Top Gun Dogs aim for title in Section

By Matt Ledger

Jeff Ferguson training his pointing dog Frank on the grounds of the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve, which he owns.

Jeff Ferguson training his pointing dog Frank on the grounds of the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve, which he owns.

Championships are often won inside stadiums with a capacity crowd wearing colorful jerseys. However, in the sport of field trials, everyone embraces the same uniform — with variations of camouflage and fluorescent orange — as they guide their dogs through golden fields of weeds and mud.

Coming this February, hundreds of the best camo-clad competitors in the country will converge in Section.

“It’s kind of like this: You’ve got your football games every weekend, and then you’ve got the Super Bowl — this is our Super Bowl,” Jeff Ferguson says of hosting the national championship for the United Field Trialers Association.

Nearly 20 years ago, Ferguson began hosting weekend events for sportsmen on his property, especially for bird hunters. “It gave me a good chance to see that I was going to be able to do something that I enjoyed, and we’ve done it ever since,” Ferguson says. “This is saving the old Southern tradition of the quail hunt.”

Jeff Ferguson gives his stepdaughter, Kennedy Willmon, a shotgun safety lesson.

Jeff Ferguson gives his stepdaughter, Kennedy Willmon, a shotgun safety lesson.

Frank Kirby, from Fort Payne, has known Ferguson the entire time and works on the property as a hunting guide. One of Ferguson’s favorite dogs is named Frank, based on his longtime friendship with Kirby.

“I know they’re hard to win, and you’ve got to have a good dog and a little luck,” Kirby says of the tournament. He has trained pointing dogs for a few years and is one of several of Ferguson’s friends helping in the preparations for the United Field Trialers Association’s National Finals. More than half of the members attend the championship, with many coming from the Midwest and Northeastern states. It will be held at the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve in Section from Feb. 13 to 21.

Rules and Regimens

Jeff Ferguson receives a quail retrieved by his pointing dog Frank.

Jeff Ferguson receives a quail retrieved by his pointing dog Frank.

The sport of field trials tests a dog’s obedience and a handler’s patience. The canine and his companion are equally tasked to accumulate points within the competition and must follow specified rules to have a chance to win. Both are placed in a blind, as officials place quail in designated areas. The handler leads the dog onto the field — which can be as large as 12 acres — to seek out the three birds within 15 minutes.

Handlers choose one of two different disciplines: pointing and flushing. A pointing dog must alert the handler and hold for three seconds, then the handler flushes the bird into the air to shoot. Flushing dogs — predominantly Labradors, Boykin and Springer spaniels — pursue the quail until it flies off. The entire process is judged and timed by an official, with the most critical factor being the dog’s ability to retrieve the bird and bring it directly back to the handler.

The competition begins with the “Amateur” classification for competitors with dogs under three years of age, followed by the “Open” classification for the top dogs in the sport. An Open competitor must have run in six events during the year to qualify for the Section tournament, while Amateurs will qualify with four trials. There are also divisions for women and kids.

Jeff Ferguson with his wife, Melissa; pointing dog, Bonnie; stepdaughter, Kennedy Willmon (left); and stepson, Caleb (right).

Jeff Ferguson with his wife, Melissa; pointing dog, Bonnie; stepdaughter, Kennedy Willmon (left); and stepson, Caleb (right).

“Many times the young dogs will come in and surprise folks,” Kirby says. “The dog that goes by the rules and gets the birds the quickest wins. There are four or five top guys who will always make it competitive.”

Some folks work their dogs once a week and others work them every day. It can take from six months to a year to get a dog trained, with many of the dogs being trained by a professional handler, which can cost $1,600 to $1,800 on average.

Community Impact

In July 2014, UFTA President Frank Arnau notified Ferguson that his property was selected” We really liked his facility, and he was eager to make it happen,” Arnau says. “We had to find a place that had an area large enough that we could have eight to 10 fields to utilize at one time.” Another important factor in the selection was the birds. Ferguson’s brother breeds quail nearby, and many of those birds will be used for the competition.

2014 UFTA Finalists (from left) Billy Ring with his German Shorthair Pointer named Hank took first, Frank Arnau with his Brittany named Beaux placed second and Paul Vaughn with another Brittany named Red took third.

2014 UFTA Finalists (from left) Billy Ring with his German Shorthair Pointer named Hank took first, Frank Arnau with his Brittany named Beaux placed second and Paul Vaughn with another Brittany named Red took third.

