…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?

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!!!)

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?????) 

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.

Sucky Halloween Mom takes on The Great Pumpkin!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

It’s time Halloween and I had a heart to heart talk. 

SUCKY HALLOWEEN MOM (that would be ME): Why do you do this to me every year?  Why do you rob me of time and money with the sole purpose of stuffing my kids on candy I don’t let them have the rest of the year??? Why???

THE GREAT PUMPKIN:  What’s your problem? Are you like the Bah Humbug Scrooge of Halloween? What did I ever do to you???

SHM: Ok, it’s not JUST you! But as soon as you raise your orange head we’re inundated in tinsel, Rudolph’s and long wish lists!

TGP: Let’s get this straight. You hate me because I’m close to Christmas? Gal, you’ve got ISSUES!  And what’s wrong with some candy? You certainly like eating it, by the looks of those love handles!

SHM: and that’s ANOTHER problem! My fat pants are getting tight!

TGP: So you blame a holiday instead of your obsession with fresh bread and cookies? And take it out on your kids?

SHM: NO! They dress up and go trick or treating – I just don’t like it very much! I don’t see the point!

TGP: Well, not everything has a point – and that doesn’t make it wrong. As it happens, however, I DO!  Halloween started as Samhain, a Celtic celebration literally translated “end of summer”.  Folks used to celebrate the harvest and enjoy the festivities before they were confined indoors for months of cold weather! It’s the break between the six months of light, and the six months of darkness!

SHM: and that’s ANOTHER reason not to like you – the DARK!!!

Those Bus Trip Blues

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I'm an independent traveler - give me a map and get out of my way! I like meandering through unfamiliar places, asking the locals for input on where to go, where to stay and where to eat.  Crowds make me nervous – and I avoid tourist traps like the proverbial plague.  I’ve been known to veer off main highways to make my way on unknown back roads – just to avoid sitting in traffic.  I’m also known for marching into kitchens, demanding better food or service. 

So why did I spend last week on a bus trip to Myrtle Beach, surrounded by women who were 20-40 years older than I?  Love. My mom loves traveling with her Red Hat group, and invited me to go with her. I went.  Didn’t even complain when we had to get up at 3am to catch a 6am bus (which finally arrived 2 hours late).

The speeding bus with harried bus driver (he had been stuck behind an accident), turned into where we were waiting, and sped by us without blinking. How he missed a group of 30 well-padded women wearing bright red and purple (and red hats!), jumping up and down amidst enough luggage to dress a small country, is beyond me.  He finally figured out his mistake and returned.

We loaded the luggage into the bus (the bus driver had a bad back) and claimed the seats that would be ours for the week. Mom insisted the “Fun” group sat near the back of the bus (can you tell she was a trouble-maker in school?) so back we trudged – carrying enough food to survive for a week. I couldn’t fit through the aisle with all my packages – but my cousin rescued me before I was overrun by anxious women wearing purple.

We took off to pick up the next group of Red Hatters – and I immediately flashed back to a cab ride in Boston many years ago as the driver alternately sped and slammed on the brakes for non-existent obstacles. I was suddenly grateful we hadn’t had a big breakfast!

Kicking Coffee to the Curb

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I did it.

I kicked coffee to the curb - cold turkey! It's been 10 days now - and this is the first day I've gotten through without a nap. I'd also like to apologize to anyone I've spoken with in the past 10 days - and could you possibly email me what we talked about??? 

This was a spur of the moment decision - no debating, no researching relevant facts. The only thing that entered into the decision was my wonky heartbeat - and the pulse that REFUSED to go below 100 - when I was resting. I have to tell you - going from eight espressos a day to nothing is a jolt to the system - so if you caught me licking the side of your coffee cup, please forgive me! (if you didn't catch me - ignore this message!)  [ALSO...reports of me licking the wallpaper at Coffee Kat are widely exaggerated!]

I'm happy to say my heartbeat has returned to normal - and the pulse rate has dropped into the non-alarming range.  I can also finally focus again - and can write at least three sentences without losing track of what I was doing!

