Archive for November 2015

Christmas traditions; old and new



Our first Christmas, celebrated in 1966, with my parents in L.A., Ca.

Our first Christmas, celebrated in 1966, with my parents in L.A., Ca. One of our little elves is behind us under the tree.


This year’s Christmas tree.






As this Christmas rolls around and we are decorating I pull out some favorite things we’ve had since our first Christmas together 49 years ago. We have kept some favorite Christmas traditions and things like old ornaments, and a pair of small elves just as special as all the Christmases we’ve had together. Added to those in the last several years are some collected antique Children’s toys that now come out each year and are placed under the tree. The village set I have is arranged and placed in front of my fireplace, and our nativity set, displayed on another table.

Through the years we have collected a large number of tree ornaments of all different kinds. The little silver-colored travel trailer our daughter calls the ‘silver Twinkie’ looks identical to our Airstream travel trailer up on our mountain property. She gave us this one. The little teapots and cup and saucer miniatures hang as reminders of my love for hot spiced tea. Little bear ornaments bought at Yellowstone Nat’l Park and the Grand Canyon bring back memories of those trips. A little yellow lab that looks like our beloved deceased yellow lab, Titus. There are homemade ornaments I’ve created using old eyeglass lenses holding favorite tiny photos of my husband and girls taken many years ago.

A couple of years ago friends gave us a ‘pickle’ ornament that tells the story of the pickle placed on German trees. Children would hunt for the pickle. So, this new ornament and the hunt for the pickle buried among the tree branches was added to our ‘new’ traditions.

As a child growing up I loved the traditional old Christmas carols sung in church. There were caroling parties,  nativity plays and programs we were in, dressed in angel costumes. The special choir and orchestra concerts performed each year of Handel’s Messiah or other Christmas cantatas told the story of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem. I sang in some while singing in church or school choirs.

As the years went by some traditions we kept while adopting new ones, like taking our youngest daughter to go see the Boulder Ballet and Longmont symphony orchestra perform the Nutcracker, and going to a dinner theater show at a local venue. They all held a special place in our heart as we celebrated Christmas.


Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Blessings; too numerous to count

A recent photo of Estes Park, Co., along the Big Thompson River, (Nov. 2015) photo credit; Joyce E. Johnson

A recent photo of Estes Park, Co., along the Big Thompson River, (Nov. 2015) photo credit; Joyce E. Johnson

I don’t count the years,

but, the memories I do.

I won’t dwell on times of sadness

that come with pain and tears,

but on the happy,

too numerous to count

that bring me joy and gladness,

for those that crippled me with fear

are all but gone; now in the past,

and for this day, I hope

that for the blessings which are many

I savor all, forgetting none

and though my life, not yet passed

anticipates the new, I’ll remember any,

and be thankful for them all

however great or few.


Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

As we near the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the U.S. (Nov. 26) I think upon the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, and know there are many who are afraid, live in fear of things that have happened, or things that still could, like more attacks where they live. Or maybe there are fears of another kind that grips one, and holds their mind hostage to those fears, so they cannot enjoy their lives now, or find things to be thankful for. I am so thankful to have the assurance that God has all under control, and holds all my tomorrows in the palm of His hand. It is that one thing I count as my greatest blessing in this country. Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate it this year.  



Lord, may I reflect

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Lord, may I reflect

a heart of love, full of grace,

and my words a balm

to comfort a hurting soul,

like a refuge and safe place.


There are times when we are at a loss for words to say, or to help someone when they are overcome with grief and sadness. As the world has watched, and Paris has witnessed the death and destruction from this last weekend’s events we can only stand in quiet, mourning with them in their loss.

We can pray for those surviving these attacks, those who witnessed the carnage and death of friends or family that they will be comforted in their grief, that they will receive the needed support and help as they struggle to make sense of such chaos and confusion. I think to myself, What more can I say or do, but pray for those affected, in Paris or wherever it happens, here or abroad. God can give us a word for one when it is needed; a word or message of hope, encouragement, comfort if we reflect His image of love, trust and kindness in us. But, ultimately above all it is our prayers that count most, because prayer is what changes everything. It can change a heart, a life, a people, a nation, a world and its outcome.


Joyce E. Johnson (2015)   



Veterans Day


Three Vietnam War veterans we met a few years ago at a Vietnam war memorial service in Fort Collins, Co.


The traveling Vietnam War memorial wall with over 53,000 names listed of all the soldiers who died in that war between 1965-1975


Sometimes we forget,

take for granted what you did;

your service and time

while defending our freedoms

to keep us safe and secure.


Thank you to all our veterans

Have a blessed Veterans Day


Joyce E. Johnson © 2015

Hiking trails





My husband and daughter with our dogs under the huge ‘Keyhole’ arched rock. The west side of Loveland can be seen from this point.


A resting point at the top of the ‘Keyhole’ on Devil’s Backbone trail west of Loveland. The bench felt good after the hike up the steep slope.

The above photos were taken while hiking a trail called Devil’s Backbone, named for the unusual shape and ridges along the rock ledge as it looks like a large backbone. Why it’s called the devil’s backbone, I don’t know, but lies at the top of the trail near the large rock opening called the ‘Keyhole.’  When standing under the arched rock one has a good view of the west side of Loveland. The trail is just one of many that run parallel along the front range in Loveland and Fort Collins for several miles popular with hikers and bicyclists anytime during the warmer months. We took this hike in September. It is a total of 3 mi. up and back from the starting point to the top of the ‘Keyhole’.

Unlike the sport of mountain climbing with people climbing the ‘fourteeners’ (mountains over 14,000 + ft. elevation) here in Colorado hikers are not allowed to climb these huge rock formations and boulders because of the preservation of the natural areas designated just for walking, hiking and bicycling.

Since having my second total knee replacement earlier in the summer I kept up, but with a slower pace than my husband, our daughter and our dogs on the path, over rocks and boulders, up the steep trail to the ‘keyhole,’ using my walking stick. After gaining more strength and balance from weeks of therapy I was able to slowly get back to hiking and walking the trails I’ve enjoyed in our region along the front range.


Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Succumbing to nature’s twist of fate


I took this photo up on our mountain property in the northwest part of Colorado where we have about four acres. We have a lot of trees and boulders and the scenery is beautiful, but in the last several years the pine beetle has destroyed much of the area’s trees in our mountains west of here, and elsewhere throughout the Colorado Rockies. The pine beetle eats through the bark into the interior of the tree until much of the tree has rotted so bad from the infestation it will crack and split open, fall over and roots dry up never to produce again. The beetles will move from tree to tree in close proximity and spread across an entire section. In large sections where the disease has spread the trees have to be cut down and the wood removed or burned to prevent it from spreading to healthy trees. Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park has a lot of dense tree sections where they have done this. Even the healthiest and most beautiful trees in the forests can become victims to this disease. More information on this can be found here.

We found this tree split and fallen over from the spread of the disease before it could be cut down with the chain saw used to thin out the trees when they get too thick, or die off. The pine beetles chewed right through it until it could no longer stand on its own. Looking at the wood closely we could see the tiny burrowing holes in it made by the pine beetle. There was nothing of the tree that remained but broken splintered chunks of wood, so was gathered up and added to our campfire burn slash pile.




The lot next to ours had a huge old tree that we determined could be over 100 yrs. old. The above photo is one taken of this tree after it became stricken with the disease stripping it of its bark and burrowing into its roots till it dried up and shriveled to what looked like mere skeletal remains . It saddened us to see such a beautiful old giant suffer such a death.


Joyce E. Johnson (2015)


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