Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Virgina experience

I'm sure you've all read or heard about the Great NIT Typo by now. If not, here's the gaffe, along with my mark-up:
Just what West Virginia needs: Another piece of evidence that we're poorly educated rednecks who care more about our trucks, guns, dogs and moonshine than whether we can spell!

Thanks to Lori for sending the photo. I think.

In WVU's defense, I read in one account that the NIT was responsible for printing the shirts. Whew! The NIT could not be contacted for confirmation. I probably wouldn't answer my phone, either, under the circumstances.

One of my favorite jobs, when I lived in Ohio, was as a typesetter for Columbus Monthly Magazine. Typesetting back then – you know, in Gutenberg's time – was accomplished by keyboarding from typewritten or, sometimes, handwritten copy on a machine dedicated to spitting out long pieces of specially coated paper. The paste-up artist would then slice the paper in columns to fit the page layout, run it through a waxing machine and put it all together, along with whatever art was to accompany the story.

Sounds like kindergarten, doesn't it? I eventually became a very good proofreader and copy editor, just by setting type. Our editor would read every word, mark up the errors – some were writers' grammar goofs, and some were my typographical misstrokes – and send it back. The machine was sophisticated enough that it could actually save the original file. Imagine that! All I had to do was make corrections and changes. I didn't have to keyboard the entire story a second or, occasionally, third time.

If the page designer wanted the type to fit around a photo or illustration, it had to be reset yet again. I didn't mind at all. I loved the whole process. It was a wonderful introduction to graphic design, and they paid me!

I just realized that nothing I've written so far has anything whatsoever to do with health, fitness, weight loss, exercise or half-marathons. But it was a nice little trip down memory lane. For me, anyway. So to tie it all together, don't those basketball players look fit? Check out those biceps! Just a few more curls and mine will look that good, too. And so will yours!

[It is pouring down rain right now. I don't think we've had such a hard and steady rain since last summer. I'm supposed to do a long-ish run today – this is an easy week, remember – and I just checked the hour-by-hour forecast at weather.com. Not looking good. I wonder: Do they ever cancel half-marathons due to rain?]

Four weeks until race day!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Quote Day

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.*
The Beatles
You guys were sharin' the love yesterday, and I truly appreciate it. Yes, venting was the name of the game.

[Speaking of games: How about those Mountaineers in the NIT championship finals last night? Okay, it's just the NIT, but WVU beat UCLA in the regular season, and UCLA is in the Final Four of the NCAA championships. So there. Heh.]

Thanks for being so understanding and supportive. Like M@rla, I wish I could do a road trip and gather you all up for a big ol' party. We could even make it a beach party and wear these when it's time to hit the water! [I've always wondered where the Amish buy their swimwear. Link courtesy Daily Candy, by the way.]

See? My sense of humor has returned and I'm back on track.

Yesterday, when the temperature never got above 50 and it rained most of the day, I decided to switch my Friday rest day to Thursday, so I'll be running outside today. Should be a nearly perfect day for a five-mile run – mid-60s and sunny. The schedule says I'm supposed to have a rest day both before and after the Saturday long run, so we'll see how this works out tomorrow. I'm not out to break any records, and if I have to slow down or even walk, I will. Don't want to risk an injury when I'm thisclose to the starting line!

Thank you again ...

Twenty-nine days until race day.

*Today's quote is clickable; if you don't have that particular Beatles song in your collection, you can Snag It Now!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Today's title is a mystery to me

Before I get into the meat of the matter today, I want to thank my daughter for the heads-up about this week's episode of Penn & Teller on Showtime. There probably is a YouTube or Google Video of it out there somewhere. [My lack of recording skills is starting to bother me. I might have to read a manual.] The P&T subject? The obesity epidemic; they expressed everything we've been saying about it out here in weight-loss blogland, only with much more colorful language. And naked breasts. [That should get some unusual hits!]

