Grim Reaper’s Proximty

Grim Reaper’s Proximty

May 22, 2014 was a grand day in the Armstrong family. My son turned twenty-one years old. He is my first born child and only son. He made reservations for Baby Blues BBQ Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA. It is walking distance from Drexel University where he’s a third-year communications major. We were psyched. He had six of his buddies with huge appetites joining us for dinner. I knew not to leave home without my American Express card. 

My heart was full of pride and love because my young man is growing up to be a caring man with a great work ethic. I suffered the nearly five hour drive from Washington, DC to the City of Brotherly Love, double the normal drive time thanks to two traffic accidents, construction just north of Baltimore, sporadic rain, and Memorial Day traffic. I couldn’t wait to hug my young man. He’s exceeding my dreams.

And the dreams of his paternal grandmother, God rest her immortal soul. Soon after I graduated from West Point in the early ’80s, she began requesting grandchildren, even during periods when I wasn’t even dating. Eventually I married and divorced; nonetheless, both of my children became her very own. She spent more time with them than I did as a divorced father.

On the afternoon of my son’s birthday, my mobile phone rang. His handsome face popped up on the screen. I immediately joked that he was calling to inform me that the guest list for the restaurant was expanding yet again.

“Dad, I have bad news,” he replied.

“Uncle Charles died?” I guessed, holding my breath. He is my late-father’s nearly ninety year old surviving sibling. He’s a member of the Greatest Generation who fought as an Army enlisted man in World War II and as an Army lieutenant in Korea where he lost a leg in battle.

“They found Cousin Mike dead.”

Shock stunned me, rendering me utterly breathless.

My cousin and I grew up more like brothers than cousins. He attended a military boarding school through twelfth grade, and then I attended the nation’s largest military high school. He got accepted to West Point, choosing instead to attend Johns Hopkins University. He eventually graduated, attended medical school, and earned a commission as a medical doctor and Army officer. I became the second in the family to earn an appointment to West Point and upon graduation, was commissioned a combat arms officer in the US Army. He blazed the trail.

After the Army, he and I regularly played tennis. He was a very fit retired colonel who had not an ounce of fat on his body. When police found him dead apparently of natural causes in his home, he was fifty-six years and eleven months old, two years older than I am.

It was good fortune to be around so much youth at my son’s birthday dinner in Philly. All seven young men were college juniors at various universities. Their faces lit up with so much promise and life. They distracted me from the closeness of the Grim Reaper.

Tomorrow is never promised, but with the death of my closest relative (other than my two children), I felt mortality’s proximity. The wretched breath of the Grim Reaper burned against the back of my neck.

I arrived home in DC around 3am. With God as my witness before I closed my eyes to sleep, despite a shaken heart, I renewed my vow to live again. The choice to live is more than deciding to wake up in the mornings, grab a bowl of cereal, and slog through the day in mere existence. 

I choose to live on my terms. I seek joy in the smallest of chores because we only control our actions and our attitudes.

I am happy being alive!!!

That is my choice.





Happy New Year!!!  Yes, I’m back.  Nobody has ever yearned for a new year as much I have.  2013 delivered challenge after challenge after new challenge.  Nonetheless, I am abundantly blessed not only to awaken this morning, but I am giddy with things that are on my horizon in this year.

I am not a resolutions dude, but I am all about routine goal-setting.  When I was on a particular corporate staff, we adopted FranklinCovey’s Four Disciplines of Execution.  From it I learned to focus on one or two Wildly Important Goals (WIGs).  The FranklinCovey website says, “The Wildly Important Goal (WIG) is the one that must be achieved, or nothing else you achieve really matters much.”  I will focus on my WIG for a month or a quarter or however long it takes to achieve it.  I put dates to my WIGs.  I get accountability partners to whom I report.  I focus on the daily activities which become my metrics or leading measurements for my personal scoreboard.  I lost 140 pounds without drugs or surgery by making weight loss my only WIG for eighteen months between 2012-2013.

But this approach sounds like a lot of corporate gobbledygook, right?

You create resolutions every year, but you routinely fall short, no?

Take a look at the website below.  Kani delivers a more human approach to goal-setting.  Adopt her SMART methodology and resolve to stick to your realistic goals.

Whether it is the beginning of a new year, or it’s the twentieth day of any month in the middle of the summer, remember that today is the first day of the rest of your life, and there is no better day than today to plan your successes.

Seize the day!  Success awaits you.  Plan it.

