The Secret

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This meme tells my story.  There are plenty of days I walk into the gym in my street clothes.  Often, I have things on my mind…I’m trying to solve a life riddle, or figure out the answer to a particular problem.  I’m feeling rather subdued, even serious.

BUT

I change into my workout clothes, get my Ipod fired up and hit the weights.  After a few minutes, my internal transformation begins.  You can’t worry or think too deeply when you’re in the middle of a heavy set.  It’s wonderfully liberating and you can actually feel any burdens you’re carrying getting lighter. 

There’s something called a “runner’s high.”  I don’t run but I do get that same feeling when things are clicking in the gym.  It’s exhilarating and freeing.  When it kicks in, I most definitely feel like Wonder Woman…beautifully strong, capable and happy. 

It’s the transformational secret of the gym that all serious lifters come to know and love!

“War is Deceit”

This is an off topic post.  I will always give you a “heads up” when I’m writing about subjects unrelated to the gym.  If you’re here for fitness and bodybuilding stuff, check in tomorrow.  In the meantime, have a wonderful day!

Allah’s Messenger said, “Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords (Jihad in Allah’s Cause).” 

My 7th grade son’s teacher recently told her class that “Islam a religion of peace.”  I’ve heard many elected officials over the years tell us the very same thing. Barack Obama, George Bush, Hillary Clinton, Ashton Carter, Marie Harf, Jeh Johnson and Loretta Lynch have all proclaimed confidently that “Islam is a religion of peace.”  In the past, I’ve heard John Brennan say terrorist groups “are driven by this ideology that is not rooted in Islam” and John Kerry say groups like the Islamic State are comprised of apostates who “do not represent Islam.”

European officials are, if possible, more strident in their insistence that Muslims who engage in terrorism misunderstand their own ideology and are twisting the peaceful message of Islam for their own purposes. Just a few days ago, Chancellor Merkel of Germany gave a speech in which she recommended working with “Islamist, Muslim states” to combat the idea that terrorism is actually part of Islam.  She suggests that working with them is the key so that “we will be able to convince people that it is not Islam that is the problem, but a falsely understood Islam, and the religious authorities of Islam have to find strong language in order to delineate themselves and distance themselves from this fundamentalist and terrorist [type of] Islam.  Even the Pope has added his opinion to the cacophony of voices declaring that Islam doesn’t have aggression toward non-Muslims as part of the bedrock of the ideology.  In part of a Christmas address in 2014, he expounded, “Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence” and according to his most recent declaration on the subject, “…Muslim terrorism does not exist.”   

A few years go, confused about what I was actually seeing in the world which wildly opposed the “Islam is a religion of peace” platitudes, I began to dig.  I wanted to better understand what was happening and as all researchers know when you’re wading into new subjects for the purpose of analytical examination, you begin at the beginning.  That means you go as far back into the source material as you possibly can. 

I sought out the Qur’an and read it, in hopes of gaining insight into the ideology.  I thought  it would contain most, if not all, of what I needed to know but in my studies, I learned that In order to have a reasonable breadth of understanding of how a Muslim is supposed to behave, I certainly needed to read the Qur’an but I couldn’t get the type of deeper understanding I wanted by ignoring the Hadith.

in addition to reading the Qur’an and the Hadith, I realized I also needed to study the life of Mohammad. In Islam, Mohammad is considered the perfect man.  He is to be emulated.  Therefore, If you know how he lived his life, you have a very detailed roadmap of proper behavior.  The Hadith is a collection of short stories, vignettes, or passages about things Mohammad did, said or taught related by those who lived around him (for instance, many of the Hadiths are narrated by Aishah, who was one of his wives).  They are personal testimonies of followers and provide insight into how one is to live. 

As Jamaal Zarabozo of Boulder, Colorado wrote in his piece entitled “Congratulations to the New Muslim,”

“The most important source for any work about Islam must be the Quran itself. The Quran lays the foundation for the entirety of Islamic teachings.”  The author goes on “However, the Quran was not simply revealed upon a mountainside for anyone to read and understand on his own. Allah chose to reveal the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and within the Quran itself ordered the Muslims to follow his example and to obey his commands. His way of life is known as the Sunnah and has been captured in what is known as the hadith literature. Therefore, the guidance of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as contained in the authentic hadith literature will also be heavily relied upon.