M@rla wrote a long and thoughtful post yesterday, about continuing to work out and eat right despite the lack of downward progress on the scale – a topic with which I'm very familiar. Some of you have weighed in – sorry – about that issue here, encouraging me, propping me up, making suggestions. Here's what she said about choosing the word 'disappointed' to describe how she feels at not experiencing further weight loss.
I can't come up with a word that expresses the frustration, rage, agony, depression, heartbreak, and despair of having worked so very hard at this, at having done everything right, and more than right, without losing a single damned pound for two years, so we're going to settle for the word "disappointed."
I've often thought she and I were twin daughters of different mothers. Except I'm older, so I guess we're not really twins. Heh.

Not that I don't always have my weight problem on my mind, but it was particularly front-and-center yesterday. M@rla's post and Penn & Teller were the bread for a sandwich filled with one of those Discovery Health programs about a woman who lost more than 400 pounds [gastric bypass] and then had surgery to take care of the loose skin problem that inevitably follows when you lose that much weight fast.

One word: Gruesome. Okay, one more: Grateful.

It was an interesting progression, first identifying with M's frustration and depression, then feeling gratitude that slow or no weight loss means surgical intervention won't be necessary, and finally laughing about the absurdity of it all.

Eat less and move more: That's the answer from doctors and magazine articles and well-meaning friends and family. And it does work for a while.

My frustration stems from the fact that I've been there. I've been at a healthy, attractive weight. I have a bag of size 6 and 8 clothes to prove it. I have pictures of myself wearing those clothes. I keep telling myself that I did it once and I should be able to do it again.

How did I do it then? I ate a very low-fat diet and I worked out hard, in a gym, for two hours every freaking day. I'm not yet at the point where I'm ready to do that again, though it might come to that, eventually. The low-fat diet was awful; my skin was dry and flaky, and I was cold all the time. The exercise wasn't so awful, and I feel like I'm almost there now, with the race training.

Which leads to the inevitable conclusion that food is still the problem. One thing is for sure: The YOU: On a Diet plan is too many calories for me.

PastaQueen commented on M@rla's blog that:
I sometimes wonder if it's been easier for me to lose the shitload of weight that I have because I never dieted before, like that saved me from having a screwed up metabolism.
First, nothing about losing half your body weight is easy, PQ. But I agree with your theory. My metabolism is just plain broken.

Knowing that doesn't mean I can quit. It means I try harder, I adapt and shift and change. And also? I hope and pray that something will work. Someday.

A request: If you leave a comment today, please don't tell me to try this or do that. Someone's already suggested it before, and I've already tried it. And especially don't tell me I need to "up my calories." A broken metabolism only knows how to do one thing with extra food – I might as well just paste it on my ass, because that's where it'll end up, eventually. Thanks.

•••

Edited to add: Thirty (gulp!) days until race day. Thanks for the reminder, PICAdrienne!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gearing up

Remember yesterday when I described this week's training schedule? Remember how I said I was supposed to do five-mile "easy" runs Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday? I lied! I was supposed to rest or cross-train yesterday, so this is a really easy week.

However. Since I had it in my mind that I was supposed to run yesterday, that's what I did. And since I don't have a five-mile route, and I was feeling pretty energetic, I went for the nine-mile loop. I walked a total of two miles and ran the remaining seven in 75 minutes. That may be my fastest time yet, and I wasn't even aiming for a speed record.

This training stuff works.

I'm sure runners must have special stores or websites where they buy gear and clothing that meets their needs. Real runners wear clothing that is more useful than just declaring this, as one of my t-shirts does:

I'm most comfortable running in a pair of Danskin pants – they might have been labeled as yoga pants when I bought them – and a loose, thin sweatshirt with a pouch. It's been too warm for such foolishness this past week, but I don't have a t-shirt that I can carry stuff in. Stuff like:
  • Hall's Vitamin C lozenges to keep my mouth moist
  • A gel pack if I end up running longer than an hour
  • An 8-oz. bottle of water
  • My keys
Yesterday I searched for, found and ordered a sleeveless hoodie with a pouch. I wear the Shuffle around my neck and I also recently bought a stopwatch with a lanyard.

