Old Codgers Like Me by Rick London

Had a beautiful hike early this morning with my favorite hiking buddy, my beloved wife, Lee.  It was overcast and we felt certain it might rain so we decided on one of the shorter trail.  It was rather cool which made it nice.  One problem though. We didn’t realize today must be “National Don’t Wear A Shirt Even If You’re A Bit Pudgy Like Rick Day” so we had a little trouble keeping our trail mix down.

One old shirtless codger did seem to score.  We let him pass us and pretended to view birds in the distance (which weren’t there) but he still attempted to get our, well Lee’s attention to no avail.

He found his mate up ahead about a ¼ of a mile and they traveled the rest of the trail together.  We immediately smelled the scent of deer musk and didn’t know if it was the happy new couple or a real deer which we see more often than “Shirtless Senior Dating”.

It may sound funny, but it is a bit horrifying.  I say not judgmentally as I have mirrors in my home and they scream “Wear a shirt outside Rick…You’re no longer 25).  I guess not everyone has such mirrors.  But it means someone(s) hooked up, and, all sarcasm aside, that can be a good thing.

nov 777 bear pooh3drose

FYI, hiking shirtless in the warm or hot summer at any age is socially acceptable as it is not yelling, “Look at me, I’m available”.  It’s hot outside and people don’t want to be uncomfortable.  But hiking shirtless in weather like this truly compromises the immune system.

Lee and I took a few photos of the beautiful leaves changing and that was fun.  We picked up our bottled water and came home.

I promised myself I was going to write on my book, design some gifts, write a blog or two and maybe some cartoons. This time I did all of the above, with my shirt on, and that was a good thing.  Oh and I took a nap.  When I was younger I never used to take naps.

I think that is one of the wonderful things about getting older.  One can take a mid-afternoon nap with nobody asking, “Do you not feel good”?  or “Can I get something for you?”   They expect it.  After all I’m an old codger….with a shirt.  And I just hiked.  I deserved a nap.  And got it.

oct moo it 3drose

Now I’m awake, laying on the carpet watching the game munching on kale chips.  If someone saw me now, they’d have a difficult time keeping their food down.  Glad Lee already ate.  🙂

————————————————————————————————————

Rick London is an author, cartoonist and designer. He is best known for launching Google’s #1 offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times Cartoons.  He is married to nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller) of Hike Our Planet.

 

 

 

Retail Secrets From An Old Timer Internet ProSeller by Rick London

     Well buying season is just around the corner and…….wait a minute. Stop right there. What buying season?  Who am I trying to kid?  It’s March 8th and there’s two upcoming holidays, Mother’s Day and Easter and they can hardly be considered buying holidays unless you are a bunny, chocolate, a chick or a duck.  Okay, okay, mom gets flowers or a card, but really, that’s about it. 

Convenience Store Cartoon

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

      I heard it said that Valentine’s Day has gone out ahead of Christmas as the heaviest buying season but you could have fooled Lee..or me.   Yes we made a fairly good amount of sales, and for that we are grateful, but not like it used to be.  The 2012 Christmas buying season had been very good but…..What happened?

      To my knowledge, never in the history of the USA has there been a Tea Party vs a very popular 2nd term African American President who will be backing a woman in 2016 who is more popular than every one of the Tea Partiers put together.   Add that to a sequester, a fruitless argument about debt ceilings, filibuster speech-giving regarding drones programmed to knock a Starbuck’s double soy latte’ out of your hand just because your 4th cousin once knew a 3rd cousin of Jane Fonda and might have known Gloria Steinem’s stepfather’s 8th cousin.  And we have the 1% “makers:” with their money safely guarded in The Grand Cayman or Switzerland or Newark (the IRS would never think to look there); and they are scheduled to find it when it finally does trickle down to the rest of us, or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first. 

      But seriously, no matter what, people do still shop and gift-giving is one of the great traditions in these United States as unique collectibles as a hobby. Lee and I sell both of those and in very large quantities. We even offer volume deep discounts and free personalization/customization within several of our lines of merchandise. 

      So why am I tell you this?  For a pat on the back?  To feel sorry for me?  To Occupy Hot Springs until I’m worth several million (then you can leave thank you very much).

