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Robins should join the list of survivors in new book

January 18, 2009
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

Sing that song of sixpence for Ronnie McGough.

She had almost four-and-twenty birds, though they weren't baked in a pie, nor were they all blackbirds, scrambling around her yard for food the other day. Odd thing is, a good many of them were robins.

Yes, robins, the perennial harbingers of spring, came to Ronnie's house to eat, perchance to rest. She watched them pecking around the yard until a squirrel chased them away, then watched them in the trees before they disappeared.

"They had snow on their backs," she said, still in awe at having robins in her yard on a cold January day.

Those birds must be survivors of the first rank, making their way through difficult times as best they could. Maybe they'd read the new book "The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life."

Written by former Good Morning America executive producer and bestselling author Ben Sherwood, the book looks at two big questions - "what does it really take to survive?" and "what kind of survivor am I?"

Those are good questions for you.

Let's see. What does it take to survive? My friend Abigail would say a good corkscrew, but my friend Diana would say faith. Maybe it would be faith that the corkscrew wouldn't break in those new-fangled corks.

It's easy to make fun of something instead of trying to figure it out. That way thinking doesn't interfere with information. But it sounds as if Sherwood pulled a robin-in-winter magic trick with his survivor book, which "combines astonishing true stories, surprising scientific research and the author's immersive experiences in the U.S. military's most elite survival schools and the FAA's airplane crash evacuation course. In pursuit of the secrets of survival, Sherwood even underwent genetic testing to find out if he possesses the so-called resilience gene."

That's what the promotional information says.

What I see is a giant playtime where writing a book comes after getting to do all sorts of fun stuff. Well, that's what I would have said maybe 10 years ago - now everything he went through for the book seems unreal.

He also talked to survivors, and those stories are incredible. Like the woman whose heart was pierced by a knitting needle. Doctors saved her, but found cancer, a mass that likely wouldn't have shown itself until it was too late to beat. Though her treatments were hard, she told Sherwood, "I really have surprised myself. I didn't think I had this kind of strength."

The book offers survivor stories with the "oh, wow" factor and "offers readers the opportunity to discover their own unique Survivor IQ."

My Survivor IQ, I think - well, I have no idea what mine would be. Survivor types are fighter, believer, thinker, connector and realist. Maybe I'm a fighting realist who believes thinking isn't the only way to connect with the world.

I'm going to check.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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