NOTE: The following essay is my Book Review of “The Sound of Gravel,” a Memoir by Ruth Wariner, a first cousin of mine.
(“Wariner” is Ruth’s mother’s maiden name. My Uncle Joel LeBaron was Ruth’s father.)
By Stephany Spencer:
In the past year, I’ve read once and listened three times, so far, to Ruth Wariner’s best-selling book/audiobook, “The Sound of Gravel.” It has gotten higher ratings from me with each new read or listen. So I’ve found it pays to read or listen to a book more than once!
With my first read, I deemed the book “Not what I expected.” I grew up much the same way she had, so I had preconceived notions of what it would or should be about. Ruth is my mother’s brother’s daughter and my first cousin. It took going through her Memoir a second time, as an audiobook too, to be able to say:
“You go, cousin Ruth! It’s a well-written Memoir that should be read as well as listened to at least two times by everyone who thinks Mormon cults are ‘Just people exercising their freedom of religion.’ “
This well-scripted book gives you some idea of what “people just exercising their freedom of religion” do to the kids born into these Mormon fundamentalist cults! I should know: I grew up in, then escaped fifty years ago, this same cult Ruth was raised in!
People raised in abusive, traumatizing childhoods often split/revert into themselves when anything goes wrong in their life. I learned from the late Dr. David Viscot that feeling sorry for one’s self is a form of splitting.
Children and adults from abusive backgrounds may often do this pity-potty-party thing in an effort to protect themselves, and to better handle a bad situation. However, it only leads to despondency and depression.
Thanks to Ruth’s Memoir, she’s taught me to replace despondent thoughts with the song/mantra: “Count Your Many Blessings.” I grew up singing this song. But I didn’t realize, till I read and then listened to Ruth’s book for the third time, that this is what I needed to do to keep a good spirit with me.
Singing “Count Your Blessings “reminds me to start adding up all my blessings instead of my cursings. I’ve found it’s the best way — the proactive way to avoid depression, negativity, and feeling sorry for myself in the face of traumatic situations: Aging, for example!
Now, whenever dark clouds threaten to rain on my sunshine, I quickly remember to say or sing: “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” For there is no end to the blessings that have been bestowed upon me in my life, despite all the bad things I’ve had “bestowed upon me,” also — and survived!
I grew up singing the song, “Count Your Many Blessings, “just as my cousin Ruth had. But I had not gotten well the lesson Ruth’s mother, Kathy, taught Ruth when she consistently and quickly always reminded her daughter to “count her blessings” — no matter how bad things were!!
At first, this seemed like a silly thing for Ruth’s mom to incessantly say, in the face of all the mire and dire adversity Ruth and her family constantly lived with. But now I realize Ruth’s mother, Kathy, had learned from her upbringing a good lesson that she passed down to her own children:
Counting one’s blessings chases out helplessness, hopelessness, blame, negativity, depression, and feeling sorry for oneself. It turns the frown upside down into a smile, and supplants downsides with a positive upside attitude and action: The best prescriptions for surviving any bad situation.
Thank you, Ruth, for passing this lesson on down to me — along with many other lessons you have taught that bring others up through the blessing of your outstanding Memoir — your valuable gift to the world. I am looking forward to your next book. Write on!
*Count Your Many Blessings
1- When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]
2- Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by
3- When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
4- So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
By Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897
*(This song is in hymn books and online.)
*The following video gives insight into Mormon fundamentalism and how I and Ruth were raised — and what we escaped.