Living Well – Fine Revenge This Valentines By Rick London

Today is Valentine’s Day.

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For many years that day didn’t mean a lot to me, whether I was in a relationship or not.

That may sound like a “call for pity” yet it is just the opposite.  I know now how blessed and lucky I am, not just to have my wife Lee in my life, but both of us understanding with what we deal; autism as well as building our lives together.

Some think I talk about autism too much, and that’s too bad and their issue. Autism is very much who I am, why I do what I do, and how I do it.

For numerous years professionals wondered how I “lived through what I lived through”, and there are times when I did too, yet they never told me what it was in which they were amazed about.

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More than one psychiatrist I told I was hidden away in an attic at age five which lasted my entire youth up until age seventeen and then thrown to the wolves.   I am sure most of them knew what that meant, but maybe most of them felt it was best to tell me I had been severely abused, simply by the act of “residential segregation” and the very different rule structure set for me as compared to my siblings.

They also felt it best that my siblings were quite abusive as well, for the most part of their own survival.  That part I understood and even forgave. One extremely well-versed very well educated therapist told me, “If they’d had a backbone, if they’d had an ounce of good in them, they would have turned off the “hate Rick campaign” and done the right thing, as adults after your parents died, but they were too ambitious to “have their name in lights”.  I could easily see them given that I’d had my name in lights several times (and it was highly overrated). I’d never scapegoat a sibling to do so, nor did I ever.

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So given the abandonment (and even abuse) combined with the autism, it is beyond comprehensible to most that I survived. I did have the wherewithal to continue seeing professionals in an extreme effort to find out what had happened to me.  Remember, I didn’t know I had autism, nor that I’d been severely abused until I was 61. I was programmed not only to fail but to die young.

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And that’s probably why I decided I was not going to die young. In spite of two major heart attacks 3 surgeries and stents, I was determined to discover what had happened and who did what.

Then came Lee.  She loved me and loves me unconditionally.  She helped me in my quest, so that I might not dismiss abuse when it came my way.

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Remember, I never even knew I was “at war with my siblings” (I just felt they didn’t care for me) until age 61.  At age 60 I decided to write one of them to let them know of my autism diagnosis. Also of my vanus diagnosis; an extremely painful form of flat feet, also congenital.  As always, I was dismissed by one sibling by email with a line that read “My spouse’s niece had a bit of autism but is fine now. What will you do for symptoms”. (In other words people live with autism all the time.  Get used to it).

Truth be told, most autistic children do not get hidden away in an attic, scapegoated by their entire family, and never diagnosed.  The difference is apples and oranges (than simply “being autistic”.  I survived a pre-meditated war against me, one I never knew I was in, only to find the real truth, and that the perpetrators of that war were rancid cowards, bigots and haters,  and still are.  Now they will coddle their autistic niece to show “their goodness”.   Educated people expect that and are not impressed…in the least.

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I lost it. I was livid.  Symptoms?  Autism does not have symptoms. Autism is who someone is. It is not something to cure. It is something with which to have compassion because the tools to teach autism are just now coming into fruition.

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I told the sibling a thing or two about symptoms (the only true symptoms of such a condition are hate, prejudice and fear) projected by ignorant people, and I made certain this sibling knew what that meant. I never heard from that sibling again and if I’m fortunate I never will.  I know it sounds erudite but these siblings do not deserve to be a part of my life.

I am not perfect, in fact far from it.  But the torture of another person, especially a child who later becomes an adult, to me falls in the category of serial killers and such.  Before you say, “how crude”, so do a majority of the members of the autism groups which have at least 3.2 million diagnosed members not to mention even more than that that are un-diagnosed.

This feeling is real, and the experience/torture is very much of a similar sociopath nature. Those people need help and need it today.  They will within a few years, most likely, find themselves way on the fringe, at least that is what is being reported by knowledgeable scholars acting within the mainstream autism communities. I believe it wholeheartedly.

And I don’t regret writing that. I do not want that kind of “person” in my life, ever.  And though I know they cannot help that they are that sick, they do have the responsibility to get professional help.  After all, I did, and I was not even the one who needed it most. In fact, I am quite at peace with myself most times, knowing that I finally know what really happened to me, and not the “family press release”.

