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Coincidences: Messengers of Truth November 11, 2014

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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At the MN State Fair

At the MN State Fair

This fall I went to the Minnesota State Fair with my husband and Asher, our one-year-old grandson. We took Asher to see the farm animals and afterward sat down to color a picture. A woman came over and said the picture could be entered in a contest.

When I told her my grandson’s name, she said, “Is he Nick’s son?” Turns out, she used to work for my son-in-law. Thousands of people were at the State Fair that day. What were the chances we would run into someone who knew Asher’s father?



Coincidences happen regularly in our lives, but are we paying attention to them? In a book I read recently, Maisie Dobbs by

Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs

Jacqueline Winspear, the main character is a detective in 1929 who pays attention


to coincidences in her line of work. As the story progresses, we learn that Maisie worked for a wealthy London aristocrat when she was thirteen. Her employer, Lady Compton, soon realized how bright Maisie was and had the young woman’s education nourished by Maurice Blanche. Under his influence “Maisie had taken to pondering just about everything that happened in the course of a day, seeing coincidences and patterns in the life around her” (p. 101).

Maurice takes her to see Dr. Khan from Ceylon, a man of wisdom and insight. From Khan she learns to sit in deliberate silence and still the mind. Later that skill serves to help her stay calm when she becomes a nurse in the Great War, serving on the front line. “But for now, Maurice Blanche told Maisie, it was no small coincidence that she often knew what a person was going to say before he or she spoke, or that she seemed to intuit an event before it had occurred” (p. 108).

The story moves seamlessly through the past and present. In the present Maisie tries to solve her first case, which appears to be a simple case of infidelity. Instead it leads to a much deeper mystery that takes her back to the horrors of war and has her dealing with her own unfinished past.

The book is the first in a best-selling series about a lady detective. It is also a historical novel and coming-of-age story. But what I found really interesting is the way Maisie uses her unique abilities to help solve the case and how the case is part of a deeper pattern that helps her face her past and move on.

The book reminded me of the larger patterns in my own life, such as running into a woman who knew Asher at the State Fair. We can call chance happenings coincidences, but what if they are anything but a coincidence?

Have you experienced a coincidence that led you to see there’s something beyond your everyday life? I’d love to hear your stories.

Asher at the State Fair at the Horse Barn

Asher at the State Fair at the Horse Barn



Unity Day – How One Gorilla Can Unite the World October 22, 2014

Posted by heidi skarie in Art, Book Review.
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Today’s post is on Joy Dey and Nikki Johnson’s new book One Gorilla.  The book has an important message about treating others with kindness and lush watercolor illustrations.

October is National Bullying Prevention month and October 22 is Unity Day - a day to wear orange, and unite against the bullying that causes 1 in 10 kids to drop out of school.


Unite Against Bulllying

Unite Against Bulllying












Our take on this is to promote kindness in children before bullying ever becomes an issue. We all know it’s good to be kind and help each other out, but it’s good to be reminded that those acts of kindness really do pay forward. An act of kindness costs the giver so little and yet can make a huge difference for the receiver. It can start to change the whole climate of the “jungles” we all live in, be they tropical or urban.

Our latest children’s picture book, One Gorilla, is our take on this and a great way to sit with a kid www.sitwithakid.com/onegorilla.php (see what I did there?! That’s our logo!) and talk about how their day went.


Cover of One Gorilla By Joy Dey and Nikki Johnson

Cover of One Gorilla
By Joy Dey and Nikki Johnson















The lush watercolor paintings in One Gorilla depict an angry, eerie jungle…

Leopard attacks. . .

Leopard attacks. . .










…that gets brighter and happier as one act of kindness.

His heart goes out to the chimp...

His heart goes out to the chimp…




…spreads through it.

But what if he turns her right side up?

But what if he turns her right side up?












Nikki Johnson, the illustrator, is a signature member of the Lake Superior Watercolor Society. The paintings are done onYupo paper, which lends itself to Nikki’s wild and free style.

So! Celebrate Unity Day with us – wear orange, give someone a compliment, and check out our book!


Thanks for hosting us Heidi! You are one of the kindest people we know.



Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles October 6, 2014

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review, Past lives.
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Enemy Women

Enemy Women

I recently read a book about the Civil War entitled Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles. The novel is about an aspect of the war I didn’t know about. In Missouri, southern guerilla fighters fought the Union. In response, the Union declared Missouri under martial law, sent in the Union militia and denied the citizens their constitutional rights. In Missouri martial law continued for two years after the war.

