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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: Half Broke Horses

While others have been occupying Wall Street, I’ve been occupying my mind with Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. Described by the author as a true-life novel, the book is about an amazing woman named Lily Casey Smith born in 1901.

Imagine Little House on the Prairie on steroids. And that’s putting it mildly.

Lily takes you through her childhood in the West Texas desert where she learned to break and train horses at age five. She spent her teenage years in New Mexico, and at age 15 she became a teacher in a one-room school house 500 miles her parents’ ranch. It took her 28 days traveling on horseback, by herself, to get to her new job and home.

After spending some time learning important life lessons in Chicago as a young adult, she returned to the west and ended up in Arizona. Her passions in life were teaching and ranching. Lily was fearless and tougher than any cowboy around.

Along the way she gets married and has a couple of kids. But don’t get any ideas…this isn’t a love story. If you’re looking for romance, find a different book. She respects her husband and is loyal to him, but I couldn’t figure out if they were truly in-love. Lily tended not to trust men.

(Side note: Lily’s husband was a Jack Mormon born into a very large polygamist family. And Lily herself took a job for a year on the Arizona strip teaching the children of polygamist families. I’ve read several books about polygamy in that area…all written from the points of view of the polygamists themselves. It was interesting to get an outsider’s perspective.)

Lily wasn’t much for compassion or tolerance…didn’t have time for any sort of political correctness or worrying about offending people. She could get a grasp on most any situation, except her wild and head-in-the-clouds daughter Rosemary. (Being the mother of two girls, reading this story made me a little nervous.) I learned at book club last night that Rosemary is the main character in another book, The Glass Castle, by the same author. (Now on reserve for me at the library.)

I thoroughly enjoyed Half Broke Horses. It’s a book full of humorous and life-is-what-you-make-it stories. Lily Casey Smith was one tough broad. I like her.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Gateway We Call Death

It may not come as a huge surprise that I have been reading books about death and grief. My wonderful father passed away after a brief, unexpected illness on September 11, 2011 at the age of 65.

The past three months have been the most difficult of my life. As a result, I have sought professional grief counseling as well as personal study to help me better understand and deal with the complex set of emotions that come with losing a loved one.
I purchased The Gateway We Call Death by Elder Russell M. Nelson. Not only is Elder Nelson an Apostle in the LDS Church, but he is also a reknowned physician and surgeon. Elder Nelson visited my father twice in the hospital and spoke at his funeral. He is a humble, loving and caring man.

Reading this book helped me find peace, and gave me a better understanding of death as part of a greater plan of happiness. Elder Nelson taught me grieving is an expression of pure love for the person who has died, and gratitude for the gifts they have given you in this life. I recommend this book to anyone who has lost a family member or close friend.

A co-worker gave me the book The Birth We Call Death by Paul H. Dunn and Richard M. Eyre. This book is also written in the context of the LDS religion. A quote by Molinos that rang true with me:

"Thou art never at any time nearer to God than when under tribulation, which he permits for the purification and beautifying of the soul."

I believe few experiences in life are more humbling than watching a beloved family member fall critically ill and pass from their mortal existence. This tribulation has brought me closer to my Father in Heaven, and my Brother Jesus Christ. I can't say I'm grateful my dad died, but I'm indeed thankful for the many beautiful and spiritual experiences I had surrounding his death.

I've read two other books in recent weeks: The Orphaned Adult: Understanding and Coping with Grief and Change After the Death of our Parents by Alexander Levy; and, How to Survive the Loss of a Parent: A Guide For Adults by Lois F. Akner.

These books are written by professional therapists who counsel adults dealing with the grief of losing a parent. The books touched on similar points, but I found The Orphaned Adult more beneficial to my situation (even though my mother remains very much alive).

A common theme in both books is when a parent dies, the child loses the unconditional love found in most parent-child relationships. For most human beings, our parents give us a type of love and security that simply cannot be replaced...not by a sibling, spouse or child.

Another major issue addressed in these books is society's lack of understanding on how long and in what manner an adult child should grieve for a parent. After all, we have come to believe that the natural course of life is an adult child should bury their parent. But there are no set timelines for the grief process. Grief can be as unique as the individuals involved in the loss. As one author put it, "Grief must be transversed moment by moment."

I've learned more about death, grief, sorrow, love and compassion in the last three months than I ever knew in my other 41 years put together. I'm still learning from my father's death, and expect lessons from this experience will continue throughout my life.

If you or someone you know is grieving for a parent or loved one, you/they may find these books benefical in the healing process as I have.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day Spa Facial + Hot Rock Massage = :)

A few weeks ago I purchased a Groupon to get a facial at my favorite day spa (New Image Day Spa in South Ogden). Getting a facial is among my favorite things EVER. I treat myself two or three times a year to this indulgence.

The last couple of weeks have been more chaotic and stressful than usual...so I booked my spa visit for the Veterans Day holiday (one of the many benefits of working at a credit union...11 paid holidays!).

This morning, when I arrived at the spa, I was informed that my husband had upgraded my visit to include a hot rock massage. Oh my gosh...does it get any better than that???