Originally published, December 31, 2017, on Cracked Nirvana.


In And Out Of Africa
Painting by Jane Garrison, 2014
Photo by Glenda Clemens, 2017


“Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Focus on your character, not your reputation.
Focus on your blessings, not your misfortunes.”
Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

For the past few years, I’ve been a member of the  Greater Issaquah Toastmasters Club.  It has been a great experience, filled with many blessings,  in spite of the 30-45 minute drive which seems longer in the darkness of winter. It has been worth every minute of time I have spent with this marvelous group even if I whine about going to the meetings!  One of the members who has become a great friend and mentor is Jane Garrison. She is an artist, master gardener, and an incredible person. About two weeks ago, she gave a speech about this painting and what it meant to her. It was inspiring to say the least BUT she surprised each of us at the meeting with a gift. The gift was a holiday card she made for each of us with this painting on the cover and her speech on the back. With her permission, I’m posting not only a photo of the painting but her speech.


“When we lose one blessing,
another is often
most unexpectedly
given in its place.”
C.S. Lewis

Without further ado, Jane’s speech:


You probably look at this painting and
wonder how I could be so naive, such a
suburban, American point of view.

I painted it a couple of years ago during
the Boko Haram crisis.

At that time a man from Africa spoke at our local
Rotary club. He had been on of the “Lost Boys”. His story was so terrible that I didn’t want to bury it.

I wanted to remember it and all its terror from
both human and wildlife threats.

I wanted to remember, so that I could appreciate my situation and be thankful every day, even though it seems rather tedious at times.

Here’s to our good fortune in this country.

Happy Holidays!
Let’s enjoy the season,
appreciate what we have
and remember how lucky we are.
—-Jane Garrison


My wish for you and for me is that we always remember how incredibly lucky we are and that we care deeply about all of those around us whether family, friends or those far away people we have never met. Many blessings to each of you and may your days be filled with light no matter how cracked!



“You have to participate relentlessly
in the manifestation of your own blessings.”
Elizabeth Gilbert

originally published on Cracked Nirvana, March 25, 2018.




“You are the sky.
Everything else –
it’s just the weather.”
Pema Chödrön

I love living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. I live in a rain forest beside a river in the Cascade foothills. My life is filled with lush greens and rich browns every day of the year. The only downside to where I live is that from November through March the weather is cloudy, rainy, snowy and dreary. I know this is necessary to create the beauty around me but about this time every year, I’ve had enough.


“Trees are poems
that the earth writes upon the sky.”
Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Oh, yes they are Mr. Gibran! I know that. But must they require such an abundance of water? It seems so and mostly I do not mind but today the sun is shining through my window and there are broad swaths of blue sky with puffy white clouds. I feel rescued and blessed.


“Some people are
so much sunshine
to the square inch.”
Walt Whitman

Yes, Walt, they are! I love being around sunny people and love the sunshine breaking through after dreary weather. It brings with it a feeling of hope and new beginnings which of course is what spring does every year. After the long dreary winter, I feel compelled to clean and clear out my house and make way for the brightness of the sun shining through my window. However, not so compelled that I actually do it.


“The deep roots
never doubt spring will come.”
Marty Rubin

I am amazed by the stalwart hanging on to life that the trees and plants around me exhibit. Here the grass is green all winter and many of the trees and shrubs too keep their green. The flowers fade away and appear to die only to push their green stems and leaves through the cold ground and burst through with vibrant color. A few days ago I looked with delight on the brilliant yellow daffodils only to see them covered with snow the next day. It made me so sad that such beauty had been covered over and pushed aside. Today they have raised their beautiful heads and brighten my world again in the sunshine.