Home | Personal Growth

Essays on Life

Stinkin’ Bugs!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

We’re under attack. The infinite numbers of aliens are breeding rapidly, and they’re infiltrating our homes, our businesses and our very lives.  There is no simple solution, as they are resistant to chemical warfare  - and seem too plentiful for physical combat.

I speak, of course, of the dreaded Stink Bugs – the 2011 equivalent to biblical swarms of locusts.  They’re eating crops, damaging the economy – and in general, annoying the stink out of us!

The question, of course, is what to do about them.  Apparently the FIRST thing to do is make sure there are NO cracks or crevices which allow stinkbugs to enter your home.  Great, just great.  Let me take the next 10 years off and try to find all the leaky spots in my drafty home.   Ok, assuming the stinky creature WILL find a way into my abode – what can I do about them???

My first line of defense to any problem – ignoring it – does NOT work. Trust me.  And, although exterminators are advertising a chemical solution (including one poor slob dressed in a stink bug costume on a busy (sunny) Elkton intersection in 95 degree heat), it seems that their solutions are only temporary – and primarily based on keeping the bugs from entering your home for a few weeks. I’m a bit past that – they’re already inside! (at least I’ve never eaten a stink bug – I’m told that’s a bit beyond nasty!)

Love Times Three - A Peek Inside Modern Polygamy

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Mention "Polygamy" and people start laughing, waiting for the punch line. The guy stutters, right? I Do, I Do, I Do..... I DO! Beer lovers can indulge in the plural with Polygamy Porter, and the motto "Why Have Just One?"  

Polygamy has been a media hot topic, lately. On the small screen we had the successful HBO series, "Big Love" (which had some good moments) and the reality show "Sister Wives" (which I found as stupid fascinating as every other reality show). For print, there's a LOT of memoirs like "Stolen Innocence" and "Wife no. 19".  The books I've read have always solidified the mainstream viewpoint as polygamy as evil, a way to imprison women and control children by marrying them off at age 12 to old men.  In no way do I want to minimize the women who had that experience - nor their bravery at seeking a better life. But perhaps their story of abuse is not the ONLY story of polygamy. 

I just spent a day reading Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage , an autobiographical look into a plural marriage. The book is written by Joe Darger and each of his three wives, Alina and twins Vicki and Valerie Darger, along with journalist Brooke Adams. There's talk that Joe and his family were the inspiration behind "Big Love", and indeed, some scenes from the show came directly from Joe's experiences. His mother DID win a state award for mothering, only to be "outed" during the awards ceremony. Not surprisingly, Joe and his three wives all came from a polygamous background. They remember their childhoods fondly, full of fun, love and companionship. 

The book details their courtship and marriage from each unique viewpoint, and doesn't minimize the jealousies and misunderstandings that MUST be part of a plural relationship. The many (24!) children go through normal rebellions, made more poignant by the taunts of other children - and adults.  The organization and efficiency needed for such a large family to function boggles the mind - and leaves me wondering why I have difficulty managing merely one spouse and three children - and various critters, of course. 

Plural families have a long history of secrecy. Not only will the neighbors NOT understand, but in many states, polygamy is defined as bigamy, and is illegal.  Technically, bigamy is taking two or more legal spouses. Polygamists have only one legal wife, the rest are married in private, religious ceremonies. Historically, the state has taken women and children away from their husbands in well-documented raids. Fear of discovery is a tangible presence in a plural lifestyle. 

So why has this family left the shadows to tell the world about their lifestyle? Besides writing this book, they’ve appeared on syndicated talk shows such as Oprah, Larry King Live, and 48 Hours. Why would a family deliberately put themselves out in public view, knowing that most of the reactions will be negative?

I'll let them explain their actions:

Dear Santa - All I want for Christmas is a Peaceful Home

Dear Santa,

It’s been a rough year. That’s not your fault, I know – stuff happens. Still, it seems like a lot of stuff is happening to a lot of people. And that makes the Christmas spirit seem as elusive as a leprechaun’s pot of gold. The tinsel, the music and the bustle of the season are there – but it feels like I’m just going through the motions, not really feeling the joy, you know?

I’ve heard that the best way to make yourself feel better is to do something nice for somebody else.  So I’ve helped out at the food bank and donated clothing and toys and even visit the senior center every week. It does help me feel better for a while – but the feeling never lasts.

