Gay Does Not Need To Be Cured. Autism Does Not Need To Be Cured. Haters Need To Be Cured

Excerpt from my upcoming book (also being co-written by several psychologists) and some laymen who don’t know they are writing the ending of my book.  They are.

What Happened To Me – No Longer A Mystery

It would be the epitome of hypocrisy for me to be for equal rights for those with disabilities (with which we who have them are often born with them) but not be supportive of the  gay community (when it’s been proven again and again, gay is how they are born).  There is no fixing autism. There is no fixing gay.  Fixing hate is virtually impossible, but has been done and is done every now and again. Sadly, more often than not, hate remains hate, and the hater waves it like a sacred banner.

Though I am straight, and married to a woman who I love, I also am autistic/w Asperger’s and was not diagnosed until age 60. My parents decided not to have me tested but hid me away in an attic bedroom instead. They (my parents) and my siblings resided far on the other side of the house, in downstairs bedrooms. The “isolation process of Rick had begun” at age 6 at 109 Mandalay Drive. The year was 1960. I was six years old.

I could not hear them talk, laugh, or cry. I could not hear them interact. When my brother was born, I couldn’t hear him cry.  I was basically alone from age 6 to age 17 unless friends visited. My parents banned most my friends “for their bad behaviors”, however, so it was “alone again, naturally”.

Isolating the “scapegoat child” in a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) family is one of the most common fingerprints of such a family; and there is no better way to do so than to make certain the scapegoat child resides in a bedroom (preferably in a large home) as far away from the other siblings as possible).  My parents had that part down to an art.

They told me (when I cried which was often), it was “a special room” because I was such a “special child”.  That did not stop the crying. Any 6 year old would be frightened out of his/her mind alone in an attic while the other siblings had rooms across and next to the parents (in what might as well have been another home….it was that far away from my “attic hideaway”.

Why was I chosen as the scapegoat child when I could have been “the golden child” or another archetype?  Often it is “a luck of the draw”.  There is little doubt, now that we know of my autism (people don’t ‘catch’ autism, they are born with it), it is because I “acted different”.  Decent humane parents immediately get help for a child who “acts different”.  NPD afflicted parents do all they can to punish and isolate the child from themselves (the parents) and other siblings.  I’m certain my autism forced me to have odd movements, speech impediments, excessive eyeblinking, clumsiness,  etc.  That type child to an NPD parent would be the easiest to “be the troublemaker” or “scapegoat” and “programming” would not be as difficult.

This is not the kind of thing anyone wants to write of their parents.  Like all adults, we want to have fond memories of our parents as so many our friends do.  We want to brag on the amazing, wonderful things they did for us.  So this is not going to be a “fun read” nor is it going to be fun to write.  It is going to be pertinently necessary to write and I suggest if there is even a hint of the scent of narcissistic/manipulative behavior in your home, to seek professional assistance).  Do not confront the instigators. Find a way to tell a friend, school counselor, psychologist, or even the police.  Just make sure you get help. Otherwise, It only gets worse. Way worse.

My recent diagnosis of autism/Asperger’s was  truly not a big surprise; but a bit of a painful one; a lot to digest/absorb at this point in my life.  So was learning of having NDP disorder parents.

I also was born with vanus (a horrific form of flat feet which is very painful). That too, was “overlooked”.  My wife saw it within 2 years. I stood and walked a bit like a duck with inward pointed feet. When asked I told her I’d always stood and walked that way.  She was beside herself that nobody had diagnosed it before now (at age 60).

I had it diagnosed and sure enough, it was a classic case. People don’t catch vanus. One can only be born with it.  Again, my parents decided best not to have it tested. No need.  Crippling a child is fine.  By the way I later became a long distance runner (finished two marathons). My parents knew I was running them (and training 100s of miles for them) and said nothing.  My father was born with flat feet.  He was of draft age during WW2, but at that time flat feet kept one from military duty.

Vanus does not get a lot of sympathy.  Of all the pain I’ve experienced, and I’ve experienced a great deal including two major heart attacks (3 surgeries for them), appendicitis and subsequent surgery, serious sleep apnea and a new type of surgery that was the most painful post-surgery (including that of heart attacks) I’ve ever experienced, and several other horrendous experiences.  Of all that pain, nothing even holds a candle to vanus when it is untreated. The pain was often so horrific, it was beyond child abuse.  I  did not “understand pain” that is not visible (such as a scar, a cut, or something that showed blood), as I was too young to describe that type of pain that came and went, was sharp, then dull (all depending on how I was standing or walking). My doctors and specialists today are, just like with my autism, absolutely stunned no parent or guardian cared enough to have me tested for either. It boggles their/and my mind.  But it is truly the story of my life. It is very easily proven (one cannot “catch” vanus or autism, they are only born with it); end of story. No need for debate. Two of the state’s top experts made the assessments and diagnosis.