      Nooooooooooooooooooo. 

      I mention it because having talked to colleagues, especially other cartoonists and illustrators, some of whom have worked for me, have reminded me that all of this is universal.

Zorba

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

      Whereas in 2010 our average sale was $60-$80, today it is $9.99-19.99.   This tells me something important.  People continue to want to give, and give to a lot of friends and loved ones.  But they have budgeted down below the $25 mark for each person. 

      I really didn’t need a little informal focus group on the Internet to figure that out.  If I’m doing it, and I am, and Lee’s doing it, then most likely all our friends and loved ones are doing it. 

      Do you know who is having the hardest time with this new economy?  The “Neuvo Poor”.  You read it right.  The mighty who have fallen and never took some hard hits along the way up. I do not write that with any kind of comfort or glee. I don’t like to see anyone hurting whether they be rich, poor or in between.

     Those of us who have taken our hard knocks, and taken them for many years, almost have an internal thermostat of how to make it through the month, even if money is short a particular month.

     My sweet late maternal grandmother Ruth London used to try to drill it in to me many times, and I would just laugh and sluff it off.  After  all, I was moving upward and nothing disastrous could ever happen to me.  Wrong!   It all came tumbling down….more than once.  What seemed like the end of the world at the time, turned out to be the “street education” I needed to survive and even thrive.

     And though it is not the same every month, it goes a little like this.

     At the first of the month,  pay all the bills. If you cannot pay them all, then pay the basics like rent or mortgage, groceries for the first week or two of the month. Forget about eating out, that’s a luxury that seems affordable at the time but is a huge waste of money buying food that is usually not exactly as it was billed. 

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

     Pay the utilities, Internet, phone etc.  Once all that is paid there is a huge relief that transpires. One feels lighter.   Don’t pay with a credit card.  Cash or debit cards only.  Lee and I only use our debit cards and don’t even worry about checks and credit cards anymore. 

Shirley Temple Cartoon

By Londons Times Cartoons c2011

     You should have a little money left over.  Depending on your income it can be anywhere from $25 to around $400+ per month.  Stick as much of that in savings, knowing some of it might have to be withdrawn due to unexpected expenses which happen almost every month.  That’s okay. If you can save a few dollars every month you are doing better than most.

     I returned to college at age 48 and had some wonderful professors who taught pragmatic lessons that could easily be used the same day. One of my favorites said, “Credit cards are great…and I expect everyone to get as many as you can, that is if you own the company and you are the creditor”. Otherwise they are poison and will eat your soul”. 

     How did he know the story of my life?  And though I’d not used credit card for nearly 2 decades, I still remember the pain of the relentless calls when/if I was late, trying to juggle classes, running my own business, etc etc.  They showed no mercy.  Lee went through that too.  Now, we don’t go through that. 

  

   Oddly enough, the simpler life one creates, the less stress is involved.  The less stress that is involved. The less stress that is involved, generally the happier the person is.  The happier that person is, the stronger his/her immune system is.  The stronger his/her immune system is, the longer he/she will most probably live, and if it’s not a unusually long lifespan, the quality of life during a shorter lifespan makes up for it.  I love my life. I love what I do.  And though it is not as glamorous as some people may think, that’s alright with me.

may signs

      Doors opened for Lee and I several years back that might have made our lives seem most glamorous.  But the more we worked on the projects, the more we saw that while we were carrying the ball for these well-known celebrity entrepreneurs, the more they look at us as chums, slave labor of sorts, who should be grateful that we got to work with them at any capacity.  I think It was just wonderful that we had that opportunity, to be honest, (and try to be humble) we are that good, but in a free market system, there is this thing called a fair living wage.  They would have no part of that, so we continued to strike out on our own and build our own brands.

rick london 33333333333

        And though we’ve been at it for quite awhile, this March 19th will be 15 years for me and in November 2013 will be about 4 years for Lee, both are still growing and we still have a long way to go.  Competition is fierce worldwide, and one has to design something not just unique, but very different than what anyone else is offering.  One has to expect copycats. No, they usually don’t copy your total design. But one can look at it and there is no doubt they looked at it first for their “inspiration”.