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Yes, I still get the occasional PTSD that I used to get often.  But PTSD is not a character flaw or weakness. It is a healthy response to something very bad that someone experienced or saw.  I can remember having it since age 5 (the year my first attic isolation tank) aka bedroom was built).  Why would a five year old have PTSD?  Child abuse is the reason about 99% of the time. I was part of that 99%.  I survived it and am very proud of that.  Not all do. And that is why I write these blogs.  I don’t believe any of my family will change.  They have too much invested in “the lie”.  But I know others might read it and see hope. I know NPD parents might read it and seek help.  If just one reads it and seeks help, it’s a success.  Torture is torture and if it prevents just one, it proved to be a good thing.

I merely ask you to imagine a 5 year old child alone, isolated in an attic, for 12 years. The first 4 years crying every night to no response (they couldn’t hear me in such a large home and made sure of that).  This causes all sorts of psychological problems, the worst of all chronic insomnia (which is not even allowed in the most brutal wars by the Geneva Convention). Neither is that sort of isolation.  Some parents truly need not be parents.  They are forgiven (by me).  They are also forgotten (by me).   I survived that and I am tougher than I thought.  They are more cowardly than I ever knew.  Sadly, they knew what they were doing.

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The rest of my life went downhill from there.  Until age 58.  That’s when God presented my wife, and there was a definite curve upward.  Beautiful things began to happen.

I realized rather rapidly I was the lucky one by not scapegoating anyone. I was the lucky one for “taking the fall”. I was the lucky one for letting them cast aspersions and tell lies etc.

I  look at my life and I look at theirs.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else.    God made certain I would not only enjoy but cherish my 61 year old Valentine’s Day.  We have wonderful friends, most married who share the same affection for their spouses.

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I now am learning how to navigate life with autism. I realize I read and saw and thought everything differently. I also know that was not my fault.  I was not diagnosed purposely for nefarious reasons. Now I am diagnosed for decent reasons and have a beautiful chance to enjoy my life.  Lee and I will only associate with good people who support our relationship.  If you are one of those who find you are not, do not try to be a trickster.  We’ve seen it all, and we fight back. We will defend our love no matter what.

If you and I have been friends in the past, in real life, but you are frightened to express it due to NPDs and their “flying monkeys”, might I suggest those days are over, and they turned out to be wrong.  Very wrong.

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And if you don’t believe me try contacting one of the major Autism associations.   Most of them know me now, know the dynamics happening, and are not happy with it at all.  It’s very nice to have that support.

They will assure you that abuse and prejudice against autistics will be a dark part of American History. Please, consider siding on the right side of history.  Not the side in which someone might throw you a few nickels or “property one day”, or if you’re really lucky “be a part of their popularity circle”.  Just remember how they obtained that popularity.  With torture.   I will not tell you not to be a part of that.  We all have to answer to our God.  You know best.

You might look at my life and think it was quite unfair.  The real facts is that I was dealt a very bad hand of cards (by humans).  When I let God take over, things changed.  Suddenly my offbeat cartoon of which I’d worked on for 8 years was the Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoon and a few years later my designer offbeat gifts also became #1 ranked.  They have maintained that ranking through hard work all the way up until now (2016).  That is 11 years.  I am proud, very proud, but I clearly understand now it is from a Hand Above and from the loving Support of my Wife Lee.  I couldn’t have dreamed of this.

That may not seem like much, but given there are 100,000+ offbeat cartoons and gifts on the net on any given day (am told), I feel pretty good about that.  Had I been treated fairly, that would have never happened.  So I do have the culprits to thank, and thank them forever and ever.  Nobody has been as good to me (but surely not on purpose), and of course my Angel wife Lee who willfully has been good to me, and has showed me the world in a whole different manner.  I will always push to look at it correctly, and not as a “mean ol’ place”.  It’s not a bad place at all, and most the people in our circles are very very decent.

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Scapegoating toddlers who become children who become adults, with a pre-planned “program” to make them the bad guy and then “buy their friends” is not even considered humane in the very worse cultures and societies.

Sadly, it is done quite often in these United States, and most children/later adults never knew what hit them.  My parents never figured I would have the photographic/date/time memory that gave them away the first time they committed such a crime.  They were busted. They just didn’t know it.  It took me this long to figure out just what the abuse was.

