Sergeant Tony's Blog

For Love of the Word — Sgt. Tony Ludlow, blog post, 3/9/2016

Wednesday, Mar. 9th 2016 10:53 PM

I loved school. But in the 8th grade I ran into a bit of an academic buzz saw. Algebra and English were conspiring against me. They were evil twins dishing out misery and torture of the worst kind and I hated them. I was awful at Algebra and even further awfullering about to the grammaring.

Mrs. Holman was my 8th grade English teacher and the first adult black woman I ever had a conversation with. Or, as Mrs. Holman would insist, “the first adult black woman with whom I ever had a conversation.”

She was a middle-aged lady who wore big jewelry, very distinctive perfume with a powdery scent, and she spoke with an adorable Southern accent, right out of some fancy finishing school. If she said, “Young sir, you need to go to the barber shop.” It would sound like, “Yuung suuh, you need to go to the baahba shop.” Think refined Southern like Scarlett, not trailer park Southern like Reba.

Of the six or seven 8th grade English teachers on faculty at Darby Junior High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Mrs. Holman had the reputation for being one of the toughest.

Perfect, just perfect. (More like present imperfect.)

Our first one-on-one conversation occurred because I had to see her after school early in the first semester. I was tanking her class in a HUGE and grotesque manner. The first semester was all grammar and the second was all literature and writing.

My apparent goal during that first semester was to establish a new level of failure in her grammar class. As it turned out, I was doing a particularly spectacular job. Transitive verbs, indirect objects, conjunctions, subjects of prepositions, past pluperfect verbs, subordinate clauses, diagramming sentences … none of it was sticking. It was only slightly less horrible than algebra.

So three days a week, instead of going to football practice after school I had to go to Mrs. Holman’s classroom for remedial grammar. I was not happy about this and I had a fairly good sized chip on my shoulder. Of course I blamed Mrs. Holman. It was HER fault that I didn’t understand grammar, was my justification. Grammar, like most things in school, had little real world application. I didn’t see much point to most of what I was studying. But I tried hard because, according to my parents, doing well in school was my job.

But as you would expect, my coaches were furious at me because I wasn’t at practice. And I was afraid of losing my position on the team. (Which I lost to a boy who obviously didn’t have Mrs. Holman for English. I needed an easier teacher.)

By the end of the first semester, and after a lot of hard work, I raised my F- to a solid C. And my bitterness towards my teacher actually turned into something of a crush on Mrs. Holman. She was beyond charming! She had a way of disarming me and convincing me that I could do well. She took such an interest in all of her students, not just me. She was absolutely irresistible. I started working hard to impress her, and to get back to after school sports.

By the end of the first semester I was no longer having to get extra help after school and the literature and writing of the second semester were way more fun.

Everything was going just fine, that is until Mrs. Holman did something terrible. She slipped some poetry into the mix and I took an immediate dislike to it.

Poetry? Seriously? Are you kidding me?? Little girls writing horrible little lines about rainbows and butterflies. It either sounded pretentious or it sounded like sissy stuff. As far as I was concerned, it was Crap.

My grades started to tumble again. It seemed like poetry wasn’t very manly or compelling for a young lad hoping to be a real man one day. I had to start going back to Mrs. Holman’s classroom after school for more help. I complained to her that poetry seemed so feminine and the subjects of the poems outside my experiences and interests. I just couldn’t relate to it. I was sure, I told her, that none of the male members of my family ever read such stuff. She just shook her head and smiled.

Then one afternoon as I was struggling to figure out what some ridiculous poem about daffodils or kittens meant, she handed me a small book.

“Tony Ludlow, you will delight yourself in this book immeasurably, or I am no judge of such matters,” she declared in the wonderful way that she spoke. I took the stupid book from her and dreaded having to open it up to read more flowery words about subjects that were of no interest at all … in a style of writing that seemed self important. “This ain’t deep stuff,” I thought, “but these poets think it is.”

But the book Mrs. Holman gave me was a short collection of poems written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. She had placed a bookmark inside and told me to open to that passage.

“I want you to read this poem and a week from now you will give me a report. I want you to tell me what it means.”

I would have been more excited about a root canal or raking leaves.

The poem she assigned to me was “Ulysses.”

And then everything changed.

Mrs. Holman started giving me other poems to read that weren’t assigned to the rest of the class. They were poems about life from a man’s perspective. One of those was “Dulce et Decorum Est,” the most famous poem of World War I, written by a soldier named Wilfred Owen. It was the last poem she ever assigned to me. And it was the last poem Owen ever wrote. And it brought me to tears.

Other poems followed.
“The Charge of the Light Brigade”
“Dover Beach”
“O Captain! My Captain!”
“If”
“Invictus”
“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

The cunning Mrs. Holman had won.

In college I became a double major in History … and English. And I never forgot the great influence of a teacher with passion and love.

On the last day of 8th grade, Mrs. Holman went around the room saying good-bye and good luck to each of us. When she got to me, she shook my hand and smiled. I said, “Thank you for everything, Mrs. Holman!” And she looked straight at me, paused, leaned in closer, and then said in a low voice that was almost a whisper so that others couldn’t hear: “Tony Ludlow, I expect greatness from you.”

You expect WHAT??

What was I supposed to say to that? What was anyone supposed to say to that?

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, as if I could run right out that afternoon and perform “greatness.”

