’t develop enough (for the majority of people) until age fifty, at which time we are all infants in whatever path we  are taking), so take it slow, but take it surely.

I now not only believe that, I know that to be true.  I might add, many of my friends have either retired or semi-retired at age fifty or sixty; or, slowed way down. I look at life in an opposite way.  I believe it is a time to try what you were frightened to try when you were younger. I don’t mean be careless or reckless but try something different.

If you’ve always wanted to go back to school, there’s no excuse not to now.  There are plenty of grants, low interest loans and accredited online colleges now.  Skydive. Plant a garden. Start a business.  Have no money? Start an Internet business. Don’t know how to start an Internet business with little or no money?  Go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble sites and type into their search engines “How to start an Internet business with little or no money”.  There are plenty good ones written on the topic.

I started mine 15 years ago this March 19th with about $300, and no home or car.  I now have a home and car and don’t have any idea how much my Internet business are worth, but I imagine a good bit. My wife and I don’t have debt because we’ve paid for everything. We use debit cards rather than credit cards and save all the interest our peers are paying out each month.  We scaled down. We live smaller but we live a lot happier.

 

 

At first these changes were very difficult. All change is difficult, even positive, especially as we get older.  But as time went by, and we started seeing the advantages, there was and is no turning back.  Life is not about keeping up with the Jones’ anymore. What a sad waste of time. Life is about service, fun, learning to love oneself, and trying to live in the most spiritual way one can, and that part I can’t explain as that is personal between oneself and his/her perception of God.  Good luck everyone.  Whatever it is, if you take it a step at a time, and are okay with some obstacles and/or rejection, you are well on your way to whatever you ever wished or dreamed.  Really.

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I am a goofy vegan mountain man who loves life, my work, my wife, and the mountains of Arkansas. I founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) & Funny Gifts in 1997 and it has been #1 on the Internet since 2005. I love to design. I don’t only design offbeat cartoon merchandise, but serious famous quotes gifts at my RickLondonWisdomShop.com and LoveQuoteGifts.com which contained my licensed images of famous persons with their famous quotes on gifts, tees, mugs etc.  My two cartoon books are available at Amazon.com (on both coffee table and Kindle) and Barnes & Noble.  I like dogs. I like cats. I love wildlife, nature, hiking and anything outdoors. My beautiful talented wife Lee (see above) is a talented nature photographer and has the blog HikeOurPlanet.com  I don’t have depression.  I’m very blessed Thank you G-d.

How Important Is Laughter To Your Health? By Rick London

       How important is laughter to you?  Have you been told that you take life too seriously?  If you knew there had been studies done that the endorphins produced by laughter are identical to those produced by vigorous exercise and most likely prevents cancer, heart disease and a host of other ailments, would you expose yourself to funnier things? Here is a most recent study published in Science Daily & The New England Journal Of Medicine http://bit.ly/LaughterHealth

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     “When I launched Londons Times Cartoons & Gifts in 1997, all I knew was of all the things I’d done for a living (and I’d done quite a few); helping facilitate laughter rated at the top.  I didn’t know exactly why at the time.  Not that many studies had been conducted.  I just knew it was fun.

     As time progressed and my team and I continued to create more cartoons, research was being done that has proven laughter helps protect the immune system. It can change a mood. It can even help prevent or lessen depression.  One must be careful with laughter though.  The type that helps keep us happy and healthy is spontaneous, not forced laughter simply to be laughing.  There are plenty of “self-help gurus who will sell you on the idea that if you simply smile or laugh, even if it is fake, that you’re on your way to “Happy Days Utopia”.  Not so.

     So for what do you seek as your remedy?  As with almost anything else, we don’t live in a one size fits all world.   I would love to say anyone could visit my cartoon page and “presto, they’re happy”.   My suggestion though would be to try a variety of medias.  I happen to enjoy “the absurd” so I can look at any old Gary Larson Far Side Cartoon, Airplane Movie, old Steve Martin sketch (or even his most recent tweets on Twitter), or the original SNL and at least one of them is most likely going to do the trick.

