Embracing the Gray

TanyaWithGrayHair-1I recently mentioned that I have been on a journey to be more authentic version of myself.  That journey has involved a lot of soul-searching about what I value and what I want in life.  It has involved a lot of listening to try and understand God’s plan for me.
One of the changes I’ve made is to stop coloring my hair.  I started going gray at 16.  With the exception a year while I was in college, I’ve colored my hair consistently since.  That’s 23 years of coloring my hair.  I wasn’t even sure what my hair looked like under the color.  The last time I had seen it was 2003, and I had a gray streak down one side.
I started considering the change the last time I was sitting at the salon getting my hair colored.  The expense wasn’t an issue, because a wonderful friend at church had been trading hair coloring for helping her daughters with math.  I was getting the better end of the deal; I love her two daughters, so spending time with them was a pleasure!  As I left the salon nearly two hours after I came, I wondered why I was spending so much time on something that just didn’t matter to me.  It was a beautiful day, and I could have been riding my horses.
TanyaWithBrownHairWhat I found most interesting was people’s responses when I vocalized what I was thinking.  My husband was his usual loving, supportive self, telling me that I wasn’t beautiful because of the color of my hair.  Other men I knew said that gray hair was sexy, pointing to beautiful women like Jamie Lee Curtis.  The women I know, on the other hand, were significantly less supportive, arguing that there was no need for any of us to look old.  After hearing many different opinions, I decided I had to be true to myself and give it a shot.  If in the end, I didn’t like it, I could always go back.
Two months ago, I cut off several inches of my hair to try and cut out some of the color.  I prefer long hair in the summer.  I’m outside a lot and like to be able to throw my hair in a pony tail, so I’m letting it grow back out.  I’ll cut the last of it off when I have enough I can lose the 3-4 inches but still have a pony tail.
It’s been interesting to see people’s faces when they see my gray hair.  Some have said I look 10 years younger; others have questioned my sanity.  Personally, I like it.  My father was gray at 28.  My brother is as gray as I am and still very handsome.  It’s a family trait that I’m proud to carry.  Best of all, my husband loves it and thinks it’s beautiful.  In the end, I still want the man I love to think I’m beautiful.  😉
To some, it may have been a small thing, but to me it was an important step in making decisions based on who I am and who I want to be rather than other people’s expectations of me.  Are you being held back by the expectations of others?  If so, what’s stopping you from breaking free?

The Mayo Clinic Diet

In the last two weeks, I’ve had several people ask me either how I’ve managed to lose nearly 30 pounds or how I’ve managed to make it through the holidays without gaining weight.  To understand my choices and my success, you have to understand the journey.
A little over five years ago, I received a call from my doctor, or rather, I received a message from the nurse at the doctor’s office that I need to call her back.  When I called, she delivered the bad news.  My cholesterol was VERY high for a woman my age.  The doctor would be sending me some information on my new diet.  At the time, I was in decent shape and weighed in the mid-180s, so I basically just needed to lay off the red meat and eggs and eat more beans and fish.  I was a little overweight but not by much.  I’m 5’10”, so even when I was in the best shape of my life, I weight 170.
Two years later, I had lowered my cholesterol and even dropped a few pounds. I was around 180 when 18 months of loss, grief, and depression kicked off with the sudden loss of my horse Penny.  That was followed by my grandmother’s death, my father’s death, the unexpected loss of one of our family dogs, and the quick and unexpected loss of my oldest brother.  During those 18 months, I powered through and stayed strong for everyone else.  When it was all over…  I lost it.  Completely.  Not only did I push away family and friends, I packed on more than 30 pounds.  I went from actively riding and training my horses to the occasionally barely-break-a-sweat, 20-minute ride.
In May of last year, I’d had enough.  When I had the chance to product test the Withings wifi scale, I jumped at it.  It was time to get back into shape and actively back in the saddle.  I wanted to feel good again.  My husband had bought us a pair of Garmin Vivofits over the holiday, so I would have an activity tracker and a scale, I just had to choose a diet.  For me, it was a no brainer.  When I had to switch to a low-cholesterol diet, I chose the May Clinic Diet.  I didn’t want some fad diet, pills, or quick fix.  I wanted a diet that was about changing habits for the better.  I was able to maintain the May Clinic Diet for two years with minimal effort.
Why the Mayo Clinic Diet? It isn’t a fad.  It isn’t a pill.  It’s a way to change your habits, to change your life.  It’s designed to be the last diet you’ll ever need.
There are two phases: Loose It and Live It.  In the Loose It phase, you jump start your diet, loosing 6-10 pounds.  In the Live It phase, you transition to maintaining your new found habits, losing 1-2 pounds per week until you reach your goal weight.  You have to add 5 habits, break 5 habits, and adopt 5 bonus habits.
Add 5 habits:

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast.
  2. Eat vegetables and fruits. 4 or more servings daily of vegetables and 3 or more of fruits, fresh or frozen only.
  3. Eat whole grains (whole grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal).
  4. Eat healthy fats (olive and vegetable oils and nuts).
  5. Move! Walk or exercise for 30 minutes or more a day.

Break these 5 habits:

  1. No TV while eating and only as much TV time as time you spend exercising.
  2. No sugar.  Only what is naturally found in fruit.
  3. No snacks except fruits and vegetables.
  4. Moderate meat and low-fat dairy.
  5. No eating at restaurants unless the meal fits the program.

Adopt these 5 bonus habits:

  1. Keep food records.
  2. Keep activity records.
  3. Move more! Exercise for 60 or more minutes every day.
  4. Eat real foods.  Only fresh or healthy frozen.  No canned or processed food.
  5. Write down your daily goals.

It took time to really live the Mayo Clinic Diet, but if you take the book’s advice and change your shopping habits, it makes it much easier.  You find after a while that you stop craving sweets and unhealthy snacks and start looking for new healthy recipes.  You find yourself sleeping better and feeling better, which becomes a strong motivation to stick to it.   The weight loss becomes a wonderful side effect to being a better, healthier you.
If you decide to give the Mayo Clinic Diet a try for yourself, I recommend getting 3 things: an activity tracker, the Mayo Clinic Diet book, and The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal.  I also recommend making sure you have a friend to diet with you.  Having accountability and support make it much easier!
Please excuse the quality of my before and after shots.  I don’t do selfies, so they stink.  😉  But you can see I’m making progress.  My real after picture is yet to come.  My original goal was 175, but I’ve decided to shoot for 170.  I have 14 more pounds to go and intend to be there by summer.  I’m looking forward to a long, healthy life of riding horses.  What’s your motivation to get/keep healthy and fit?

Leadership Qualities Week 2: Charisma

As I mentioned last week, I am working my way through John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. For week two, the focus was Charisma, which Maxwell describes in the following way:

Charisma, plainly stated, is the ability to draw people to you.  And like other character traits, it can be developed.

To have Charisma, Maxwell state that you have to love life, put a “10” on every person’s head, give people hope, and share yourself.  He adds that the things that prevent us from having Charisma are pride, insecurity, moodiness, perfectionism, and cynicism.  He suggests the following three action items.

  1. Change your focus.
  2. Play the first impression game.
  3. Share yourself.

Charisma isn’t the first word someone would use to describe me.  I’m an introvert and have spent most of my career behind a computer screen.  I think that most of the people who have gotten to know me would say that I’m loyal and caring and that helping people is genuinely important to me.  BUT…  Charismatic I am not.  In fact, that’s how I would describe my husband.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to spend more than a week working on this quality.  IMHO, I have some serious work to do here.  Not just a little tweaking, but some serious development!  I’d like to end the second week of study with a clear plan on how I’m going to develop Charisma.  I’m not looking for miracles, but I really want to explore this issue and have a game plan.
I think I do pretty well at his third suggestion: share yourself.  Most of my life is dedicated to the serving of others either through work or through my ministries. I also actively seek new opportunities to share my time and talents with others.  I will, however, make an effort to pay attention to those opportunities and say yes more often!
The first–Change your focus–had to start with a little research.  I had to spend a few days evaluating my interactions with others.  I found that the focus of my interaction varied widely depending on the situation and my comfort level.  They averaged 50-50 focus on me and the other person, but in situations where I felt insecure, the focus clearly became me.  Odd huh?  You would think that the more insecure you are in a situation the less you would want focus on yourself.  Turns out that I was just more likely to respond rather than focus on pulling out the other person.  So…  Much needed work there!
I haven’t gotten to the second suggestion yet.  It requires meeting someone new, which I haven’t over the last week.  Maxwell recommends that when you meet someone new, you should make the effort to put a “10” on the person’s forehead.  Learn the person’s name.  Treat him/her as someone who is genuinely special.  Hopefully, as I embark on a new ministry Thursday, I will have the opportunity to try this one.
Here’s my game plan for this week:

  1. Research conversation techniques for introverts to overcome shyness/insecurity.
  2. Practice changing the focus of conversations to the person with whom I’m interacting.
  3. Meet new people!