You see Santa, no matter how great I feel when I’m out doing good deeds – I eventually have to go home.  Sometimes home is warm and wonderful – and sometimes it just hurts to be there.  Not that I’m being physically hurt, Santa. I just feel like I can’t do anything right, sometimes. That no matter how hard I try – or what I physically accomplish – it’s not enough. No one’s screaming at me, no one’s calling me stupid – it’s more subtle than that.

I feel like I’m walking on eggshells – and I never know when one will suddenly spear me in the foot, causing the blood to spurt. Sometimes I wish words could inflict visible wounds, like a knife. They pierce me like a knife – but I have nothing to show for it. I’m “over-reacting” or “too sensitive”. My favorite (NOT) line…. “I was just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?”.

You know Santa, if it hurts – it’s NOT funny. Why can’t people understand that?

There’s all kinds of rules and regulations now about verbal abuse in the workplace and in the classroom. I can understand that – but I don’t think it’s the most important thing. It’s verbal/psychological abuse in the home that really hurts.  Home is supposed to be safe – it’s not supposed to make your stomach hurt and your chest feel tight.

It’s not like I can just leave, Santa. Sometimes I sleep more than I need to – but that gets me in trouble, too. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to tell them that they’re hurting me. Well, I’ve tried – but that always makes it worse – and I’m sorry I brought anything up. 

Anyway, Santa, what I want most for Christmas is a peaceful home – filled with people who listen and love and help each other be the best they can be.  Can you do that? I guess it won’t fit into a stocking. Maybe you could help them be happier? If they were happier, maybe they wouldn’t try so hard to make me feel bad about ….everything. Maybe then they’d see everything I do well, rather than the few things that need improvement.  Maybe then they’d love me for who I am today – not who they want me to be.

The P.I.N.K. Primer - Breast Cancer Info for Men

Library and Shore Regional Breast Center team up for Breast Cancer Awareness Month – October 28th

          The St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library and Shore Regional Breast Center of Shore Health system will present a program at the St. Michaels Library on Thursday Oct 28th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

          Shore Breast Center will open the program with a presentation of services provided by the Center in their work with local groups and people dealing with Breast Cancer. 

          Bob Musser, the local author of The P.I.N.K. Primer will speak about his experience as a partner of someone dealing with cancer. A lifelong world traveler and executive with Shell Oil Company for thirty-two years, Bob found himself ill-prepared to support his wife Ann when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined that no other male should feel as frustrated and alone at such a critical time, he wrote The P.I.N.K. Primer as a practical aid to men who want to be MVPs of breast cancer support. Told with humility, frankness and side-splitting personal anecdotes, Bob provides a fearless rallying cry for men to “drop the remote, suit up, and get in the game.”

          All library programs are free and open to the public. For more information about this event you may call the library at (410) 745-5877 or Shore Regional Breast Center at  (410) 820-9400 or http://www.shorehealth.org/services/breastcenter/.

 

Til Death Do Us Part

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I'm feeling a bit weepy and sentimental, today. We attended the funeral of my 92 year old great-aunt - and saw friends and family members you only see once in a great while - every ten years or so. This group, however, was familiar. We had gathered less than a month ago to bury my 91 year old great-uncle. Yup - my aunt and uncle had been married 63 years - and were living independantly until 6 weeks ago. Now they're both gone.

My uncle had several serious health issues - his death was not unexpected. His wife, however, was fine. I think she had neither the will nor the desire to continue without her rock and protector. So...she stopped.

And so today the same people gathered, at the same place, to set her beside her beloved husband.

My aunt and uncle are not unique. Many older couples simply wind down together as naturally as they lived beside each other for decades. They're in sync.

My tears are not simply for my loved ones - they're for little old couples everywhere, puttering through their day, secure in the love they share. If you know of such a couple - please go out of your way this week to do something nice for them - bring them some home-made food, fresh vegetables, or old pictures.

Or simply sit and listen to their story - a story of a love that has lasted two lifetimes, and will continue to bless the world long after they are gone.

Namaste.

Trust in the Path

http://www.lifeontheedges.comBy Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Do you ever feel pulled in different directions – only to realize you’re doing all the pulling? There are SO many things you need to do, plus the things you SHOULD do – that there is rarely time for the things you WANT to do! You either spend all your time and energy on the “needs” and “shoulds” or, like me, you stand paralyzed at the crossroad, trying to decide which direction to take! (I have the same problem bowling – can NEVER pick up a split – the ball goes right down the middle!)