Best of all - to all my coffee-loving friends out there - I PROMISE to leave you alone and let you enjoy your java without me harping in your ear about the dangers of caffeine and the benefits of quitting! (cause if you'd done that to me two weeks ago I might have decked you!) {grin}

Have a great week!

Hurry Up and Paint

by Shalagh  Hogan

Postponed once by a snowstorm, my ladies luncheon was now mere days away.  I was seated on the kitchen floor, paintbrush poised in mid-stroke for a second coat on the woodwork, when my husband strolled in and remarked, “We should have people over more often”. I was caught in “hurry up and renovate my real estate” mode.  Why do I do this? Do I throw a party to complete unfinished projects? Or do I need an excuse to start new projects? Do I seek my guest’s approval or do I hope to avoid their pity?  Either way, my to-do list becomes a “Ta-Da!” list when “company’s coming” is written on my calendar.

 Suppose your mother-in-law accepts your casual offer to host a Thanksgiving dinner, as mine once did.  Moments prior, you could stand to live in and look at your home. Yet sudden panic will give you hoity-toity-3D-designer-vision. You’ll see the ugliness of it all. To avoid your imminent shame, you’ll need to make immediate and confident decisions everywhere.  You will make a note to rent a steamer to remove the obnoxious wallpaper in the dining room. Your keen eye will see the dangling wires from a hole over the dining table and the bucket in the hallway under the mysterious drip. Your new facial tick will kick in. Humbug your sweetheart’s ego. You will now be so ready to hire an electrician and a plumber.  

My Brain Went on Vacation and all I got was this Filthy T-Shirt!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I can count the number of actual vacations I've taken in my lifetime on one hand.  Recent years the count goes down to one finger! It seems "Vacation" has become synomonous with visiting relatives, or working around the house.  Now that we're self-employed "weekends" have virtually disappeared, as well.  We're always trying to do more, and there's ALWAYS more to do.  A vacation seems as realistic as a self-cleaning refrigerator and self-emptying trashcan. (and if you find one of these treasures - LET ME KNOW!)

Turns out - it doesn't matter how much WE want to WORK! Our wonderful, complex bodies know what they need - and are in a position to get it! This past week, for example, my brain went on vacation - without me.  It did NOT request vacation leave - nor leave a contact number! I hope it's having a wonderful time, exploring new worlds and new civilizations. Yeah - since I'm stuck here - brainless - I've been filling the hours with Star Trek re-runs. Luckily, I had to wait around anyway - for the Sear's repairman. Our BRAND NEW hi-tech washing machine is broken.

So I sit here, waiting for the repair-man in my crumpled, slightly stinky shirt. I'd like to write something catchy, inspirational and memorable. Uh........nope. I've got nothin'.  Hopefully, my brain will return soon - refreshed and ready to take on the world!

And I hope it brings me CHOCOLATE!!!

Boobs, Babes and other Natural Disasters

part of the Fountain of Neptune in Bologna, Italyby Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Let's hear it for nursing mothers! We who bare all {grin} for the sake of our children! While my ta-tas are now retired from public domain (and insured by the post-nursing necessity of industrial strength ta-ta holders), I fondly remember the seven years of Godiva-ish freedom nursing provided.

I'm sure experts' question the transformation of shy girl guarding her budding bosom to relaxed Earth Mama, indifferently plopping her babe's dinner onto a table in a busy restaurant.  Turns out there is a natural transistion - although not all mamas experience all stages!

The Turtle: This one's easy to recognize - she's purchased the pastel tent that hides everything from the neck down, fiercely shouting to distant passer-bys "I'M NURSING BUT YOU WON'T SEE ANYTHING!"  She might be found hiding in a rest room, perched uncomfortably on the handi-capped sink as she feeds her wee babe. The $35 Hooter-Hider (aka - tent with a view) is perfect for those in the Turtle stage!

Fortunately, by the time child #2 comes along, the turtle emerges and finds less bulky ways to care for her young!

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