The militia used their authority to steal from local people and burn their houses. After three years of war almost the only people left in Missouri were women and children. Some women were accused of aiding guerilla soldiers and were arrested, then sent to prison or hung. Under martial law, the women weren’t entitled to a trial nor was any evidence needed to arrest them.

Each chapter in the book begins with an actual letter or newspaper article written at the time of the Civil War, relating what was happening in the story. This added an element of realism. The novel is well written with detailed descriptions and a spunky heroine who is imaginative and outspoken.

The story is about a brutal period of time and follows the experience of Adair, an eighteen-year-old Missouri woman. Her widowed father remains neutral during the war, but three years into it the militia comes to their farm. Adair’s brother, who has a crippled arm, sees them coming and hides. Adair’s father is beaten and arrested by the militia. The soldiers then steal the family horses, livestock, possessions and try to burn down their house.

After the militia leaves, Adair and her two younger sisters travel north on foot to find out what happened to their father.

When they arrive at a northern post, Adair is denounced as being a Confederate spy and sent to prison in St. Louis. While imprisoned, she’s interrogated by Major Neumann. He tries to get her to reveal information about the Confederation. Instead she writes about her life on the farm in Missouri, which doesn’t include anything about the war.

Over time Neumann falls in love with her, but she gets seriously ill and he is transferred to active duty. The story then follows both their adventures and is well worth the read.

The American Civil War took place in the 1860s. Some people who fought in the war have now reincarnated with memories of it. As children, they might have had nightmares of the suffering they experienced or caused others. They may remember injustices on a subconscious level and still feel anger and hatred toward the North or South.

Some people attend reenactments of the Civil War, visit Gettysburg, read books about Civil War battles or watch movies on it. They are drawn to the war because of their past lives, even if they don’t consciously remember them.

This world is a spiritual school and through experiences, such as war, we learn to become more loving, compassionate beings. All the lives we have lived are meant to polish us as Soul and help us reach greater levels of love and compassion until we eventually return home to God.

Do you have strong feelings about a particular place and a particular time? Can you see how this might connect to a past lifetime? Have you had especially vivid dreams about your possible role in that lifetime?


Conscious Women –Conscious Lives by Darlene Montgomery September 26, 2014

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Conscious Women-Conscious Lives

Conscious Women-Conscious Lives

Conscious Women –Conscious Lives, Powerful and Transformational Stories of Healing Body, Mind & Soul complied by Darlene Montgomery is a collection of remarkable stories written by women. These heart-felt stories show how these women met with some of the challenges of life with courage and gained spiritual insights and wisdom.


The chapters include such topics as Healing Journeys, Living Your Dreams, Losing a Loved One, and New Beginnings.


Several of the stories stood out for me. One was by Linda Anderson who wrote Learning to Receive about her experience with breast cancer. To support herself in her journey, Linda formed a group of friends she called Circle of Angels who would bring her meals, take care of her pets, give her rides to the doctor and support her emotionally.


Linda realized that she felt unworthy of asking for help. Her problems seemed miniscule in comparison to others. Now she was given a lesson in having cancer and learning to receive.


Linda said, “I had to learn to ask. I had to learn that asking means surrendering to what life brings and trusting that whatever comes your way is perfectly designed for you. I had to learn that I was worthy of receiving and that when others give, they grow and glow. I had to learn that on some spiritual level, I had even asked for cancer in my life, because this was how God would shower me with divine love and teach me to receive it.” P. 21


Another story was by Frances Blackwell titled Love Never Dies. France was driving her car one day when she saw a man laying in the middle of the road. When she stepped out of her car, she felt the presence of God. She could see that the man had been hit by a car and ran to a nearby house and asked them to call 911. She returned to the man and sang HU, a love song to God. The man stopped spasming and asked her to let his family know what happened. Another man stopped by and recognized the injured man whose name was Stan and so they were able to contact the family.


Stan died on the way to the hospital. Frances felt a strong connection with him and so went to the funeral. Later she had a chance to talk to Stan’s wife and bring her comfort.


A few weeks afterwards Frances’ husband went into the hospital. Her experience with Stan’s accident eased her way when she realized her husband was dying.


Frances said, “I am grateful for the gifts these experiences have brought me. I’m discovering that love- all love- is God’s love. And every act of giving with a loving heart brings us closer and closer to learning about a love for all life.” P. 83


She ended her story with a poem:


Celebrate life! Dare to Love!