The Power of Little

The Power of Little

Thinking about having one cookie for dinner?  Why not?  It’s just one cookie.  Mmmmm!  That was delicious.  Let’s turn on ESPN and watch Sports Center.  Why not get another cookie or two or six?

I’ve attached an article below that shows the power of cutting just one hundred calories from your diet per day.  A typical cookie is at least one hundred calories, if not more.  Cutting one cookie a day will equal losing ten pounds per year.  Easy, huh?

When I lived in Korea, I noticed that villagers walked in the mornings and in the evenings.  They strolled without hurry.  It was their constitutionals, “a regular walk taken as a form of exercise” as defined by the Free Dictionary.

What if you simply walked around the block before you got into your automobile in the mornings prior to your jetting off to work?  What if you walked around the block after dinner?  Those eight blocks of walking will burn more than one hundred calories per day.


Cut one hundred calories per day, and that will equal the loss of ten pounds per year.  Then, walk around the block twice per day to burn at least another hundred calories per day.  According to my math, that’s the equivalent of losing at least twenty pounds per year!!!

Droping weight doesn’t have to be onerous.  It’s the little things done consistently that will make your pants fit looser.

Consistency, not intensity!

God bless you,




My Perfect Fast Food

Food is seductive.  The Food Network, cook books, and advertisers understand the power of creating allure for food.  Food imagery sells.


Certainly, we mortals consume for sustenance; additionally, we eat for our hearts and souls.  As the old adage goes, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

Unfortunately for many of us, food becomes our drug of choice.  Some drink.  Some abuse drugs.  Some cheat on their spouses.

I became a card-carrying food addict.  After my separation and divorce, I would pick up my two toddlers from their grandparents at the end of the day and drive home, stopping at a convenient drive-through fast-food restaurant.  Those choices were high-fat, low-fiber, and sodium-laden meals.  I ordered too many pizzas and Chinese deliveries for the three of us.  Cookies, cakes, and pies, oh my!  It’s amazing that my son and daughter, now 20 and 16 years old, respectively, are growing up as slim young adults.  I, on the other hand, put on over a hundred pounds from this poor diet and lifestyle of sedentary office work and coming home to watch my young people.

The simple calculus for losing weight is to increase exercise and decrease caloric intake.  A part of my weight loss strategy has been to keep very little food in the cabinets and refrigerator in my home.  It is easy to resist cravings when the cupboards are bare.  

But what happens when the inevitable cravings hit?  Dial Papa John’s Pizza?

Wrong answer!

I love beans!!!  Beans are a slow-burn carbohydrate; therefore, once ingested, they digest slowly.  As a result, a person gets hungry slower than from eating many other foods.  I like to make a big pot of beans over the weekend, and I nuke a bowl in the microwave oven without an iota of guilt whenever I need a quick meal.  

But beans are boring, right?

Nope!  I like to shake red pepper flakes and drizzle some olive oil atop mine.  On other occasion, I add diced tomatoes (fresh or canned), chopped onions, and/or shredded cheese.  Try some sour cream, bacon bits, or cilantro.  There’s nothing like having a healthy, tasty, and filling food waiting to slake my heart’s desires.  

What’s your strategy for fighting your hunger pangs?  I hope you take a moment to respond.  Thanks in advance!

Consistency, not intensity!

God bless you,


PS  Here’s a great blog that covers some slow-burn carbs:

Rest for the Weary

Rest for the Weary

“Consistency, not intensity” was my mantra as I walked and walked and walked for the eighteen months during which I dropped 140 pounds without drugs or surgery.  I didn’t care how fast I walked.  I didn’t care about the weather.  I was bound and determined to do my 10,000 steps per day for at least six days per week because I was losing that weight.  

My ultimate goal is to lose 176 pounds which will get me back to my plebe/freshman year weight of two hundred pounds (6’6″ tall) at West Point in 1978.  In March 2013, I shifted my workout focus away from walking.  I have targeted the Army 10 Miler road race in October 2013 to help me zero in on the next phase of my working out.  Even though I have not run in the last four or five years, I figured that running ten miles is a reasonable goal since I now weigh considerably less, and my legs are strong from all of the walking.  


Yes, sports fans, there is a proverbial however to this story.  Running is not walking!  I turn fifty-four years old next month.  In other words, running would be easier said than done.

