Death By Small Group — Tony Ludlow, May 17, 2018

 In Uncategorized

Do you remember your best day at school?

I do.

It didn’t have anything to do with exams or social intrigue. No extra-curricular activities or special events. In fact, though I loved school, or rather, I loved being at school, but not always loving the subjects, it wasn’t until my junior year in college that I had this “best of the best days.” It also wasn’t until college that I got serious about my studies. It’s funny how your own money financing your education does that.

The professor for this particular English class, Dr. Amy Blankenship, was, to put it kindly, a lady of a certain age who had never married and had passed beyond the age of birthing babies. Her work was her life. She taught and she wrote and — as if she weren’t stereotypical enough — she took care of her 5 cats. She was wonderful and her enthusiasm for academics and teaching were almost equal to her love for cheesecake.

On this best of all days, she divided us into groups and gave each group an assignment. Ordinarily I’d rather take a hammer to my head than to break into small groups. I groan inside every time a teacher or speaker says “let’s break into small groups.” And this breaking into groups thing was starting out like every one of those other miserable experiences. (Thing is, they’re never nearly as miserable as I imagine. I have no idea why I have such an aversion to the whole thing.)

The assignment was simple: as a group, formulate 10 opening sentences for a book or short story. The sentence needed to get the reader’s attention and draw them into the story. We were to compose things like:

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” — “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” by Hunter S. Thompson.

“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” — “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.

“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” — “The Dark Tower,” by Stephen King.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” — “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.” — “Fight Club,” by Chuck Palahniuk. (This line also incorporates the beginning of “The Satanic Verses,” by Salman Rushdie! Kind of a genius move, I’d say!)

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” — “The Bell Jar,” by Sylvia Plath.

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” — “I Capture the Castle,” by Dodie Smith.

“Call me Ishmael.” — “Moby Dick,” by Herman Melville.

“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.” — “The Red Badge of Courage,” by Stephen Crane.

All of us were quite certain that none of us in our little groups were going to come anywhere close to these lines, but we were determined to try. And I can’t tell you how much fun this was! I don’t remember any of our lines, I just remember how much fun it was to conjure them up out of thin air.

Afterwards, one member from each group read their group’s lines to the whole class. When that was over and the group time was over, Dr. Blankenship had us write 10 sentences of our own composition and hand them in. When we were finished, we could leave early. I stayed until the bell rang. I was finished with time to spare, but I just kept rewriting the lines, correcting or altering or modifying, and I just kept writing additional sentences.

I wasn’t alone. Several of my classmates did the same thing. And when the bell rang, we reluctantly got up and handed in our pages of work, happy in the experience, but sad that it was over.

For some students, this might be “the worst of times.” But for me, it was the “best of times!”

I think the essence of happiness in this world is to find things that give you that kind of joy. Things that ignite your passions! Things that make time fly. Things that you get lost in.

Not long ago a new friend asked what I did for a living and I said “I’m a reader and a writer.” She got very excited and said, “Oh, how exciting! Have you had a number of things published … could I buy your work on Amazon or Kindle?” “No,” I said, “the few things I’ve had published aren’t available anywhere … I don’t actually make any money writing … I run a fitness company for money … but I write for a ‘living.’” (Actually, I’m pretty passionate about fitness and athletics too!)

Sometimes people tell me that they’re unhappy in their current job or profession. I ask them what they’d like to do instead. A lot of times they don’t know, they just know what they don’t want to be doing. But sometimes they say that they’d love to be doing X, Y, or Z because they’ve got a love for that, a passion for it. I always encourage them to try doing those things part-time. Test the waters without giving up the gig that pays the bills.

If you’re serious, downsize your life to facilitate the dream. Buying a smaller house, driving an older car that you don’t owe anything on, giving up needless luxuries like country club memberships and Florida condo timeshares to simplifying your life so that you can worry less about money and invest more of your time and psychic energy into your passions. We must be careful that we don’t become enslaved by our possessions. There’s an interesting admonition in the New Testament book of Luke that goes like this: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

What are you passionate about? What makes the time fly? What gives you joy?

It may not be anything that will ever pay the bills, but find a way to carve out space and time in your life for those things. For those things are what redeems the time you have in this life.

— 30 —



Through the years—almost 19 now—folks have been super supportive of USMC Fitness Boot Camp and all that I do through it.

Weekly, I hear from former boot campers who’ve moved away. They write saying how significant the program was to them, how much they miss it, and how much they enjoy getting the newsletters and Facebook updates.

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 they’d have to drop out boot camp.

We’re the only fitness company in Memphis that allows members to continue to participate for free if they lose their jobs or their finances take a horrible hit. And when they’re back on their feet, they just start paying from that point forward. The months they came for free never have to be paid back.

I consider what I do to be more ministry than business, and don’t kick anyone out because of money problems.

Like you, I support different causes and organizations in Memphis just because I believe in what they do and want to help them keep doing it. Monthly, I support 8 different local entities, including WKNO and Literacy Mid-South.

Additionally, last year I started supporting two different people on a site called Patreon. It’s a way to support artists, musicians, writers, instructors, and others who produce content or provide services of a broad nature but might not be able to continue doing so without financial support from patrons … like how educators, artists, musicians, and others were supported by patrons back in the day.

I’ve been encouraged to join Patreon myself, giving folks an opportunity to support the program in small automatic monthly amounts.

Check out the page and if you feel led to support the work I do, even if it’s $1 a month, the number of patrons will be an encouragement to me and others!

Thank you so much!


by Sergeant Major Ashley Holloway, M.S., Registered Dietitian, L.D.N.

(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.”)

Do you need to Detox?

Detox diets are touted as a way to flush toxins out of your system. These diets are quite popular, but they are not scientifically proven.

The specifics of detox diets can vary, but usually a period of fasting is then followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, and water. Some detox diets also advocate using herbs and other supplements along with colon cleansing through enemas or colonics to further empty the intestines.

You may lose a little bit of weight from a detox diet, but it is usually temporary from a combination of being on a very low calorie diet, losing water weight, and from having empty intestines. Plus, you’re likely to lose weight and then gain it right back when you go off any extreme diet.

There is little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Nor do you need to help your body “detoxify.” Your organs and immune system handle these duties, no matter what you eat. Your kidneys and liver are quite effective at filtering and eliminating most ingested toxins.

Some say that they feel better on a detox diet, but why they temporarily feel better may actually come from the fact that they are avoiding highly processed foods, extra sugar, and fat. These benefits may come at a cost. Detox diets that severely limit protein or that require fasting can result in fatigue, muscle aches, and irritability. Long-term fasting can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Colon cleansing, through enemas and colonics, can cause cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting and even dehydration can be a concern. And if the diet recommends pills, herbs, or supplements, these items are not backed by the FDA and can interact with different medications and can cause issues on their own.

Finally, keep in mind that fad diets aren’t a good long-term solution. For lasting results, your best bet is to eat a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.


MAKE A $&(#&@^#!*% FACE!!!!



What you get out of the workouts is determined by you.

How much do you work? How much effort you put into trying to do all of the repetitions with proper form and how much weight you’re using will determine what you get out of each workout.


It’s time for you to go up in weights … that’s what I’m thinking!






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!



Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow

USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Text: 901-644-0145

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