The Quran and Sunnah, therefore, form the ultimate sources of one’s understanding of Islam. Any other source must be secondary to these sources and subject to their overall approval. In other words, if something is contrary to the Quran and Sunnah, it cannot justifiably be considered part of Islam.” 

I picked one of the best known collections of Hadith to study.  It’s titled The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari (an Arabic-English edition) and was translated into English by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. This set of Hadiths passed muster from the religious authorities in Saudi Arabia and was put together there. It pertains particularly to Sunni Muslims, who comprise upward of 75% of all Muslims in the world.  It consists of nine volumes, each composed of many “books.”  The books cover topics like how to wash, the passing on of property, how and when to pray, charitable giving and all manner of other topics. Volume 4 contains The Book of Jihad (fighting for Allah’s Cause) and it is 155 pages long. 

I have heard Muslims and their western supporters say that Jihad is just the concept of “spiritual battle.”  In other words, that Jihad is an internal struggle one engages in for the purposes of perfecting one’s behavior in order to be a better Muslim.  Perhaps that statement has elements of truth in it but it’s far from the complete story.  Chapter One of the Book of Jihad begins

“Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties: for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise.  They fight in Allah’s Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed.” (page 44)

The opening lines of the book destroy the notion that Jihad is simply a spiritual battle.  At the bottom of the page, as a footnote the translator adds

“Al-Jihad (Holy fighting) in Allah’s cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam, and is one of the pillars (on which it stands).  By Jihad Islam is established,  Allah’s word is made superior.  [His Word being (La ilaha illallah which means none has the right to be worshipped but Allah)], and his religion (Islam) is propagated.

“None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.”  That phrase is written dozens of times throughout these volumes and it’s a phrase worthy of keeping in mind.  It sets the tone toward non-believers since they are repeatedly instructed that those of other faiths do not have the right to worship as they see fit.  Therefore, it’s easy to see why large numbers of Muslims are convinced they do not have to tolerate other traditions especially if they are present in enough numbers to prevent it (politically, by intimidation or through violent means).

Participation in Jihad is considered noble and excellent behavior as seen in the following passage (in this quote and hereafter, “Allah’s Messenger” refers to Mohammad).

(2785) Narrated abu Hurairah:  A man came to Allah’s Messenger and said, “Guide me to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward).”  He replied, “I do not find such a deed.”

The translator adds a telling line in a footnote,  He writes,

“The Prophet tells his companions that one can attain rewards through Jihad against Kufr.”

Loosely, and for easy understanding, Kufr are people who are not Islamic. There are categories of Kufr and nuances of definition but basically it means an Unbeliever (and they are regarded as filth). You may rightly assume that unless you’re Muslim, they are referring to you.  So great is the reward for those who fight in Allah’s cause that

“The mujahid (i.e. Muslim fighter) is rewarded even for the footsteps of his horse while it wanders about (for grazing) tied by a rope.” (page 46)

What follows serves as further evidence that Jihad is not simply an internal battle.

“Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujahid in His Cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty.” (page 47)

Clearly, you aren’t killed in a spiritual fight, nor do you get war booty from some sort of internal Jihad.  It’s crystal clear to the reader that aggressive and violent Jihad is not only acceptable but encouraged.  Jihad leads directly to Paradise.  In the following quote and hereafter, “the Prophet” refers to Mohammad.   “Al-Mushrikun” refers to polytheists, pagans, Idolaters, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, and His Messenger Mohammad.  Unless you are Muslim you fall into this category.

Narrated Al-Mughira bin Shu’ba:  Our Prophet told us about the Message of our Lord that “…whoever amongst us is killed (in Jihad in Allah’s Cause), will go to Paradise.”  ‘Umar asked the Prophet, “Is it not true that our men who are killed (in Jihad in Allah’s Cause), will go to Paradise and theirs (i.e., those of Al-Mushrikun) will go to the (Hell) fire?”  The Prophet said, “Yes.” (Page 63)

To be clear, Jihad is not a choice.  It’s a responsibility and is expected from each and every Muslim.  The translator writes

Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam, on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfill this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite. (Page 44)

If a Muslim ruler calls for Jihad, it’s incumbent upon Muslims to answer that call.

(2783) Narrated Abu Hurairah:  …and if you are called (by the Muslim ruler) for Jihad, go forth immediately.