Love endures

Love doesn’t change.

Love lives forever. P. 84.

The third story I wanted to share is titled The Making of a Miracle by Ann Archer Butcher. At the time Ann was teaching high school in Cincinnati in a program for disaffected students who weren’t achieving their potential


Ann wanted to make them feel like they had control over their lives and give them personal power. On her wall she put a quote loosely attributed to Paul Twitchell.

“Miracles I can do in a minute. The impossible takes about three days.”


One Friday afternoon the students asked for examples of the quote from Ann’s own life. She told them that you have to ask for what you want and add “If not this then something greater.” P. 59. Then they needed to surrender to the outcome.


The students wanted to make a contest out of this idea. Ann told them she wanted a hot air balloon ride, but couldn’t afford one, so it would be a miracle if it happened. She then imagined what the ride would be like.


That night in the laundromat she bought a raffle ticket for needy children. The next morning the phone rang and Ann had won the prize, which was a hot air balloon ride the next day. When she arrived at the site of the ride there were media people there. Her interview was shown on TV and seen by many of her students.


Monday morning Ann told her students, “You have to admit, this is my dream and desire manifested in a way none of us would have expected.” P. 62. She went on to say that after this happened her students were ready to learn and to listen.


These three stories are just a few examples of the many remarkable personal revelations in this book. The stories inspire the reader and help us see how we can find our own inner strength and guidance. Men as well as women will enjoy this book


Have you had a challenging experience in life that you grew from? I’d love to hear your stories.

Samurai Garden by Gail Tsukiyama August 24, 2014

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The Seine River

The Seine River

While in Paris my husband and I stayed in a small but delightful apartment in the center of the city near the Seine River, so we could watch the boats and browse the souvenirs and artwork sold by street vendors. A short walk brought us to Île de la Cité where historical Notre Dame Cathedral is located. I was happy to be in the magical City of Light that I’d heard about since I was young.


At the apartment I saw Samurai Garden by Gail Tsukiyama on the bookshelf. I’d read one of Tsukiyama’s other books and enjoyed it, so I decided to read this one.

Samurai Garden

Samurai Garden

The story is about Stephen Chan, a young Chinese man, who contracted tuberculosis while in college. His parents send him to recover and live at their beach house on the ocean in Tarumi, Japan. The caretaker, Matsu, shows the inner strength of a samurai as he takes care of Stephen, the house and lovingly tends the beautiful garden.

The story is set in 1937, the turbulent time period when the Japanese Imperial Army invades China. The quiet world of Tarumi, where Stephen paints and swims as he regains his health, seems removed from the terrible events in China. Yet the war hangs over Stephen as the armies head south to his family home in Hong Kong, reflecting problems within his own family.

Over time Stephen befriends Matsu who eventually takes him to visit his beloved Sachi, who is a leper.

Many years earlier when Sachi first became ill, to be a leper was considered a disease that brought shame on your family. In those days, it was considered more honorable to commit suicide than to live with leprosy. Sachi was unable to kill herself like the other lepers of her village. Matsu found her in the woods and helped her build a home in the newly formed leper colony. Over the years he continued to visit and help her.

As the story unfolds, Stephen learns Sachi’s story. Before she became ill, she was a beautiful, vain young woman. The tragedy of the disease taught her that beauty comes from within. She also learned that sometimes it is harder to live with adversity than to die.

Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

While reading the story, I wondered what it would be like to have a serious illness. For both Sachi and Stephen, it was isolating; they had live apart from their families so the disease wouldn’t spread to them. I also thought of Sachi’s fate. What would it be like to be a beautiful young woman who contracted a disease that eats away your face? How would it feel to be shunned by your family and fiancé, who are afraid of contracting the disease?

The story has a quiet beauty to it as it moves slowly and gracefully, sweeping us into its tale and revealing the characters’ mysteries. It was well worth the read.

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

Everything we go through in life, especially the challenges, teaches us something. Have you ever had a serious illness or felt isolated? What did you learn from the experience?

The Dance of Life: Sculptures by George K July 29, 2014

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While my husband and I were in Paris we went with friends to the art district that had narrow, winding streets and small art galleries. Most of the galleries display a single artist’s works for a limited period of time. One of the exhibits stood out for me. It was a series of sculptures of larger-than-life figures beautifully lit in blue. The exhibit was called The Dance of Life. What struck me was the serene expressions on the statue’s faces and their graceful poses.

