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Sometimes I read Facebook posts and think, “Been there, done that.” Come on, admit it. So have you. Often this thought occurs when reading about the trials of being a mother/parent/employee. But today I’m thinking of three young women who’ve done things I’ve never done and likely never will.

One of 30-somethings was walking around Habitat with me last week, looking at treasures and talking about life, families, love, and work. We commiserated just a little about no one “here” knowing much about our families and the vast network we are part of elsewhere. It works both ways, of course. No one “back there” knows much about our lives here.

I realize the above is true for every person who’s left his or her place of birth to go out into the wide world. It’s also true for people like me who’ve had the opportunity to live, love, work, and play in other areas and then return home sweet home. In Myrtle Beach, friends at work and church saw me as Jayne the friend, wife, mother, and teacher but rarely as Jayne the daughter and sister. When family members came to visit, they were perceived as “visitors.” In Camden, many acquaintances see me as I am now, without the people and roles that I formerly held.

Back to my young friend’s visit to Habitat. I learned from our chat that her first child was born by C-section, a fairly common practice within the past twenty years or so. But here’s something that’s not so common. Within two weeks after her baby’s birth, she was driving a tractor, stopping now and then to nurse the baby. I was amazed to hear this. This feat, so casually mentioned and evidently easily performed, stopped me in my tracks.

Have not been there, have not done that. I’ve had babies but never driven a tractor, much less a newborn who needed nursing.

Another young woman of whom I’m thinking drove from South Carolina to California with her five children for an Easter visit with family and friends. She’d said goodbye to them a few months ago when she and her husband and children moved to the Palmetto State and was hankering to see their faces.

Again, I was amazed. If the weather looks threatening or messy (like Monday), there’s no way I’m going to drive to Columbia, much less across the country. The young mother mentioned above drove 6,000 miles across nine states—with five children, one of them a toddler. Just thinking about bathroom breaks with kids makes me kinda crazy.

Have not been there, have not done that. I’ve driven alone with young children but no further than 150 miles.

Without going into specifics, today I spent about three minutes with a beautiful young woman who’s been stuck in Camden for four days. And yes, stuck is the appropriate word for her plight. Between destinations, she’s waiting on money to be wired for a bus ticket out of Dodge, She had a black eye, black and blue and painful to look at. No wonder she was so antsy and apprehensive. I’d be looking over my shoulder, too.

I leaned forward and told her things would work out. She murmured something likeIt’s got to.” I could have piled on some platitudes, but I refrained. Later, I saw her pacing back and forth, back and forth. She’s in the middle, her old life behind and the new one ahead and vague.

Have not been there, have not done that. In the middle, yes. Abused and afraid, no.

I’m not saying I’m a wimp or a softie–although I could be both and more. I’m just saying that my admiration for the young generation shot up during the past several days. All three of these people impressed me with their courage, confidence, and choices. And they reminded me of my grandchildren who’ve already been taught, “I can do hard things.” Now if I could follow their example….

What about you? Have you witnessed examples of people doing hard things? Have you done some hard things?

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Most people’s blogs have a theme. Cooking, preparing for a marathon, losing weight, becoming successful at work, becoming more spiritual, and decorating one’s home are popular themes. But this blog? Well, this blog is a hodgepodge of whatever I happen to be thinking about. It might be social commentary on single parenting, a travelogue of a recent trip, or some opinions on the presidential candidates (stay tuned for this one).

I have other blogs. One is about women in the Bible, one centers on teaching, and one focuses on psychology. The latter is reserved for my students and is a great way for us to get involved in a little psycho babble. And lest I forget, I recently got involved in a writing blog with my writing group, and as soon as we get a little more participative, I’ll share the link. This is my favorite blog, however, because this is the one where I can write whatever I want to. Just because Mom’s Musings doesn’t have a theme like religion or culinary arts, that doesn’t mean that it lacks focus. It’s focused on my musings.

Today I’m musing over the contents of a book I’ve been reading entitled The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood. It’s a virtual fount of interesting and useful information that we can all apply to our lives beginning today. Always intrigued by who survives disasters and who doesn’t, what makes a person resilient, and what factors determine our longevity, I’ve been captivated by the stories and research provided by Sherwood. In fact, I’m reading it on my Kindle Fire and have highlighted so many passages that it’s ridiculous.