I think I'm beginning to take this running thing seriously. Heh.

Spam message of the day
This was the subject line of an e-mail I received yesterday:

Talk about excitement! Such promise! Turned out to be an ad for a culinary arts school. Chef training: Just what everyone with a weight problem needs, right?

Thirty-one days until race day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

More training talk; are you bored yet?

Do go stop by GC's blog to offer a high-five for completing the first year of the rest of her healthy, fit life, won't you? She and I have a special affinity for each other, having learned that we were married by the same pastor in the same Las Vegas wedding chapel, 11 years apart. How's that for a small-world coincidence?

That pear tree has completely bloomed, and it's gorgeous. I love looking at it; it's beautiful from spring through fall. I took the new camera out and got a couple of so-so close-up shots of some flowering branches. I still have a lot to learn about this camera, but practice makes perfect. Right? Tell me I'm right!

This week's training schedule is supposed to be five "easy" runs – six miles yesterday, and five miles today, tomorrow, Thursday and Saturday. The last time they threw an easy week into the schedule made the following week much, much more difficult for me, so I might do a long run on Saturday, as I've been doing.

The road I live on forks 3.3 miles from my driveway, so I decided to just stick close to home yesterday and do 6.6 miles. The reason I haven't been training on this road is because it's very hilly and I didn't think I'd be able to match the suggested training pace. I surprised myself by beating the pace by more than 30 seconds per mile.

It was hard, but also kind of fun to be back out on "my" road. One of my neighbors is back from her winter break in Florida, the Amish community has grown from two households to five and their woodworking shop is going strong. The strawberry patch is covered with straw, they're building what will become a general store and the chicken coop is full! I think I counted six buggies parked outside one of the barns.

I was able to run partway up each hill except the last one, and completely up two of the early ones. I have the Shuffle loaded with a random mix of songs I like, not just songs I like to run to, and that helped a lot. I tend to match my pace to the beat of the song I'm listening to, and I probably would have had a coronary trying to keep up with some of those fast-paced selections on the upside of a hill. I certainly would have blown a knee out speeding downhill!

Today is weigh-in day; another week of staying the same. I didn't expect to lose, after that huge
[insert sarcasm here] two-pound drop last week. I'm finding it very difficult impossible to stick to 1200 calories or less and continue training. I'm tempted to stop the weekly weigh-ins until after the half-marathon. This is usually not a good strategy; I think I'll be able to make up for less-than-optimal behavior by starving myself the last week before weighing myself. I'll probably keep doing the weekly check-in, but try not to be disappointed if the number doesn't change much.

It's hard not to be disappointed with staying the same today, though. I managed my food fairly well, although I ate more than 1200 calories every day except two. But
I ran a total of 33 miles last week and walked an additional six [two on a rest day and four on Saturday]. Seems like if you're out there pounding the roads for that many miles you ought to see at least some progress on the scale.

Sigh.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Soooooo cute!

The bowls, before:

The bowls, after:

[That's a 100-gram ball of sock yarn, to show the size.]

Are those not adorable? They're just rolled-brim hats, really, but little and cute. I made mine a little deeper than the pattern says to, because I want to put some shredded paper [aka Easter grass] in them and I still want room for candy for the grandchildren.

I think I'll make a low, wide bowl to put on my dining room table. Although maybe the reason these work is that they're small. A wide bowl might just end up being too floppy to be useful. I feel an experiment coming on.

I haven't mentioned how much I'm enjoying the NCAA tournament this year. I picked Georgetown to win it all when the games began, and they really played like champions yesterday in their overtime win over North Carolina. Since I'm originally from Ohio, it'll be hard to root against the Buckeyes, but I'm sticking with Georgetown.

Don't you just love reading articles that tell you if you just do these five or 10 things, you'll lose weight? As most of you know, I followed an eDiet plan last year [I'm now loosely following the YOU: On a Diet plan], so I still get a fair number of eDiets newsletters with hints and tips and inspiration. Can't have too many hints and tips and inspiration, right?