I began with some slow paced training runs over short distances, no more than 1.2 miles.  The first few runs, albeit at a glacial pace, felt okay.  My times for one mile were slower than my Army two-mile run times for record, back in the day.  Then one morning, I woke up as stiff as a board.  My body had tightened and knotted.  The quad muscles in my thighs felt like someone had poured cement into them.  My abdominal region burned with pain every time I moved.  This old soldier decided to just keep running through the considerable discomfort.  

No pain, no gain, right?  

This past Sunday night on a run, during the last hundred yards to the finish, my legs seized up so badly that a motorist honked and yelled out the window, “Are you okay?  Do you need help?”  I’m sure that I appeared quite spastic to anyone who witnessed my strained stride.

For the next two days, I remained in bed, having hit the wall of exhaustion.  That fatigue flummoxed me.  In my past, I had done 25-mile forced road marches (fast walk-jog) under full combat load against the clock for record; yet, I was in bed after having run fewer than five miles over several days. 

I telephoned Ric.  I needed guidance and a shot of his a**-chewing motivation.  Ric and I served in an infantry battalion together in the Army when we were both spry captains, and he’s now a retired colonel and chaplain.  As my former workout buddy, he pushed me beyond my perceived limits back in Korea.  Decades hence, he’s been a spiritual adviser, and he remains my workout coach long distance.  Ric believes in intensity.  I was expecting him to tell me to fight through the pain.  Instead, Ric, the former power lifter, surprised me.  

First, he recommended that I rest because I had most likely been over-training for months, especially at my age.  Second, he told me to cut my distance in half and to run it without a stopwatch, taking my time.  He said to run that for five days with two days of rest.  Progressively add a quarter of a mile to the distance each week.  Train five days, and rest for two.  His recommendations essentially reinforced the notion of “Consistency, not intensity.”

When you are beginning a workout program,.be gentle with yourself.  Most likely, you got out of shape over the course of years.  It takes time for the body transition from an un-athletic lifestyle to a healthy one.  If you can’t walk 10,000 steps quite yet, then do 2,000 consistently for five to six days per week until you can move up to 2,500 steps.

Secondly, the body needs rest in order to improve.  Push your body, but listen to it.  Plan some rest in order to let your muscles repair and your joints heal.  Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint.

Consistency, not intensity!

God bless you,


Youthful Memories are the Enemy!!!

Youthful Memories are the Enemy!!!

Youthful memories bring back our nostalgic pasts.  Remember filling up the station wagon and driving across states to visit our grandparents?  Think back to how delicious the iced watermelons tasted in back yards on picnic tables during summers past?  Recall swinging on ropes and dropping into the local swimming hole back in the day?  Those are sweet, youthful memories which all of us should cherish.

For too many Americans, they get jobs, work long hours, suffer stresses, come home, eat and drink to salve their souls, deal with the kids, pay bills, take out the trash, and plop down onto their sofas in front of their high definition televisions to watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.  After years of this, they wake up one morning and look in the mirror after showering to discover that they can’t wiggle into that outfit they’d planned to wear.  Then the holidays roll around, and they give themselves license to eat and drink with no limits because that’s the American way.  When January 1st arrives, everybody has the greatest intentions to hit the gym, train for a 10K run, and/or aggressively attack the latest and greatest diet.  True, right?

Why do so many adults’ fitness resolutions fail? They suffer from their youthful memories.

Most older adults remember playing outdoors all day long and never tiring when they were children.  They recall how they used to train hard or play sports with the best of them.  They flashback to how they had once been able to drink like a fish and then go play basketball or tennis all afternoon.

The problem is that our bodies change as we age.  We become less flexible.  We require more recovery time for doing seemingly less exercise.  Our muscles atrophy.  Our cardiovascular systems diminish, and we put on tons of fat.  Still, people join expensive gyms and work out with the same intensity like when they were still playing for their high school ball teams.

When I was about to commence my new workout program and lifestyle change, I spoke with a fellow West Point grad, Monroe H.  Monroe had lost over one hundred pounds, and he had run a marathon.  I asked him how he got started, and he simply replied, “I ran around the block.”

I suggest to all adults who’re embarking on their own weight loss and lifestyle changes to just fuggedabout it!  Forget that you were once the star cheerleader.  Flush from your memory banks that you were once a stud muffin athlete who pranced around campus in your letterman’s jacket.  Learn to just run around the block, and do it consistently.

Consistency, not intensity!  That should be your mantra to weight loss.

God bless you!  Now get moving!