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 Life Organizer

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I am ALWAYS striving to be more organized and efficient. (and yes, I hear Yoda's voice: Do or do not... there is no try !) And, as a self-proclaimed bibliophile (aka: book slut) I read a lot about ways to organize - starting with decluttering. The books say pretty much the same thing: pare down, find a home for everything, put everything away. (and yes - it IS the same thing my mother always told me)

This week I'm reading The Life Organizer: A Woman's Guide to a Mindful Year by Jennifer Louden. This one's different, folks. There's no files and plastic boxes and printed labels. Rather, it's about getting in tune with your heart, your dreams, your passion - and listening to yourself and your body about what the next step should be. Since it's meant to be experienced over a year - I have no idea if it actually works (though the reviews were fantastic!). Still, I do feel more centered - and even more patient about interruptions. I feel like something's changing - hopefully for the better.

Unfortunately, I haven't been as compulsive about making my "to-do" lists. I wonder if Allstate will understand I was listening to my heart and not sweating the small stuff???

I think there's a middle road here somewhere.....lost in the fog.  I'm open to advice - and will let you know what I eventually figure out!

In the meantime...where's that Allstate bill?

The Power of Gratitude!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going our way – there’s no talent in it.  In fact, when things ARE going well we tend to become complacent, to take good news and good fortune for granted.

And then something happens that reminds us to appreciate every moment.  This week the terrible reminder came in the form of a horrific earthquake in Haiti. The devastating loss of life from the quake has turned into the tip of the iceberg. Now people that survived the quake are dying from hunger, lack of drinkable water and simple injuries. 

The Ping-Pong Life

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

It happens to most of us, at one time or another.  We go through the motions of the day, feeling vaguely dissatisfied and slightly depressed.  After awhile we become agitated and edgy, almost nervous as we wait for the “next thing”.  The problem? We are spending our days striving to make other people happy, to meet others’ needs.  We have neglected our own priorities in our effort to keep the peace – we may not even remember our own goals and ambitions.

We’ve become the Ping-Pong Ball. Others have all the control, we simply go where we are sent, mindlessly.  Parents of infants and young children are quite familiar with this lifestyle – their days are spent in a constant state of meeting the next urgent need of their charge. Any long-term caregiver is at risk – and the world is now tuned into recognizing people in this situation and offering them support groups and respite care.

Organize Your Priorities – but Adapt to Life!

Everyone says the same thing – to change your life, change your priorities.  It makes sense: if you insist on watching 8 hours of reality tv everyday, you probably won’t lose weight, get a degree, build a business or write that novel. Of course, just turning off the television won’t make those dreams magically happen, either.  Realizing a dream requires organizing and prioritizing  - and, in my case, a great deal of patience!  

For example, my number one goal of this morning is to write this column. Simple, right?  Except I’m also helping the kids with schoolwork, letting animals outside, answering the phone and working with my husband to get my computer to print. (which means I need to save everything and reboot any minute now).  And then there’s housework, laundry and food preparation jumping up and down, demanding my attention.   As much as I’d love a sound-proof office (surrounded by an electric fence) it’s just not my reality right now.  My life involves a bunch of other people and animals that all need my time and attention – and yours probably does, too.  So…what’s the solution?

A Christmas Tapestry

The Christmas Tapestry
by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

      It's funny how a holiday that comes (like clockwork!) every year can remain unique and special, creating in us a myriad of emotions, good and bad.  Looking back over the years it's been a roller coaster ride of holiday experiences - and I don't know that any particular ONE year stands out as being "the perfect Christmas".  Rather, I believe it's the total lifetime holiday memories that meld together to give us that warm, fuzzy feeling we identify as "Christmas". 

      The young years were, of course, all about the STUFF.  Like the tiny, orange television set I received in 5th grade. Rumors of the impending gift caused me to wake the household at 4am to get Christmas morning underway. I don't know why I was so excited - it was the first "privilege" to be revoked when I failed to satisfy - and it spent MUCH more time in my parents' closet than in my bedroom.  Christmas day back then also meant visiting the relatives - all of them within driving distance, anyway - to ooh and ahh over their Christmas goodies. 

