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Confessions of an Un-Runner

Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Bio: Who is the Un-Runner?

The daughter of a country preacher and a strong-minded woman, the Un-Runner was raised to fit in, to do what she was told, and to NEVER make waves. She excelled at it - but she's better now!

Cyndi Paxton Johnson balances family, friends, fitness, homeschooling, writing and a family business with humor and tears. She's been published in Donne Tempo, The Washington Times, and Cecil County Magazine, among others.

The Estrogen Army is on patrol and the Holiday Blessings are accumulating!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Move over, Marines – you’ve been outflanked, outnumbered and outsourced! I’m not putting you down, and have nothing but love for you – but your highly synchronized moves have nothing, NOTHING on a group I like to call “The Estrogen Army”.

They blend into the landscape without need of camouflage, in fact – they ARE the landscape.  Silently they wait for the call to action, then spring into maneuvers that would make the Blue Angels green with envy.  They analyze the situation, take inventory, assess needs then assign (d implement) tasks with speed that should make the White House blush with shame.

They are everywhere. They go about their daily lives with the finesse of a double agent, making light of their burdens while laughing at themselves until that critical moment – the moment they are needed.  They are simply, women – tenders of the hearth, nurturers, healers and givers.  In times of need they rally together with strength, love and dedication.

I am proud to be a member of their ranks – and yet I am humbled and amazed by their stories.  Facebook is their new battleground – where they reach out, connect and organize.  When one of their ranks is touched by betrayal, illness, tragedy or misfortune they are there, arranging meals, childcare, transportation and meeting daily needs, from toilet paper to new stoves.  They give out of love, support and the understanding that women share much more than words could ever explain.  

The Estrogen Army’s greeting is simply, “What can I do to help?” .  Unfortunately, people rarely answer that question, perhaps from fear of appearing weak.   It’s difficult for the EA to mobilize when they fear offending those they would most like to help.  Oh, if only those we love would simply tell us what they need, so we feel useful.

This week, someone did.

Juggle People and Events with Google Calendar

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

It's spring - and my calendar - along with everyone else's - is exploding. Juggling work, meetings, errands and medical appointments is challenging enough, but when we add kids schedules, spouse schedules and horrific tasks like "Clean out gutters" - things really explode.  I've spent decades looking for the PERFECT calendar/day book - and spent years toting around a hefty (and expensive) Franklin Planner - and coordinating dates with my husband's planner. (then he left his on top of the truck one day and I discovered the drawback to having everything in one place)

These days my family lives by the Google Calendar. It's free, you can show more than one person's calendar (each kid gets their own color-coded entries) and there are apps to use it on i-phones, androids and the Kindle Fire. My calendar links to my husbands so we always know what's going on - and can both see the various impending kid commitments. You can get the month view - helpful when scheduling appointments, a week view (my favorite) and a daily agenda view. There are also various other calendars you can import (holidays, moon & tide, etc.) as well as task lists. I've put weekly tasks like "Take out trash" on the calendar so one of us might actually remember these important events.  

"I am beautiful; a project against bullying" begins in Cecil County, but touches everyone!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Heroes turn up in unlikely places - but by standing up and speaking out they become the voice of thousands. If you haven't seen the Facebook event "I am beautiful; a project against bullying" you need to check it out as soon as you finish reading this article. Bohemia Manor High School student Emilie Hancharick began this Facebook event to gather photos and information to make a video about the effects of bullying - but it's taken on a life of its own. She has become the champion of thousands, and that number will only continue to grow. 

What strikes me is the creativity and strength of the pictures teens are posting - I am in awe of their voice, their power, their love. They inspire me - and they are inspiring each other. And throughout all of the posts is the clear championing of Emilie for having the courage to begin such a heart wrenching project.  

Bohemia Manor Jr/Sr High School is a small school in Chesapeake City, MD - and my alma mater. My children go there now. So it hits close to home for me. Bullying, teasing, and cyber-stabbing are topics that cause every parent pain - but our words and support can only do so much. Emilie is getting the masses to bond and stand up to the predators. And she's doing it by simply saying - "You are beautiful - and you matter."

Please Don't Eat the Daisies - and other Adventures in Parenting

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Many years ago I read a wonderful memior book by Jean Kerr (another Erma Bombeck), titled "Please Don't Eat the Daisies". It was later made into an equally hysterical movie starring Doris Day.  Kerr (and Day) is flabbergasted to realize her young son needs every rule spelled out, including - don't eat the centerpiece. I loved the book (and movie) and laughed at the concrete lunacy of her son. 