I have to admit…  I’m skeptical that someone like me can learn Charisma, but John Maxwell’s leadership advice hasn’t failed me yet, so I’m going to give this my best effort.  Pray for me!  I’m going to need it!

My Ore-Ida Totchos Adventure

20160106_111914As a part of my Jingle VoxBox from Influenster.com, I received a coupon for a free bag of Ore-Ida Tater Tots, which were to be used to try out one of the Totchos recipes from the Kraft Recipies Totchos Hub.  We choose the Loaded Totchos recipe.

  • 1 pkg. (32 oz.) Ore-Ida Tater Tots
  • 1 container (8 oz.) Kroger Sour Cream
  • 1/4 cup Kraft Three Cheese Ranch Dressing
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh green onions, divided
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) Kroger Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled


  1. 20151231_111602Pre-heat oven to 425ºF.
  2. Bake tater tots as directed on package.
  3. Cook bacon as directed on the package.  Crumble.
  4. Mix sour cream, dressing and green onions until blended.
  5. Spread tater tots onto platter.
  6. Top with sour cream mixture, bacon, and cheese.

The Good…  This was sinfully yummy.  All of the things you love about Nachos mixed with all of the things you love about Tater Tots!  Easy to make too.  We used real bacon, so that had to be cooked separately, but it was still an easy dish to whip up.  Other than over time, for which we were doing other things, it took maybe 15 minutes?
The Bad…  The plate is supposed to serve 12.  There were 3 of us, and we devoured it all.  That means that each of us consumed 1120 calories , 80 grams of fat (32 of which were saturated fat), 140mg of cholesterol, and 2400mg of Sodium.  Yikes!  I highly recommend that if you make this, you make it as a party dish or as a side dish when serving several people.  Don’t temp yourself into throwing portion control out the window!

Southern Equine Expo Announces Clinicians

The Southern Equine Expo will return to the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on February 26-28, 2016 for the fourth year, including quality clinics presented by nationally known horsemen, educational seminars, and hands-on demonstrations. Southern Equine Expo, which is dedicated to improving the care of horses through education of their owners, will also be including colt starting challenge.
The full list of clinicians, challengers, and speaker is now posted on their website. The schedule will be posted after February 1st.

Colt Starting Challenge Competitors:

Lecture Speakers:

21 Weeks of Leadership Training

People so often forget that good leadership principles work whether at church or at the office, so even those of us who are working to be better Christian leaders can benefit from secular leadership training.  Personally, I have sought out and studied leadership training for several years.  By far, John Maxwell is my favorite source for leadership knowledge and training.  I find that his books can easily be turned into self-paced leadership courses.
This week, I embarked on new training.  I’m spending the next 21 weeks with Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.  Each week, I will be studying a new quality and completing the “Bring It Home” activities for that quality.  I hope to end the week with some action items to improve that quality in myself, becoming a stronger Christian leader.
The quality for this week is character, which I have been working on for over 10 years.  Around the age of 30, I started with the realization that I had to stop lying to myself.  I had to be brave enough to really examine my own intentions and ensure that my intentions were good and right.  From there, I had to ensure that my intentions matched up with the things that I said.  Then, I had to be willing to face the emotional consequences of my decisions even when those consequences involved discomfort or confrontation.  I had to be true to myself.  To some extent, this process was a byproduct of developing mature relationships.
Over the last year, the process shifted to becoming a more authentic version of myself.  I remember a sermon I heard maybe 8 or 9 years ago that really stuck with me.  Randy Cook, the Lead Pastor at Crossroads Church in Lebanon, compared being a Christian to being a banana; when you peel away the layers, you should know exactly what to expect.  My goal over the past year was to become the banana, making sure that the outward appearance of my life matched my inner self.  I’ve made several changes to make all of my life more consistent with my Christian identity.  This year, my focus is developing humility.  More on both later.  😉
The chapter began with a quote from a British field Marsh named Bernard Montgomery:

Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.