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     At the same time, I have friends who can watch Abbott & Costello, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy or “pick your poison”, and it does the same for them.  After experimenting with various forms of humor, you will eventually know which size fits you best, and, according to many studies, be that much healthier for it (I still think LTCartoons is the best though, but that is just me strictly speaking…please, please oh please visit my site!  🙂 

 

 

 

 

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I am a slightly dysfunctional, very uncoordinated, goofy animal-loving mountain man living my dream in the Ouichata Mountains of Arkansas with my nature/photography wife Lee Hiller-London.  I founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) & gifts in 1997.  They have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts on the Internet since 2005 and I’m humbled.  I have ventured into designing non-humorous items at my other gift shops and that is a lot of fun.

 

The Unfortunate Incident by Rick London c2012

     Have you ever thought about a really fun thing, event, or person of whom to blog, and the more you thought about it the more you said to yourself, “Are you absolutely out of your head?”

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   This is not the kind of story you share with strangers, much less other adult friends with whom you’ve reconnected on facebook and/or Twitter because even though you’re a thousand or so miles apart now, you can almost feel their face blush traveling through your broadband and smacks you right in the psyche.

     This is one of those blogs. 

      One of my favorite songs of irony is one of Eric Clapton’s lesser-known tunes called, “Don’t Show Me Anything New, I’ve Seen It All Before”. And even though the man has great humility and it is easily recognized in the tune, that is, that he’s being facetious and telling an important tale such as, “Even if you are worldly like me, and think you’ve seen it all, something new comes along new and bites you on the butt and you are humbled yet more”.

      That is what happened to me, bit me in the butt… literally (well almost my butt) last Wednesday morning on a beautiful but chilly mountain hike with my beloved wife Lee. I knew the minute this insect (or whatever it was) did its dirty deed, that it had done so, but I was so fascinated being out in nature with Lee (that is my usual feeling once high up and far from the maddening crowd), I put my brain into denial mode, sort of brushed it away with one of my Wal-Mart $6.50 fake goose down navy blue gloves with verbose wrist-grips,  and continued on the journey and forgot about it….until last Friday night which was 2.8 days later.

       I’ll be blunt.  Whatever it was, it decided my left testicle would provide enough nourishment for the rest of the winter and apparently had a double-helping without even asking the waitress.   I was glad I had a few ounces of hydrogen peroxide left in the bathroom as it is my end all/be all relief for every venomous insect in the forest (that happens to find me tasty). For me, Hydrogen Peroxide is the same as what Windex was to “Toula’s” Dad in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.  It cures everything. Or so I thought.

      Fast-forward three or so hours and Lee, whose desk sits behind mine in our living room office, asked me if I was okay. I guess I was making sounds as if I may not be, such as screaming at the top of my lungs and saying words I haven’t really used since I was an anti-war hippie demonstrator with shoulder length hair in the late 1960’s.  I am 58 years old now, people. It’s hard to even get a “darn” out of me. Not Friday night though.   On the other hand I know I’m also way too old to be a mile above sea level with an insect’s fangs drenching the life-force from my body.    I finally was able to respond to Lee. It probably was not the response for which she’d wished, or even expected.

     I asked, “Baby, do you remember congratulating me a few days ago for not having to go to the hospital emergency room since, oh, about 1.5 years ago when I had to have a very large kidney stone removed?”  Oh wait, had a brief visit there in the summer after a hiking accident followed by 3 months of physical therapy.  Then 2 dental surgeries. My this has been a fun year.

       “Yes I surely do,” she responded with a sweet hug and kiss. 

       “Well, as much as I appreciate it, I have a feeling this temporary record I broke of staying away from the ER, is about to be revoked,” I added.

        Why, what’s wrong? Is it your heart?  A having any chest pains?    What are your kidneys feeling like? Do you feel faint?”

        “I’m afraid it’s worse than all that,” I finally revealed. “It appears I have burned a good bit of my scrotum off.”

      “That’s not good,” she jokingly said, probably thinking I was joking and had a punch line on the way; as that kind of thing is “normal” in the London home…a serious statement; followed by a delayed punch line.

       “On purpose?”, she asked?