In my 60 years with it, it never occurred to me that I had it until Lee asked me why I walked and stood up funny. I didn’t have a clue.  We were at a limb and brace company, getting an elastic brace for my arm (tendonitis..also quite painful), and she saw the foot chart on the wall, pointed it out, showed the worker, who said, “Yes, surely looks like it.  See your doctor”.  That’s just what I did, who referred me to a specialist who xrayed it, and guess what?

Vanus and a very bad case at that.  Orthordic inserts almost immediately started the healing process, and I could even hike again. Though somewhat painful on some days, I can feel the orthodics grabbing all my joints, bones, etc and pulling them back into shape. Some days walking and standing feels “almost normal”.   It is amazing (and sad) to think my parents didn’t know or care enough to even have them checked knowing it was/is congenital and my father was born with it and had it all his life.  Again, fixing that did not play into the scapegoat child model.

Had they not worked, it would have put me in a terrible catch-22 in that my cardiologist demands that I get some exercise, and given that I like to hike with Lee and nature seems to have its own healing properties, I would have had to give up my favorite avocation.  Lee’s even teaching me photography (and she’s really the master of nature/wildlife photography).  Hiking and photography has added a whole new dimension to my life.  Of course I love writing cartoons so take my “genius pad and pen” with me (as my 1st writing teacher used to call them), and often find ideas just coming to me from the universe without my even trying to force them.  Something magic happens out there.

The pain aftershock was beyond belief. After 15 years of loving running, doctors suggested I stop running.  They didn’t have to make me stop, I knew how much damage I had done. The local doctor said my feet were nothing more than a “bag of bones” that I was dragging around when I hiked or walked.  Fortunately orthodic inserts have begun the healing process 60 years later.  Again a big applause for negligence NPD parents.  When I tell you they do not want their scapegoat to be healthy and strong, it is not sour grapes.  It is the tell-tale sign of NPD disorder parents, a type of sociopathic behavior that is very difficult to treat.   That is not “me talking”. That is from all the psychological textbooks in the study of psychology and psychiatry.

So I continued with life the best I knew how.  No advice, no mentoring, just instincts.

Regarding the autism/Asperger’s,   My wife Lee first noticed some of the “little rituals” such as “eye blinking”, “hand flapping”, etc.  Though not always as noticeable as Michael J. Fox, but sometimes even more so, it came as a surprise to me. At first it confused Lee. Now we both laugh about it, given that we know what it is.  I have scraped a large “artistic mural” with my fingernail by our bedside.  This at first bothered her.  Now she looks at it as a “work of art”. It is one of the many “little rituals” that my body does that it “simply does”.  I cannot help it. It is a part of my autism. Back to the attic bedroom……

Many will say, “Well they didn’t know much about autism then”, and they would be correct. However, my parents were no dummies and they knew by the time I was age 6  something was very wrong, enough to keep me as hidden (and isolated from my other siblings) as possible.

If I could have been born without such a condition, I gladly would have.  Does it hurt?  Not in the least; that is, unless you want to talk about the bigots, the ignorant and the haters who run from me or project their evil behavior or whatever it is that floats their boat…makes them feel mighty and powerful.

In addition, I was struggling with being the scapegoat child in an NPD family.  The last thing people with NPD disorder should ever have is children, (unless they have years of intense psychotherapy first). My parents had three (children).

Generally NPDs are infallible, and they do something called “triangulation” with their children, that is, talk/gossip about the other children to one, and then go to the others and gossip and make up stories about the first one.  They create a scapegoat child, often a lost child and a golden child, in cases of 3 children (such as my family).  Sometimes the roles overlap. But the children have no choice to play the NPD parent’s nefarious game, or run away.

It’s hard to run away when you are five or even ten (especially when you have autism or Aspergers).  The NPD model can be created with more (or less children) but three seems to be ideal.  At least it was for my parents.

Of course the scapegoat child can “do no right”, the “golden child” can do no wrong” and the lost child is often a bit confused and often leaves never or rarely to return to his/her hometown. Sometimes the roles overlap depending on the situation, but in the long run they remain the same.

There is much more to NPD Disorder but, not being a psychologist, I can only purvey my experience as a victim of it (as the scapegoat child).  There are countless articles on google.  Perhaps one of the easiest to understand is one I found in “Psychology Today”.