      The young adult years were also about STUFF - but now I was giving it.  I shopped til I dropped, from New York City to Baltimore, and spent Christmas Eve wrapping gifts in a panicked frenzy.   The holidays meant spending time with friends and family - traveling the roads to visit everyone on my list. 

     The religious years followed, when I busied myself with church and reaching out to others.  Mixed in were the lonely years, the depressed years, the feeling like a failure years, when I pasted a smile on my face and counted the minutes til the festive season was over.  Then there's the Black Christmases - the first one after the death of a loved one.  When you go through the motions, and try hard not to cry until you're alone. They may not be the "Made for tv Holiday Special", but they're important memories in my Christmas tapestry.

      Marriage and children changed the holiday yet again. Now it was my turn to make the magic, time to question if I was doing enough to make the holiday special for my children.  Also known as the Guilt years. 

Make a New Holiday Favorite - Pumpkin Chili!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnon

Even if your family isn't gung-ho for pumpkin they'll enjoy this flavorful chili - according to one of the PICKIEST family on the shore - MINE! This would also work in a slow cooker - if you're organized enough to get an early start!

Pumpkin Chili


1lb of ground pork

1lb of small beef cubes

1 large onion, chopped

1 green or red pepper, chopped

1 T minced garlic

2 cans (15 oz) kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 cup V-8 or tomato juice

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice

1-3 cups of pumpkin puree (I used 2+)

The END of the Dreaded To-Do List!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Have you ever been stopped cold by a few words? The words keep echoing in your mind – and you realize almost everything you believe has suddenly been altered.  Goose bumps appear on your arms, the tiny hairs standing at attention as your entire being retunes itself to the Universe. I’ve experienced this a few times in my decades – including an hour ago.

A post came across my Twitter feed and briefly caught my attention. I continued scrolling down, reading other updates, but the words echoed and lingered. “What?” My mind interrupted the “busy” part of my brain. “What did that say? Go back!!!”

I returned.  I quickly found the post and reread the quote – and my world folded in on itself as it accepted the brief words as a Universal Truth:

 “There is nothing that has to be done- there is only someone to be”     Jacquelyn Small

What is this? How can I – Queen of the painstakingly written (and overcrowded) to-do list even waste time considering this blurb? Almost every day I write out the things I need to do – and I rarely – if ever – check off more than a few.  Today was no different.  I accomplished some things – and guiltily ignored others.  I focused on Homeschooling today. This morning I went through materials and created a “to-do” list for the week for each child – trying to get them to be a bit more independent in their reading and learning. Later I played multiplication games and read History and corrected math and made dinner.  Only two things checked off my list. And I’m on the road tomorrow – so won’t get ANYTHING accomplished.

Except….There is nothing that has to be done- there is only someone to be”.

Who am I?

Parking Diagonally in a Parallel Universe

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

One of my dearest friends had a birthday earlier this month - and I wanted to write a column about true friendship...sappy, emotional and dripping with heartfelt tears. Then this friend - we'll call her "Judy" - wrote me about one of her adventures and I immediately remembered that friendship is NOT about the sappy tears - it's about laughing through them.

Judy is Murphy's Law Poster Child - if something can happen it WILL happen to her. I've seen her wear bird crap on her head in the Inner Harbor and toilet paper on her shoe in a Baltimore courtroom. We once shared a home we affectionately referred to as "Hell House" - but that's a different story.  This is a Judy story - and it's 100% true. I wouldn't believe it if I saw it in a sitcom - but from her I can absolutely see it happen.

Pour yourself another cup of coffee, sit back, and meet one of my bestest friends:

Cyn, I have a new story for you regarding how I know God sits up at night just to think of things to do to me for His entertainment.