In many places in the book, potent devotion to the concept of martyrdom is expressed.

Chapter 12 – The Statement Of Allah  “Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah (i.e., that they have gone out for Jihad (holy fighting) and showed not their backs to the disbelievers), of them some have fulfilled their obligations (i.e., have been martyred), and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed (i.e. they never proved treacherous to their covenant which they concluded with Allah) in the least.” (V .33 :23)

(2817)  Narrated Abis bin Malik, The Prophet said, “Nobody who enters Paradise likes to return to the world even if he got everything on the earth, except a martyr who wishes to return to the world so that he may be martyred ten times because of the honor and dignity he receives (from Allah).” 

(2797) Narrated Abu Hurairah.  The Prophet said,  “by Him in Whose Hands my soul is!  Were it not for some men amongst the believers who dislike to be left behind me and whom I cannot provide with means of conveyance, I would certainly never remain behind any sarya (army-unit) going out for Jihad in Allah’s Cause By Him in Whose Hands my soul is!  I would love  to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then come back to life and then get martyred, and then come back to life again and then get martyred and then come back to life again and then get martyred.”

Obviously, Army units aren’t deployed for internal struggle and again, you typically don’t die when engaged battles that aren’t violent engagements.  You don’t suffer cuts or bleed either.

(2802) Narrated Jundab bin Sufyan:  In one of the holy battles, a finger of Allah’s Messenger (got wounded and) bled. (Page 54)

Mohammad was wounded another time as well.

(2903) Narrated Sahl:  When the helmet of the Prophet was smashed on his head and blood covered his face, and one of his front teeth got broken, Ali brought the water in his shield and Fatima (the Prophet’s daughter) washed him.

Chapter 10 (Page 55) in the Book of Jihad is summed up as  “The superiority of him who is wounded in Allah’s Cause.” and it assures that those who are wounded in fighting will be taken care of on the Day of Resurrection when a wound would have “the color of blood but it’s smell will be the smell of musk (perfume).”

It’s obvious from what’s written in the Hadith that Mohammad took up arms himself.  That’s an important fact to note if you remember that Mohammad is considered the perfect Islamic man and his actions are to be emulated.  Mohammad waged war on non-Muslims and he did so expressly because they were not Muslim.  He sought their conversion, first by persuasion and then, by the sword.   

(2946)  Narrated Abu Hurairah:  Allah’s Messenger said,  “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people till they say La Ilaha Illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and whoever said La ilaha illallah, he saved his life and property from me…”

Chapter 179 – The saying of the Prophet to the Jews, “Embrace Islam and you will be safe” (Narrated by Abu Hurairah).  The flip side of this obviously meaning, if you don’t embrace Islam you won’t be safe.

(3053)  Narrated Sa’id bin Jubair:  The Prophet on his deathbed gave three orders saying, ‘Expel the Al-Mushrikun (polytheists, Pagans, Idolaters, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, and His Messenger Muhammad) from the Arabian Peninsula… 

The following quote further underscores the fact that Mohammad purposefully targeted non-Muslims using violent action because they did not accept Islam.  Before going to battle he would discern if a group had accepted Islam or not by waiting to see if he could hear the call to prayer in the morning.

(2943)  Narrated Anas: Whenever Allah’s Messenger attacked some people, he would never attack them till it was dawn.  If he heard the Adhan [i.e., call for Salat (prayer)] he would delay the fight, and if he did not hear the Adhan, he would attack them immediately after dawn.”

One day, Mohammad fought battles against not one, but two, distinct groups.  We are told he was encouraged in this endeavor by Gabriel who Muslims call Jibril.  Gabriel is an important figure in Islam since they believe it was Gabriel who recited the Qur’an to Mohammad in a cave near Mecca.

(2813) Narrated Aishah:  When Allah’s Messenger returned on the day (of the battle) of Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench), he put down his arms and took a bath. Then Jibril (Gabriel) whose head was covered with dust, came to him saying, “You have put down your arms!  By Allah, I have not put down my arms yet.”  Allah’s Messenger said, “Where (to go now)?”  Jibril said, “This way,” pointing towards the tribe of Bani Quraiza. So Allah’s Messenger went out towards them.

