Looking for the Signs

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Photo by greyerbaby on Morguefile.com

When I was fairly young–a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away–we would often drive through the rural areas of Oklahoma in our trips to various destinations. These rides were fairly boring, with little to alleviate this feeling except books, games of “I Spy,” and occasionally AM radio when there was reception.

Sometimes, though, I would see a relic from the relatively recent past. Burma Shave signs still stood along the sides of rural roads at that time although the company had quit placing new advertisements back in the 1960’s. I don’t ever remember seeing Burma Shave in the stores, but I grew to love their quirky signs.

These serial advertisements that grew out of the desire to lessen drivers’ boredom–along with spread the word about the product–certainly livened up the trips during my own childhood. I eagerly looked for these small signs and would yell out the jingle to my parents. The final sign, the one with the product placement for Burma Shave, was screamed out as if it were some sort of punchline for the witty sayings.

Although I have traveled the back roads in the Midwest for years since then, I haven’t seen Burma Shave signs in years. Even with our endless electronic entertainment, our current rides through the countryside seem a little vacant of creativity and fun. Perhaps we’re missing something with our constant supply of movies and email.

I can see now that those Burma Shave signs found along rural roads were exciting discoveries and so more appreciated. Too, each group was different and provided a different message and some fun. Those periods of quiet in between the discoveries made those small bits of entertainment sweet.

How much do we think about the endless stream of Facebook or Twitter? Is there time to think and appreciate what we see? Or does it all feed a need for more?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know I miss those signs. Burma Shave signs will most likely not be remembered for long, but they are a cherished memory for those of us who loved them.

Joy in Trials

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1:2

Perseverance

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy PauschThe Last Lecture

It is sometimes a struggle for many of us to even step out of bed in the morning. Whether it is a period of unemployment that never ends, a new diagnosis of a terminal illness, or a chronic mental illness, life often brings us to the point of giving in to defeat. I’m not so sure about the saying that “God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle.” I’ve seen plenty of people bear more than they should have to handle, ultimately succumbing to addiction or suicide.

If you were to ask me today how I’m doing, I would probably say, “I’ve had better months.” The upcoming loss of my teaching position has me at a loose end. I seem to be scrambling at writing anything possible online in order to gain some attention for my efforts and hopefully some employment. As I watch for comments and increasing scores–and not seeing either–it seems a futile effort, one that will ultimately bring me nothing.

But I’ve had worse months as well. And on those days when everything seems hopeless, I try to remember that I’ve come through worse times, ones that were filled with illness for myself and family members, along with the deaths of several family members. I’ve survived. And that’s what I’m trying to hang onto right now when the outlook for our future seems so uncertain.

Living in the Shadow of Celebrity

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In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.–Andy Warhol

When I was younger, I still believed that I would obtain my “fifteen minutes” of fame. I thought that I would be famous for my writing or research or something. I suppose those are the dreams of youth, usually unrealized. As we grow older, we begin to understand that only a few people become famous, and then often for the wrong reasons.

We had our moment recently when our little dog, Anakin, appeared on CuteOverload. As a proud dog mom, I was overjoyed. He had finished chemotherapy not long before his appearance, and so that made the honor even more sweet. He was a survivor, and he was cute! It was a win for all those little dogs out there who have gone through some pretty tough circumstances and lived to strut their stuff.

Sure, I’d still like to be a famous writer or at least get a few accolades. But caring for Anakin during his illness and watching him play and enjoy his life after cancer, well that’s enough for me. I’ve made a difference in this little dog’s life, but he’s changed me for the better. He’s helped me to realize that sometimes we should let others have the limelight even as we support them from the shadows. That’s ultimately more fulfilling.

Let other people have fame. I’ll gladly take my sweet little Anakin any day.

Growing Up Okie

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Photo by taliesin on Morguefile.com

Growing up, I realized we were perceived differently. Visitors would joke about our having electricity, and even as a child, I understood that my parents were patronized simply for being Oklahoman.

As I matured, I attempted to separate myself from any semblance of a more rural lifestyle and upbringing. I educated myself and improved my grammar, eliminating much of the slang common in the area. I also refused to wear boots or listen to country music. Yes, I was uppity. I’ll admit it. In an attempt to gain respect from those who looked upon me with disdain, I became ashamed of my own home state.

I realize that others’ impressions of Oklahoma are quite limited. Whether it is the review of Cattleman’s Steakhouse on the Food Channel or the recent devastation brought about by tornadoes throughout the state, people only see wheat and cows and twisters. But Oklahoma is much more.

Unfortunately, it took a talk with my grandmother to realize that. She told me and my brother about the teasing she received growing up and how she grew to be proud of Oklahoma. Although they tried to pin her with what they perceived as a derogatory term–and historically it certainly was that–she took it upon herself to say, “I’m proud to be an Okie.”

Now, it wasn’t until much later that I understood the history behind that term, and it took a trip to California for me to see that those views of Oklahomans still exist. When I introduced myself to a person there in LA, he immediately effected a Beverly Hillbilly type accent and asked, “How you likin’ the big city?” Bristling at the insult, I simply said, “I’m liking it just fine.”

I realize that everyone has to have someone that they feel is beneath them. If people decide to patronize me just because I’m an Okie, that’s just fine. I’m no longer ashamed of having grown up in rural Oklahoma. I’ll gladly listen to country music, but I’ll admit I still don’t have any boots. And as far as accent or vocabulary, I don’t try to hide my twang any longer.

Ya’ll come back now, ya here?