Then, years later, I had a son of my own. Now it all makes sense. And it's less funny ha-ha and more, "I need to sit down and have a stiff drink - now!" I began blogging when he was about five. Because others needed to know when he took off running in a crowded mall - at Thanksgiving. Or when he drew signs on Grandma's perfect closet doors. I knew five-year old boys do these things - and I simply needed to survive until he aged a few more years. 

So now he's ten. And I'm beginning to understand why so many mothers laughed at my preceding statement. He doesn't run away anymore, write on wooden surfaces, or even throw a hissy fit when asked to do some actual work. He seems like an intelligent, helpful boy with a love of Star Wars and video games. 

Except that he's trying to kill me.

The Great Parental Dilemma - When to seek emergency medical care!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Life was much simpler when my children were nursing infants. They screamed with fear, pain, anger, boredom, illness, etc. - and my response was the same. Let them nurse. Bingo. Problem solved. 

These days when they cry I stand there like an idiot, wondering what I'm supposed to do. Nursing no longer seems to be an option - and could possibly get me arrested. But I have this deep rooted aversion to hearing my offspring cry with pain  - and I want a magic wand to make all the bad stuff go away, instantly. 

It doesn't help that most of my children have a pain threshold of negative seven.  And dubious judgement. 

Case in point: my son is known for comedic exaggeration of injuries. A neighbor has forbidden him from using their trampoline because he's always (and immediately) getting hurt on it. No bruises ever form, mind you. The day he tore up his knee in three places he calmly informed me he'd fallen and hurt his knee. I said something brilliant like "Ok" and totally ignored it. He still has the scars - and they're wide, nasty ones.

Bad Mommy.

Amazon has taken over my brain cells and my life - but refuses to take my cellulite!

Dear Amazon,

First of all, hats off to you all. You really do excellent work – and your products are top-notch.  As a long-standing bibliophile (aka – Book Slut),  I rank Amazon right up there with chocolate, coffee – and chocolate covered coffee beans.  The whole Kindle/e-book craze has caused me to load up on more books than I could read in several lifetimes – and that makes me all happy and tingly. (book slut, remember?)

The problem, my dear Amazon, is that you’ve added tempting graphics and interesting apps to my fingertips – and it’s cutting into my reading time.  I did manage to read Silent Tears: A Journey Of Hope In A Chinese Orphanage (AmazonEncore Edition) by Kay Bratt (borrowed for free with my Amazon Prime membership) before I discovered the dreaded Kindle Fire apps (or applications, for the uninitiated).  Now I spend my time playing Monopoly, Life, solitaire and Sudoku – while searching frantically for a Clue app that will work on the Kindle Fire, because I really like that game. Oh, and did you know my old time sucking favorite, Plants vs Zombies, will work on my Fire, too? I don’t mind waiting rooms at all anymore. Well, I never did – I always packed a book or two and was perfectly happy. But now my eyes glaze over and my finger moves across my delightful touch screen and the world disappears – along with quite a few of my working brain cells. I'm not as troubled by the awol brain cells as you would think - but I believe it's only fair if you ALSO take the accompanying saddle bags that have become firmly attached to my backside. Also, if you see my brain anywhere, I'd appreciate its swift return.

I have a plethora of business and self-development books literally at my fingertips – but instead I’m dedicating my time to winning just one more solitaire game. I can’t stop – so I’m forced to take drastic measures. I’ve signed up for a Pinterest account – which I’m told is the new hot social media craze – and more addicting than Facebook. A new addiction is just what I need to break my reliance on you – my dear Amazon. Nothing personal, of course.

I wish you continued success in your journey.

Cyndi Paxton Johnson

(ok, I wrote my article – NOW can I play Monopoly?????) 

Take a Stand, Make that Statement, Slam that Door!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I recently went roller skating for “The Last Time in My Life”.  It wasn’t a difficult decision – and I feel quite convinced I will never change my mind.  Of course, the brace on my left wrist is a constant reminder for the next six weeks.  But I’ve made these statements before – and I’ve never waivered.

