Archive for April 2013

Show me…

Show me that you care

To be the friend I can trust

With no strings attached.

______________

Joyce E. Johnson

WHAT? NO ‘DUMMIES’ BOOK FOR WORDPRESS?

‘Wall to Wall’? Funny you should mention that. As I went through my blog and deleted old ‘pages’ this week to make room for new ‘pages’ and posts, it was a frustrating experience once again trying to work out the complex system Word Press has developed for our ‘walls’ or collage of sorts. How does one go about adding new ‘pages’ neatly to the sidebar as a ‘widget’ without getting it all messed up and incorporated wrongly into the above menu? It requires a ‘Dummy’ book for the denser of the dense like me, I guess. 🙂 Well, I got it accomplished the first time around with my first ‘pages’ and an order, somewhat, but the second time around I had to once again begin all over to familiarize myself with the system designed for such an option. So, back to the ‘wall to wall’ look or mood I’m trying to create? Well, just putting up and displaying what pleases my eyes, and accomplishes my goal is all I’m interested in at the moment. Maybe it is not a ‘mood’ that comes into play, but just what interests me, and the fact I just want to keep things updated, post what is new, and draw interest, and readers to my site and display my ‘stuff’. It is all about compelling the curious, interested, and the faithful back to my collage, my wall, my domain. I’ve read a lot of tips, and posts lately on how to make things come together for the completed look, but I am one that likes those ‘Dummies’ books and old style manuals one can pull off a shelf and get into for the nerdy, wordy amateur blogger I am. How does everyone else fair in working through the Word Press system to display their ‘walls’?

By the way, this is a great time for me to thank all those faithful, and new readers and followers to my site. Thank you, all.

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Joyce E. Johnson

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Incoming Tide, Chapter IV

This is a chapter and scene from my novel, When Dark Closes In, about young adults in the sixties era. A bit of history  about that time: During the years between 1963 – 1975,  the military draft was implemented to increase the numbers of troops needed to fight the hated war in Southeast Asia, known as the Vietnam War. It was a historic time in the U.S. when the  ‘hippie’ generation experimented with pot, a promiscuous lifestyle, held protest demonstrations against the war and rebelled against the ‘establishment’ of rules and regulations. It is a generation that rocked and danced to the beat of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and other popular groups and singers on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. All of this story is fiction, simple as that. All characters are fictional, created only for this story, alone. Their lives and character are not based on any values or opinions of my own, but their story could be that of many out there, given the history and facts of that era and time. The history and references to the Vietnam War in places and localities are truthful and factual. You will find the prologue and first three chapters and parts of this story all posted under my ‘fiction’ category on my blog.

When Dark Closes In tells the story of Jennifer, Scott and their friends who lived, loved, fought and died during that time, succumbing to  the shadows of a dark period in history. But, from out of the darkness comes a light of hope, grace and redemption for those whose lives will be forever changed from that moment on.

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WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter IV

Incoming Tide

Jennifer waited while Scott showered and dressed. She looked at framed pictures he displayed on the walls, one of them together, taken years earlier. His apartment was filled with things and touches of the man he was. A collection of miniature die-cast model cars and planes was arranged on the mantel beside the picture. On the other side rested an old baseball glove and hard ball from his days with their high school baseball team he played on when he was their star pitcher. A desk in one corner held textbooks and notebooks from his three years in college. A stereo unit with a stack of records propped up beside it took up space on the other side.

She turned on the stereo, tuning in to the local hit parade AM station, and the Beach Boys revved up and roared to life in, Little Deuce Coup.

The door to his bedroom opened. He was dressed in khaki pants, knit shirt and deck shoes. His hair with natural blond streaks, still damp, had a mussed up look adding to his rakish charm. His aqua blue eyes and captivating smile were just a couple of the things that attracted all the girls back in high school, she remembered. His recent tan was evident he’d not spent all his hours indoors at his uncle’s garage, working on cars, or in a classroom at SITE (Seattle Institute of Technology and Engineering).

Gads, he looks good.

“I left my grungy clothes in a pile on the floor for the maid to find. She’s off today.” He quipped.

“Oh. That’s too bad. I guess you will just have to wash your own clothes. Hmm…is that British Sterling I smell?”

“It is. You remember.” he replied, grinning.

Jennifer nodded. “I gave you a bottle of it the Christmas before I left for Notre Dame. It is my favorite men’s cologne.