Keep in mind, just because the scapegoat in an NPD unit sees “more trouble” than the others, does not mean the others walked away “unbruised”, anything but.  Remember, they too were manipulated to meet their/our parents needs and played their roles well.  Hopefully, they too, got the therapy they need and deserve. They were used, dupes if you will, and thought they were “in on some big secret”, or “in some inner circle”.  They were not. It’s a very sad way to live and is usually repeated the next generation, and the next, and next until hopefully a conscience whistle-blower says “STOP THE INSANITY”. and get massive network (and if need be governmental support) if harassed. And that is exactly what I did.

Nobody needs to go through life only knowing the manipulations of NPD parents.  Love is nothing like NPD manipulation.  And love is worthwhile and my prayer is that everyone gets to experience it.

Please don’t get me wrong. I made plenty of errors and was far from the “perfect child”.  But the more one studies, the more one realizes most of my behavior was simply “acting out” what narcissistic parents were programming me to do, so they could be “victims” of this terrible child. And of course the community “bought it” (perfect parents/demon child).  Who is going to believe a 6 year old autistic crying child hidden away in an attic vs his already established 30 year old parents, icons of the community?  The difference between me, and the now living next generation of narcissists (and their minions/flying monkeys who spread the gossip and lies about Rick) is that I KNOW I was not perfect.  Until this day, they are not sure who/what they are; and sadly, why they do what they do. They don’t have a clue that their anger is not directed at me, but at the very people who really abused them.  It’s insidious. It’s sad, but it happens all the time and some of the brightest people fall for it, or sell their souls for it (for a condo, or a family business) or you name the item.

Do you have “flying monkeys” in your life?  They can be around long after your narcissistic parent(s) are deceased.  They keep the rumors/lies alive about you.  And they never stop unless they find out it can truly damage their lives.  The very destructive ones continue nevetheless until the law makes them stop (or puts them away).

Though I hear often of the “flying monkeys” in my hometown from third parties (most related to me or married to ones related to me), the last one who really tried to do some damage in my local hometown was/is an 80 something year old cousin living in Houston, Tx. He’d contacted some local businessmen whom I know and made up some odd lies and wouldn’t leave them alone. He was determined to “put me on the street” or whatever insanity was in his mind. I immediately contacted the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) and the “flying monkey” was suddenly silent. I do not know if they silenced him or if my local businessmen friends asked him to leave them alone and if he had a fight, to take it up with me.

What they didn’t know is that all “flying monkeys” are cowards, very much so, and are not likely to do so. Especially knowing what the scapegoat has experienced.  The scapegoat is much, much stronger than the lost child or golden child and can withstand situations the others could never imagine.  Plus now this scapegoat knows just where to go if it ever happens again.  The game of pin-the-tail on the scapegoat is long over, and if someone tries to play it again, they get to see this time what the consequences is, and to be fair, I don’t think they could endure it.  Seriously, I don’t. And of course I wouldn’t want them to endure it. After all, they’ve been injured as well (and don’t know it) but it would then be out of my hands; hence I’m in great hopes they know to do the right thing. Time will tell.

Conveniently missing from our “family history” is the fact that our home at 104 Mandalay burned nearly to the ground after the landscaper left the cap off his lawn mower and put it next to the hot water heater in the storage shed.  My parents were at a cocktail party and the maid/babysitter had locked herself out after smelling smoke and ringing the doorbell. The reason I remembered it was on a Thursday night about 7:40pm CST is that I was watching my favorite show “The Munsters”. Herman Munster was playing the piano so badly it caught on fire.  Meantime smoke was coming from my closet door in the attic. I remember thinking “How cool. 3d TV” or something similarly.

Then I realized this was a real fire. My older sister was in the bathroom taking a bath. I pounded on the door to alert her of the fire. She thought I was joking as I tended to be a practical joker (to cope) but I was not. She finally believed me after I knocked nonstop for about 10 minutes. I was not sure what to do, as I didn’t know, at first it was the maid (who had locked herself out investigating what turned out to be a fire in the storage shed…by now quickly spreading across the entire home).

I made sure my sister understood I was being sincere and exited the house.  My younger (5 year old) brother sat paralyzed in fear on the couch in the den. I grabbed him by the arm as smoke billowed throughout the house and next door to the Ward’s house (Frostop).  Fortunately Dick Ward (we called him Dick then, he is Richard Ward now) was there to make sure Andy was safe.  Fortunately he is still alive and can verify my fire story.  So can the Hattiesburg Fire & Police Departments as I think they keep things like that on record. I also stayed in the house and called the fire department until I was sure my siblings were safe.