      So we have focused a great deal on making a great amount of greeting cards for about $3.50-$3.75, tees from $17-$25 etc.  Things people can afford to give as gifts.  Each has one of our licensed graphics, all of which we have “tested” on both Twitter and facebook for feedback. If feedback is good, we move it up to the front of the shop. If not, to the back.  It’s  just like physical retail, without the bricks.

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

   Both of us got our start in business in retail shops. Real ones with physical buildings, awnings, and smiling faces.  That is one of the biggest downsides to online marketing. 

    People who shop online, do so for a myriad of reasons, but there are some basic ones that have a common thread.  They are seeking a gift or collectible that they cannot find at the local mall.  They are in luck at our shops and we’ve purposely kept them out of malls or large physical stores. And even though our merchandise appears at Sears.com, it is only at their online shops, not their retail stores.

     They visit Amazon in search of a large selection and discounted price.  They get both when they shop there. 

       They Visit Zazzle to look for both price and often personalization and lightening fast worldwide shipping. Again we give them both there.

       Please don’t get me wrong.  We are merely two merchants who have managed to digitally design thousands of products; about ¼ million between the two of us.   The secret? Again we love what we do, and we work hard and consistently.  Can anybody do it?  I believe anyone can teach themselves to do it or learn to do it watching others. 

      The best way to start is to go to the Zazzle page and sign up for a free account, and visit and talk in their forums.  Be honest. Let them know you are there to learn, and you will be surprised how many will take you under their wing and teach you.  Yes there will be naysayers, but the naysayers are an interesting study in human behavior.  Lee and I passed all the naysayers at warp speed years ago and they are still complaining that “things just aren’t right in online retail”.  And so it goes.

Rick London c2011

      I see posters on facebook and Twitter that remind me to remove negative voices and influences from my life.  I used to do so slowly but that is not necessary.  If I see a pattern now; even for a few hours, it is “block time” and they never come back.

     And my work gets done, miraculously.  And though I could be wrong, my guess is, there’s does not.

kindle po boy

     Finally, online retail is like real life retail.  The custom expects being treated with respect and dignity, they want a decent product, and second-to-none customer service.  

        It’s much easier to offer that than the opposite.  And at the end of the day, they get just that, excellent products, affordable prices, products too unique to be found in malls, and a 100% 30 day guarantee, no questions asked.  

Rick London c2011

Click To Enlarge

     How much more can one ask?  If they ask for more, we’ll do our best to give it. 

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Rick London is a writer, songwriter, cartoonist and designer who lives a quiet life in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas with his wife Lee Hiller-London.  Rick London founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in March 1997 (15 years ago).  Since January 2005 it has been Google’s #1 ranked and Bing’s #1 ranked since 2008.  His wife Lee runs the popular nature photography blog HikeOurPlanet.com featuring many of her award-winning photographs.  Together thay spend a great deal of time in Hot Springs National Forest in search of wildlife and flora of which to take photos which they mat and showcase on their walls.  

Even If You Care Nothing Of Trayvon Martin, You Should Care About This by Rick London

    

By now, most of us know what really happened in Sanford, Fl.  It is no secret, and we know the Sanford police has a long history of similar laissezfaire response to such cases.

      If you don’t care a thing about Trayvon how about caring about this.  If Zimmerman is set free and does not have a fair trial, and the officers involved are not reprimanded, this will set a new bar for police behavior across the nation.  And that bar wil have been lowered….dramatically.

     There are many excellent police departments in this nation and they are excellent because they are committed and even if some members have issues, racism, or other emotional character defects, they leave them at home.  They work in a certain modicum of harmony with their (usually myriad of races, religions etc) fellow officers.

      But even the good ones, if this case is dropped, now get to let go of a great deal of their training. Not as much will be expected of them, and if they are confronted with such a case, any lawyer can point at the Sanford trial that was closed, and that will be that.  The old reliable police officer could easily become a thing of the past.