“And now mine, too.”

“Oh, do I have that kind of effect on you?” she said, teasing again.

“Don’t you know what you do to me?” He walked over to the stereo, turned off the Beach Boys, and picked out several records, stacking them onto the cylindrical record changer. The strains to, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” began playing.

“Come here.” He said, motioning to her with his forefinger.

She went into his embrace.

“What are you thinking, with that smug grin?” she said, looking up into his eyes.

“Just how happy I am to have you all to myself tonight. We don’t have a third-party hanging around this time.”

“Who are you referring to?”

“Someone. Anyone. It seems whenever I want to be alone with you there is always someone around. But, tonight it’s just you and I, here alone in my apartment. And, since I am your ride back home tonight, you can’t get away from me.”

“I realize that. You certainly arranged this well, didn’t you? My father used to warn me, ‘Watch yourself with that guy.’ But, with my car in your uncle’s shop waiting to be serviced I could hardly refuse the ride, could I? But, Scott, don’t assume…”

“Jennifer… relax. Let’s just dance. Then we’ll go to dinner somewhere.” His arms tightened around her and he began coaxing her gently into a slow dance, their legs and hips coming together, moving together, with the music, the lyrics capitalizing on the mood, and the physical sensations she was feeling.

“Scott… I realize it’s hard for you to understand. It’s just that…well…”

“Understand what? Jennifer, I love you. I respect you for the person you are, and I’m not going to force my intentions on you. But, we’re adults, now. Let us have our time, our moments, together. Make your own decisions. Right or wrong. You’ve allowed your parents and your old-fashioned virtues to stand in the way too many times of finding some happiness for yourself.”

“It isn’t just that. It’s the consequences we live with if we make a mistake we aren’t prepared to live with, and could regret.” Her words, spoken quietly were so muffled she could barely hear them herself as she leaned into him, feeling the heat of his body, penetrating into her’s. Jennifer wanted to pull away, but couldn’t make herself do it.

The scent of his British Sterling cologne was intoxicating, his hands on her lower back, electrifying. Even as she said the words, “I think we should wait.” she knew he did not want to. She did not think she did either, anymore, as she allowed herself to be carried along, the pleasure, the blissful gratification, an ecstasy, she had never known before, and knew she could not stop. His kisses sent a wave of desire through her, gently at first like an incoming tide, then increasing with such intensity it was like the surf pounding against her groins, would not let her retreat. She succumbed to the moment, returning his kisses with the same intensity, and they forgot all else.

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On a personal note: My husband and I were just nineteen in 1966, got married and lived through that time. He was placed on exempt status from the draft so he could attend college in L.A., CA. Because, he attended four years of college, graduated, and the arrival of our first-born child in 1970, he never had to fight in that war, of which we are very thankful.

Joyce E. Johnson

Sunny Days


I can hardly wait

For bright sunny days to come

To plant my spring blooms

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Joyce E. Johnson

Where is SPRING?


Carved from wood, this bear

Stands draped in a shawl of snow

Waiting for the thaw

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Note:  The above photo is one of our bear that does sentry duty in our back yard.  But, sometimes the birds and squirrels  will use it as a perch.  🙂 After our big (12 in.) snow storm on Monday we thought it looked so funny with its large helmet of snow, yet the nose and mouth was so distinct. My husband, Wayne took the photo.  I thought it would be fun to do a haiku poem.

Joyce E. Johnson

QUIET HEROES

War memorials in Washington D.C. dedicated to those who fought in the Vietnam War.

War memorials in Washington D.C. dedicated to those who fought in the Vietnam War.

 

 

In April of 1998 my husband and I took a vacation trip back east to New England and states from Main down to Washington D.C. and Virginia. While visiting D.C. for the first time, we took in several tourist sights including the Arlington National Cemetery, and other war memorials  honoring soldiers and military who fought in our wars. I was so moved by the quiet, peaceful settings of the graves and memorials there. The above picture is one of the memorials there honoring those who died in Vietnam. The beautiful black granite Vietnam War memorial wall has over 58,000 +  names engraved into it of soldiers who died in just that war, alone. Many of the visitors take a piece of paper and lay it over the name inscription and with a pencil fill in that part where the name leaves an impression or mark on the paper, an emotional experience for those who have lost a loved one in that war.  The sculptures and monuments of soldiers from all the wars were equally impressive  honoring quiet heroes who fought in those wars. Arlington National Cemetery, also a quiet, serene setting with beautifully landscaped grounds is covered with the graves of soldiers who served and gave their lives for our country. As the anniversary nears of the fall of Saigon on April 30th I think of all those who gave their life for our freedom. They are gone, but not forgotten.