        Suddenly I felt like Kramer talking to Jerry on Seinfeld.  “Of course not on purpose. Do you think I would do something like that on purpose?”

        “You sometimes do some odd things”, she reminded me (as if I didn’t know). 

         “Well, I’ll go get the van. You surely don’t need to be driving to the hospital”.

       I chuckled in an odd sort of way thinking, “As if I could really drive a motor vehicle in this sort of pain. This feels like a kidney stone on steroids.”

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        I tried to wait it out, thinking if I could just go to sleep, I would wake up tomorrow and it would have healed and I would have forgotten this stupid deed and moved on with my life.  The Universe decided last Friday night was a night that was not going to be real merciful, so I stumbled into the van and she rushed me to National Park Medical Center where half the staff knows me by name, but my reasons for being there were more “traditional” such as heart surgery, kidney surgery, testing for sleep apnea and all the other fun ailments to which AARP has built a glossy page-turning empire.

        We waited the usual 2.5+ hours in the “television room” and watched (what was probably a funny episode) of “Family Guy” but I was not laughing. Also, wondered why the hospital had “The Family Guy” on at night in the waiting room. It’s an adult cartoon and there were kids in the room. Made no sense, but my pain was too much to complain. I just wanted relief.  I just sat there with Lee to my left, her head on my shoulder and concerned green eyes (that turn a pleasing turquoise blue when looking up at the sun) my somewhat mad brown eyes wondering I’m sure, “How does he get himself into these messes?”

       Meantime I’m staring at the little blue “hospital ER beeper” that every patient gets figuring if I just started at it a little harder, the ER Dept. would pick up my “pain vibes” and yell my name to come in.  Next thing I knew I’d nodded off and maybe an hour later my name was called (surely not from some vibe connection”; it simply was my turn. I was last in line of everyone else waiting with me there.

       The young admittance nurse knew me by my first name. 

      “So Rick.  What brings you here tonight”.  Suddenly I realized the actual sting and consequential evaporation of my skin due to my pouring hydrogen peroxide on it, may not be the toughest part of this entire ordeal after all. 

      The toughest was about to happen. I was going to explain to a woman, maybe in her 20s or 30s, in front of my wife, what I had just done to bring me into their fine medical establishment, known for phenomenal surgeries of the heart, lungs, brain, delivery of babies; but to my knowledge, though I figure for certain I’m not the only one who has done this and found themselves there with a blue beeper; I suddenly knew how lucky I was that Lee was there with me.  But I figured I knew just what to say.

       “I think I was bitten by a bug in a most unfortunate place Wednesday, and tonight I poured several ounces of pharmaceutical grade hydrogen peroxide on that same unfortunate place, which made it yet more unfortunate of a place.  And it remained unfortunate for another three or four days…in spite of the fact  that I was now being treated by the proper medicine, eating all the right foods, taking organic herbal tinctures.”

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      I figured she’d “get the picture” after that bold statement regarding my stupidity.  But nooooooooooo.

      “What unfortunate place was that, Rick?”

       “Very unfortunate,” I responded.

       “If you don’t tell us exactly where, we can’t treat you now can we?”

        “On my scrotum”. 

       “Your scrotum”?

         Had I said something wrong? Had she never run into this type of situation before?  Maybe she had and was on the prudish side (not that this was something I enjoyed talking about with strangers, people I barely knew, and to be honest, people I knew very well.)  When a person does something that stupid, it truly is the kind of thing one prefers to keep to oneself. 

       “Better than having been your penis”, was her actual response. 

       “Did she really say that?” , I wondered to myself? 

     I suddenly felt very alone (again glad Lee was there because she has seen my stupid side, seems fairly used to it, and carries on with her day after I’ve implemented some dumb act (like the one described above).

       She led us down the hallway into a large ER room in which she said the doctor would soon be there to examine me. 

      He was there within 15 minutes or so. He was a tough old army doctor and I liked him.  Less than two years ago; one week I went by ambulance to the ER room almost every night with severe pain below my stomach toward the side.  Having had kidney stones before, I knew that might be an option.  He didn’t remember me, but said to Lee, “But I remember you” (that happens more often than not).