It was the Friday before my birthday and I left work early to run a few errands before I picked up my daughter up from the MARC station. I was sooOooOoOOOOoooo excited to have a few hours to call my own. So I went to the bank and then I went to pump gasoline...Well, they had some new nozzle that I obviously had trouble working and the gasoline squirted up and saturated the top half of my pants - from my waist to the top half of my thighs...Great!

So I went to ask the gasoline attendent for some water and paper towels and he did not speak english. Finally I got him to give me some of the paper sheets by his sink. So I went outside and thought, "Great...I'll just soak them in the dirty car wash water on the ground." (If I would have known what was coming I would have paid to run the car wash and just ran through it myself)

So I think..."Damn! Do I REALLY want to give up what precious little free time I have and not run any errands before I get J or do I just go to White Marsh and buy a new pair of jeans?" And that is where the adventure began...

Confessions of a "Sucky Halloween Mom"

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Every year I have the best of intentions - I dream of pumpkin cookies, fantastic costumes, a terrific party, good friends and great times.  And every year Halloween descends and finds me scrambling for costumes, buying cookies and breathing into a brown paper bag. (and no...I'm not freaking out because it's Halloween - I'm freaking out because EVERYONE knows Christmas is only 2 weeks later - or at least that's how it seems)

Last year my son dressed as a red ant. He needed a sign to tell people this - because it wasn't apparent from his red pants & sweater - even after we added an extra set of arms! I'm trying to convince him to go this year as an annoying 8 year old - he already has the perfect costume!

This year we're in the middle of moving and are yet again pumpkin-less. We do have the spooky CSI house thing - if you count the sudden last hurrah of nine million flies! But it's NOT the Halloween of my dreams.

I suppose dreams are good - they give us a reason to try harder. Meanwhile - if you see my kids on Halloween wearing trash bags w/ real trash glued to it - please be kind!!! (and send extra chocolate home for me - I'm particularly fond of peanut butter cups!)

Meanwhile...there's always Next year!  Happy Halloween!

The Great Bathroom Hunt

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

The Traveling Porta-PottyMotherhood is the most amazing experience on earth (not having left the third rock, I can't speak for other places).  I am constantly amazed by the intricate details of life that non-parents would never, ever consider.

Take bathrooms, for example.

For most of us, a bathroom is a simple necessity of life.  Though we prefer to use private facilities, we will, when necessary, seek out the public restroom. For kids - using a new and different bathroom is like a mini trip to Disneyland (and much more affordable).  I expected to spend the toddler years in more public bathrooms than I knew existed - and was not disappointed.  Indeed, with three children we spent more time in restrooms than we did in the stores or restaurants! In fact - we ended up deciding WHERE to go by choosing the best bathroom!

"I'm NOT going to that McDonald's near your parents - the bathroom is filthy!"

"NO! We can't go play at the Burger King playground - they don't have a changing table!"  (this was a NEW BK north of Frederick, complete with playground. I asked the OWNER why there wasn't a changing table in a CHILD friendly restaurant and was told they were "too dirty". I threatened to change my baby's diaper on their front counter, but never got up the nerve to follow through!)

Turns out that high-end malls have the best bathrooms - and the most! Since they also have awesome play areas and multiple book stores it was a perfect family destination for a couple with three kids aged 3 and under.

Then we moved to the country. No malls - but LOTS of cornfields. We started carrying a child's potty chair in the back of the van, complete with plastic grocery bags to line the pot. We had to pull off the road more times than I can count - but it worked. I was VERY excited when the last child became school age - no more traveling potty chairs!!

Turns out their fascination with bathrooms - and need to use bathrooms frequently - did NOT change. The kid's are now 8, 10 & 11 - and I STILL spend more time looking for bathrooms than I spend doing laundry (which might explain why I'm dressed in mis-matched stripes).  Just yesterday we visited Grandma - 75 minutes away. Knowing my children, I made sure they all "went" before we left. [for those without children - this involves telling EACH child at least three times, then quizzing them, then sending them AGAIN (cause they failed the quiz), quizzing again, Repeat until all three kids answer affirmatively.  (don't worry if they don't have shoes - they're only going to Grandma's).

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