Below the picture is my first attempt at a haiku poem. I decided to use it this way with the protagonist character (Jennifer) whom I created for my recent Historical Fiction story, When Dark Closes In.

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A deep impression —

His name engraved on the wall

Her eyes filled with tears.

___________________

Joyce E. Johnson

Photo credits: Joyce E. Johnson

THROUGH THE NAKED EYE

3-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 0013-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 0033-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 006

3-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 0073-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 0083-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 009

3-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 0113-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 0133-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 014

3-15-2013, mountains, RMNP 015

THROUGH THE NAKED EYE

With careful steps I place my feet

between large boulders that hug the ground

and rocky mounds of prickly scrub,

and listen with earnest ears the sound

of raptors large that soar in flight

to peaks: their summits reach the  skies

 far beyond my naked sight.

Where is one greater, a scene to view

a mountain sought, on land or sea

where one’s eyes can travel to

 these lofty, high majestic heights

for the traveler passing through?

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Poem by: Joyce E. Johnson – 2013

THE RETURNING SAILOR

The below story poem is a narrative ballad I wrote many years ago. I posted this last June on my blog, but am re-posting it for this week’s word prompt on Geraldine’s Woven Dreams: A Creative Prompt Blog. This week’s word prompt is alive. I hope you enjoy the story and comments are always welcomed.

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THE RETURNING SAILOR

Down the coast and out to sea,

a voice, a whisper beckons me.

It is the sound of her calling my name.

Would she still love me, a man with my shame?

Will she remember the hands that caressed

her face and body, and how I confessed

of the love and tenderness for her in my heart,

wrenched and torn, when we had to part?

Now, I’m returning and will look for her,

alive with the burning desire to stir

the love we shared when I left for the sea.

I pray she’s still there, waiting for me.

There was a fight. Oh, God! What a mess.

It was late that night. I drank to excess.

I did not know, but did not care

that her husband knew of our love affair.

Coming alive with a fist to my jaw

intent on surviving once the knife I saw

I sprang with shifting feet in dread,

landing a blow with my right to his head,

then felt the piercing pain and might

of flashing silver turned crimson bright.

With his knife to my flesh, and muscle it tore.

Bleeding and enraged I came down and bore

the knife I captured, to his chest then came

in self-defense went at him the same.

His breathing stilled, and he lay dead.

Was justice served this way instead?

I went away broken, feeling despair

leaving her behind, her grief to bear.

Like an anchor weighed down

with heavy remorse

wherever I sailed, wherever my course

I could not forget how she once loved me.

Now I’m returning from a dark, cold sea.

_________________

Poem by: Joyce E. Johnson

Seeking after things attainable

To seek,

to find,

to nurture

the mind;

still yet, I

yearn to learn.

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson

Posted April 4, 2013 by Joyce in Poems, Writing

Tagged with , , ,

ABOARD THE TRANS-SIBERIAN IN COMMUNIST RUSSIA, MAY, 1989

ABOARD THE TRANS-SIBERIAN IN COMMUNIST RUSSIA

A true story

By: Joyce E. Johnson

It was May, 1989 when I made the journey alone, flying from the U.S. into Helsinki, Finland where I changed planes and airlines, finally arriving in Moscow, Russia, and the (now former) Soviet Union. I was commemorating the 100th year anniversary of my paternal grandfather’s immigration into the U.S., through Castle Gardens, New York City, New York in 1889. Known as the Germans from Russia his family were part of the original settlers in South Russia in the late 1700 period who first settled in villages of Bessarabia (now known as Moldova) founded and farmed by the early Germans.

I grew excited, and anxious to visit the city of Odessa and Ukraine, the city and region of his birth and family history. Other cities on my itinerary included Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, and Leningrad, a city then named for the Bolshevik, Vladimir Lenin who birthed and led the revolution for the socialists’ regime of old Motherland, Communist Russia.

During the many years of genealogy research I learned about a country steeped in mystery with a dark past, one with a multitude of hidden secrets covered under layers of propaganda, lies and classified files. Democracy was but a word spoken in anxious moments of feverish excitement among Russians gathering on street corners, expectant, yet still afraid to speak out against the Kremlin and politburo’s party members.