     The victim of any crime in any city could be you, your daughter, sister, mother, or you name it.  It may or may not be due to racial bias.  The only pertinent fact is, there is a new comparable crime in which the perpetrator was basically given his gun back and a pat on the back.  You can almost count on NOT getting the same old reliable professional police protection of the past.  The new “Trayvon Case” will be “police business as usual”.  If you think otherwise, you are naive.  Yes, there will be some good, idealistic ones who want to do good in the world. But the older jaded ones who saw what the poilce got away with in Sanford will teach them how to show up, collect a check, and go home until pension time.

   We all better hope and pray that this case is truly tried and justice is served.  If not, American doesn’t only have sleeper cells to watch out for.  We have police officer sleeping on the job (who at one time, may have taken great pride in their work and deservedly so). And I don’t know which would be more frightening. 

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

I am a vegan who lives in the mountains with my beloved wife nature photographer Lee Hiller London. I founded Londons Times Cartoons and Funny Gifts which have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoon since 2005.  I enjoy hiking, animals, nature, movies, and lots o’ stuff. My wife Lee founded nature photography blog Hike Our planet

My Newlyfound Faith In America’s Youth by Rick London

   Today’s teens. All we see on the news is violence, drugs, and an arrogant refusal to obey laws that don’t fit their lifestyles.   Yesterday, I was proven that’s not always so. In fact, that whole stereotype was blown out of the water. 

Click To Enlarge

    A little history first which led to this pleasantly surprising experience.

      I need a new wallet. I know that. But like a favorite T-shirt, coffee cup, etc. (and it’s not that I’m some kind of “material guy”, I’m not. I just “get to know  it” and it feels comfortable), I still have my 3 year old wallet. Maybe that’s why I’ve kept my same Saturn for years because I fit well in it, it doesn’t break down, it’s paid for, and why make a new debt on a new car that I’d have to get to know, and it would have to get to know me back.

      So this old wallet I have is a bit shabby and I keep a lot of junk in it that I should toss out; but for some reason in the back of my mind, I am absolutely positive this July 11, 2010 receipt from Walmart or Kroger is going to be very important. 

       When I was in the hospital in 2010, my car tag sticker expired and it was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t drive for several months anyway. My wife Lee did.  So I drove around about a year with an expired sticker and finally was pulled over about 8 months ago (for a non-moving violation).  The police officer asked to see all my papers and license. I had to dig through my wallet (and of course there was no registration renewal etc) so my ticket was high.  But worse than that, I felt like I could have expedited that traffic violation (am sure the officer had more important matters than pulling over an old guy with an expired tag), by just being more organized.  I immediately took care of it the next day at the courthouse.  We live outside of a small beautiful Arkansas town in the Ouachita Mountains. It is like a paradise to us.  We feel like kids again.  That’s pretty fun stuff.   Here’s a pic from our office window in case you’ve not seen it.


     Lee had gotten a fanny pack which is fantastic; no longer even uses a purse, and wears it hiking or when we’re out running errands or shopping. She suggested I get one too. I did. That was after I paid the $160 ticket; and paid to get everything renewed. Ouch.

     She couldn’t talk me into getting rid of my wallet (which I keep in the pouch) but she did talk me into organizing things better.  I keep everything to do with the car in a plastic pouch aside from everything else so, that if I ever get pulled over again, I can whip it right out, get my ticket if I’m guilty of something, and the officer can be on his/her way. 

      Several days ago I was shopping at Kroger alone while Lee was hiking.  At some point during shopping, I noticed the zipper was open in my fanny pouch. I think I’d left it open while pumping and paying for gas and forgot to zip it back (or zipped it partially).  In any case, I took a close look into it) and everything looked fine. 

      Last night was the Jewish Holiday of Purim.  It is a festive holiday in which all dress up and be kids again.  I am not sure what it celebrates, as I rarely celebrated it as a kid, but Lee and I had fun dressing up.  She was a butterfly and played the part well.  I put a flashlight in my head, and my plan was to pull out my driver’s license and say, “I’m a minor, but I’ve got an ID”.  I did so because for some reason I’d removed my driver’s from my “everything pertaining to auto plastic packet”, but noticed the plastic packet containing my registration, birth certificate, registration, insurance card etc. were all missing. I called the state DMV but they were closed and of course the local one was too. Then I realized with my birth certificate gone, I’m going to have to reorder one online, take it in with me along with my license and by another registration and title etc.  It was going to be a big hassle.

