Rants & Raves

…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! 

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.

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.  

Truth has many colors – and yours is the virulent green of day-old vomit.

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Every time we open our mouths to speak we have a choice. A critical choice.

We can choose to use our words to build someone up, to brighten their day, to tell them they’re awesome, they’re loved, they’re creative, they’re resourceful. We can use our words to help them become stronger, more secure and able to take on life’s challenges. We can make their world better, simply by pointing out the positive.

We can choose to remain neutral.  We can talk about the weather, football, the government or what to make for dinner. These words don’t have a positive effect on the world, but they do no harm, either.

Our third choice is the most popular option. We can use our words to wound, to hurt, to embarrass. We can point out the other’s faults, shortcomings and imperfections. We can let them know we find them lacking, less than optimal, less than…..well, ourselves.  We leave them slightly stunned, trying to hide the wounds our words have caused.  Their world – and self-esteem – is diminished slightly; our words have found their mark. We shrug, turn away, and reassure ourselves that we did nothing wrong – we spoke only the truth.  We continue along our way, in search of our next victim.

As a recent victim, I say to you: the truth has many colors, and yours is the virulent green of day-old vomit.  If I do not ask for your opinion – do not give it. Do not tell me of my faults, I know them already.  I should, you’ve pointed them out enough.  Please note – they still exist; your notice did nothing to help me grow, indeed, it kept me small and helpless. Perhaps that was your plan, all along?

Meet David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower as they discuss Life with President Dwight Eisenhower

David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower featured speakers for Easton fundraiser Dec. 8

Regional history buffs and patrons of education and literacy will enjoy a rare insider’s view of 34th U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower as grandson David Eisenhower and his wife Julie Nixon Eisenhower, daughter of U.S. President Richard Nixon, discuss their book Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower 1961-1969, on Thursday, December 8. The Joy of Reading fundraising event will support tuition assistance at Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers (CACC).

            The VIP reception will be held at 6 p.m. at Scossa Restaurant & Lounge, 8 N. Washington St., Easton, followed by the presentation at 7:30 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E. Dover St., Easton. Tickets are $135 for the reception, which includes cocktails and light fare, reserved seats at the presentation and a signed copy of the book, or $35 for general admission to the presentation. For tickets, call (410) 822-8061 or visit www.cacckids.org.

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 how to place a bet in vegas onlineLove 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:

Taking Down the Guilt Monster

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Does the "Guilt Monster" control your days? You know the one, that annoying voice in your head (ok, mine sounds EXACTLY like my mother) that tells you what you SHOULD be doing, no matter WHAT you're doing! The Guilt Monster has a huge list of things I SHOULD be doing if I am to be a GOOD WOMAN. Everything I see is MY responsiblity - and anything undone is MY FAULT. 

I hate that freakin' Guilt Monster. 

But I still carry it around with me. I fight it, of course. But like long ago fights with my mother, I take the passive-aggressive approach. I don't actively go against the voice and do something outrageous for ME. Instead, I do nothing. My quiet victories. "Ok, I didn't do what you wanted me to do, but I didn't really do anything else, either!" 

Gotta tell you, that's not working so well for me.

A Fun, Educational Gift - Postcards from Mr. Pish

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I love children's books that educate as well as entertain! We homeschoolers are always trying to "sneak in" educational moments. "Postcards from Mr. Pish" by K.S Brooks delivers the punch!

This enchanting book uses both pictures and story to tell of the adventures of Mr. Pish, a real-life Jack Russell terrier, as he travels to Canada and through the northern United States. Mr. Pish's adventure begins in Cambridge, MD - and that it where the book is published. Maps and photos help everyone learn about the different states and provinces - and the story highlights aspects of the same!

Kids will love the feisty terrier - they'll follow his adventures and won't even realize they're learning geography at the same time! You can also sign up for the Mr. Pish newsletter and download the accompanying companion learning worksheet for further exploration!

Best of all, sales from this made in the U.S.A. book benefit the Arbor Day Foundation!

"Postcards from Mr. Pish" is priced at $14.95 and can be ordered from www.MrPish.com or Amazon.com. A great gift for the kids in your life!

Little Women - the Classic turned Musical will entertain and delight!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Are you ready for a treat? Get your tickets NOW for Little Women - The Musical, playing in both Chestertown and Oxford, MD.  I love the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott - but couldn't imagine how that long tome could be set to music. Now, I understand.

The first thing I noticed was the EXCELLENT casting. The four March sisters were immediately identifiable - Jo with her assertive determination, Amy with her petulant pout, Meg's shy sweetness and Beth's pure innocence.  Jo, expertly played by Beth Anne Langrell, has a strong, feisty voice that commands attention. Becca VanAken (Amy) gets our attention even before she speaks - her facial expressions are wonderful - and perfectly portray the selfish youngest sister.  Alaana Mensing plays Meg - as gentle and romantic as we have imagined her. Sarah Snyder is the perfect Beth - and her tragic demise is handled discreetly. Debra Ebersole is bossy Aunty March, and Maria Gilliam is the ever-wonderful Marmee. Rhonda Higginbottom portrays Mrs. Kirck - and her strong voice serves the part well!

Scrapomatics Yummy Blues Buffet Heats Up the Avalon

by Dwayne Eutsey

Scrapomatic’s bluesy Americana/roots-flavored performance Thursday night began with a slow simmer that grew throughout their tight, hour-and-a-half set into a hot, roiling finish.

At the risk of over-extending my culinary metaphor here, vocalist Michael Mattison’s performance in the Avalon’s Stoltz Listening Room reminded me of a smooth-and-spicy, down-home blend of hickory BBQ sauce. If you’ve heard him in his other life as lead singer with the Derek Trucks Band, you know Mattison’s vocals range from raw and raspy to angelically soulful, a span that was in full effect throughout the evening.

Paul Olsen, Mattison’s partner, demonstrated a similar range on acoustic guitar. His playing seamlessly moved from blues to country to gospel, while his tenor voice provided a sweet counterbalance to Mattison’s heartier edge. Joining the duo on stage was their friend David Yoke, guitarist for Susan Tedeschi’s band. Playing a jalapeno-red electric guitar, Yoke rounded out Thursday night’s show with some zesty riffs and solos.

The set included original tunes penned by Mattison and Olsen like “Alligator Love Cry” and “Graveside Blues,” along with traditional blues and gospel songs by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt (“Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me”) and the Rev. Gary Davis (“I Belong to the Band”). The show-stopper for me was a blistering version of a haunting song called “Rawhead and Bloody Bones” from Scrapomatic’s 2006 CD Alligator Love Cry.  

All in all, Scrapomatic cooked up a satisfying musical spread that they left those of us in the audience hungry for more.

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