So, though never really given credit, we have Richard Ward (after I was able to get Andy out of the burning home and to the Ward’s home) to keep him there and safe, and from wandering back into our burning home.  He stayed safe at the Ward’s until my parent’s returned.  Rather late, but thank you Richard.  I never (until this day) received a “thank you” from either of my siblings.  They simply returned to their roles of “flying monkeys” where they have remained stagnant all these years.  They have recruited many others; some (it has made the physically ill) and have revealed to me some of the insane lies, but at least they started me on my venture to find out exactly what was happening and why.

And though something like NPD disorder in parents cannot be explained with logic, it does show that even the most “reliable familiar” icons of any community can be very ill when out of the limelight.  Beyond ill.  Ill enough to make Joan Crawford look good.   This kind of behavior goes way beyond child abuse.  It is lifetime abuse. It is the undermining of every single project they were able to undermine. It is sick beyond sick.  And sadly, it is much more commonplace than on my block. That is why I am writing this. Not for revenge.  A blog is hardly revenge.  It is to help others recognize it and escape it if they find themselves in it, or even find themselves duped as a flying monkey.  It’s never too late to escape those roles, and it is so necessary for anyone’s sanity.

The 104 Mandalay house fire was a tragedy and we lost just about everything.

This incident was talked about often after it happened for several months and suddenly stopped as if it never happened. I thought that was just the way things happened at the time. Now I know my parents were scurrying for ways to put “Rick’s role back from hero/golden to scapegoat” and, at only age 11 or so, I was more than willing to play along. After all, didn’t all parents love their children unconditionally, or at least conditionally?   Not necessarily.

A strange thing happened though.  Keep in mind I was only age about 11 years old,  I hadn’t a clue I had autism then, nor that I was in a dysfunctional home.  All of a sudden my “role” went from “scapegoat child” to “hero child”.  For nearly a week, I could do no wrong.  It felt very strange, and frankly I didn’t like the role or all the positive attention.  I didn’t realize why, but I was only used to negative attention (even when I was doing positive things).

But this positive thing was on city and county record so my parents must have been beside themselves. No berating or criticizing Rick (though the majority of that was done covertly anyway except for the family-gossip-broadcasts). They knew they must at least make a public showing of how great I was for saving my sibling’s lives (which is what they kept telling me I did). They couldn’t stop “holding meetings with me and telling me how proud they were of me”, so often that it didn’t feel real. Of course now I know it wasn’t real in the least. It messed up their whole model of “scapegoat/demon child” who was making “their lives impossible”.

But it didn’t last long.  The criticism and berating came back as fast as they left.  It at least felt comfortable again, as it was familiar.

Since perfection/ambiance is so important in an NPD family, it was decided that I did not have autism (or whatever they thought it was).  They decided not to have it tested (or me tested for any such disorders, though certainly they knew something was amiss, hence the isolation in the attic),  and instead began their “isolation process”.

I am not showing a photo of our first home as it had no attic and I don’t remember it well.  It is where Bob Wilson later lived and also AAA Ambulance Service was on S. 28th Ave. behind the Highway Patrol.  All I remember from there is hanging upside down in the back yard on mimosa tree limbs and playing with insects. I lived there from age 3 days to 5.5 years old.

Then my maternal grandfather, Marcus London, developed the first subdivision west of the Forrest General Hospital, “Hillendale” in 1960.

We lived in two homes from the time I was 5 to age 17, one was at 109 Mandalay Dr. (1960-1963) and the other at 104 Mandalay Dr.  (1963-1971). At age 17, my parents divorced and instead of living with either of them, my father purchased a trailer and rented it to me while still a senior in high school. In other words I was abandoned/orphaned physicallyat age 17, though of course technically, emotionally, I was abandoned the day I was born. I was often told I was an ugly baby; that I looked like “Andy Gump”. I didn’t know who Andy Gump was, but later discovered he was a character actor who played “the ugly guy in movies”.  They all laughed upon saying it. I didn’t get why that was funny. Now I know it was all part of the abuse.

mandalay 109small

Above is our 2nd home, but our first home in Hillendale.  The address was 109 Mandalay Dr was our home from 1960-1963. If you look in the center of the home on the roof, you will see a gable. That gable has no windows and it is the back side of my attic bedroom. My windows only opened via “slits” and a turn nob. Nobody could see me.  It faced high hedges in the back yards.  Even residents in the homes behind us couldn’t see me (usually crying) in the attic bedroom due to the high hedges. Those high hedges were “very important” to keep that NPD scheme alive.