“This is a family sport, because everyone is involved with the dogs,” Arnau says. Competitors have already booked many local hotels, residences and cabins months ahead of the weeklong tournament. “This will be huge for the whole area,” Ferguson says. For several years prior, the competition was held at Doublehead Resort near Muscle Shoals. But after the acreage they had been using was sold, UFTA board members began scouting several locations in Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia for the 2015 tournament. Officials toured Ferguson’s property and stayed three weekends before making their decision.

Since July, Ferguson has been upgrading some of the amenities and renovating a barn to serve as a rustic banquet hall. After the selection, a qualifying field trial on the same land — held in November 2014 — filled up with competitors immediately upon announcement. “I’ve already been to some of the local restaurants and people are excited about this event,” Arnau says.

Changing the culture is a long-term project of faith

By Matt Ledger

Paul Long has a vision to help the community through the Long Ranch for Boys.

Paul Long has a vision to help the community through the Long Ranch for Boys.

Surviving verbal and physical abuse in an alcoholic home and losing both parents at an early age were some of the many hurdles for Paul Long to overcome. For many children, that devastation can spiral downward toward a dark place that is difficult to recover from. What makes Long an inspirational story is the way he bounced back.

When Long was 11 years old, he lost his mother to a brain disease. A few years later, right after he graduated from high school, his father committed suicide. Those hardships could have hardened Long’s heart — or led him to repeat his father’s path of self destruction. Instead he persevered and has since become the pastor at Antioch Baptist Church and the founder of a new camp for boys with experiences like his.

“My heart is really for families; I’ve been involved with youth ministry for a long time,” says Long, who has felt called to preach since his senior year of high school. “I see what’s going on in a lot of these families.”

Bat Signal

Long remembers watching a Batman movie in Chattanooga about three years ago and feeling a spiritual tug. The film’s heroic character, like Long’s real-life experience, had childhood challenges that forged his future.

Long Ranch board members Brian Bailey, Mary Lance, Kristy Long and founder Paul Long, during the groundbreaking for the Long Ranch for Boys in November 2014.

Long Ranch board members Brian Bailey, Mary Lance, Kristy Long and founder Paul Long, during the groundbreaking for the Long Ranch for Boys in November 2014.

As Long watched the closing scenes of homeless boys exiting a bus toward a group home, he knew that he wanted to provide an opportunity for those needing guidance. “I just felt like God spoke to me and wanted me to start a boys ranch,” Long says.

Much like that caped crusader, Long plans to gain the support of local officials to combat the challenges in his community. “I didn’t really know how big of a problem it was until I started talking to people,” he says.

DeKalb County School System has more than 400 children classified as homeless, which includes any child living with a friend or in a vehicle and those not living with birth parents, according to Long. The most concerning trend is the increasing number of grandparents having to raise their grandchildren on fixed incomes.

He has developed plans to form the Long Ranch for Boys, providing caring role models to teach boys how to become responsible young men. Uncertain of what course to take, Long prayed at length for his own guidance in this project. “I didn’t have to figure it all out; I just needed to be obedient with each step God gave me,” Long says. “Doing the right thing at the wrong time can still get you in trouble.”

Organizers began the construction of the first home late last year, with completion anticipated in spring 2015. The two-story house will be built for up to six children who will reside with a set of parents chosen for the program. “They will be a regular family and have issues like everyone does,” Long says.

He has high expectations set for the boys, who will undergo an interview process to make certain that the program is right for the child. Those selected will stay for a minimum of six months with the paid guardians, but the child’s parents will not surrender any custodial rights. “After that, if they decide there are too many rules or too much love, they can leave anytime they want to,” Long says.

The program will also use community mentors to provide counseling for struggling families. Long’s greatest concern is that the local challenges are so widespread that he expects the first home to quickly fill to capacity. The 22-acre ranch will have cattle and livestock, providing chores and responsibilities for the families that live on the grounds. Additional homes are a possibility, but any further construction requires long-term donations, which have yet to be secured.


Numerous community members gathered to show support for the Long Ranch for Boys at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Numerous community members gathered to show support for the Long Ranch for Boys at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Long is also concerned about the current generation of young adults that seem to emulate reality TV stars or media icons instead of local mentors who are thoroughly invested in the lives of their children. “There is an epidemic of fathers who have checked out,” Long says.