About twenty years ago I enjoyed my last motorcycle ride.  No broken bones that time, but it occurred to me that I was spending almost a decade in college to get the most out of my brain, and putting it that close to concrete at 55mph was not the wisest choice.  I’ve never looked back – I’m not afraid to ride, I know it would be most enjoyable, but it’s not an option.  I also made “the last time” declaration for roller coasters a few years ago. I used to love their stomach clenching excitement – but it’s no longer fun.  (and….I think it’s preferable to quit while I’m just not happy, rather than when I’ve lost my lunch on complete strangers while flying upside down – I’m sure they appreciate that more, too!)

What strikes me most about “the last time” statements is the absolute conviction behind them.  I’m done. Period. No discussion, no second guessing, no being talked into another try. I’m DONE. 

What if I took that conviction and applied it to other areas of my life? Is it easier for me to say, “I will NEVER do that again” than to say “I will do xyz from now on”?  See the difference?

Many self-help books say to phrase everything in the positive – that our brains ignore negative statements.  You know, “don’t slam the door” becomes “please close the door quietly”.  Hmmm….thinking about it, I definitely use “Don’t” in my interactions.  I’m ok with that, really. It works for me.

And maybe it’s more powerful for me to say “I will NEVER let the fear of something new hold me back” than to say, “I will embrace challenges whenever possible”.  Maybe it’s a stubbornness thing. Or maybe it’s just easier.

Confessions of a hapless baker....to dough, or not to dough

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I love bakeries - Cake Boss leaves me drooling like a Newfoundland. New York City has amazing bakeries with freshly baked treats arranged in the windows to lure you in like the proverbial moth to the flame. Fortunately I was quite young when I lived there and could breakfast on the large, chocolate filled pastry logs without requiring an extra seat on a plane. (these days I go up a pants size by simply looking in the window)

Ever since I left New York I've strived to re-create the pastry perfection of those dream-filled windows. I've managed, from time to time, to create some rockin' cinnamon rolls, bread, muffins and cakes.

Giving Thanks this Thanksgiving

I don't understand it. How is it possible that it's the end of NOVEMBER already??? Last time I looked, it was the 4th of July and we were concentrating on swimming, hot dogs and fireworks. (I vaguely remember a three-day sugar buzz that could have been Halloween) 

Life is still marching on at an alarming rate. Children grow, loved ones pass and the face in the mirror keeps looking older. (don't get me started on THAT one) Thanksgiving has traditionally been the huge family affair day - complete with turkey, Aunt Edna's stuffing and fighting with relatives. Thanksgiving afternoon we rested, gearing up for Black Friday shopping. 

Hope you didn't really need that nap, because the shopping now starts on Thursday afternoon - and continues the ENTIRE night. If you don't have a full car by 6am Friday morning you've missed it - better luck next year.  I'm starting to feel...annoyed at the entire process.  I'm not a Black Friday star performer, by any means. I've gone out a few times, feeling like an idiot for leaving my warm bed at 4am to score the best deals. Now that seems like a luxury - actually getting to sleep until 4am!

The Memoir "Why I Left the Amish" shatters our illusion of an innocent, Amish childhood

The Amish have always been a part of my life. As a child, we visited Lancaster, PA frequently. Some of my favorite toys were cast iron Amish figures, complete with two children on a see-saw. Today, of course, Amish live among us on the Eastern Shore, and we regularly "brake for buggys". We have Amish markets in Crumpton, Easton and Middletown, DE. I've traveled to an Amish farm near Dover to purchase fresh milk. I even took my children there to play for several hours when the Amish kids had chicken pox- though mine stubbornly refused to contract the illness. 

My vision of an Amish childhood involves lots of animals. chores, laughter, good food and family togetherness. But I'm now reading a book that has me questioning that innocence. 

"Why I Left the Amish", a memoir by Saloma Miller Furlong, has opened my eyes to the possibility of physical, emotional and sexual abuse among the Amish.  Furlong, raised in Ohio, believes her father suffered from some form of mental illness that made him reclusive and violent. The Amish community was unable to deal with the challenges and the children were left to fend for themselves.

The plight of the eldest son is particularly terrifying to me. He was apparently sexually molested while working on a nearby English horse farm, and Furlong believes Amish boys are highly sought after by pediophiles, as they're trained to be obedient and to NOT make waves. This, combined with a physically abusive father, resulted in a young man that could easily show up on a Criminal Minds show as a serial killer.  He tortures rabbits, refusing to let his siblings feed them as he determines how long it takes them to starve to death. He sexually molests his many sisters, resulting in at least one pregnancy. Their mother is aware of the abuse - but does nothing except blame the girls for allowing the behavior.  

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