Seeds and Weeds




Chapter 4: Dysfunctionality & Family


Poetry & Prose by JJ Johnson


Hearts and kisses






Chapter 4: Dysfunctionality & Family


Ro-Ro Rows Her Boat & Within Me, Beyond Me



            When reading this chapter, one might get the impression that I hate my parents, that they treated me horribly, beat me, locked me in a closet and set me on fire. But nothing so dramatic or terrible ever happened to me, in fact it was quite the opposite. Basically, nothing ever happened, and that’s the problem. Perhaps it was being the last of four children, unexpected, unplanned, maybe even unwanted, but what I came out of childhood with was a deep sense that I was not loved.

            I know, it sounds like one of those “oh woe is me” sob stories, but after so many years without an inkling of love in my life, what am I supposed to feel? How am I supposed to feel? Really, how am I supposed to feel? I don’t know how to love. It is so similar to my search for faith that I wonder if they are not the same thing. I have wanted love for as long, perhaps longer, than I have been searching for faith. I will get into the issues of dysfunctional life after exploring the positive effect that a mysterious young child with autism had on my life.



Ro-Ro Rows Her Boat


            Ro-Ro is a little girl who changed my life. She may even have saved my soul, though it remains to be seen if such a thing is possible. Nevertheless, she opened my eyes to a prejudice I had been carrying in me since my youth and helped me eliminate a fear that had been eating away at the core of what made me who I was. I always thought of myself as someone without preconceived notions or hatred of others who they were classified as different from the so-called “norm”. Then Ro-Ro came into my life and humbled me in a way I never imagined a four-year old girl with Autism, who could not speak or understand a word I said, could do. But there she was, the one they called “the monster” and “an evil child”, exposing the angel within and teaching me a lesson I will never forget.

            One day while I was working at a facility for people recovering from brain injuries, I was assigned to Ro-Ro. I had heard awful stories about her and was dreading the day ahead of me. I was angry because I hadn’t worked with children before that and didn’t want to deal with an Autistic kid who had nicknames made up for her by the staff who worked with her regularly. I was afraid of what might happen and of her as well. I went to her room resenting whoever it was that called in sick that day and caused me to get into this terrible situation. Well, it wasn’t a situation yet, but I was sure it was going to become one. Another staff member went over Ro-Ro’s files and interventions with me. She gave me all the basics and told me to call for a nurse if things got out of hand or she had any kind of “nursing” issue that required expertise beyond my behavior adjusting skills. Sounded good to me and I hoped for the best.

            Then something unexpected happened, or maybe it was that the expected didn’t happen, but in any case, I found myself captivated by this little girl who I was told couldn’t do much of anything. I came to the conclusion that to those who saw a monster when they looked at Ro-Ro, it was because they saw a reflection of the behavior they displayed and deployed on her. Somehow she made a connection with me and we bonded very quickly. In spite of the various behaviors she displayed as a result of her Autism, she won my heart and showed me that the fears I had developed during my youth were born of lies and ignorance. 

            For several years while I was growing up, there was a group home for learning disabled adults across the street from where I lived. Very often, especially at night, they were not properly supervised. Sometimes they would get drunk and loud, and display very odd behavior, which for a 10-year-old kid was frightening. I grew to dislike them and was not averse to calling them “retards” and other such insulting words. It became a part of my vocabulary at school as well, along with most of the other “normal” kids. I found it comforting that the other kids were just as prejudice as I was.

            I went through life oblivious to my disdain for those who were “lesser” than I was. I made judgments and went on my merry way. That is until one day while riding in a van along with my co-workers, on our way to a job. On the way, we drove by a school bus van that had disabled people in it. Without even thinking, I blurted out, “Oh, there’s a bus load of retards. Hurry up, let’s get past them”, as if driving next to them was somehow going to harm me.

            As it turned out, the guy driving our van had a relative with learning disabilities. He didn’t say anything, but his attitude suddenly changed and he became very cold towards me. His sister was working with us and later told me he was very angry with me. Before then I hadn’t even been aware of my own feelings. But now I was confronted with a situation where I had insulted a “normal” person with my disrespect for others. It gave me pause and made me aware of it, but it didn’t change how I felt.

            So, I shifted into a “private” mode of prejudice. I still hated “retards” and no one was gonna make me like them. Now all I had to do was hide my feelings and everything would be all right, that is until I met Ro-Ro. It’s hard to comprehend the changes she made happen within me. She overturned so many misconceptions I had that I could no longer hold onto the beliefs that formed the foundation of my prejudice. It crumbled into dust like a dried leaf on a dead tree that would never spread its seed of hatred again.