He believes others can serve as role models to help men who are struggling as parents or facing troubled relationships.

In his childhood challenges, Long was influenced by several mentors as a kid, including his uncle Danny Ashley and basketball coach Larry Lingerfelt. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be,” Long says.

Long has a special respect for coaches to this day. “On the front line of all this are these coaches,” he says. “They see this day in and day out. A lot of these kids spend more time with their football coach than they do their own parents.”

Men need to do a better job of expressing feelings and teaching lessons to the younger generation, he says.

“Some men are just not very communicative, and that’s why church is so hard for younger men,” he says. “Young men feel disconnected in a place where they can get instruction on how to be a great dad or husband.”

Continued Community Support

The Long Ranch for Boys is a registered 501(c)(3) foundation, with board members and many local volunteers who have already donated their services. Other local churches have supported the effort with fundraiser dinners, including a highly popular Elvis dinner show which raised $14,000 in 2014.

A few annual events will help fund the ranch. An old-timers football game drew nearly 4,000 fans, either cheering for the North or South portions of DeKalb county, raising $40,000 toward the ranch. Each team had 50 former players — including Long — and thirty cheerleaders. The football referees initially laughed at the old-timer concept, but quickly saw an intensity that rivaled college football and requested to call the game next year. For 2015, former marching band members will reunite to play the classics. Long estimates that the crowd in April could swell to 6,000 fans. At the end of last year, an old-timers basketball game was held after the holidays.

These annual events will continue to provide for the ranch in years to come. Long appreciates donations of all sizes, but one from an ordinary family thoroughly surprised him. They handed him a check, but Long didn’t notice until later that it was written for $20,000. “God has touched other people’s hearts, and they really want to be a part of this,” Long says.

Long Ranch Board of Directors

  • Kristy and Paul Long
  • Brian Bailey
  • Tammy Hughes
  • Barry Owens
  • Mary Lance

Any skilled tradespeople who would like to volunteer can contact Long through the website

Recycle your old phone books and earn money for your school

backgroundEach year, FTC sponsors a Directory Recycling Program that helps keep thousands of old phone books from making their way into landfills. Instead, they are recycled into products such as roofing material, packing material, insulation and even new phone books. What’s more, FTC pays participating schools 25 cents for each 2014 or older Northeast Alabama Regional Directory.

Gather old FTC directories from your home and business and give them to a student or take them to the school of your choice. Let’s make this the largest phone book recycling drive ever!

Earn 25¢ for your school for each FTC directory collected!

You can collect ANY directories for the recycling program, but only FTC directories will earn money for your school.

Hurry, the last day to turn in phone books to your school is March 6, 2015!

High school sophomores and juniors could win a trip to Washington, D.C.!

FTC is searching for two outstanding high school students to represent our area in the nation’s capital in June (must be under the age of 18 at time of trip) as part of the FRS Youth Tour sponsored by the Foundation for Rural Service.

  • All-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
  • Tour the Capitol and other landmarks.
  • Meet elected officials, hear speakers, meet teens from across the country and take part in many exciting activities.

Applications and an information packet about the program are available from your high school guidance counselor. Applications can also be downloaded at Youth tour applications must be turned in by no later than 4:00 p.m.  on March 3.

For more information, contact Kim Williams at 256-638-2144 or email

To be eligible, at least one parent or legal guardian must be a customer and have active service with Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative or its affiliates.

Apply for FTC and FRS Scholarships

FTC Scholarship

FTC offers two $2,000 scholarships to students in its service area each year. One scholarship is given to a deserving high school senior, while the other is given to a student already enrolled in college. Applications are available from guidance counselors can be downloaded from Completed applications must be received at the FTC business office by 4 p.m. on March 9.

FRS Scholarship

Scholarships are also available through the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS). FRS awards 30 scholarships annually worth $2,000 each to high school seniors across the nation. If a senior from the FTC service area is selected, FTC will contribute an additional $500, bringing the scholarship total to $2,500. FRS gives preference to students who plan to return to rural communities to work after graduating. Completed applications must be received at the FTC business office by 4 p.m. on Feb. 18.

To be eligible, at least one parent or legal guardian must be a customer and have active service with Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative or its affiliates.