 My few playmates thought it was a “cool room”.  Even though I cried for most of that period, I was finally convinced it was “a cool room that any child my age would want” and of course I believed it.  It turned out to be a very common method of “scapegoat child isolation” to keep that child apart from the other siblings. Though the house does not look massive, it is. There is an “L” on the right side and the master and other childrens bedrooms are far away from the attic bedroom. I was unable to hear them, even when their voices were loud. I was petrified during those years.  But did not know I had rights (such as calling social services etc). Today if that happened, the parents would be incarcerated and the child to a safe orphanage or other adoptable home free of NPD parents).  The house still stands and one can drive by and see the “isolated attic in the back”…or the gable of the back of my old bedroom from the front. 

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mandalay full size

Above you are seeing an aerial view of our next home 104 Mandalay Dr. I remember hearing my father alert us he was building it and we were moving.  By then my younger brother was born. I was so relieved, feeling they had come to their senses and I would be living with the rest of the family. Not the case.  The home was much larger…and so was my new attic bedroom. The red “balloon shows the roof”. Slightly to the right of that you see a white bedroom built into the roof with blue shingles on top, and white wood siding.  It also faces the back, not the front, directly facing high hedges in back of our home.  Another home and those high hedges blocked it from S. 28th Ave (and blocked from the back of the homes on that street behind our home). In other words, once again, nobody could see me from the outside; even with the windows and drapes open.

Again I cried and acted out, but still did not know I had any rights.  So I stayed as the scapegoat who absorbed all the family’s issues, and lived there until age 17 when I was put into a trailer with other wayward kids only to get into trouble as I hadn’t a clue what I was supposed to do, which is perfect for a scapegoat child to do (it means he/she’s been properly programmed by his NPD parents).  As scared as I was in the trailer with no skills or worldly knowledge, it was better than my “torturous hidden attic bedrooms”.  I could see people and the street from my trailer window.

It is easy to show a house with an attic roof that was my bedroom.  But it doesn’t give you the full story (as a neighbor would have seen it).  So I remembered I occasionally chat to an old neighbor on facebook. I asked her on facebook in private message if she remembered my attic bedroom (I sort of doubted she would have given that she was only five when she and her family moved into the neighborhood).  Here was her reply.  (She said she didn’t mind at all if I used her full name and even showed her photo). I decided it best to block out most her face and name, knowing the type destructive damage the “flying monkeys” are willing to do to make it seem “Rick was bad and they were victimized”, but you can see her message.  It even looked very sad to her.  I can only imagine how it appeared to a young girl age 5 from a loving family.

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After failing college several times, I was “taken back in” to have a roof over my head sporadically in my 20s and even 30s at times, but I had no workable skills of which to speak.  I tried school a few times to no avail.  I had been too busy simply learning to survive at poverty level (when I was lucky).  Anyone who understands undiagnosed autism, knows this is analogous to a child living in a country who doesn’t speak the language. Another good analogy is a southpaw with his left hand tied behind his back forced to be right-handed.  In other words it was torture that never ended.  In between the pain, I spent countless hours in the library, and later on the Internet to learn as many skills as possible.

My dad said, “I have an opportunity for you. You study and get a real estate license and you’ve got a job selling residential real estate forever for me”.  I passed the test after 3 tries and sold homes in his residential division which he had planned to close for about a year. It was on commission only which mean starving at best.

When my brother came to work for him several years later he was immediately put in charge of the commercial division for a very large salary and given a title.  He later took it over.

When one thinks of my dad, they think of equality and fairness.  (I hope you can see I am being facetious).  I did not expect the same level of career, but slavery vs wealth is not quite what a healthy parent does either.  I worked very hard when I worked for him.  I dressed in a suit. I got to work early. I left late. I made calls.  I had no idea I was a hated scapegoat child  “at war with an NPD” parent.   I know now.

Waterboarding is horrendous but abandoning an autistic child who is also the scapegoat of NPD parents is nonstop torture for many years. Not to underplay such torture which is hideous, it does end.  Setting free an un-diagnosed autistic scapegoat child into the world makes waterboarding look like child’s play.  It never ends. The pain and total confusion is a daily minute by minute experience.  The years of experience tells the victim it is not going to end either.  I am going to keep my opinion of the perpetrators to myself, and allow you to make a judgement call.

The only phrase that comes to my mind is “Extremely cruel and unusual punishment”.  The living siblings and some relatives and their friends continue to attempt to perpetrate it.  Word does get back to me.  God help them in their illness; though my case has proven it is never too late to get well, or at least get on the right track to freedom from that kind of bondage.  Yes they were harmed too, badly.  They were simply given “balm” or material things to make it seem they weren’t.  Most of them are old (and hopefully wise enough) now to know that is what that was.