But Lee kindly said, “Don’t worry baby. I’ll drive you there tomorrow and we’ll take care of it”.  She alerted me they’d probably complete the process with my license and social security card.  The pretty much know me there anyway so it would be silly if they didn’t.   We’re good citizens, don’t make a lot of noise, and don’t cause anyone any trouble.

Today my phone rang 3 times.  Two of the three were sales calls and I let them go to voice mail.  The third one came in at about 11:00 a.m.  It was a local number and though I didn’t recognize it, I figured it might be someone I knew anyway, so I answered.  Someone asked if it was me (mispronouncing “Stetelman” as everyone does) and I said “yes”. He was very polite. He said, “I was in Kroger yesterday and found a plastic pouch with a bunch of auto papers and found your number on one of them”.  

I had wondered why he had not handed it in to Kroger lost and found but didn’t enquire. I was just thrilled he’d found it.  I’d called Kroger lost and found to no avail. 

I looked out the window as he was telling me how he found it. It was by then pouring down rain and thundering.  I always think of Fleetwood Mac during such times. “Thunder only happens when it’s raining”, and wondered how many days, weeks or months it took them to come up with a line that rhymed with “Players only love you when they’re playin’”, as, in my “wannabe expert musical mind”, I felt certain they’d written the second line first, as it was the basic premise of their true lives, and the weather parallel was only of semi importance to the song…but not important in this story.

I figured the young man to be maybe an adult college student.  Maybe 30 by his mature but youthful phone voice.  Extremely polite, calling me “sir” more than I was used to be called “sir”.  In any case his manners and articulation was well beyond my abilities.  He even said he would bring it by this afternoon. 

I called him about 3:30 pm this afternoon and the rain was still coming down. I told him maybe it would be better to bring it tomorrow, and Lee had agreed if its not too far, we could pick it up today. The rain had slowed a bit.

He asked if it might be okay if he brought it by about 9:30 tomorrow morning and I said “fine” and thanked him again and hung up. I was not planning on going anywhere today anyway, and if I did, Lee is a great driver.

About 10 minutes later he called me back from his home; about 7 miles away off of Airport Road and said, “You know what? I forgot I’ve got to come downtown anyway to fill up my jugs (he wasn’t saying anything risqué. If you live here awhile you know what that means. The city has a free fountain with four taps where anyone can freely fill up as much as they want of the healthiest water in the world; water that has been running underground for 2000 years, has no chemicals, is full of heavy minerals from the crystal rock it runs over, and tastes so good.  You get a lite version of the real water if you ever buy Mountain Valley Water (in the green bottles with the red label). It’s tasty; and Elvis even had it delivered monthly all the way to Memphis as it was the only water he would drink, but it is nothing close to the real thing.  There’s has been sitting awhile. It’s still good, but not fresh out of the ground.  The difference is day and night and people come from miles around with truckloads of jugs to get the fountain water which is on the way to one of our hikes so we have easy access to it and always have jugs by our desk.

Alex, as I found his name to be, said, “I’ll call you when I get to your place”.  The phone rang about an hour later. It was Alex.  He was downstairs and I let him in.

Alex was a tall slim well-dressed African American male no older than 20 but probably closer to 18 or so.  He’d just gotten off work from Oaklawn (the local racetrack). He handed me my little plastic pouch which had every single paper, nothing missing.   I looked in my wallet and had one $20 and handed it to him.  He put his hands up as if he couldn’t accept it but I placed it in his hand and closed it and apologized.

He said, “Why are you sorry”.  I said, “Because $20 is all I have with me, and I’ve not been to the bank. If you have a Paypal account I’ll send you the balance of what you saved me or if not a snail address and I’ll mail it.”

He was still trying to give me the twenty back.  He  finally accepted it, but said, “You don’t owe me anymore, really”, and then thanked me again for being “so kind sir”.

I explained to him that he’d probably saved me double that, and, finally I talked him into his home address so I can send the balance there. 