Plotting the course ahead

By Fred Johnson
Executive Vice President and General Manager
Fred Johnson

Fred Johnson

WOW! That was fast. A few days ago I reached a significant milestone in my life. It never ceases to surprise me how quickly they come. Years ago, I distinctly remember wondering what that particular milestone would feel like. The quickness of passing time continues to startle me.

Okay folks, it is that time of year — time to review your New Year’s resolutions. Wait, before I lose your attention, that’s really not what this is about. After all, most people don’t make resolutions for the new year and even fewer actually keep them. In fact, it’s often a joke — “I know I just ate an entire cheesecake, but I’m going on a diet after the first of year …” So, what is my point? Let’s try this on for size.

My entire professional life has revolved around a series of annual deadlines and cycles of reporting and planning. At FTC, each year we go through a detailed process of planning and budgeting. By the time we get fully involved in executing our plans, it seems as though it is time to start the process all over again. This is perfectly normal, but I’ve noticed over the years that two things become increasingly apparent. First, as the cycles repeat over and over again, time seems to pass ever more quickly. Second, the temptation to let the cycles repeat themselves without change grows each year. Now, in and of itself, neither of these is a problem. However, it does present a challenge. What if something about the pattern needs to change? What if we don’t ask what should be done differently? In this instance, we run the risk of simply falling into a familiar pattern rather than taking a more appropriate course. The faster time seems to pass, the stronger the pressure grows to keep things the same.

On several of our walls there hangs a poster. The words “Make It Happen” appear prominently over a seascape featuring a sailboat making its way through windy seas. Additional words remind us that we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it. But, in any case, the main point is this: We MUST sail. Any sailor will tell you that control of the rudder is an absolute imperative. It is the rudder that gives us the ability to harness the power of the wind and sail in the right direction. Without it you are at the mercy of the wind. You will go in whichever direction it blows. Whether it’s our business or our personal life, the principle is the same; the rudder is essential. Hold onto it. What is this rudder? It is your will. It is the question, “What SHOULD I or we do?” You must ask this question early and often. You owe it to yourself to decide where you want to go and what you want to achieve at any time of your life. You should not be satisfied with simply being blown by the wind to a destination not of your choice. To avoid such a fate requires that you actively make a choice. Most of you understand this easily and likely agree with the principle. Your real challenge is facing the consistent and tiring pressure of deadlines and life cycles that repeat over and over again and with seemingly increasing frequency. Like most things in life, good results require positive action. Take heart. Good decisions are still possible and you have what it takes to make them.

Recipes on the wild side

Gator Roll-Ups

Pinwheell0807There are no exact amounts in this recipe. It all depends on how much gator tail you have.

  • Bacon
  • Alligator tail pieces cut 1 inch wide and 4 inches long
  • Cream cheese
  • Prosciutto ham
  • Pepper Jack cheese
  • Barbecue sauce

Prepare smoker. Place a slice of bacon on cutting board or other clean surface. Place one piece of gator tail on bacon, then top with cream cheese, a thin slice of ham and a slice of cheese. Roll up and secure bacon with toothpick. Repeat with remaining gator pieces. Place roll-ups in smoker and smoke for 45 minutes at 300°. Serve with barbecue sauce.


  • Uncooked strips of wild turkey breast, cut into 6- by 1- by 4-inch strips
  • Equal number strips of brown-sugar bacon
  • Pepper Jack cheese slices
  • Prosciutto ham slices

Place turkey strip on a slice of bacon. Cut a square slice of pepper jack into 3 strips; place two on top of turkey. Add 1 slice of ham and top with third cheese strip. Roll into a pinwheel and secure with toothpick. Season to taste with your favorite seasonings. Put three roll-ups on a kabob skewer. Grill on top of foil at 320° for 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes. Remove from foil and cook over exposed fire or coals for a few minutes to caramelize.

Elk Quesadillas

  • 1 pound ground elk meat
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 can black beans
  • Tortillas
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Garnishes: cilantro, salsa, sour cream, avocado, sliced jalapeno peppers

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat olive oil in pan and add onions, garlic and meat. Once meat is broken up, add spices. Saute peppers in a separate pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add beans after peppers are fork-tender. Place meat, peppers, beans and cheese onto half a tortilla. Fold in half and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place on a wire rack in the oven or the grill and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and garnish with desired toppings.