Thank God some insightful lawmakers have now made it impossible to hurt me anymore. That does not mean they do not still try. Word does get back to me. No not my parents but numerous relatives and friends tell me. Now the DOJ (of which the Americans With Disabilities is a part) is monitoring my case, and they seem to have a special interest, and, I believe will make certain no more damage is done to me, no more needless pain is caused.

The rumors will continue to fly, most likely back home.  From what all the articles read about NDP parents, their “flying monkeys”, usually other siblings, mutual friends etc., stay forever. Their lies and badmouthing are very much a part of their persona and they wear it as a fashion statement. And remember, now the “golden child” is an adult, and without a “scapegoat”, the adult “golden child” feels very uncomfortable and usually cannot stand.

That part I understand and they have my prayers.  Meantime, I’ve worked steadily on my cartoons which have lured 8.8+ million fans to my website.  Many of them have become real friends.  My wife who I love is also my real friend, and we have real friends who hike on our same trails.  None of them care about hometown/tiny minded rumors 500 miles away, and when it occasionally leaks to our locale, they toss it out and take it with a grain of sand.  They know the real me, and most tell me how sad they feel of that experience and even more so of the people behind it.

I tell them not to, and I mean it.  Had that experience not happened to me, had I been treated fairly or even humanely, I would have never moved to paradise (rural Arkansas), never would have met my beloved wife Lee, and never would have launched Londons Times Cartoons.  So I really have “the  bad guys” to thank for those blessed events (though I’m sure that was not their motive) but you know these things happen, and I do hope (not being facetious) that good things happened for them too.

This is not the type of story I like to write.  The story does not define me, in fact today it is only a historical part of me.

Today I have a loving wife, I live in paradise and hike the Ouachita Mountains app. 3 times a week with my talented nature/wildlife photography wife, we’re vegans and we live a healthy lifestyle, nothing like what I was taught in my youth. It doesn’t even resemble it a little.  We are inclusive to others who were born with disabilities, etc.

I returned to a very good private college at age 49, just one year after my first major heart attack, and finished about 3 years (before having more surgeries and yet more heart issues).  I still plan to finish, and will.

Which brings me back to accepting gay rights.  Gays are born gay. No matter what ones philosophical or religious feelings might be of gays, we can all agree that gays are born gay. It is not a choice.  Children with autism are born with autism.

There is no fixing either.  Hiding an autistic child away in an attic did not make him (me) less autistic. Had they been healthy parents, I would have most likely gotten proper assistance and “autistic education” which is quite a bit different than regular education which I found quite boring.  I am what they consider “high functioning” hence I most likely would have been put in a gifted class throughout school.

But it was not to be.  I have no regrets and I don’t feel sorry for myself in the least.  Look at the life I’ve gotten to live due to my autism/and Asperger’s and am living now. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Now that I know my rights, and am plugged into the ADA/DOJ (who knows my entire story), it will be more difficult now to do more harm and if tried, I can fight back.  It doesn’t hurt to also be plugged into two of the largest autism/Asperger’s sites worldwide, full of lawyers (many of whom have suffered the same/or similar fate as I did.  That feels comforting  and actually is comforting.

So now if the leftover “minions” or “flying monkeys” cast aspersions at their own risk and a very big-risk it is. That means a whole lifestyle/behavior modification for most of them.   Even given the risk-taker I have been in my life, I wouldn’t take a risk like that for anything in the world.  And the smart ones are finding new hobbies (other than “lies about Rick”, I’m told).

So, I learned (the hard, painful way) that autism cannot be prayed away, modified away via behavior modification, hidden in an attic away etc.

Now I realize what many gays have experienced. I learned that they, too, often suffered from “parental manipulation” or “behavior modification” from parents or teachers or friends or whomever, who decided it was there duty to make sure they “fixed them”.  The only people who needed fixing were the ones trying to do the fixing aka “the haters”.   Gays are born exactly as they are supposed to be.  There is nothing to fix.  That is abuse. That is a crime.

Whether a gay child has NPD parents or simply bad parents, if they get it in their mind that that child needs fixing, and tries, that is child abuse of the worse kind.  Think about that, parents, if you happen to have a gay child. He/she is fine just as he/she is, and should be celebrated, not changed or even “just tolerated”.  Parents should be proud and supportive of that child.  The same is true of autism. Or any disability with which one is born. Any behavior otherwise is beyond sinful.

Please note many have good and even great parents, and they do not suffer the needless abuse to try to “fix them”.  The same is true of so many children with autism and/or Asperger’s.