That is exactly what I hope to do as a Youth Minister.  I hope to rally men and women to the common purpose of bringing our children the Good News and supporting them in their growth toward full participation in God’s church.
As Maxwell explains the quality of character, he states,

Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of the two paths: character or compromise.  Every time he chooses character, he becomes stronger, even if that choice brings negative consequences. (p. 4)

I read this statement several times.  What stood out to me is that becoming a person of character is a series of choices.  Maxwell goes on to explain that character requires.  He also explains that a leader will never exceed the limitations of their character.  I suppose that is why it is the first of the 21 qualities!  Finally, he talks about the four As Steven Berglas points to for the downfall of all leaders in his book The Success Syndrome: Arrogance, Aloneness, Adventure-seeking, and Adultery.
My personal weakness is Aloneness.  When I let my insecurities get the best of me, I start thinking that (1) I have to do things alone because that’s what’s expected of me and (2) no one wants to help me, both of which pull me away from God and connectedness with others.  In doing the recommended reflections, I realized that my greatest character flaw stems from my feeling of unworthiness and feelings of Aloneness, something which I will need to be more aware of and to work on.
My action items?  For 2016, once I week, I will reflect on opportunities to ask others for help.  I will be looking for missed opportunities and examining if those opportunities were missed because of Aloneness.  I will use that information to become a more connected Christian leader.
Do you seek to rally others to a common purpose?  If so, do you choose character or compromise when adversity strikes?  What is one thing you want to change about yourself?

My Jingle VoxBox from Influenster

I’ve been a member of Influenster.com since September 2013.  I’ve had a great time testing/reviewing products.  Most of the products I receive I’ve never heard of or at least never tried before.  My Jingle VoxBox was no exception.
My Jingle VoxBox included the following:

20151229_151735With the exception of the tater tots, I had never tried any of the products I received.  I’d heard of the NYC eyeliner and Biscoff cookies but had never tried them.  I *still* haven’t tried the fake lashes and don’t plan to.  99% of the time, I love the products, but every now and again, I get something like fake lashes that I wouldn’t be caught dead using!
In completing some of my VoxBox tasks, I did a little research on IttyBittys.  They are absolutely adorable and come in just about every character you can imagine, including Star Wars and Scooby Doo characters.  I had intended on giving my little Rapunzel to my granddaughter Addy but completely forgot it when we went to visit on New Year’s Day.  I’ll have to let you know what she thinks of it the next time I see her.
The Biscoff cookies were a big hit.  I had three packages, so I shared with my husband and daughter.  We all agreed…  They’re going on the grocery list!
While we enjoyed the tater tots, we tend to avoid frozen foods, so they won’t be on the grocery list except for the occasional splurge.
20151231_111602I love, love, love the Cetaphil moisturizing cream.  I have a terrible time with dry skin in the winter, and I usually have to use a hand cream some times as many as 6 times a day.  I’m using Cetaphil twice a day.
I was a little less excited about the PureIce nail polish.  I was NOT a fan of the Shore Bet shade, but I did really like the polish.  It dries quickly and doesn’t have a harsh chemical smell.  I won’t be buying that shade, but I’ll be giving other shades a try.
I don’t wear make up.  Maybe twice a year if ever.  So… I gave the eyeliner to my daughter, who just about squealed when she saw it in the VoxBox.  Still waiting to hear what she thinks!  She promised pictures and a review.  🙂
If you’re active on social media and are interested in receiving free products to review/test, you should sign up for Influenster.  I’m glad I did!

Goals for the New Year

We’re now on day 4 of the new year. I NEVER make New Year’s resolutions. They just don’t work, so rather than make resolutions and beat myself up about not sticking to them, I spend the first few days of the year reflecting on where I’ve been and where I want to go. Then, I make some very specific goals and a plan on how to accomplish those goals.
ButtonsThis time last year, I was once again dealing with crippling fear in the saddle. I was right back where I had been almost a year before. I had actually considered downsizing to the one horse I could never part with and letting him have an early retirement. Thankfully, I met someone who had been where I was. She reassured me that I could deal with this, and I could find my way back. Thanks to her support and her loaning me a schoolmaster, I did exactly that. I’m starting 2016 able to walk, trot, and canter my horses. More importantly, I have some effective strategies for dealing with the fear and anxiety when they does rear their ugly heads.
One of the things I identified that was adding to my fear is the fact that I had put on weight and didn’t feel like the balanced, fit rider I once was. I just didn’t feel like a capable athlete. To that end, I started working on a sustainable weight loss plan. I’m now starting the new year 27 pounds lighter than I was last year. I’m much more fit and capable of training and riding my horses, especially my young mares.
So… Goals for 2016?