Venison Chili

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Salt, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 10 slices cooked bacon, diced
  • 2 pounds venison (deer) stew meat, ground or finely diced
  • 2 cups kidney or black beans, cooked and drained

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and saute for 2 to 3 more minutes. Then stir in the red wine, vinegar, tomato paste, chicken stock, cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt. Simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced by about half.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the bacon and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bacon is browned. Move the bacon to one side of the skillet and add the venison to the empty side of the skillet. Season the meat with salt, to taste, and saute the meat for 15 minutes or until well browned. Stir in the beans and toss all together. Transfer this mixture to the simmering pot. Mix everything together thoroughly and let simmer for another half hour. Serve in bowls with garnishes, such as sliced green onions, shredded cheese and sour cream on the side.


Game time!

By Anne P. Braly

Mike Page demonstrates his grill skills with some mouth-watering gator roll-ups.

Mike Page demonstrates his grill skills with some mouth-watering gator roll-ups.

There are more tricks to cooking wild game than pulling a rabbit from a hat, and it takes a seasoned cook and avid hunter, such as Mike Page of New Hope, Alabama, to get it right.

Page, pitmaster of Bootlegg BBQ located in New Hope, and a longtime competitor on the wild game cook-off circuit, was the 2013 grand champion of the Alabama Wildlife Federation Wild Game Cook-Off held in Tuscumbia, Alabama. His dish, Elk Tex-Mex, was the best overall of 31 entries.

So it goes without saying … he’s wild about game.

“I was around 8 years old when my dad first started taking me hunting,” he says. With that came an important lesson: “He taught me that if you kill an animal, you have to eat it.”

So by the time he was a teenager, Page began cooking meat on his own. Early on, he learned the age-old, time-honored tricks of the trade: how to lessen the flavors of meats with heavy, gamey flavors; how to marinate tougher cuts; and which meats taste best grilled, smoked or fried. But the name of the game for most of Page’s meats is low and slow: low heat and slow cooking.

“When I’m cooking wild game, most people will ask what it is,” he says. “And they always like it when they try it, especially when I’m cooking more exotic meats, such as bear and gator. They really want to try that.”

GATOR, ANYONE? — Dinner is definitely never boring when Mike Page is in charge of the menu. The pitmaster of Bootlegg BBQ is also a wild game cook-off grand champion.

GATOR, ANYONE? — Dinner is definitely never boring when Mike Page is in charge of the menu. The pitmaster of Bootlegg BBQ is also a wild game cook-off grand champion.

As for technique, Page readily admits that cooking wild game is a bit tougher than preparing farm-raised meats for the table.

“You have to pay attention to your dish,” he says with a nod toward Mother Nature. “Wild game doesn’t come in a package with instructions.”

Most wild game meats require marinating, but what marinade is used depends on the type of meat. All wild game is different and has different textures, Page explains.

“You have to marinate the meat, but be careful not to overdo it,” Page warns. “I like to taste more of the natural flavors of the meat, and I’ve found that others do, too.”

Mike Page’s suggestions for marinades:

  • Combine 3/4 cup apple juice, 1/3 cup oil, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh sage and 1 teaspoon salt (good for bear, elk and venison).
  • Mix the amount of Worcestershire sauce you need with some Montreal steak seasoning (good for elk, venison and duck).
  • Red wine with crushed garlic (good for venison and elk).
  • Mix together 1 can beer, 2 cups Worcestershire, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic salt and black pepper (good for almost any game meat).
Anne P. Braly

Anne P. Braly



Staying connected to those New Year’s resolutions

By Matt Ledger

It’s that time of year again — New Year’s resolutions. Some face them with dread, while others resolve to try a bit harder than last year.

Statistically, most resolutions revolve around cutting out the sweets, reinstating gym memberships or trying out another aspect of fitness, but there are many other ways to enhance our lives. Maybe less Facebook and more face time with those friends? You might even include them in your next selfie. It’s easy to let technology distract you, but it can also be used as an incredible tool for time management, goal setting, fiscal planning and of course tracking exercise.

Organization — Trello
Playing games flat icons setDon’t you wish you could have that kitchen dry erase board in your pocket to remind you of that errand you just forgot or that key ingredient from the recipe? Sure, you could just write another Post-it note, but your smartphone can allow you to edit, sync, upload photos and even assign tasks to other family members. Trello is a cloud-based app that you can use to organize the tasks of a big project and/or the daily routine. Users create color-coded boards, with lists of prioritized tasks that are easily dragged to the completed column to track your weekly progress. Trello is used by tech clients at Google, PayPal and Kickstarter.