He was so grateful for the $20 after he finally accepted it.  He said, “I really didn’t expect any kind of reward. It’s just the right thing to do”.  I could tell he had very good upbringing. His manners were not fake. He was warm, friendly and bright.  He was, as I guessed also working his way through school at the local community college.  The $20 meant a lot, but he still didn’t feel comfortable  asking for anything for doing the right thing. 

We chatted a bit more about school, since I don’t care for horse racing, I figured I’d chat about something we both found interesting.  He’s studying computer science and plans to be some sort of engineer.  (I’d forgotten what type), but he certainly knew all the buzz words and was still a freshman.

We finally shook hands, I thanked him again and he drove off.   Lee and I had been watching the news (we often do as we work) and anyone who is even a bit of a news junkie knows how much bad news there is out there.  And a great deal of it is about “today’s kids”, and it’s right; a lot of today’s kids have a lot of issues that perhaps we didn’t, but then again we didn’t have to face a lot of the same things they do today. 

This young man was optimistic, enthusiastic and honest.  He did not fit the mold of what the news has profiled today’s teens to be.  I thought to myself, “Just think of all the suffering I could have avoided through life if I had been as wise as he, at even twice his age.

And it was the best $20 I ever remember investing.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

I am known to be a goofy vegan mountain man.   I like to do creative things; and sometimes succeed, and sometimes not.   I founded LTCartoons.com in 1997 which have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005.  It is also #1 on Bing.   I also create Famous Love Quotes & Famous Wisdom Quote Gifts at several of my online shops such as RickLondonWisdomShop.com. I love hiking, animals, kids, nature, movies, reading, etc etc and Amazon Kindle Fire.  That’s about it.

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 🙂

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.

 

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?”

Click To Enlarge

   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.”

Click To Enlarge

        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.”

Click To Enlarge

      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.

Click To Enlarge

       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.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

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.

2012 Retrospect: I Shouldn’t Be Alive, Ya Know by Rick London

It’s 2012. Whoaa. Who’da thought it?  I hate using other’s lines but to quote Eubie Blake (later often used by Mickey Mantle), “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself”.

Click To Enlarge

The quote is obviously facetious but there’s a little bit of truth even in facetiousness.  I really would have.  But back in the days of my youth, I was quite certain there was no cure from which what I ailed. I longed to live fast and figured I’d probably die young. I got the living fast down right; no doubt about it.  I spent most of my youth and later my adulthood in trying to experience every experience that could ever be experienced, do so as quickly as possible, and then move on to the next.  I kept a great diary.

Click To Enlarge

This paragraph is for the young people who think “this sounds like a great idea”.  It’s not, trust me.  I was blessed and humbled to have intervention by some amazing souls along the way, including my now beloved wife Lee Hiller-London or, if you’re on Twitter, @LeeHillerLondon.  By the time I’d met Lee, however, I’d slowed down quite a bit and was even living in a town smaller than the one in which I was raised, Hot Springs, Ar. which Lee and I call “home”.

To be fair, and I know it sound macho and renegade, but I truly lived through things that perhaps if life were fair,  I shouldn’t have.  A few were, (but not limited to) going through a windshield with no seatbelt…they were not required when I was 17 years old in my 1970 Dodge Superbee which I bought from my favorite auto-dealer “Harry Dole Dodge” in Hattiesburg, Ms that I kept for a total of 3 months before totally totaling it.  Forget my “hippie years” (I know I did, or never remembered them). There were way too many reasons I should not have lived (many of them involved my liver).   Ironically, this many years later, the late Harry Dole’s daughter Sherry is now Lee’s and my favorite animal artist.  She is amazing.

At age 28, I figured, I should up and move to Miami because I’d gone to USM with a friend who had moved there.  We were roomies for 2 months before we both “needed our space” and I rented a room in a strange little old lady’s home who claimed (over and over again) that she was once a flapper at Radio City Music Hall in NYC.   Though it’s cruel, to be fair, she more closely resembled Flipper (but meaner…much meaner).  Oh, and I didn’t have a job, but just knew I would be a great journalist; and, I drove in on the night of the Overtown riots, only to hear (and nearly be hit by gunfire and such).  But I was Superman…or so I thought.  I did manage to land a job at Miami’s Community Newspapers but that’s a whole other story altogether.

