Great Expectations — Tony Ludlow, 3/8/2018
I loved school. But it didn’t always love me back. In the 8th grade I fell into a quagmire of academic quicksand.
Algebra and English were conspiring against me. These two fraternal twins were dishing out misery and frustration of the worst kind and I hated them both. I was awful at Algebra and even further awfullering about to which the grammaringly.
Mrs. Holman was my 8th grade English teacher. She was also 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 and colorful dresses of the kind that elegant women wore in those days. Her perfume was a very distinctive powdery scent. Nothing was out of place or wrinkled. 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 or Paula Dean. (I’m joking. Please, no hate-mail from you Reba or Paula fans!)
Of all the 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. From the beginning, I was scared.
Our first one-on-one conversation occurred after school early in the first semester. I was failing her class in a horrible and grotesque manner. The first semester was all grammar and the second was all literature and writing.
Apparently, my goal during that first semester was to establish a new level of rock bottom in her grammar class. As it turned out, I was doing a splindid job. Transitive verbs, indirect objects, participles, conjunctions, subjects of prepositions, past pluperfect verbs, subordinate clauses, diagramming sentences … none of it was sticking. (Where were you, “School House Rock”?) Conceptually, I was lost.
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 made no effort to hide the ugly chip on my shoulder. Of course, I blamed Mrs. Holman. It had to be HER fault that I didn’t get it. Grammar, like most things in school, had little real-world application, I reasoned. I didn’t see much point to much of what I was studying.
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 Mrs. Holman actually turned into something of a crush. She was beyond charming! I can’t emphasize that enough. 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.
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 and unforgivable. She slipped some poetry into the mix. I took an immediate dislike to it.
To me, poetry seemed like 14 year old girls writing maudlin little lines about rainbows and butterflies, horses and sunsets. They liked to add “you see?” to the end of lines to make them rhyme, you see? All of it reeked of pretentiousness, like trying to make that butterfly sound more important than just a flying bug with a colorful costume. And then there was all that nonsense about theme, and meter, and rhythm, and rhyme, and figures of speech, and form. As far as I was concerned, it was worthless in the estimation of my barely pubescent brain. When would I ever need this foolishness, I wondered.
My grades started to tumble again. It seemed like poetry wasn’t very manly nor 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 so outside of my experiences and interests. I was sure, I told her, that none of the male members of my family ever read such fluffy 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 that wonderful way she spoke. I took the book from her, like I was taking a traffic ticket from a cop. I dreaded having to open that book and read more flowery drivel about boring subjects that held no excitement or application for me … in a style of writing that seemed self-important and overly sentimental.
But the book Mrs. Holman gave me that day 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.
“When you get home, I want you to read that poem out loud several times 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 thrilled about a root canal or raking leaves or throwing my paper route at 4 am in the rain.
However, she didn’t want me to analyze the poem, like I was “laying pipe,” but to tell her what it meant. Meaning. Maybe I could work with that.
The poem she assigned me was “Ulysses.”
And that changed everything.
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. “Dulce et Decorum Est,” the most famous poem of World War I, was written by Wilfred Owen, a British soldier, and widely acknowledged as that war’s finest poet. It was the last poem he ever wrote. Owen was killed in battle on November 4, 1918, just one week before the Armistice.
The poem brought me to tears.
Other poems followed.
“The Charge of the Light Brigade”
“O Captain! My Captain!”
“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”
And I was hooked.
The wise and cunning Mrs. Holman had won!
Years later, 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 classroom 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, almost a whisper, so that others couldn’t hear: “Tony Ludlow, I expect greatness from you.”
Wait, what? 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 was going to run right out that afternoon and perform ‘greatness.’
I was an average student, an ordinary, skinny, knucklehead kid with a ton of irreverent goofiness, with no visible means of greatness. Zero. I was a very average boy, from a very average family, living in a typically average Arkansas town. So why did she say that to me? I didn’t hear her say that to anyone else! Why did she burden me with such a thing?
Over the years, I’ve never believed, despite all of my feigned cockiness and false bravado, that I’ve ever achieved greatness. But I came to believe that the “burden” Mrs. Holman charged me with that day was intended to serve as a compass marker, a way to orient the map of my life, a process by which to plot a course. It was intended to serve as momentum and enthusiasm toward good and honorable things.
Greatness travels with passion. Have you ever seen one without the other? And they have nothing to do with a person’s zip code or bank balance. I find that passion may be the single most attractive thing in a person.
A passion for things. A lust for life. A thirst for knowledge. A positive orientation to the world. These things are magnetic and winsome! Be those things and the world will find you! Be the opposite of those things and the world will avoid you.
I’ve never achieved greatness, but I know that Mrs. Holman did. 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.” ~ “Ulysses,” Alfred Lord Tennyson
… and not to yield.
… and not to yield.
… and not to yield.
– 30 –
Through the years, people have been super supportive of USMC Fitness Boot Camp and all that I do through it. Almost weekly, I’ll hear from some former boot camper who’s moved away. They write saying how significant the program was to them and how much they enjoy getting these newsletters.