Garden in Paris

Garden in Paris

After looking at the artwork, talked to the clerk and she told me the story behind the figures. The artist was a successful businessman in India. When an earthquake causing a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, it swept him and his twenty-one companions out to sea. He miraculously lived while his friends all died. In all 250,000 people died in the tsunami. The man was profoundly changed by this event. Instead of feeling guilty that he’d lived when so many others had died, he decided to live a life that had more meaning. He changed his name keeping only the letter “k” and gave away all his possessions, as was a custom among his people at certain times in their life. His new name was George K. George K became a photographer, poet and artist. To make the figures he took photos of a famous Indian dancer, Mavin Khoo who danced traditional Indian dances. The ancient dances were forbidden in India during the time of British rule and were almost lost, but fortunately the area under French control allowed the dance so the tradition wasn’t lost. The dance of life has a rhythm to it whether we are aware of it or not. If we can learn to dance with the flow even when hardships hit, we begin to learn to live life gracefully and to find happiness. George K took a terrible tragedy and used it as a spiritual awakening to transform his life into one with more meaning. DSC_0721                   Have you had any challenging experiences in your life that profoundly changed you into a more aware, spiritual person?   Here is a link to an article about George K and a series of  fiberglass figurine schuptures of Kathakali dancers. http://www.mybangalore.com/article/0809/george-k-at-apparao-art-galleryub-city-.html

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen June 8, 2014

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Book cover

Book cover

While visiting a friend in Switzerland she told me about a book she loved called A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen, which became a best seller. The story is about a young man who was on the road to recovery from drug addiction and living on the streets of London when he found an injured stray cat. His heart opened to this ginger colored cat and James nursed him back to health. James was not sure he’s ready to take on the responsibilities of a cat when he can barely take care of himself, but the cat adopted him and soon the two became inseparable. James named this special cat Bob.   Bob gave James love and companionship, and an incentive to fully recover and make a better life for Bob and himself.

I had a ginger colored cat when I was in college. My friend wanted a kitten and when I accompanied her to look at a litter I fell in love with a lively kitty. I named him Siddhartha after the main character in Herman Hess’s novel Siddhartha. Siddhartha and I had many adventures together as we traveled back and forth to Madison. He was a good friend, so I have a special place in my heart for ginger colored cats.

In the book, James made his living as a street musician and one day Bob followed him to work. James had felt invisible before, but with the cat as his companion people started coming up to him to take photos of the cat. When James started playing his guitar more people gathered around to hear him than usual and more coins were dropped in his guitar case. People were so taken with this special cat that they knitted scarves for him and brought him food and toys.   The cat not only opened James’ heart but the hearts of the busy people on the streets of London.

Eventually someone told James that there was a YouTube of him and Bob. James checked it out and it had 10,000 hits. (now there is 881,067) Then a publisher who walked past him every day asked James if he would be interested in writing his story and the result is this book.

This is a wonderful story about how the bond of love between James and Bob saved both of their lives.


A ginger cat I saw in Switzerland

A ginger cat I saw in Switzerland


Have you ever had a pet or animal companion that helped you heal or brought you unconditional love?


Here is a YouTube video of Bob and James.

Interview with James on “This Morning” TV shows.


30 Days of One Minute Meditations by Monie Turner May 11, 2014

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30 Days of One Minute Meditations by Monie Turner


30 Days of One Minute Meditations

30 Days of One Minute Meditations

Years ago I had an author pen pal in Canada that I exchanged writing with. Over the years we lost touch, but recently we reconnected and now she’s published an eBook on Amazon that I wanted to share with you. Its title is 30 Days of One Minute Meditations. You can get it on Amazon until May 13, 2014 for free. The book made it to # 1 in personal transformation and #1 in meditation.


I’ve found these short exercises can help me connect to an enjoyable moment in my past and bring it into the present. In one technique you imagine yourself by a stream watching the water. I imagined myself back where I was last weekend. My husband and I were in northern Minnesota and had gone for a hike. We stood by a stream and I looked into this amazingly clear water to the rocks below. I felt happier after the short meditation.

The book has great daily meditations ‘to calm yourself, stay focused and release stress, and find answers to your daily personal load of questions.”   These meditates can help you when you need to set a goal, or need creativity or intuition or when you need to keep in balance when dealing with a challenging situation. The techniques can help you find peace and harmony.