Now, one hundred years later I was living my dream to travel abroad into this massive country. Due to job commitments my husband could not take this trip with me so I traveled alone until meeting up with another group of tourists from the U.S. in Moscow.

Most of the traveling we did between cities in the Ukraine was by the Russian airline Aeroflot, but due to a change of plans on our itinerary we took a Trans-Siberian train from Kharkov to Kiev.

My roommate Betty said. “Oh. That trip will take all night. We’ll lose time, and have to sleep on a crowded car.”

I tried to be optimistic and adventurous, and said, “That’s great! This will be exciting. I love trains. We can see the country side and enjoy the ride.”

Betty and I were assigned to share a compartment of four beds with an older, married, Jewish couple.

I noticed the Russian people staring as we waited to board the train. I smiled at them wishing we were allowed to speak to them or communicate in some way. I knew no Russian except for a few words I had learned in haste while studying my guidebook. Only our Russian guide Sasha and escorts knew English, so communication was difficult. It was also forbidden between Russians and American, except through a host.

I trudged with baggage to the train, an icon to their past. I anticipated with excitement the adventure ahead. The large, steel, black monster sat hissing, ready. The smells of live chickens in crates, stale produce, coal and the thick, hot layers of old fuel oil permeated through the rank rail yard as we longed for fresh air.

I tried to imagine who the train might have carried, famed or regal inside its cars. Transfixed with the thought of what it represented to Russia’s past, I climbed aboard with the rest of our group and we were ushered down the aisle of its cold, dark interior. While being shown to our sleeper compartment, I heard the slow chug of engines as it moved slowly out of the railway station.

It was past midnight when I later awoke. Looking out through the dirty glass window, I saw the dark silhouette and shapes of sleeping villages as we sped by. A faint glow of light peered through windows of small houses near the tracks.

I climbed out of my bottom bunk bed to use the restroom at the end of our passenger car. I quietly went to open our compartment door to step out into the aisle trying not to disturb the others.

The door would not open. I tried without success to unlock it, fiddling with the handle and lock. My attempts to unlatch it woke the others. They got up and tried also, but it would not open. Their eyes and faces showed fear, anger. I hoped mine did not.

As our train sped through the Russian Steppes, I sat down and prayed while my traveling companions yelled and screamed for help.

“Help. We’re locked in. Open the door! Somebody!” They each frantically pulled and yanked on the door latch. They were terrified we’d been deliberately locked in.

I chose to remain calm, encouraging them. “They will come. Stay calm.” I said.

We learned while on the trip a lot of things malfunctioned in this country, as their hotel facilities, equipment and transportation modes still operated as if in pre-world war II times. The Soviet Union was decades behind the West in every conceivable way.

We knew that the KGB and uniformed guards were our constant shadow everywhere we went from city to city. A man stood watch just outside our compartment when we boarded, so I knew he heard all our distress and took note of all that went on. Had he been the one to lock us in, or was the door latch only broken and jammed, making it difficult to open? We did not know, but our mind was spent with the possibilities of how this happened, and why.

Our tour guide held all our visas and passports. They were not allowed back until the time of our departure from Russia. Every place, location, hotel and transportation mode provided for us was arranged by their own In-tourist KGB travel bureau and all under the watchful eyes of discrete escorts that carefully blended into the background.

Soon, we heard those on the other side of our compartment working the latch and lock to get it opened. There was much confusion and chatter that followed about why or who might be responsible, if indeed someone was.

When we were finally freed from our compartment, and coming into the Kiev Trans-Siberian station I saw the sun rising, declaring a new day. I hoped it would be better than the night just spent in a compartment we could not be freed from.

When I arrived back home to the U.S. there was a little American flag flying outside the front door of our house. My husband had placed it there to welcome me home, never knowing anything about what went on while I traveled in Communist Russia thousands of miles apart. Mailed postcards I sent home to my family from Ukraine did not arrive home in my mailbox until ten days after my return. Three weeks after I returned home I wrote my story, submitted it to the Times Call Longmont, CO. newspaper, and it was given a full-page with my submitted photos. The picture above is one of the newspaper copies I still keep.

The trip was one I will never forget, one I will always remember, and one I have never regretted taking.

_____________________

Joyce E. Johnson

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