I was an average student, a completely ordinary, skinny, knucklehead kid with a smart mouth and tons of irreverent goofiness, with absolutely no visible means of greatness. I was a very average boy, from a very average family, living in a typically average Arkansas town. Why did she say that to me? I didn’t hear her say that to anyone else! Why did she burden me with such an assignment? Greatness! Greatness? Good lord …

Over the years I’ve never believed, despite all of my feigned cockiness and false bravado, that I’ve ever achieved greatness. The “burden” that Mrs. Holman gave me that day was intended to serve as a compass marker, a way to orient the map, a process by which to plot a course. A direction in life. A push. I don’t think she intended it to be an anchor, or a hardship, or even a destination.

Greatness travels with passion and has nothing to do with your zip code or bank balance. I find that passion may be the single most attractive thing in a person. An average looking woman with a passion for something (anything!) is infinitely more attractive than a beautiful woman with nothing that energizes her life.

A passion for things. A lust for life. A thirst for knowledge. A positive attitude. These things are magnetic and winsome in any person! Become those things! Be those things and the world will find you! Be the opposite of those things and the world will avoid you.

You can be awesome … and extraordinary … and incredible!

I don’t think I’ve ever achieved greatness, despite my boasting, but I know that Mrs. Holman did. Hers was a life well lived. She was greatness, and love, and light and she poured a little bit of those things into every child she taught!

Thank you, Mrs. Holman. I’ll always love you for investing your life in me and giving me a love for the written word.

“We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” ~ Tennyson

… and not to yield.

— 30 —

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BOGA for all on Thursday!

MARCH MADNESS!
This year, like every year, we’ll have a group NCAA Bracket on ESPN. It’s GREAT fun and it’s simple. You fill out a bracket on ESPN (I’ll give you the details soon) then give me $20 to get in on the fun. At the end of the NCAA tournament, the person who has won — and paid — wins the whole pot!

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TODAY’S NUTRITION TALK
by Gunnery Sergeant Ashley Holloway, Registered Dietitian, LDN

(A Registered Dietitian has a BS in Food Science, followed by a one year internship through an accredited university, and then with the recommendation of the internship program’s supervisor, a national examination is required. After that, an RD must have continuing education units annually in order to remain active and registered. An RD is an expert, not a hobbyist or a “food enthusiast.”)

The Buzz about Coffee and Caffeine

If you love nothing more than a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning, then you are definitely not alone. Caffeine may be the most widely used stimulant in the world with approximately 90 percent of Americans consuming caffeine on a daily basis. More than half of us consume more than 3 cups of coffee a day or approximately 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine with about 10% of us taking in more than 1000 mg a day.

Caffeine is a natural component of chocolate, coffee, and tea, and is also added to most colas and energy drinks. It’s also found in diet pills and some over-the-counter pain relievers and medicines.

One thing is certain, caffeine is addictive. Although caffeine’s effects are milder than other stimulants like amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin; caffeine uses the same mechanisms that these harder drugs use to stimulate the brain. When you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine is quickly absorbed from your stomach and peaks in your blood in 1-2 hours. It increases your heart rate and blood pressure to give you a quick, high buzz that feels like energy.

Luckily, since coffee is so widely consumed, it has been researched extensively. According to leading health and medical experts, the general answer is that normal coffee consumption (about one large mug a day) will not hurt your health. To date, there is no obvious connection between caffeine and cancer, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

However, certain people may want to limit their caffeine or choose decaf coffee. People prone to ulcers, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women, and those who have anemia, or low iron levels would want to limit their caffeine intake since caffeine can reduce iron absorption.

Studies show that just 30 mg of caffeine can have an impact on your mood and behavior. But an intake of just 100 mg a day can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, so consuming a large coffee in the morning and an energy drink in the afternoon can be enough caffeine to cause withdrawal symptoms the next day. Those withdrawal symptoms can cause the fatigue that actually sends you in search of that next cup of joe.

Caffeine has also been shown to enhance exercise performance. No wonder we see it in so many sports gels and gu’s. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, studies from the 1970’s suggested that caffeine enhanced endurance performance by increasing the release of adrenaline into the blood stream which stimulated the release of free fatty acids from fat tissue and/or skeletal muscle. The working muscles use this extra fat early in exercise, reducing the need to use the body’s carbohydrate or glycogen stores. By sparing muscle glycogen in the early stage of exercise, it allowed the glycogen stores to be used later in exercise which delayed fatigue.

More recent studies have reported that consuming 3-9 mg of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight one hour prior to exercise increased endurance running and cycling performance of well-trained elite or recreational athletes in a laboratory setting. To put this into perspective, 3 mg per kg body weight equals approximately 2 regular size cups of coffee; and 9 mg/kg = approximately 5-6 regular size cups of coffee. The exact mechanisms for how caffeine increases endurance has not been clearly established, but it may involve metabolic, hormonal, or direct effects of caffeine on muscles and/or on the nervous system.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, caffeine, when used moderately, may help improve performance when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. But that’s really part of the problem, because overuse of caffeine can interfere with sleep, in some cases substantially. It takes about 3 to 4 hours for the caffeine to be eliminated from your body. In children and adults, caffeine can lead to disturbed sleeping patterns, anxiety and nervousness, upset stomach, headaches and difficulty concentrating. For anyone looking for energy, the best way to get it is naturally. Eat healthfully, stay hydrated, get lots of exercise (I highly recommend USMC Fitness Boot Camp) and get plenty of zzz’s.

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What would you do if money was not an issue, fear was not a factor, and failure was not an option?

To your optimum health and fitness!

SEE YOU ON THE QUARTERDECK!

Tony

Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow

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