      But every doctor of that late shift sent me back home telling me it was my imagination.  Then came Dr. U.S. Army.  That was my fifth time that week to the ER room.  They hung up my x Rays on the wall across from me.  Lee immediately noticed it and told the doctor what it was. 

That time the doctor (the old crotchety army doctor actually took the time to examine it closely and said to Lee, “You are absolutely right ma’am. And even though the kidney surgery and consequential lithotripsy was a very painful event, I was grateful Lee had seen it and later Dr. Army had verified it. It took a month or two to heal, but finally did so quite nicely.

      Fast forward to last weekend explaining to half the medical staff that it seemed right at the time to saturate the sting or bite with hydrogen peroxide and having each one of them tell me why it was not such a great idea, I finally quit talking about it and let them do their work .

      After 5 days on a strong antifungal/biotic salve, and drugs that make you forget your phone number and current dog’s or cat’s name, Twitter & facebook passwords, first dog’s name, mother’s maiden name, my name, your name, and what planet we are living on (but I did remember if Newt were elected being born Cancers, aka moon children,  Lee and I might have first dibs on a Lunar Condominium). I am now beginning to heal.

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       Please let my experience be a powerful lesson to all others who are contemplating making the same error I made.  And of course that error was (and is) after having such a weird experience, not taking a camera with oneself to the hospital.

    The expression on every single employee’s face was one of someone who was either currently laughing and couldn’t stop, or had been laughing behind my back and finally almost stopped.  I am so fortunate to have friends in the medical community who find such emergencies so hysterical.  I just wonder how any of them would have felt…if the salve had been on the other foot.

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I am a goofy sometimes coordinated, sometimes not, hiker, nature and animal-lover, designer and cartoonist. Oh and freelance writer and songwriter, sorta.  I founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts which have been Google #1 ranked since January of 2005.  I am married to my beloved and patient wife  nature/photographer Lee HillerLondon who founded the popular HikeOurPlanet.com nature blog.

LAUGHTER: Is It Really That Important? by Rick London c2011

“Well, you can either laugh or cry”, I used to hear my maternal grandmother say as far back as my memory can stretch.  It was one of her favorite quotes.  Those were back in simpler days of “Father Knows Best” and pink Rambler station wagons and dial telephones.

I watched her over my lifetime handle difficult times with grace.  I shouldn’t have been surprised. She was a survivor of the Great Depression.  I really didn’t know what that meant, except from word-of-mouth and classes, until I was about age fifty, and I started seeing people lose homes and face other difficult circumstances; often people who rarely if ever did.

Why is it more important now to laugh aloud?  (And I don’t mean a fake laugh or smile; that’s far too common and rather sad), I mean finding a real belly-laugh and sharing it with others.

Medical science proved years ago that such laughter produces endorphins which can help keep us healthy.   Some good ideas are to go to a movie or watch reruns of old comedies on television.  Movies can be expensive but now online companies such as Netflix and others offer inexpensive monthly subscriptions in which the end user can watch endless films at a very reasonable price.

Another fun thing to do is buy a funny tee shirt or cap (or both) featuring cartoons, funny quotes and such.   Smile and the world smiles with you is no longer a mystery.

Send funny cards and/or gifts to friends and/or loved ones.  If you aren’t sure they would enjoy it, give it a try.  My most treasured gifts have not been expensive ones, but ones that have given me a chuckle.  It means that much more if it is from a friend or family member as it sends a powerful message as well.  It basically says, “I respect you and your intelligence enough to send you this message or cartoon” (on a card, tee, or gift). The result is often a psychological uplift for both the giver and the receiver which can last a long time; even a lifetime. It can also be a great way to mend fences from long ago.

It is very difficult to have a distaste for someone who does not take him/herself too seriously and knows how and when to laugh (and is generous enough to share laughter with someone else).

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Rick London is a freelance writer, author, cartoonist, and designer.  He founded the Internet’s #1 offbeat cartoons “Londons Times” in 2005.  Since that time he’s launched numerous shops which offer over 250,000 funny gifts bearing his cartoon images.