  1. Get my weight down to 170.
  2. Be fit enough to canter my horse for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Take my 4 year old mare Buttons to at least 4 shows.
  4. Take my 3 year old mare Sammy through all the Downunder Horsemanship Fundamentals exercises.
  5. Attend at least 2 clinics.

I already have a plan in place to achieve my first goal. I’m down 27 pounds and have 16 more to go. Last year, I created a Facebook group for goal setting and accountability that I use as a support mechanism not only for this goal but for my other goals as well. I also have my planner/journal to set daily goals and track progress. While I’ll be gaining momentum and fitness for goal 2 while I’m losing weight, I don’t intend to attack it until I’ve reached my goal weight.
SammyFor goal 3, I plan to ride Buttons in the Central Tennessee Dressage Association schooling shows. We’ll start with Intro Level Western Dressage and see what we can accomplish. I would love to report back that we moved up to Basic Level, but I know slow and steady wins the race! 🙂 For goal 5, I’m currently planning to attend a Western Dressage clinic in April. I’m checking schedules for a second clinic.
For goal 4, miss Sammy is already under saddle and has completed the Fundamentals groundwork exercises, but I’m volunteering at a Walkabout Tour in Memphis in April to earn a Colt Starting kit. After that, we’ll go through each and every exercise to make sure we’ve mastered it and are ready to move. I want to make sure that when we roll around to 2017 that Sammy and I are ready to hit the show ring. I intend to spend 2016 building a lasting partnership with her. I think we could be a great team, but we need to spend some time building trust and respect.
I accomplished a lot in 2015. It wasn’t in the show ring, and I don’t have any fancy prizes to show for it. But my head is clear. I’m back on track and ready to go. I am so looking forward to what 2016 will bring!
What did you achieve in 2015? What do you have planned for 2016? What support do you have in place to help you get there?

Welcoming in the New Year

Every New Year, I inevitably get asked, “What are your New Year’s resolutions?”  Answer?  I DIDN’T MAKE ANY!  Why you ask?  Because they don’t work, and they leave you feeling deflated and unsuccessful.  What fun is that?  Is that any way to start a promising new year?  Of course not!  😉
I do, however, firmly believe that the start of a new year is a great time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going, which is exactly what I’ve been doing the last few days.
goalsAt the start of 2015, I found myself very restless and frustrated.  I felt like 2014 had been a year of rocking back and forth but not really getting anywhere.  I spent most of the year reacting to situations and doing what others thought I should do rather than what I wanted to do.  My mission for 2015?  Clear the clutter.  Figure out what I really want in life.  Become my authentic self.  Let go and let God.
As 2015 came to a close, I finished the year feeling really good about where my life is and what I’d done with the previous year.  I made a commitment to get back to the healthy, fit person I used to be.  I’m now 27 pounds lighter, a dress size smaller, exercising every day (even if it’s only doing barn chores!), and eating much healthier.  I haven’t just lost weight; I’ve committed to a healthier lifestyle.
In an attempt to clear the clutter from my life, I’ve given somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 boxes of books, movies, and other things to Goodwill, family, and friends.  My husband and I have gotten rid of the TV, furniture we don’t use, and anything else that hasn’t been touched in the last year.  We’re making plans to sell our house, buy a piece of land, and live in a travel trailer while we build our dream house.  The barn will naturally be built first.  😀
goals2I’ve made some other changes.  I’m seeking more time for my ministries and for leadership training.  I walked away from a job that just wasn’t very fulfilling.  It was a difficult decisions because I worked with good people, people who were hard to walk away from.  But I am now in a position and at a company that are more inline with my long-term goals and my personal philosophies.  Last but not least…  I’ve stopped dying my hair.  I’m letting it go gray.  I’ll explain that later, but it is a part of becoming a more authentic me.

2015 was a good year.  It wasn’t an easy year, but it was definitely a good year.

Looking forward to 2016, my goal is to continue to be a healthier, happier, more fulfilled, more authentic me.  I love the path my life is on, and I want to continue.  I want more simplicity, more deep relationships, and more time to be me.  Here’s how I plan to start:

  1. Commit and act of kindness every day.
  2. Loose 16 more pounds.
  3. Increase my exercise goals.
  4. Eat more foods grown at home.
  5. Find and master a planning/goal tracking/journal system that works for me.

I will of course keep you posted on my progress.  😉  I am sure there will be bumps along the way, but I am confident that if I am on the right path, God will provide.  In the end, it’s the progress that matters most.
What did you accomplish in 2015?  What do you have planned for 2016?