It was so subtle, so professional, so well done in privacy with me; not when other siblings or friends were around, you would have thought it was an Alfred Hitchcock film.  But most Hitchcock films offer a bit of grace and negotiation. Mine offered neither.  I believe with the help of God and amazing friends, I lived long enough to figure it out, and have enough life in me to help others who find themselves in similar situations.

I am able to vocalize to them they are not alone. I am able to shout to them to hook up immediately with autism legal programs, autism support groups, and the like.  They can then safely tell their story and if someone interferes, it can easily become a civil rights matter and that interfering person may just find themselves on the wrong side of history, not where they want to be.

Scapegoating humans and torturing them is horrendous. Doesn’t work nor should it.  It’s hate. It’s prejudice and it’s fear.  It’s masochistic and brutal.  To support it is as cowardly as the act itself.  That’s not you I hope, and pray.

Love is truly the answer

The Beatles were right. Money can’t buy that.  It can’t even buy “like”.

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, gift designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for his Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts “Londons Times” LTCartoons.com.  He is married to popular nature photographer and gift designer Lee Hiller-London who owns nature blog Hike Our Planet and brand store LeeHillerDesigns.com.

3+ Years With The World’s Best Wife & Living In Paradise by Rick London

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I get asked every now and again how I met my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London. I know it sounds “iffy” but we met on Twitter about four years ago and have been married for three years.   We worked together on a project designed to get a Presidential Medal Of Freedom to Dame Elizabeth Taylor. It’s a long story.  Though we didn’t succeed, we created a lot of buzz on Twitter and the White House even called me to “Stop The Campaign”.  That’s an “LOL”.  They were mad.

One of the White House PR outreach interns had given me an important private mailbox that filled up rather rapidly and was overflowing.  I cooperated and stopped the campaign.  We did manage to get the story worldwide with a Reuter’s Wire hit which was fun.    Don’t even ask how it happened.  Neither of us are celebrities (to my knowledge).  But it was fun and we learned a lot rubbing elbows with several.

Lee, a former Power seller of EBay, had finally closed her store when EBay came under new management and the huge crowds that used to be there to buy vintage goods (which was her specialty) had virtually dried up.  EBay Motors and expensive electronics seemed to be all that was left selling there.

The town is made up of probably 60%+ of tourists who fell in love with it and moved here.  I was one of those, as was Lee.  It is easy and fun to call home now. We live right on the edge of the 2nd oldest National Park in America and hike and commune with nature often.  We’ve seen every kind of animal and wildflower imaginable.

Lee had a lot of talent and willingness to learn.  I had returned to school and studied Business Information Management at Western Governors University as a nontraditional adult student about fifty years old.  I think BIM amounts to learning how to navigate the Internet, SEO, social media, pinging, etc.  I am still not sure what all I learned, but I seemed to learn it well.  Digital design was one of the many things.

Lee had been an expert seamstress growing up, so her ability to learn digital design watching me came naturally and she got much better than me at it and had thousands of items in the marketplace within a few months.  I was very proud.  Her items were selling well.  We were designers for household names (Hollywood celebrities) and for our own lines.  We loved, and still love working together, and share the same living room office overlooking Hot Springs Mountain.

June 18th is our anniversary. We’ve now been married a little over three years and I love Lee now more than I did in our courting days.  We’ve learned a lot of things.  We both work in the arts and letters so contrary to what traditional society used to say, the liberal arts was a very good choice of majors.  We work in the same living room office. Sometimes hours go by where we barely say a word but we can “feel each other there”. 

And we have our own little private code symbols to remind the other we’re still here.  To the average couple in which the intense concentration of design is not part of their lives, they might think, “What’s wrong with them?”  And the answer is, “They are supporting each other in their work.  When they’re finished they  will talk…..or hike….or do tai chi, or go to a gallery or museum, or a combination of more than one of those.

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One thing we like to do is communicate to each other on social media.  We once used facebook often but we found it was eroding our motivation to do business so we’ve cut it back to weekends and a lot more work gets done.  This decision was made for summers (since our businesses are so seasonable) and it gives us a chance to design more items; otherwise, though we love our old friends and new ones we’ve met on facebook, if we had our druthers, we’d spend all the time with them.  But we work for ourselves and are our toughest bosses, hence we sometimes make major decisions.