Here are the instructions for using the book:


“Read over the day’s instruction, then close your eyes and use your imagination for one minute to create the scene in your mind. You are now ready for your daily activities with a clear mind and peaceful demeanor. Using the scenes before you sleep can assist with a good deep sleep and healthy dreams.”


Here is a sample meditation:


Day nine

“It’s evening, dusk, a dark blue sky, and the moon is silver just over the horizon. The wind ripples the leaves of the trees and the rustling is soothing. An owl hoots and asks, ‘Who?’ You laugh and tell him, ‘I am me, soul, enjoying the evening air, free of constraints.’”


Day Sixteen

“Imagine you are sitting in the most comfortable chair, just drifting off when you realize that your guardian angel is just behind you and sending waves of love to you. You allow yourself to absorb as much as you want. The love wraps around you, safe, comforting. Enjoy.”


Here is a link to the book.




Do you meditate or contemplate? How does it help you?

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Tour of International Space Station May 2, 2014

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I write science fiction and am always interested in what it would be like to be in space.  While researching for my Star Rider series I came across this youtube video.  It’s a cool film showing the inside of the international space station.  I especially enjoyed seeing what it was like to be in a place without gravity.  
For example, they don’t have chairs because they never need to sit down. The video shows all the station’s modules and tells how they work, eat, sleep and go the bathroom.  They also show what earth looks like from the station.  This is a cool video worth seeing if you like space.
Here is the Commander of the International Space Station, Sunita Williams of NASA who recorded an extensive tour of the orbital laboratory.

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper April 12, 2014

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90 Minutes in Heaven

90 Minutes in Heaven


Recently I checked out the library book on CD 90 Minutes in Heaven.   I had waited several months, since it is a popular book. The story is about Don Piper, a Baptist minister, who was in a terrible car accident and had a near-death experience.


On January 18, 1989 Don Piper was driving home from a conference in Texas when an 18-wheel truck hit his car while crossing a bridge. Pipe said he instantly “died” and went to Heaven. His deceased loved ones and friends, who had helped him spiritually, came to greet him. He felt great love as they joyfully hugged and welcomed him.


In Heaven, Piper saw incredible light and said the colors were intense and beyond anything in this world. He was filled with bliss and never thought about his physical body, wife or children.


The loved ones who’d greeted him took him to the Gates of Heaven where he heard “the sound of angel’s wings” and beautiful music. Heavenly beings were singing different songs of love to God, and somehow he could hear all of these songs simultaneously.


As he stood at the gates, Piper started singing. The experience shifted, and he found himself back in his broken body in the car still singing.


A minister who had attended the same conference was stopped by the traffic delay caused by the accident. He got a nudge to see if he could do anything to help. He walked past all the stopped cars to the scene of the accident.

The paramedics told the minister there was nothing he could do because the driver of the car was dead, and the vehicle had already been covered by a tarp. The minister insisted on praying for Piper. He went to the wrecked car and prayed. After awhile he began to sing. To his astonishment a miracle happened, and the “dead” man began to sing with him.


The minister ran back to tell the paramedics Piper was alive, but they won’t believe him. They knew how to tell if a person was dead or not, and Piper was definitely dead. The last ambulance was about to leave. The minister ran over to the ambulance driver, told him Piper was alive and threatened to lie in the street rather than let the ambulance leave.


The paramedics finally agreed to check and went over to the car where they were shocked to discover that Piper was indeed alive. A piece of equipment called the Jaws of Life was brought in to get him out of the car. His injuries were so terrible that his left arm and leg were barely attached.


The following chapters described Don Piper’s ordeal after the accident. He suffered terrible pain, endured many operations and spent years in recovery. At first, the pain was so great that he wanted to leave his damaged body and return to Heaven.


Eventually, he started sharing his story of his near-death experience with others. He brought comfort to people who were dying by sharing his experience of going to Heaven at a time when not many people were talking openly about near-death experiences. Piper felt renewed in his mission to serve life through helping others.


For Don Piper, fear of death was replaced by a longing to return to the Heavenly world. Sometimes he can still hear the inner choir and “sound of angel wings.”


I enjoyed the first chapter of the book on CD the most because, in it, Don Piper described his experience in Heaven. We don’t have to have a near-death experience to hear the inner music of God. In prayer, meditation or contemplation we can learn to open ourselves to God’s love and hear the inner sound and see the inner light.


Have you had a near-death experience or heard the inner music or seen the inner light? I’d love to hear your stories.

Here is a youtube of Don Piper telling about his experience.



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