            The day I met Ro-Ro an invisible angel came to me and released me from a prison that held me behind bars I wasn’t even able to see. She exists behind a physical prison that has no barriers to her soul. Only those who cannot see through their own prejudice cannot see the angel within her. Thank you Ro-Ro, your suffering has made me whole.



RoRo Swings

Ro-Ro Rows Her Boat

Ro-Ro rows her boat gently down uncharted streams
She can travel anywhere she wants, but only in her dreams
There she can decide where her boat oars will move her
Sailing to her happy home and a family that loves her

Circling in unknown, turbulent cold waters
Changing direction, guided by those deciding hers
Controlled by unseen hands steering her to and fro
Taking her to places that she doesn't want to go

The mystery of life she will never understand
I reach out to her but never know if she'll take my hand
I want to pull her from that boat and walk beyond the shore
Where love is real and she won't need to dream it anymore

Created On: 07/06/2001


RoRo Swings



            Self-Esteem Is Everything! It is tied to so many aspects of life it is difficult to know where to begin. But then, the beginning is the very place that self-esteem is formed. So who better to start with than children and parents? This is why discussing it in the context of family is so important. Self-esteem affects everything even though it is not everything. Its presence makes all things possible; it makes the unlikely achievable, even when all odds are against success. Without self-esteem, failure is the final destination of all things tried.

            One thing often mistakenly used to build self-esteem is pride. Pride does not build confidence, but creates arrogance instead. Arrogance is reckless and feeds the hatred that pride spreads over the souls of good people, luring them down pathways to darkness. The difficulty is to build confidence without allowing it to become a glutton for the powerful rush that pride provides. This is where parents seem unprepared, or unwilling, to teach their children what they must learn to become independent, thriving individuals. It’s a repetitious cycle that parenting classes to young teenagers can help derail, before they also become parents.

            The key is to impress upon future parents, the importance of self-esteem and ways to instill it in their children. Just as important, are the things that can damage self-esteem, or worse, turn them into insecure victims. Without the strength to stand against competition, others will achieve the goals they had hoped to attain themselves. Without the confidence to take chances, they won’t take the necessary steps to succeed at the things they desire most in life.

            Why do things counter productive to a child’s development? Perhaps parents are over protective of their children. They don’t allow them independence and wind up battling against them. How many times have you heard a child say, “all by myself”? Instead of accomplishing goals, there’s a desperate struggle just to do anything on their own. That struggle becomes the way they believe it must be to get what they want. These battle tactics continue into adulthood.

            Children often feel they must secretly do whatever they are determined to do, or they will be stopped before they can finish. They are taught to hide their work so they won’t be scolded for taking initiative that would otherwise lend itself to creating new things that young imaginations should be free to think of and form into reality. Inventive minds are the seeds of progress.

            Parents do not want to be told how to raise their children and I am not suggesting that is what needs to be done. But they must provide their children with the tools to prosper when they venture out on their own. There are some who spend more time holding their children back and seem to want them to be failures. Fortunately this is not the case with most parents. Most want their children to succeed, if not exceed their own accomplishments. Some even push too hard, causing stresses just as damaging as holding them back, as they can never live up to the expectations their parents set for them.

            Nature has provided the basics and allowed humans to become prolific reproducers. But being fruitful and multiplying does not mean we are automatically good parents or teachers. The choices we are provided and the decisions we make are based on what we learn in childhood. If the foundation is filled with doubt and a trail of discipline from parents who were not equipped to teach their children fully, all too often the outcome later in life will result in failure. Hesitation will litter the fields of invention with unfinished brilliance.



Quarter-Life Crisis

Created On: 03/25/1983


The Family Way

Created On: 03/31/1983



            Within Me - Beyond Me” could just as easily have been in chapter 5 with the other introspective poems, but the last line was the deciding factor for me to put it here. “Self-Esteem Is Everything”, and as I have discussed elsewhere in this book, it is the key to succeeding at everything begun. While it is not truly “everything”, it is everything needed to do whatever we want to do in life. I find myself lacking in so many of the components of success it is no wonder I have lived 43 years and done absolutely nothing that I was capable of doing. Without love, faith and self-esteem, what can anyone do?