Meanwhile Lee and I will always be supportive of all people, however they are born.  We will never “try to fix them” or support anyone “trying to fix them” whether they be gay, straight, male, female, autistic, Aspie-ish, slow, fast, fat, slim, or you name it.

The God to which we pray doesn’t make mistakes. We believe everyone is perfect just as they are. He knows what he’s doing, believe it or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

      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).


      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.


By Londons Times Cartoons c2011

      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. 

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     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.

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        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.

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   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, 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.

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     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

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     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 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.  

It’s A Beautiful Day But My Back Hurts By Rick London

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 I love days like today.  When we awakened it was cold outside; and even though the heat was on and our walls are thick, somehow it sends a signal to our feet from the window so we know and turn up the heater in the morning.   My wife Lee, from Oregon, likes a cooler temperature inside than me, a southern wuss-hick from Mississippi who calls the EMT unit when the weather reaches as low as 80 to check for signs for pneumonia and or hypothermia.

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     But as Kroger organic coffee (blog product placement) left the pot into my large red cup and into my large (who knows, probably very dark brown by now) inside of my belly from years of Kroger organic coffee, I started to warm up.  Lee drank a few swigs of hers and she was fine. I don’t think she even notices cold weather.  Sometimes when we hike I’ve got on 3-5 layers and she’s got on this stretchy tee looking shirt that she swears keeps her warm.  And when we reach the mountain-top and the wind blows the cold northern air (and a few ducks and turkey vultures) towards us, she just shakes it off.  She looks behind her and I’m semi-hidden in the roots of a large oak tree hoping it will offer a bit of warmth.

    Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit but winter and I are not best friends. 

     I love our office.  Lee and I share one and I have the corner window.  I always wanted a corner window office when I worked in corporate America for a long time and my superiors, all of whom had corner window offices would give me a snicker and a look like “Are you serious”?  Of course I was serious.  Do you know who I am?”  And they’d have a look on their face that said, “Yes, and that’s probably why you’ll never get a corner office working here”.  Don’t you just  love the end of innocence?

     Twenty years later I finally have my corner office but it’s not quite as plush and roomy as the potential office in my Washington, D.C. job could have possibly offered me if I could have just hung in there about 5000 years.  But I’m here and they’ve been out of business for about a decade. Nah nah nah poo poo. 

      Anyway, today I woke up to my vulnerable office chair that has been my constant companion for about three years.  It was a good chair and fit my desk perfectly and positioned me just high enough to where I could see over my monitor out onto Hot Springs Mountain.  I could even see hawks, crows, and numerous other birds fly in and out of the lower foothills.  This always satisfied my connection with nature when I could not get out in it.  Due to numerous other health issues, there were times I could not get out in it (other than my stubborn back).

new book lost goose

     But today was nice because I worked for about an hour, designed a few products and turned off the computer.  Lee was about to work out, and I went back to bed.  She asked, “Are you okay, Baby?” I always appreciated that.  “Yes, thank you for asking.   But my back feels like it fell out of my body so I’m going to take a nap”.  She said, “That’s nice, so you may feel my feet at the end of the bed ‘cause when I do my sit-ups I use the bed for traction”.  “Ok, that’s nice”, I replied.

     So my point was, growing up, being sick or injured was much more difficult than today and required a small jury of my parents to whom I had to prove it was so.  “I’m running a temperature, and my throat hurts”.    My worried looking mom would feel my head and put the thermometer into my mouth. 98.6.  She would give me the bad news.  Well it must be the pollen in the air because there’s no temperature, no infection. Get ready for school.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!   I’ve got a big day planned in bed.  What in the world big day could I have planned in bed at age 13 and in 8th grade?  Oh, pull out the transistor radio and turn on WXXX and hear Jimmy Rabbit spin the top 30…and if I could pull it off, late that night, KAAY with Clyde Clifford in Little Rock (100,000 Watts mind you).

       But nooooooo. It was off to school.  And since I “was sick; that is suffering from allergies of some sort” mom decided I couldn’t even ride my bike. Mom felt it was better to drive me.   I so wanted to invent a device you could put in your mouth that would trick the thermometer into believing you had a temperature.  I finally figured it out, but it would never work.  Putting a penny or nickel on a stove would indeed make it very hot, but it would also burn a large hole in my tongue…..the size of a penny or nickel.  I nixed that brilliant idea.

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   I gave myself permission today to feel okay that I knew my back really hurt and I would not be making the 400 ft commute again to my desk to create more gifts for all the world to see.  Surely my customers would understand that I had a bad back today.

   And given all my other health issues that was actually pretty good news.  And even better news is the fact that I have no coin-size holes in my tongue….after all these years.