Some of those folks still live in Memphis but life and circumstances have “providentially” hindered them from coming back to the Quarterdeck. (This sounds better than “they got lazy and got out of the habit.”)
Sometimes, those who’ve moved away send money because they want to be helpful and to support the program. This happened just a few days ago. Sometimes these folks know that at any point in time, there are about half a dozen boot campers coming for free because they lost their job, or there’s been some other detrimental change in their finances and situation and would otherwise have to drop out boot camp.
I support different causes and organizations, like you do. But last year I started supporting two different people on a site called Patreon. It’s a way to support artists, musicians, writers, and others who produce content of a broad nature, but might not be able to continue without financial support from patrons … like how educators, artists, musicians, and others were supported by patrons back in the day.
Today, the work produced by members of Patreon is found in printed materials, blog posts, YouTube videos, face to face instruction, consultation, reviews, lectures, and any number of outlets. I support the two I mentioned because I like what they do and want to help.
I’ve been encouraged to join Patreon myself, giving folks who aren’t actively in the program (or even those who are), an opportunity to support the program in small automatic monthly amounts.
More about that later!
TODAY’S NUTRITION TALK
by First Sergeant Ashley Holloway, Registered Dietitian, LDN, MS.
(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.”)
Hi, my name is Ashley Holloway and I LOVE peanut butter! So much so, that I eat peanut butter at least six out of seven days! Many people mistakenly think that peanut butter is fattening or unhealthy, but that is not the case. Peanut butter is chock full of good nutrition and can be beneficial to your health!
Here is the down low on peanut butter from fellow Dietitian, Nancy Clark:
PB is not inherently fattening. While any food eaten in excess can be fattening, people who eat PB (and nuts, for that matter) five or more times a week are not fatter than nut avoiders. That’s because peanuts and PB are satiating; they help you feel pleasantly fed. Peanut eaters tend to intuitively eat less at other times of the day.
PB offers many health benefits. The fat in PB is primarily health-promoting mono- and poly- unsaturated fat that knocks down inflammation. For athletes who get micro-injuries every time they train, an anti-inflammatory food such as PB is a wise choice.
The fat in PB helps absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. You want to include some (healthful) fat in each meal; PB is a painless way to do so!
If you are an endurance athlete, such as a marathoner or cyclist, you’ll optimize your sports diet by eating at least 0.5 grams fat per pound of body weight. You’ll use it for fuel during extended exercise. PB in oatmeal before a long bike ride or a PB & J sandwich on a long bike ride are yummy and healthy ways to enjoy adequate dietary fat.
PB is a good source of arginine, an amino acid that helps keep blood vessels flexible so that blood flows more easily and reduces blood pressure. The more PB you eat, the bigger the effect on health protection.
What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain. Research suggests PB eaters improve their brain-blood circulation and mental function. This contributes to enhanced processing speed and better short-term memory. Eating PB and nuts today is a wise investment in your future brain health.
PB contains numerous bioactive compounds (phenols) that bolster the immune system. Spanish peanuts and shell peanuts are particularly wise snack choices because the peanut skin is rich in anti-oxidants and fiber.
Is all natural peanut butter far better than Skippy of Jif? All types of PB need to meet a “standard of identity” as defined by the USDA. Conventional brands might have 2% added saturated fat (palm oil, hydrogenated oils) to control the oil from separating. This small amount does not over-ride the positive health benefits of PB.
What about all the sugar added to Skippy and Jiff PB? “All” that sugar is only 2 or 3 grams. That’s nothing compared to the 10 to 15 grams of sugar in the jelly or honey you might enjoy with the PB, or the 6 g sugar in the sandwich bread. Regardless, sugar fuels your muscles. Please fret less about added sugar and focus more on PB’s zinc, folate, vitamin E, niacin, and selenium. It is nutrient-rich.
What about the sodium in PB? The 150 mg. sodium in a serving of PB is less than the sodium you get in one slice of bread or 12-ounces of Gatorade.
But what if I can’t eat just one spoonful…? If you stay away from PB because you can’t eat just a reasonable serving, think again. Overindulging in PB means you like it; you should eat it more often! By enjoying PB at every meal, in a few days, you will stop craving it. No more binges! Avoiding peanut butter just sets you up for “last chance eating.” You know, I just blew my diet by eating PB so I’d better keep eating it. Last chance before I go back on my diet. Denial and deprivation of PB lead to overeating. Do not deny yourself of this yummy sports food. You will deprive your body of valuable health benefits!
I’ve recently signed up for the messaging app called Remind. Designed with schools in mind, it is easily adaptable for groups and organizations like ours.
Signing up is free and easy. Your privacy is ensured and there will be no group text situations that makes us all crazy! I’m the only one who can reply to everyone. Any messages from you will only go to me, not to the whole group.
I’ll only utilize this messaging service to inform you of any changes to venue or times. Likewise, I’ll use it, in addition to Facebook, to announce any weather related cancellations or changes.
Just copy and paste this link into your browser to sign up: remind.com/join/usmcfi
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!
Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow
USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Mailing address: 4888 Southern Ave., Memphis, TN 38117
Cell Phone: 901-644-0145