Only by acquiescing to Mohammad’s demand that they convert to Islam could non-Muslims save their lives and property.  When Mohammad was refused, he went to war with the goal of killing all the men and then taking the women, children and their property as war booty.  He split the booty among his men as reward for their part in battle.

(3043)  Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri:  Then Sa’d came and sat beside Allah’s Messenger who said to him, “These people are ready to accept your judgement.”  Sa’d said, “I give the judgment that their warriors should be killed and their children and women should be taken as captives.”  The Prophet then remarked, “Oh Sa’d!  You have judged amongst them with (or similar to) the judgement of the King (Allah).”

(2864)…When we met them, we attacked them, and they fled.  When the Muslims started collecting the war booty, Al-Mushrikun faced us with arrows, but Allah’s Messenger did not flee. (page 85)

Mohammad took at least one of his wives from among those he vanquished.  It’s worth a noting that marriage did not need to be based on mutual consent. Only the Muslim male’s desire was required. 

(2893)  Narrated Anas bin Malik:  When we reached Khaibar; and Allah enabled him to conquer the fort (of Khaibar), the beauty of Safiyya bent Huyai bin Akhtab was described to him.  Her husband had been killed while she was a bride.  So, Allah’s Messenger selected her for himself and took her along with him till we reached a place called Sad As-Sahba’, where she was clean from her menses, he took her for his wife. 

There are several examples of Mohammad explicitly ordering the killing of another.  In one case, it was by purposeful torture.

(3016) Narrated Abu Hurairah:  When we intended to depart, Allah’s Messenger said, “I have ordered you to burn so-and-so and so-and-so, and it is none but Allah, who punishes with fire, so, if you find them, Kill them.”

(3044) Narrated Anas bin Malik:  Allah’s Messenger entered (Makkah) in the year of the Conquest (of Makkah) wearing a helmet over his head.  After he took it off, a man came and said, “Ibn Khatal is clinging to the curtains of the Ka’bah.”  The Prophet said, “Kill him.”

(3051)  Narrated Salama bin Al-Akwa:  An infidel spy came to the Prophet while he was on a journey.  The spy sat with he companions of the Prophet and started talking and then went away.  The Prophet  said (to his companions), “Chase and kill him.”  So, I killed him.  The Prophet then gave me the belongings of the killed spy (in addition to my share of the war booty).

(3018)  Narrated Anas bin Malik:  A group of eight men from the tribe of “Ukl came to the Prophet and then they found the climate of Al-Madina unsuitable for them.  So, they said, “O Allah’s Messenger!  Provide us with some milk.”  Allah’s Messenger said,  “I recommend that you should join the herd of camels.”  So they went and drank the urine and the milk of the camels (as medicine) till they became healthy and fat.  Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels, and they became disbelievers after embracing Islam. When the Prophet was informed by a shouter for help, he sent some men in their pursuit, and before the sun rose high, they were caught and brought, and he had their hands and feet cut off.  Then he ordered for nails which were heated and were branded with those nails, their eyes, and they were left in the Harra (i.e. rocky land in Al-Madina).  And when they asked for water, no water was given to them till they died. 

There are many places in the Book of Jihad that support using stealth in order to defeat one’s enemies (non-Muslims).  You don’t have to necessarily meet them on the battlefield to accomplish the goal of killing them.  For instance, Chapter 155 is titled “Killing a sleeping Mushrik (polytheist, idolater, pagan).”  Such an act is described in detail.

(3022)  Narrated Al-Bara bin Azib:  Allah’s Messenger sent a group of Ansari men to kill Abu Rafi.  One of them set out and entered their (i.e. enemies) fort.  That man said, “I hid myself in a stable for their animals. They closed the fort gate.  Later, they lost a donkey of theirs, so they went out in its search.  I, too, went out along with them, pretending to look for it.  They found the donkey and entered their fort.  And, I, too, entered along with them.  They closed the gate of the fort at night, and kept its keys in a small window where I could see them.  When those people slept, I took the keys and opened the gate of the fort and came upon Abu Rafi and said, “O Avu Rafi”.  When he replied me, I proceeded towards the voice and hit him and came back.  He shouted and I came out, pretending to be a helper.  I said, “O Abu Rafi”, changing the tone of my voice.  He asked me, ‘What do you want: woe to our mother?’ I asked him , ‘What has happened to you?’  He said, ‘I don’t know who came to me and hit me.’  Then I drove my sword into his belly and pushed it forcibly till it touched the bone.”

