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.

Back to School Brings Challenges, Blessings and Gratitude!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Every mom has the picture of her baby's first day of school. Proud and nervous he stands in his shiny new clothes with his shiny new backpack. Some pictures tell a slightly different story. Here's MY picture of my daughters' first day of school ever!

No new clothes or backpacks, they wouldn't let me drive them to school but shrugged off my hugs and trudged up the country lane to their bus stop. My big girls!! 

Ok, they ARE in Junior High. But it was STILL their FIRST day of school - ever. We've always homeschooled - and liked the lifestyle and the flexibility it afforded us.  We homeschooled for many reasons, including the ability to tailor the educational experience to the child. Well, and the fact that I would have made a HORRIBLE public-school parent. 

Me: "Why are you teaching fractions to a child who can't yet add?"

      "Why did you give her an "A" on this paper? She's mixed up their/there and has no subject-verb agreement on that last sentence."

       "No, we're not going to cancel our plans this weekend so she can draw a picture of a turkey. That's not a good use of her time."

Trust me - the teachers would have put out a contract on me in no time. I would have seriously flunked out. 

So....why are 2/3 of my kids now attending school? They wanted to go. One was more interested than the other, but after a tour and some serious grilling of the assistant principal they both decided to try the school adventure. 

So far - they like it! I'm even enjoying it. When one of them was writing a composition and couldn't whine and complain to me to get out of it - I was downright giddy. (ok - she was happy about that, too. Apparently I'm WAY too critical of her writing. Whatever.)

Make Your Life a ROCKIN' Reality Show!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

We all know fear - and change - is part of life. Yada yada yada.  It’s easy to say the words – but it’s harder to walk the walk.  Doing something new is terrifying! Your heart rate increases, you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. It’s hard to think of anything else, since your entire body goes into that “fight or flight” scenario – preparing for action.

But we need this shake-up, this rush of adrenaline, this pure terror.  Without it, we stagnate – lose interest in moving forward – and resign ourselves to watching yet another reality tv show – watching others risk all without ever leaving the safety of our easy chair.

Why else would reality shows be so overwhelmingly popular? All the drama without ever having to risk anything, ourselves. 

But let’s face it, folks – Our lives ARE a reality show!  Every day we face choices that will determine what direction our lives will take.  We even have an audience watching our performance – our family, friends, even neighbors.  Our very own fan club, cheering us along!

…so I thought the GPS was supposed to keep me from wandering around in circles?

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I like maps.  I like planning my route, calculating the best routes, rest stops and note worthy attractions.  I like leaving a congested highway and making my way on back roads, with only the most basic of maps to keep me heading in the chosen direction.  I’m famous for my “shortcuts” – and most of them involve dirt roads.  Reading maps has given me an innate sense of direction (note: unless I’m in DC, then all bets are off).  I can be on a dirt road surrounded by cornfields – and simply “know” which direction leads to home. 

As a map connoisseur, I rejected the GPS with the conviction a Coke Classic lover showed for New Coke.  I snickered over stories of hapless individuals driving into walls or off of bridges while following their electronic masters.  Really? A little common sense, please! You see? This is what happens when we rely on electronics instead of our brains, people!

Pride goeth before a fall. And mine fell when I landed a training contract that required me to drive all around two states, making dozens of stops along the way.  I started with my maps, of course. It took HOURS  to plot my route.  I eventually succumbed and bought a highly rated GPS – and I was on my way!

I took to my new GPS toy the way a dieter takes to dessert buffet.  It was so easy! All I had to do was follow Lola’s (yup, Lola!) rather annoying insistent vocal commands – and I magically arrived at my desired destination! So easy!  I’ll admit to feeling frustrated by her determination to keep me on the major intersections – I much prefer short cuts and back roads.  And so, I would deliberately turn OFF Lola’s preferred path – and when she got too vocal in her objections – I shut her off.  I think everyone should come with an OFF button – don’t you?

Plumbers, Mechanics and More. Oh Joy.

It's been one of those weeks. Everything in my life is making odd noises: the minivan, the pump, the children. (ok, the children's noises may have been due to the sheer number of kids involved.) Nonetheless, having to deal with a plumber AND a mechanic in the same day left me feeling quite sorry for myself (and my wallet).

Because we believe in small businesses we tend to call the little guys: the solo plumber, the small repair shop, etc. They're not always as effecient as larger organizations - and I've spent a bit of time tracking down the mechanic, trying to get an estimate for the work. (because if it turns out to be triple what I'm expecting, I'm going to need to get some xanax from my doctor. It's best to be prepared!)

Yup, I've worried about the cost of all this manual labor. Plus parts. Did you know the silly 20 gallon pump tank costs $158 from a plumbing supply house? It's an empty tank, for crying out loud! {sigh}

HEAT: The Unexpected Dangers

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson
As the mercury rises and we brace ourselves for yet ANOTHER stretch of nasty weather - it's time to ask ourselves..."Was all that hairspray of the 60's and 70's REALLY worth it???" 