Budget and finance — Playing games flat icons set
Just about everyone could do a little better managing their money in 2015. To track those finances and budget your spending, offers free tracking software to electronically monitor investments, purchases and income. Mint, from the makers of TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks, has encrypted security equal to your bank. Just like those major credit cards, the system will alert you of unusual account purchases, spending trends and if you exceed your budgets.

Fitness — Mobile apps
FitnessSpeaking of investments, improving your overall health is an investment in your future. Being healthy helps parents stay active with their kids and pays many dividends later on during retirement. To get started, try the 7-minute workout app by Johnson and Johnson, which coaches you through dozens of simple home exercises. Once that becomes routine, you can escape to the nearest park and use the RunKeeper or MapMyFitness apps to track how many miles you run or bike.

Volunteerism — & Volunteer
While the first three areas focus on yourself, many people make resolutions to help in their communities to make the spirit of the season last well beyond New Year’s Day. The websites and allow people to search for local volunteer programs. Some current projects are seeking volunteers for everything from youth tutors to repairs at homeless shelters to mentors to helping the elderly. Having your own budget or fitness in order is great, but nothing gives you that feeling of satisfaction quite like helping others

Featured Blogger: Woman on a Journey

Health & Fitness

Photo Frame CollectionA Q&A with Shelley bowman, a blogger from Texas who has been inspiring readers with her story of weight loss and fitness since 2008

What do readers find at your blog?

Shelley Bowman: Ramblings of someone who has managed not only to lose a large amount of weight — 100 pounds — but who is also keeping it off. This is a bigger victory to me than the initial weight loss. After all, hasn’t just about everyone lost weight at one point, only to regain it?

What are some tips for those interested in losing weight and becoming fit?

SB: Stop eating fast food. Stop getting your meals handed out a drive-thru window. Track your food on a daily basis. I used Put it all in there: the good, the bad and the ugly. Go for a 15-minute walk to start. Move daily. All the things you hear, like parking farther away and taking the stairs, add up.

How can someone new to running get started? before, one year, two year

SB: Get fitted at a running store for a good pair of shoes. The right shoes can make or break you. Then go for a short walk, and at the end, try a slow run for 30 seconds. Gradually transition to running a little more each time; don’t go crazy and try to run a mile if you’ve never run before because that’s a good way to get shin splints; then you’ll end up hurting and not wanting to run. Also, finding a friend to run with 

makes a big difference for me. Knowing that you’re going to meet someone to run helps to make sure you actually do it.

How do you stay motivated?

SB: I feel so much better now that I’m not carrying 100 extra pounds. I have a different lifestyle, too. I’m much more active, and I like being able to run or walk without feeling like I’m going to die. Continuing to eat right most of the time keeps me in check; I honestly don’t like how I feel when I overindulge.

What are some of your favorite healthy foods?

SB: You should have a few go-to meals where you can eat healthy without having to think about what you are preparing. For me, it’s nonfat Greek yogurt (I love Fage), either fresh berries or Craisins, and some homemade granola. If I’m out of my granola, I like the Kind brand. For dinner, I like to make black bean tacos using corn tortillas, fresh pico de gallo and a little Parmesan cheese. Snacks range from watermelon or pineapple in the summer, to raw almonds and a little bit of dried cherries. And sometimes an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter. I also drink a lot of water daily and try to have a glass right before I snack — it makes me fuller so I don’t overdo it.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?

SB: I became a blogger when I started my last diet. I wanted to remember how hard I worked to get the weight off, so this time I would actually keep it off. I had no idea how much blogging would connect me with other like-minded people who were doing the same thing. The most important thing was finding a couple of bloggers who had lost over 100 pounds and were keeping the weight off. I was very overwhelmed in the beginning, but finding others who had succeeded gave me hope. And I hope I’m able to give that to the new person who is just starting their journey to weight loss and fitness.

Check out her blog…

Other health and fitness blogs you might like:

. Besides fitness ideas, this blog is “a place to find healthy alternatives to the food you crave.”
. This fitness coach shares her “continued journey to be the best woman, wife and mother that I can be.”

Whatever your interest, there is likely an online community of people who share that interest with you. Our “Featured Blogger” series introduces you to people who write online websites about a variety of topics. In the March/April issue, we’ll focus on home/DIY projects.