Click To Enlarge

Fast forward a few years and I was in NYC doing standup comedy in nightclubs in Manhattan, NJ, The Bronx, Brooklyn and you name it.  I did a PR internship during the day, or on other days worked in a health food store, and often bartended and/or drove a cab. I think I slept an hour or two a night.  I lived through that.

Click To Enlarge

Did a stint in Washington, D.C. because I was well aware that “I must be a journalist” by now and though I landed a few cushy jobs, I never did much with them and opened my own bus tour company.  I sold it and went to L.A. to learn screenwriting because that was just part of “living fast” and I felt I’d not lived fast enough. I learned how to write movies and wrote a few but nothing got very far past development; not even “Elvis And Godzilla” (I’m not kidding, a giant Elvis calmed the giant beast with songs like “Return To Sender” and “Heartbreak Hotel”.)  I’m sure I got plenty of laughs by Hollywood directors and producers (but not for the right reasons). Then came the giant Northridge Earthquake which swallowed my entire home. Only because my barking golden retriever pup “Otis” barked loudly five minutes before it hit, did I escape obvious doom. Thank you G-d (and Otis) once again.

Fast forward 5 years and I’ve suffered a major heart attack, then appendicitis, then another major heart attack (which was rougher) and kidney surgery, and here I am.  It took what it took.  I laughingly told Lee who has also experienced some scary times (some of them health related), that I really didn’t know I was going to live this long or I would have planned.  So now I’m planning.

What does that mean?  Again, this is (hopefully for the younger persons out there). Education is important; no its “the key”.  Fast crowds seem glamorous but if you inspect “fastness” with a microscope, you won’t find a happy soul…really. Lots of smiles and laughter, but just surface; lost in a masquerade.

Click To Enlarge

Eat better.  Lee and I are eating vegan now.  Again if I had known then what I know now, I would have started that a long time ago.  Drugs, alcohol, etc also can seem glamorous as can the crowds involved.  That s the big illusion.  They seem so. I promise, they are not.

We clean and decorate our home.  Our walls are full of Lee’s amazing nature/wildlife photography scattered with a few of my silly cartoons.  We budget for another plant or two every month and we put up about 2 cartoons and two of Lee’s photos per month.  Every time I look up, I enjoy where we live.  We get to see what we do, and we have nature inside living with us when we are not outside playing in it.

I would have immersed myself in more nature (as Lee and I do now) with hikes that we enjoy. We don’t speed through them. We’re often passed by joggers who “just want to get it out of the way”.  I used to own all the best jogging shoes made and ran two marathons. That was all part of “living fast”. Jogging is healthy, I believe, but like anything one can overdo it, and even ignore responsibilities.

I know what you’re thinking.  Rick is trying to “be perfect” or “better than”.  Am sure it seems that way but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s too late for that.

Click To Enlarge

 

I am listening to my inner voice.  It tells me what really makes me happy. Not someone else’s fleeting opinion.   Someone else’s agenda of what I should do or be is truly their issue and none of my business.  I  love what I do today and there’s not a lot of “glamour” in it, but a lot of fun.  And life should be fun.  Not always fun.  But if one finds oneself in a situation where it is not fun at least some of the time, as an adult, it is our responsibility to find what “that fun is”. It might be numerous things. It might be one or two things.  As long as it is not harmful to oneself (or others), most likely it is a nice contribution to society, and really, for what more could one ask out of life?

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

I’ve been described as “A goofy vegan mountain man who means no harm”.  I’ve actually been called worse, but will leave it at that.  I founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons in 1997 which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005 and Bing #1 ranked since 2008.  I like to design things as well and have several lines “Rick London Designs” and “Rick London Funny Gifts” which can be found at Zazzle & Printfection &  Google Shopping and available @Amazon and @Sears. My best friend and wife is Lee HillerLondon.  Please follow us on Twitter.  She’s @LeeHillerLondon & I’m @RickLondon.  We both enjoy social media.

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”.

Click To Enlarge

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.

Click To Enlarge

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.

Click To Enlarge

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.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

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.