I’ve learned that surviving, whatever that might mean to you, doesn’t depend on a single factor. Several are involved in beating the odds. For example, the Central Park jogger’s friends describe her as indomitable. While that’s true, it’s also true that her massive brain injuries might have aided in her recovery. Unable to remember the attack, she wasn’t tormented by flashbacks or nightmares. Then there was the story of a  man who awoke to find himself in the ocean in the dark wearing his undies and a sweatshirt. He had no recollection of how he got there, but apparently he had fallen off of the cruise ship. He managed to stay awake and afloat all night, and he feels that the secret to his survival was sheer will power and his ability to stay calm and focused. That counted for something, of course, but his prior military training  and physical fitness gave him an edge that the average Joe wouldn’t have had.

But what about the ultimate survival? What about living a long, happy life? What determines how long we live? Is it heredity? Is it a 50/50 split between heredity and environment? While both are important, lifestyle, personal choice, and plain old luck figure into the equation too. According to the book, genetic factors influence about 25 percent of our longevity. This fact is especially intriguing when you consider that 80 to 90 percent of our height is determined by our parents’ heights. I can’t wait to share this information with my sister. Our mother died of cancer when she was only 71, and my sweet sis thinks we’re going to succumb to the big C too. Maybe so. Who can predict the future? All I can say for certain is that Ann and I are medium tall because of our DNA, but other factors are going to determine whether we live past 71.

Longevity depends largely on the decisions you make and the things that happen to you on a daily basis. According to Sherwood, it’s never too late to make changes to prolong your life.  Before mentioning some of those changes, I need to mention that life expectancy is more complex than eating right and exercising. While those activities are important, so is your geography. People who live in Andorra and Japan live decades longer than those living in Swaziland and Angola.

If you want to prolong your life, here are some tips. Exercise, limit saturated fat, wear a seat belt, and install smoke detectors. And here’s one I like: listen to what your mother told you, including wearing a coat when it’s cold and a hat when it’s raining. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat your fruits and vegetables, and get a moderate amount of exercise. A final suggestion is one given by Madame Calment, a French woman who lived to be 122 years old:  SMILE. 

So here’s my plan. I’m going to put on my happy face, go into the kitchen and grab a banana, and then go out for a three-mile walk. I’m also going to check the batteries in our smoke detectors. What about you? What’s your plan?

When Paul and Amanda and Olivia were here this past weekend, Paul and I had a brief conversation about some psychology books I had recently read. He listened politely (someone taught him some excellent manners), but then mentioned that he looked at those specific books as “self-help.” I’m not above reading self-help books, so it kind of caught me off guard. Then he said that if he needed any help, he’d look to the scriptures for answers.

Hmmm. I agree with him that the scriptures are replete with advice, stories, and instructions on how to how a fuller richer life. There’s also lots of encouragement about overcoming fear, many reminders about loving one another, and several stories about people who veered off the straight and narrow and faced some dire consequences.  In fact, there are so many parallels between self-help books and the scriptures that I can say with assurance that regularly dipping into these types of literature has saved my life (figuratively speaking) on many occasions.

Back to Paul. I talked a little bit about the exodus out of Egypt and of how, to me, that was an example of how people don’t have to live lives of slavery…or even of unhappiness. A person can change his life IF he has the desire. He might have to leave behind a former way of life, walk through the Red Sea, and wander around in the desert for a while, but he can do it. In other words, change is hard. Whether the proverbial desert is for four days or four years or longer, you’re going to have to work, and you might have to eat manna instead of steak and potatoes.

Last night as I recalled our conversation, I thought of the man who led this exodus, Moses.  I thought of how he tried to get out of his “calling” by telling God that he had speech issues.  But God knew that Moses was the man He wanted and wouldn’t take no for an answer. We know the rest of the story. We know that Moses led the people out of bondage and that his brother Aaron was his mouthpiece (at least some of the time).

What I’m getting from this second story is that God wants everyone to use the gifts He’s given us, and when we agree to do so, He’ll find a way to help us succeed. It might not be a speech challenge. It could be your looks, your social status, or your misperceptions about your abilities. Whatever it is, God can work through and with you IF you’re willing to walk around in the desert for a while. Overnight success is pretty unlikely.

So yes, I agree with Paul about the scriptures being the original self-help book(s). Sometimes I just need a little helpful commentary to help me understand them better, and that’s where psychology, philosophy, and literature come in.

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  • Mark Twain
    "Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
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