            That does not mean I have given up my quest for any of these pieces to the puzzle of my life. Finishing this book and putting it out in even this basic format is a good first step. Stepping beyond the fear of criticism is by no means an easy thing to do. I think also, finally going to a poetry reading and putting a voice to my poems was a small but vital step, perhaps a half-step, but an important one, facing the trepidation that others would not like my poetry.

            My poetry is a part of my being, so to expose myself in this way, not knowing what reaction I would get was a lot like taking the first leap off the waterfalls at Canajoharie. It became so easy after a while, I wondered why I was ever afraid. And so it is with my poems. I know there will be criticism on all levels, but I know that I have been honest in their writing, so I am not so worried about what anyone has to say. This is who I am, not everyone will like me.

            So if there is one reason why this poem is in this chapter, it is because I want to impress on every parent how immeasurably essential it is that they instill self-esteem in their children. It’s the most important thing any parent can do. With self-esteem, anything and everything is possible. Without it, my clone will be feeding at your breast.




Within Me - Beyond Me

Questions, haunting your mind, crushing your bleeding heart
Answers, from nowhere you can hear, tearing at your hallowed soul
Teachings never taught and lessons left for someone else to impart
Were all you ever needed to rise up out of your unholy hole

You are beyond understanding why you are forty and alone
But the confidence missing from your soul is a dark beacon to all
A shadow escaping from you leads to a light you'll never be shown
Warning of the destiny into which you have no choice but to fall

You feel like God has you under his thumb, forcing you to sin
Searching forever for answers writing poems you cannot sing
You won't find what's missing because it's never been within
You fail before you even begin because self-esteem is everything

Created On: 07/18/2003



50 Years To Nowhere


            Fifty years ago my parents were married, though I wasn’t there to see it or for that matter, not withhold my peace. And this year we marked the occasion of their anniversary with a party, which to me was more a celebration of survival, not just for me, but for their own. I often marvel at my father’s ability to restrain himself from violence in the face of my mother’s episodes. My father has many good qualities, even though fathering is not among his best.

            Life certainly could have been worse, after all, he was not an abuser and has always displayed a very high level of patience. Yet there are more forms of pain than simply physical suffering. At times I feel ashamed of myself for being angry over the lack of love and attention displayed in our household. As though I should shut up and quit complaining because I had it easy compared to so many children who were mistreated terribly in so many horrific ways. But what is neglect then, acceptable parenting?

            I still feel its affects at forty-two years old. I am held back in relationships, unable to even begin a relationship, let alone keep a healthy one going for more than a few months. It is easier to not feel anything than to face the pain of deteriorating love. I am not even sure that I have ever really been in love, at least not a love shared by both of us. I jump in, hoping whoever she is, she will be strong enough to make up for my weakness, but in the end, they have always turned out like me, unable to shoulder the burden of their own insecurity.

            Inevitably, the relationship crashes like a phoenix after the fiery climax. I must have missed the fiery climax between my parents before I was born, or perhaps they never had one, which would explain how they have lasted as a couple for more than fifty years now. I don’t ever recall seeing them embrace and kiss or say, “I love you” to one another. Now fire, no burn out.

            And so they have passed on their complacency to me and I have been unable to overcome it. I don’t know if I ever will, but I do keep trying. It’s hard to change, especially when you don’t know how to make the change or maintain it once you think you have it figured out. It’s easier to fool yourself than to admit the truth.



The Task Undone


Created On: 05/07/2005  




            One day, a young boy with autism was shown by his older brother how to make rainbows by spraying water into the air with a hose. The next day he came home from school and told his mom that he had “somethin’ ‘portent to do outside.” She looked out the window to see what he was up to and saw him pointing the hose up towards the sky with a geyser of water shooting out of the end. She asked him what he was doing and he told her he was making rainbows. That inspired me to write “A Ray of Sun From A Heart of Gold” about his rainbows. He is a talented young artist who I hope is encouraged to pursue his creativity and inspired to spread the color he perceives for all the world to see.

            It is always an inspiration to see a young person achieve exceptional levels at anything, but it becomes something special when a child with a disability is able to overcome it and stand out in a crowd, even going beyond the expectations for their classmates without any such disability. Two that come to mind are Mattie Stepanek and Jason McElwain, though there are many other examples. So I hope my friend’s son is afforded every opportunity to flourish as an artist and grow up in a world that will stop looking with their eyes for gold in their wallets because the only gold that matters can enrich us from within, if we just let the interest grow.