There are other chapters devoted to similar themes for instance, Chapter 158, which is titled “Telling lies in the war” which deems it permissible and Chapter 159 titled, “Killing non-Muslim warriors secretly”  which is also permissible.  The theme of deception in war is hammered home again and again.

(3030) Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:  The Prophet said, “War is deceit.”

A careful reading of The Book of Jihad makes it clear that the concept of Jihad is central to the practice of Islam, and it’s incorrect to think of it as strictly an internal struggle.  The book advocates taking up of arms against non believers…because they are non believers.  It exalts violence in “Allah’s cause” and teaches that those who engage in battle are rewarded with admission to Paradise, in fact, the best spots in Paradise are reserved for them. The translator tells us on page 46, that “no possible deed equals Jihad in reward.”  Jihad is required and expected from each and every Muslim.  

I cannot say what every Imam teaches nor what every Muslim knows regarding this subject.  I imagine many Muslims are cultural Muslims rather than people who practice with true devotion, similar to people who call themselves Christian but aside from going to church on Christmas and Easter, they don’t adhere deeply to the teachings of their faith. Perhaps in many places, the message of Jihad is underplayed, smoothed over or ignored.  Perhaps some teachers of Islam do pass on the idea that Jihad is relegated to a personal, internal battle.  What I do know is that anyone who wishes to delve deeply into Islam or who wants to follow the direction of Mohammad as it is written in the Qur’an and in the Hadith, can see for themselves that there is a call for physical aggression toward non-believers.  Mohammad himself engaged in battles against those of other faiths, and at the risk of being repetitive, Mohammad is considered the perfect Muslim (and his behavior is to be emulated).

This is why the fight against what most western politicians call “terrorists” and a few who are more bold call “radical Islamic extremists” is such a difficult undertaking.  Muslims who engage in terrorist acts in the west and groups like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al-Shabaab, and ISIS (AKA the Islamic State) are not twisting a peaceful ideology into something it’s not.  They don’t misunderstand their religion at all, rather they are generally practicing as they are instructed to in the Qur’an and the Hadith.  They’re following centuries old, original instruction.  It would be more accurate to call them originalists, or perhaps fundamentalists (although there has been no formal reform to draw Islam away from ancient directives toward violence).  Having not had a reformation, or official canceling of the pronouncements that advocate violence as a divinely approved of way of spreading Islam, the message still resonates through time.  Anyone can read it if they choose and you don’t have to twist a single thing to come to the conclusion that violence against others is not only permitted, it’s desirable and grants one automatic admission to Paradise.

The problem for Muslims who don’t wish to travel that path and who would like to move the ideology toward a different orientation toward others is that the commands are actually there in black and white.  They are clear and irrefutable.  Publicly going against the call is essentially going against Mohammad and therefore Islam.  Doing so would make them apostates, and the price for that is death since Islam teaches that apostates are to be killed. 

It’s a conundrum but one that will never be resolved until people say what’s true, instead of what they wish was true in their conversations about Islam. We are now in you-better-figure-it-out-fast mode because western politicians have decided it’s a great idea to invite large groups of Islamic people into our countries without having had said conversations (America thankfully may be moving into a more cautious mode).  We see the devastation the originalist Muslims bring with them (whether foreign born or home grown).  They’ve pledged publicly to kill us.  We’ve watched them blow up, shoot, rape, behead, stab, crash planes into buildings and run over citizens with vehicles in the name of Allah.  All this, while our feckless, cowed, corrupt, evil politicians and academicians lie to our faces, telling us it’s ridiculous to be concerned, that Islam is a religion of peace and that those who engage in terrorism have simply misunderstood the central message of peaceful coexistence with others.

‘I, being martyred as a Muslim

Do not mind how I am killed in

Allah’s Cause,

For my killing is for Allah’s sake,

And if Allah wishes,

He will bless the amputated parts

of a torn body.’

(Chapter 170, [3045], The Book of Jihad)

*Examples of approval for engaging in violence against non-Muslims are found woven throughout the nine volumes of the Hadith.  They can be found in the Qur’an as well.  I kept this discussion to the subject matter found in one book of the Hadith to limit the scope for the sake of brevity.