If this sounds familiar – the very first thing to do is get RID of the “shoulds”!  Take a look at each one and see if it really belongs in a different category.  For example: I have an elderly great aunt & uncle I SHOULD visit.  Just phrasing it that way makes it sound like work.  Instead,  I’ll turn it around and realize why I WANT to visit them – because it will bring us all joy and sometimes there is no “later”.  Go through each “should” – if one doesn’t move naturally into another category – release it.  Don’t say you “can’t” do it (very disempowering word) – but realize you CHOOSE to do or not do something.   Every time you make a conscious choice your world expands – and you grow to fill the void.

But even after you’ve eliminated the “should” – there’s a LOT let on your plate. How do you make time for the things you WANT to do?

Celebrating the April Fool

by Dwayne Eutsey

Trying to figure out the origins of April Fools’ Day is a lot like trying to figure out the punch line of an elaborate cosmic joke. You open a can of Internet research hoping to find a few crunchy nuggets of facts and certainties when—BOING!—out spring all kinds of contradicting theories and speculations.

According to Snopes.com, today’s annual celebration of pranks and foolishness remains shrouded in mystery. The website myth-buster offers a few possible origins, all of them with some spiritual or religious significance:

"Song Yet Sung" A Book for all Marylanders

by Mindie Burgoyne
Song Yet SungSong Yet SungSong Yet Sung, by James McBride, is the selection for One Maryland One Book for 2009, a program of the Maryland Humanities Council.

According to the MHC website: "One Maryland One Book is Maryland’s first and only statewide community reading project. It is designed to bring together diverse people in communities across the state through the shared experience of reading the same book and participating in book-centered discussions and other related programs at public libraries, high schools, colleges and universities, museums, bookstores, and other organizations."

As a supporter of reading and literacy, and as a native Marylander, I felt compelled to participate in the One Maryland One Book program. Currently, I have no time for pleasure reading. My full time job with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development has me working extended hours - especially during this economic crisis. But, as part of my job, I spend 12 to 15 hours per week driving up and down the Eastern Shore. So I downloaded the audio version of Song Yet Sung, put the 10 hour, unabridged edition on my ipod, and began listening as I traversed the roads and scenic byways of Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline, Kent, Wicomico and Somerset Counties.

Free Range Kids?

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson
Free Range ChickenFree Range ChickenAs parents we protect our children - it's our job. Are we keeping them so "safe" that they never get the opportunity to develop independence? I came across two writers today (thanks to Twitter) discussing "Free-Range Kids". Free-range is a hot topic these days, especially for chickens! Our chickens free-range in our fenced back-yard (and lay some awesome tasting eggs!)Yet the term also applies to chickens that receive a few minutes in a small outdoor cage, as well as the lucky chickens who range over 20 water front acres on my friend's farm.

Now let's consider "free-range kids". My kids play outside alone, on our property. This was a big thing when we moved to the Eastern Shore from Frederick, MD - my young children were NOT allowed out without me, even in the fenced backyard. (I couldn't see them from inside) Just last summer I let the older two (ages 9 & 10) ride their bikes to the beach when we visit Grandma. This is a private beach - but it was the first time I let them out of my sight. But I grew up free there, and wanted the same for my kids. [click "read more"]

Finding Calm Amidst Chaos

Focus on the PositiveFocus on the Positive

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

It's THAT time of year again. The calendar is taking on a life of it's own - and our to-do lists and obligations threaten to overwhelm us. We feel burdened at what should be a time of celebration, family and friends.

I want to focus on what's important: laughter, love, friendship and community. To do so, I need to banish the demon of perfectionism that hovers behind my ear, continually whispering that I'm falling behind, that I'm not good enough, that I'll never get things right. What does that demon know, anyway? (read more)

Read More Articles

Create a home that blesses & restores your spirit!
Small town happenings, festivals and events!
Restaurants, local produce, canning & food preparation!
Learn, stretch, grow
Need something done? We'll introduce you to the local experts!
Sometimes....you just have to laugh!
Local experts give advice on health & fitness!
Near, far and everywhere in between
Find eclectic shops and outstanding bargains!
Critters & flowers & veggies - oh my!
Exhibits, concerts, plays and much, much more!
Literary corner, product reviews and more!
Inner peace and community action
Hiking, cycling, kayaking, fishing & more!
Dancing Women
Adventures, positive parenting & homeschooling information