On the other hand we can keep our Tweetdeck open for Twitter. Since 90% of what we do on Twitter is automated and pre-scheduled, we don’t have to spend a lot of time on it.  The only time we do is if a message comes to us that needs answering and one of our associates is not able to answer it.  This may seem mercenary, odd and unfriendly, but actually it is the opposite.  Our friends and followers of our brands have come to expect quality, and for us to provide quality (since we design our own), it takes time, concentration, and the ability to push it through to the marketplace.

There are several schools of thought regarding social media.  When Lee and I started Twitter we did personally interact with a lot more than we do now.   We enjoyed it and still do enjoy it the occasional times we do it.  Lee has a great deal of followers who enjoy discussing nature with her. 

A lot of our business overlaps.  We both do digital designing.  We both work with a lot of the same manufacturers.  When we have an issue or a problem, we know we can talk to each other about it and try to remedy it.  And often it is remedied in a timely fashion as we both understand the issue.

I realize not every couple has this luxury (of working together, living together, loving each other and creating together.   So if a couple asks advice on how we do what we do, I honestly wouldn’t have an answer.  But I do have a theory based on what we’ve done and built.  Try to find things that you have in common with your significant other.  When ground rules are made, make sure to follow them.  Don’t make them for one and not the other. 

Make plans to do things together that you enjoy.  A couple does not have to spend a fortune to love each other; in fact the opposite.  Both of us have performed plastic surgery on our credit cards and pay as we go with cash or debit cards.  We barter when need be.  I’ve bartered my first 8 years (bartered 99% of the time) of my cartoon business.  Lee is at a point, and the economy is ripe for more businesses open to barter and she’s learned it fast.  I still barter when I can, but nothing like what I did to keep my cartoons alive in the early stage of the project.  Barter sustained me when I first started. I had no money.   There are still products and services that are not within my budget that, though I can do without and often do, more often than not, I can barter; and it is always a win-win.

Lee and I hike together, photograph wildlife and photography together (she’s teaching me how), and do as much as we can of things in which we both have an interest.   And that doesn’t mean going out every weekend.

We both love oldies music and discovered Herman’s Hermits, The Grass Roots & The Buckinghams will be playing at Oaklawn Theater next month and we definitely plan to go.    That doesn’t sound like a big deal but to us it is.  And it’s just another fun memory we’ll be able to discuss for years.

Create memories.  Good ones.  Life itself can create the bad ones for you but don’t take them seriously.  Health, economy, etc. etc. all create memories (not necessarily good ones) that are not very much within our control.  The trick is to not take those too seriously, but take them seriously enough to take care of them, and go out of one’s way to create the positive ones.

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Speaking of health, when Lee moved to Arkansas, she was way out of shape and had some extra pounds on her.  She does not mind me telling that, especially that now she has (not dieted) but changed her lifestyle to vegan and is hiking often.  All her old clothes are at the Salvation Army because her new ones are size small to medium and her waste is a 25.  All that happened within 3 years.   Her skin is smooth and young and she wears very little makeup when she wears any at all.

It’s also contagious; no not the cosmetics behavior (I never wear lipstick for instance) J  but the motivation to regain one’s health, shed pounds and clear the arteries.  Both of us have been on the vegan diet (Lee for 3 years and I have for 2 years) and more and more of it is raw food, and nearly always organic. 

Again, I’m not suggesting an individual clones the other.  Lee has plenty of things that she does on her own of which are “within her domain” and don’t interest me, and vice versa, and that’s healthy.

My point, and theory is, so many couples we know focus on their differences, and of course there are and will be differences.  We have decided to focus, not on our differences, (there are plenty), but on our “same-nesses” and how grateful we are to have the life we have.   And that makes our relationship and lives a success, not how much money we make (some months we make plenty and others we’re like dorm students), not how many friends we have (we have friends all over the world, but the friends we see the most often have wings or four legs), etc. 

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And life remains very good. I love you Baby.  

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and designer.  He founded the #1 offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times in 1997.  It’s been top ranked by Google since 2005 and Bing since 2008. His wife Lee is a popular nature photographer and runs the popular nature blog Hike Our Planet.  She also designs gifts and collectibles from her photography and art and showcases them at her various home decor  and clothing shops such as Lee Hiller Designs.  Both are avid outdoorspersons and stewards for Hot Springs National Park which they hike and take care of weekly. 

 

 

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