February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without ever having to step outside it. (Rainer Rilke)

Ladies Who Lift

That’s me in the crystal ball.  More than 25 years ago, I saw a magazine with natural, female bodybuilders in it and my life changed.  I loved the look of all that beautiful muscle and that’s what drew me to the gym.  I never managed to put on as much muscle as I wanted but I certainly changed my physique for the better and along the way discovered all the wonderful benefits (like stress reduction) that bodybuilding brings into your life.

More than once, I had someone (usually a well meaning relative) tell me not to “get any bigger” that “muscles aren’t feminine” or that I was starting to “look like a man.”  They didn’t appreciate the aesthetic I love so much but save a few moments of thought the first couple of times it happened, the advice had no effect whatsoever on my determination in the gym.

Here’s to all the ladies who, like me, think women with a little muscle on their bones are gorgeous!

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Active Duty? Veteran? Read this…

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I have a present for you!

Valentine’s Day is right over the horizon and I have a coin for you!  Romantic love is a fun thing to celebrate but extending a bit of love and gratitude a little more widely is too. 

Some of you may know that I keep challenge coins in my purse for those occasions when I run into a member of our military and want to have a little something to give them as a token of appreciation.  The coins I have traditionally given are from a company called Grateful American Coin.  They’re a perfect (and pretty) token of appreciation that any civilian can give our service members. 

A while ago, I was given a challenge coin of my own.  Naturally, I was THRILLED and that coin is one of my favorite treasures.  It reminded me how meaningful those small things can be, if the spirit behind them is understood. Right then and there I decided to order more coins of my own to hand out since I only had a couple left.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered that I could create a personalized coin to give, which with my propensity to be a bit of a ham, appealed to me greatly.  I did so and I really like the way it came out.  It’s a combination of humor and a sincere “thank you.”  The artwork on it was created by a wonderful graphic artist who used one of my military tribute photos on a bodybuilding site as inspiration for the adorable, curvy, patriotic, little lady that I used on the coin. 

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You’ll have to get one to see what it looks like…

I know there are veterans and active duty folks who read this blog and I’d be delighted to be able to give you one of the coins.  After all, if you put up with me on this blog, you’re likely to understand both the humor and sincerity inherent in the design. Your work in the military means so much to all of us civilians and I’d be delighted to be able to give you a small representation of that appreciation.

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Even if you have an awesome coin like this, you probably don’t have one as rare as the one I have for you! There are just a few of them in the world…

Send me an email at words4warriors1@gmail.com.  Give me a name, address and branch of service and I’ll pop the coin in the mail!  Don’t worry, I value your privacy so once the coin is sent I’ll delete your info…it’s just that I have no other way to get the coin to you.

The coins are limited in number so please don’t wait too long to let me know you want one.  I’ll send them until I run out….  

If you’re active duty military or a veteran, It would truly make me happy for you to have one!

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Progress Report (1-30-17)

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I’ve been working out on my Total Gym at home during the month of January.  I’ve found ways to make it challenging and it’s been a fun change for me.  The one and only sticking point I have is that I’m not able to do rows effectively with it.  My back is quite strong and I tried to hold a 45lb plate on my lap to make it more challenging when rowing but it’s awkward and I gave up on that idea.  I have other equipment at  home that I use for rows so it’s not stopping me from giving my back good workouts.

I’ve been able to maintain a reasonable amount of muscle.  I’m not very lean at the moment and that shows too.  My lack of striations has everything to do with my diet and it’s easily remedied.  I simply need to tone down my carb intake, increase my cardio a little and I’ll lean out.  At this very moment, I’m happy and will stick to my current program for February.  When March rolls around I’ll make the appropriate changes in my diet and cardio and that will ease me into summer bikini weather in a nice, smooth way.

My Total Gym workouts have been so enjoyable.  They remind me of how much easier it is to get and stay fit when you truly enjoy your workout time!

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Plan Ahead

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O.K.  Perhaps that meme, although funny,  is a little over the top.  Nevertheless, when you’re interested in keeping your diet on the clean side, a little planning is in order.  If you don’t want to get caught without something quick and healthy to eat during the week, it helps to shop and prepare several meals ahead of time.  I do this for lunches, in particular. because if I’m out and about and get too hungry, I’m much more likely to make bad choices.  I can’t tell you how great an enormous bag of potato chips,  big serving of french fries or a massive piece of chocolate cake seems when I’m starving.

