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War for Words

I’ve been waging war lately. A frustrating internal battle of wit and words that has me quite literally stalled. Words, or more accurately the right words, aren’t flowing out on the keyboard in the normal effortless manner. Sculpting my thoughts feels more like hacking away at marble with a dull ax, everything crashing out in some crude mass – misshapen and not at all consistent with the vision.

I think I’ve identified the source of the conflict. A confrontation between head and heart, training and instinct, I am my own worst enemy. Trained in the hard sciences, I made a long career in crafting concise documents for public consumption. Less was more, and precision critical in an attempt to place complex problems in clear view of a diverse U.S. audience. The expansive, alliterative storyteller had to be packed into the recesses of my mind to allow the organized scientist center stage.

Now, when I need them both, they refuse to play in my literary sandbox together. I’ve trained myself to disregard one or the other and the toys aren’t being shared. The problem is especially pronounced when I attempt to write about topics of substance where there are facts to share. Piled onto the melee are the typical strife, struggle, and stress of everyday life and the pugilists seem surrounded with chaos.

Oh to bring order to this mess!

Relax – the first word of encouragement from my youngest sister appears to be the keyword in the solution. Relax my mind – take a break, quit banging away at the keyboard only to backspace the words into oblivion. Write without documenting, visualize, and let my mind hear what I want to say. Relax my body – take a walk, practice yoga or Tai Chi or just stretch. Relax my conventions – there are no rules for my blog, it is mine and I can combine expansive, alliterative, creative voice with facts and figures to my own delight or demise.

So, with that, I’m off to the outdoors to relax and enjoy what’s left of a beautiful sunshine filled day. From there I will cultivate the energy to quell the combatants and hone the messy edges of my manuscripts.

Porridge

“Malt-O-Meal, Malt-O-Meal . . .” I soon realized that my thoughts were being played out verbally as the lady with the shopping cart beside me hustled away. She looked back as if to confirm my psychosis and nearly took out a crossing shopper at the corner of the cereal aisle. I’m sure the sound of my chant was laced with anxiety and quite unnerving to those within earshot. Other moms probably understand the serious repercussions that can ensue from not being able to find the right breakfast cereal. The specific request from Cereal Lover (my youngest son) was for Malt-O-Meal, “Don’t forget my favorite.” He sang out as I dropped him off at school. Now the tick list of grocery items was going to have a blank spot and the disappointment from Cereal Lover at home was going to be very tough to accept.

My chant carried on in my head since I couldn’t find the box that I was searching for. Looking further, names of the potential replacements played in my mind as each box was read. Grits, grits, quick-cooking grits, old-fashioned grits, grits, Cream of Wheat – yes! That was familiar. As I grabbed the box, I spotted a store clerk near the end of the aisle.

“Hi, can you help me?”

“I’ll certainly try.” The clerk smiled.

“Where’s the Malt-o-Meal?”

“The what?” Now the store clerk was questioning my sanity. “Would you normally find that in the cereal aisle?”

“Yes, but I guess not here.” I felt a little dejected.

I don’t know anything about grits and here in Morgantown there are boxes and boxes of grits. I should probably try them sometime; of course prepared by one of the local experts as my attempt at cooking them would likely not turn out favorably. As I put the cereal in the cart I mused – there are some things that are quite different south of the Mason-Dixon Line and breakfast cereal is one of them.

This incident led to the recall of a summer long before sitting at the kitchen table in my great-grandmother’s house in Parsons, West Virginia.  I wasn’t quite five years old and our family was visiting my dad’s mom and grandmother. My little sister and I wanted oatmeal for breakfast and were served the warm bowls with brown sugar and CREAM. Having not experienced cream in our oats before (only milk), we promptly spit the offensive porridge back out into the bowls. My mother, mortified by our behavior, chastised us vehemently and ordered that we eat the “wonderful oatmeal” that had been made especially for us. At this we both bowed up, and ended up expelled from the table in tears with our stomachs protesting.

There were probably things that my mother could have done to make that memory turn out better. As a mom, I took this thought out of the grocery store and practiced the script to let Cereal Lover down easy. It started with “some things aren’t the same south of the Mason-Dixon Line.”