So this morning I learned that if I change these simple things, I'll have dieting success:
  • Stop drinking juice.
I can't remember the last time I drank fruit – eating it is much more satisfying, and if I'm consuming something liquid it's either water or coffee. Probably not in that order. Heh.
  • Cut the use of oil in half.
The article says instead of a quarter cup of olive oil on a salad, use two tablespoons and mix it with a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices. I doubt if I've ever used a quarter cup of oil on a salad. I dress my salads with straight flavored vinegar these days, and maybe a teaspoon of oil if I'm feeling daring.
  • Eliminate mayo.
The author is talking about ordering fast-food sandwiches sans mayonnaise to save calories. Um, excuse me? Fast food? On a diet? My standby fast-food order is a grilled chicken salad, which you can get just about anywhere nowadays, and which McDonald's does best. In my not-so-humble opinion.
  • Boost fiber.
Oh, please, as if we haven't heard that one before.
  • Eliminate fried foods.
Ditto.

So. All I learned from that article is that I'm doing the right stuff and holding my own. I think the only reason I read these articles is that maybe – maybe – there will be some new, useful information I could try that might make A Difference.

I'll let you know if that happens. And when pigs fly.

Yesterday was a total rest-from-running day, but I did manage to get the dead leaves cleared from one very long perennial bed. It's so cool to pull those leaves away and see the sedum and daylilies shooting up. Mr. Shrinking Knitter and I also picked up all the windblown twigs and branches that have fallen over the winter. It's almost mowing season! Our grass is really green, the flowering pear tree is ready to burst into bloom and I hope-hope-hope we've seen the last of Old Man Winter.

Thirty-three days until race day.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ten. Plus.

I probably wouldn't feel like an 80-year-old woman with severe osteoarthritis this morning had I ::airquote:: just ::airquote:: done 10 miles. But, nooooooo. I couldn't stop at 10.

No, really. You see, when I peeled off my jacket at about mile number six, my car key fell out of the pocket. And I didn't realize that I wouldn't be able to get in my car until, oh, about mile number nine.

I finished the run [in an hour and 56 minutes] and then really had no choice but to start walking back to find the key. I did have an ace in the hole, but even that didn't help a whole bunch.

You'd think the ace would be my cell phone, wouldn't you? I did have that with me, but it would have been much more useful had it fallen into the ditch. I pulled it out to find the dreaded "No Service" message. [When you live in the Middle of Nowhere, low bars are the rule, rather than the exception.]

Mr. Shrinking Knitter had taken his car in for service and promised to return home on my running road. I hadn't walked more than half a mile when he came around the bend. We drove slowly all the way back to the other end of the road, but didn't see the key. The only remaining option was to walk. I got out and started at the 4.5-mile mark, he drove three miles, parked the car and starting walking toward me.

I found it shortly after I started walking.

So I ended up running a good, solid 10 miles and then walked/jogged another four or so.

I am woman. Hear me roar. Heh.

I am mulling over your fit-or-fat comments, and I hear you. Yes, I know I'm fit. At least, fitter than I was a year ago. I realize it's quite possible to be at a healthy weight and not be fit. But I'm still on the fence about whether one can claim to be fit and still be overweight. Fitter ... yes. Fit? Maybe. Thanks for the comments; I'm so glad you not only read my drivel but think about it, as well.

And the bowls? I'm on number five so far. Cute, cute, cute! Can't wait to felt them. Pictures soon!

Thirty-four days until race day.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Present tense

In yesterday's comments, Jonathan suggested I consider using the present tense when I referred to myself 10 years ago as the fittest I'd been in my adult life. [Or something like that.] And Lori agreed. So that's been lodged in my brain ever since. [Thank you both for not mentioning a bad song from the '70s.]

As long as my actual weight is greater than my goal weight, I don't think I can call myself fit. It all comes down to the pounds that still cling, and it would take a very great psychic shift to change my mind about this.