Each weekend I take time out to decide what I want to eat for my lunches (I eat two a day…one at about 10:30 and one about 2:00).  I make sure it’s something nutritious and not too high in calories.  I shop so I have what I need on hand and then I do what I can to get all the food ready to go.  For instance, if I want sliced chicken, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, I’ll grill the chicken breasts on Saturday.  I slice it up, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  That way it’s super easy to make sandwiches in the morning before I head out.  I don’t have to scramble for ideas or ingredients.

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How about a little lunch?

A little bit of thought ahead of time helps you avoid disasters.  You know, just like I do, that if you make a meal of Krispy Kreme doughnuts you might like the taste while you’re eating them but the way you feel afterwards is less than ideal.  It’s so much better to rely on regular, healthy meals and to save the doughnuts for well considered treats now and then.

Although the meme is a little silly, it’s good to remember that having a meal plan in place goes a long way in helping avoid diet disasters.

 

Good Morning, America!

First, let me present quotes worthy of a moment of contemplation

“It can not be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Patrick Henry)

“Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

Then, let’s have a bit of lighthearted fun

On this beautiful day, I thought I’d share a few photos that combine a couple of my favorite themes…fitness and that wonderful, all-American spirit.

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Wherever you are on this day, I’m sending you wishes for prosperity, love and a joyous heart!  God bless you AND…

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Resolutions for 2017

I’ve learned over the years not to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to making resolutions for the New Year.  I make a couple small promises to myself but I see to it that they are attainable and that I’m really motivated to follow through. 

The first of my two resolutions for 2017 is simply a continuation of one I started decades ago and that’s to keep myself in shape.  Now, that covers a lot of territory.  It means I commit to doing what it takes to stay strong and physically capable.  I have to combine resistance training, cardio and good nutrition to see that I end each year in acceptable condition. 

This January I’m excited to try adding some time on my Total Gym.  I bought the thing on deep discount after watching the infomercial (for the umpteenth time).  Susceptibility to the lure of infomercials would also explain why there’s a Vitamix in my kitchen (I use it all the time), a body blade in my family room (I’m not even going to try and explain that one) and Wen hair care products in my bathroom  (they work great, by the way).

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This is my new fitness friend. I’m looking forward to using it at home.

My second resolution is to make sure I read more widely.  Despite the fact that I was a Literature major in my undergraduate days, I have many books I should have read, that I somehow missed.  I’m going to add two additional books per month to augment my regular reading material.  A couple of days ago I was looking over the Kindle options for some new titles.  I happened upon a free WhisperSync version of Call of the Wild by Jack London.  WhisperSync books include an audio component so that you can read it yourself in the traditional way or you can listen to someone else, a narrator, read it to you.  Call of the Wild is one of those books, I thought I should know, that I just never got around to reading so I figured I could listen to it while on the rowing machine.  Great idea…awful choice of books….I’m not going to be able to add it to my “books-I-have-read category.” 

The first couple of chapters concentrate on terribly cruel treatment of dogs by miserable, mean people.  The last thing that happened, right before I turned the narration off for good was a Husky pack attack on a single, female dog.   Blood, ripped flesh, entrails and death…needless to say, it was not relaxing and I certainly didn’t find it entertaining. 

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THESE are the type of Huskies I want to think about…sweet and adorable…

Just like I learned over the years not to eat things I don’t like the taste of in the quest for a fit, lean body and I also learned not to waste time reading books or watching movies that don’t fulfill the purpose I assigned them before starting them.  I’ve read plenty of unpleasant things in my lifetime but I don’t do it for entertainment.  Yeah, yeah, I know it probably gets better as you go along and culminates in the triumph of human and/or dog spirit but, no thanks.

Next time, I’ll try To Kiss a Rouge or Secrets of a Scandalous Bride.

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I should read this…it definitely looks entertaining and judging from the cover might even include some workout or fitness tips. This muscled up warrior obviously keeps himself in great shape. Hair looks good too…He just might be a Wen customer.

Wishing you a safe and happy New Year’s Eve.  We’ve got a brand new year on tap with wonderful possibilities ahead.  Let us lift a glass to each other and jump into 2017 with anticipation of great things to come!

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Christmas Day 2016

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I wish you great happiness today and every other day of the year.  Merry Christmas!

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