We all know the standard dangers of extreme heat - heat stroke, heart attacks, etc. (yada yada yada) - but for me, the dangers of heat are MUCH more, well, dangerous!

1. CRANKINESS - both my own - and other peoples'. Let's face it- if you really want to see my head explode this is a great time to push my buttons. (and I'd prefer to be cranky ALONE - so the rest of you crank-heads go bother someone else.)

2. Reduced work performance.  Now is NOT a good time to need the services of those requiring fine motor skills. Avoid neurosurgery, piano concerts and hairdressers. (trust me on this last one - OIY!!!)

…and so they dragged me, kicking and screaming, into the digital age

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I used to be cool. Really! I was active on WOW (the pre-AOL chat room) before most folks ever heard of the internet.  I was cutting edge – for a non-techie. I even had a column in the now defunct online  Cecil County Magazine.  And, no thanks to my now husband, I had a computer WITH a hard drive!  (my first computer had only two floppies because – and I quote my wonderful techie husband – “No one would ever need an entire 20mb of space!” In his defense – it was a LONG time ago!)

And yet, despite my advanced beginnings – I am now a technological wash-out.  I own NO Apple products.  I FINALLY got a GPS last Christmas –and like it. And, most importantly from a Book Slut point of view – I FINALLY have a Kindle.

We have ONE Kindle in our household – and we’re constantly fighting over it.  Because of this – there’s an eclectic combination of digital books for our perusing pleasure.  I’ve finally found some Facebook folks that keep me current on FREE and low-cost ebooks:  BookGorilla, Pixel of Ink, Readers of Kindle Books, etc – and I’m stocking up

Additionally, there are plenty of business books that we’re perusing – which keep us motivated and growing! I LOVE taking ONE of my entire libraries with me wherever I go – it makes waiting MUCH less frustrating! (still love the thousands of books in our home – but digital sure weighs less!)


I don’t know how we survived without our Kindle for so long – something about loving the feel of a real book in my hands.  You get over it. Trust me. 

Maybe one day I’ll have an i-pod! 

Endangered Childhood: Growing Up Shouldn't be Dangerous!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

broken bike by ~droplet86I can't turn around without finding yet another example of endangered childhood - online or in my own community. It's reaching epidemic proportions - and I'm terrified of what will become of these once innocent children. I've been insulated by the homeschooling community and the parenting blogs that were my lifeline - though they made me feel like a bad mom for not buying natural peanut butter and not getting my brood to eat sprouts. But my gang's finishing their first year in public school (and loving it), and I've gotten to know a lot of kids who have more to deal with than JIF peanut butter. 

There's the teenage boy who was kept confined in his sparse bedroom and allowed to do nothing outside of watching his spoiled little sister. Or the sisters who are tossed between homes like a volleyball, occasionally landing back with their abusive mother. Or the girl who witnessed a fatal shooting in her home - by her father. 

Childhood shouldn't be this traumatic.

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!)

Five Steps to take this Summer that will Transform Your Life!

There's no more putting it off - Summer is upon us. Tis the season for surf, sand and family time - and we've earned every minute of it! But this summer, let's also concentrate on US - and our dreams! Here are five things to do this summer that will change our lives!

1. DREAM - What are your dreams and lifetime goals? Do you even know? NOW is the time to dream big. What do you need to accomplish so, when you look back over your life, you see a life well-lived? Write down as many as you can; things to do, to see, to become, to learn. Then go back and circle the top five that you start working on NOW!

Now that you know what you want, visualize your world as if these things were already accomplished. See the details of your day, and feel the joy and satisfaction of knowing you have accomplished these things. Do this EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

2. BIG ROCKS - Remember the story of putting rocks, pebbles, sand and water into jar? You have to put the big rocks in first, or the smaller stuff will fill up your days and you'll never accomplish the really important things. We all have a million little things that we need to do each day - but we need to make sure the important, dream building stuff gets done, too. 

Look over you dreams list. For each goal write down the steps you need to take to make your dream a reality. These are the "Big Rocks". Every day list 3-5 action steps (in different categories) - and make them the priority for your day. Break down large, involved steps into more managable actions. You'll still have the daily stuff to do - but just knowing that THESE are your priorities will super-charge your journey toward your dreams!

Beware of Allstate Motor Club - and their salespeople!

Things that annoy me:

  1.  telemarketers
  2.  liars
  3.  manipulators
  4.  shady business practices

Put them all together and you get my recent experience with Allstate Motor Club. I usually don't even answer the phone when I know it's a solicitor. But we have Allstate Insurance, and I really didn't pay attention to the words following Allstate on the Caller ID. They're counting on that. 

So I made the mistake of answering my phone, and immediately realized this was NOT my insurance agent calling with a question. Instead the salesperson immediately began reading from the script, talking fast and apparently not pausing for extraneous things - like air. Sometimes I let them finish their spiel, but I was busy with sick children and doctors and after a couple of minutes I interrupted to say, "No, thank you."  They immediately talked more, going into Spiel #2 without hesitation. Again, I interrupted. "No, thank you." Then I hung up.

That was my second mistake.

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