A Ray of Sun From A Heart of Gold



Created On: 07/18/2003


For Brendan for inspiring me, for Josh for inspiring Brendan and for Lori for having Brendan and Josh.




To view excerpts* from other chapters, click each Chapter Title below

Each Chapter excerpt presented on-line contains two poems and prose from that chapter.*

Information on purchasing this book can be found below the index.





Seeds & Weeds main page: Seeds & Weeds index (click link)




Chapter 1: Pride & Prejudice* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)


 1: Pride Is One Seed

 2: Seeds & Weeds - (prose)

 3: 3 Seeds ** (on main index page)

 4: 4th Independence

 5: Matthew 5:5

 6: Knot In The Loop

 7: Segregation *

 8: Separation *

 9: Where Will You Aim Your Hate?

10: NYS OCFS Graduation Speech, Parker Training Academy, 12/10/99 *

11: The Boyz At Tryon




Chapter 2: Power & Peace*(click Chapter Title for excerpts*)


12: 1000 Keys *

13: Pay For The War *

14: Like Father, Like Son

15: Pride Blinds Biased Eyes

16: Nation's Pledge

17: Empty Arms And Burning Flags

18: Stars And Stripes

19: There's More Than One Way

20: Rush To Judgment - Judgment To Rush

21: God's Children / One Family We Are

22: Do Not Die For Me




Chapter 3: Faith: Search Within & Beyond* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)


23: Great Unknown *

24: Pass On True Freedom

25: A Question Of Faith

26: Have You Heard?

27: Faith In What I Don't Believe

28: Unwilling To Let Go

29: This Dream I Dreamt Last Night

30: The One On My Shoulder - Never Succumb

31: No End To The Flesh

32: Invisible Light

33: Touch *




Chapter 5: Introspection* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)


40: Life Is An Ocean *

41: Self Portrait

42: Forgive Not Forget

43: Two Faced

44: Constant & Changing

45: Walls And Bridges

46: Desire To Fly

47: The Man I Am No One Else Knows

48: Blind To The Me Others See

49: Stock Room Blues

50: But Does God Trust in US?

51: Struggle Against Success

52: Every Eden Has It's Apples

53: See Through Inner Eyes

54: I Am

55: Under The Bridge *




Chapter 6: Mother Natures Sun* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)


56: He Who Laughs Last Will Be A Fertile, Mutant Cockroach *

57: Sleep (Hiding From The Touch Of Death)

58: Leaves

59: Inner Eclipse

60: Full Womb Crescent Moon

61: Moon & River *




Chapter 7: State Of The Artrocity* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)


62: Death Of A Virgin *

63: Artificial Artists (State Of The Art)

64: Artificial Artists (X-Reprise) *

65: Tragedy

66: Artists Are Lonely

67: Where Is My Muse?

68: Philosophy Therefore Poetry

69: A Test




Chapter 8: Broken Bonds* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)


70: Drive Home *

71: Even The Best Of Us

72: This Quiet Cemetery

73: A Ghost At My Door

74: Soul Silhouette

75: Where Are You Going? I've Seen Where You've Been! *

76: A Door Too Close To Closed To Adore You

77: At The End Of Every Rainbow

78: Eye Of The Pirate, Heart Of A Thief

79: Sometimes Wishes Come True

80: What Happened To Us?




Chapter 9: Loose Ends*(click Chapter Title for excerpts*)


81: Big Hair

82: Across The Miles

83: Hidden Alterations

84: Unspoken Thirst

85: Daylight’s Darkness

86: Two Color Souls One Color

87: Someone's Drowning In Your Pool *

88: Aisumasen Renee *




Seeds And Weeds is a philosophically expressive compilation of poetry and prose, offering progressive views on politics, peace, nature, fate, faith, family, friendship, introspection, and poetry itself.

Seeds And Weeds is more than simply a collection of verse with splashes of imagery. This book challenges the mind and heart to find a better way through observations and feelings on the rise and fall of character, creatively expressed in rhyme and reason.



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RoRo and Me



It's time to weed the garden!



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Publishing of Seeds And Weeds is through BookSurge, an company.


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ISBN # 1-4196-3309-0




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Copyright © 2006 Joseph F Johnson

 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any manner or form without written permission from the author.

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Portions of this book © 2004

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Nice guys don’t finish last, we just want to be sure no one gets left behind.”

Peace and thanks,

JJ Johnson