    Rick London is a freelance writer, cartoonist and writer, songwriter/musician, avid hiker and nature lover.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons, Google’s #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts since 2005.  He is married to popular nature/wildlife photographer and online shopping gift designer Lee Hiller.  You can follow Rick on Twitter @RickLondon and Lee @LeeHillerLondon. 





Ayn Rand (By Rick London c2012) Song Parody Sung To The Tune Of David Essex “Rock On”

Money bids from Brothers Koch,
Ayn Rand…sell my soul,

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Hey kid, boogie blues, John Galt….

Lets do the Medicare shmooze,
What’s gonna happen when granny catches flu?
Hey Mitt, sold your soul, Cheesy grits or an ice cream cone.

Now Paul Ryan’s 2nd tier,
So Medicare cuts are oh-so-near.

  He’s so cool & likes Zeppelin more than Queen
Prettiest boy whose mighty lean,
In the private sector he’s mighty green,
(Way green)

 Drove the Weinermobile As A Teen & drank beer,
Now he loves to instill fiscal fear

To the elderly men and senior queens,
                               Persona non gratis never seen,
  Take Social Security down to Wall Street..Coffers clean.
And nobody counts the beans
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

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Ayn Rand

Election day,
Atlas Shrugged,
           Watch the GOP…you’re gonna get mugged.

Ayn Rand,
Romney, Romney
How do you roll?
Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand,
                         Seamus stay,
While the car rolls,
Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand.
Election Day,
Fools vote,

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John Galt.


Rick London is a songwriter, author, cartoonist, and designer.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons in 1997 which have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts since 2005.  He is married to popular nature photographer Lee Hiller-London.  They live in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas where they are avid hikers.  They are active in animal and ecological causes.  They are also happy vegans.

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. 

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    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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 and 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  He just launched 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 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  His Kindle Cartoon Books are $1.99 and free at the lending library if  you have Kindle prime.


“Old” To The Tune Of Madonna’s “Vogue” A Song Parody by Rick London

Old by Rick London c2012 Parody To The Tune of Madonna’s “Vogue”


(Short note…I’m getting old too; in fact older than Madonna…..I salute her for giving it her best shot) It is interesting

how all of us are slowing down, and yes, I’m a senior now too).


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Mighty Old,
Getting’ Old,
So old, old,
Oy vey, old

Just took 2 Plavix for my heartache,
My legs are moving so slow (Butt’s dragging ground)
I see cellulite where I was in shape,
Never learned my lesson public appearances “just say no”.

When I dance I pull a joint in my knee,
Maybe some L-glutamine pills on Ebay,
Should never have pigged out on that Superbowl tray,
Still on my butt on the dance floor, sore.


Getting so, Old,
Nausea’s setting in & I’m sick,
Ben Gay, Hey
Come on old.
Menopause no more menstrual flow,
Maybe I’d sound better remixed.

Got my Ensure…my favorite one,

Seemed like yesterday I had the energy of Thor,
And Kaballah for my inspiration,
Now I can’t get up off the floor.

And cone shaped bra so sprite,
With tassels I’d twirl and twirl
For awhile I was even some guy’s wife,
But my new name was Esther and he couldn’t remember it.

[chorus, substituting “groove” for “move”]

Oh I was beautiful and so fit,
Maybe I’ll try Nutrisystems to get re-fit.
Or call Britney Spears my pal,
The only virgin I know is wool,
Oh I want to be young and tall,
And not what I am or….


Old, old.
My CD’s on ITunes U can find it,
Old old,
Menopause with no more menstrual flow.

My garbage I recycle ya know,
And I crush the cans real slow,
My new brand is living green,
Not on Newt Gingrich’s moon trampoline.

How do I look in my tight jeans?
Winning with Charlie Sheen,
Getting’ smelly, walked upstairs,
Remember Playboy…I was bare.

Now its time to say “Goodnight Grace-ee”
For what its worth I’m saving face,
All the cracks I do fall through,
I wish you all a fare adieu

Notice I’m no longer nude,
Needed money, needed food,
Getting old is hard on a starlet,
Getting old, there’s a LOT to it.

Old, old.

Prunes will make you body move
So you don’t get sick,
Old, Plastic surgery if you must,
Or collagen to make your lips grow,
Old, I’ve gotten to


Rick London is a musician/songwriter and founder of Google’s #1 Ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts, Londons Times Cartoons.  He and his wife nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who also creates the popular nature photography blog Hike Our Planet,  live in the Ouichata Mountains of Arkansas and do a lot of mountain hiking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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