Don't get me wrong: I know I'm fit. My blood levels are perfect, my blood pressure – generally 110/70-ish – is especially good for someone in her mid 50s, my resting pulse is in the low 60s. I can run up and down the stairs without panting or wheezing, and I can lift that barge and tote that bale. [I need to work more on strength training, and probably always will, but I can lift and press and crunch without straining and without hurting myself. When I feel like it. Whine.]

But the fittest I've ever been as an adult? Now? I'm having a little trouble wrapping my brain around that. Being able to run a few miles without stopping is pretty amazing and full o' fitness, but … I still need to lose some weight to completely believe I'm the fittest I've ever been.

There you have it.

Thanks for the suggestions on what to do with all that fulled fabric. I like the idea of cutting off the sides to reduce the width, but then I'd have ugly corner seams at the top to deal with. [The bag is knit in the round, so the top edge is nice and smooth.] Does anyone need hot pads for a purple kitchen? I'll be happy to send it to you! Seriously! Just e-mail me at shrinkingknitter AT citynet DOT net and I'll pop it in the mail, no postage required, no questions asked. Frankly, I don't want to deal with making something new out of it.

I've actually moved on to a new felting project – I'm making a colorful collection of bowls from
One Skein: 30 Quick Projects to Knit and Crochet, which I will fill with Easter candy and send to my grandchildren. They can do whatever they want with the bowls [Note to my daughter: Yes, you can pitch them if you want!] – I just think they're adorable and wanted an excuse to make some. When I see how these work out, I may do some that will coordinate with my living room. Unless I've had my fill of making bowls.

My first 10-mile run is scheduled for today. I don't know why one additional mile is causing me so much anxiety. I didn't sleep well, woke up for good at 5 a.m. and just want to get it over with. How am I going to feel the night before The Race? Marathoning for Mortals suggests I won't sleep then, either.

Five weeks until race day!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Quote Day

"The only thing that stands between a [wo]man and what s/he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it is possible."
~ Richard M DeVos
Of course you know those little changes in gender are mine. I'm sure Richard won't mind.

Isn't this appropriate after yesterday's discussion about hanging in there in spite of no progress? It's that old KOKO again, which is a theme to which I frequently return. Because, um, if I weren't KOKOing I'd be fat again. Heh.

I soooo appreciate the thoughts and comments you left yesterday. It's always good to know I'm not hanging out on this plateau all alone, and it's especially good to focus on the positives, which you always, always point out to me.

So far this week I've run 20 miles. I have to do my first 10-miler tomorrow [and from the forecast I might be running in the rain]. That's 30 miles! The last time I did 30 miles in one week was at least 10 years ago, when I was at my very highest level of fitness as an adult. I'm pretty psyched about doing it again. Today, however, we rest.

Completely unrelated but strangely interesting, I've read about bento lunches twice already this morning – once here, and once in the comments here. Do you bento? I don't pack my lunch, so I can only admire the X-treme cuteness of it from afar. I don't want to go look for a job just so I can bento.

Okay, this is going to sound kind of vain, but you know when you're kind of relaxed and stretched out on the couch and your calves are kind of just blobbing out there with a mind of their own? Mine don't do that any more! My calves, while larger than I'd like, are solid, whether they're flexed or relaxed.

Just thought I'd share. Heh.

And now, we interrupt this fitness blog for some knitting content.

Sometimes knitting projects just don't work out. Most of the time you can rip it out and start over – at least the yarn is salvageable, unlike a botched sewing project. Once the fabric is cut incorrectly you're usually screwed.

The times when knitting projects don't work out is when you intentionally shrink them. Technically that's called "fulling," but most folks nowadays call it "felting." Last time I visited my daughter I bought a Noni pattern called the Rather Large Carpet Bag, which is supposed to look like that very cool bag on the right.

Here's the before-and-after of my Rather Sorry-Looking and Very Huge Carpet Bag:

On the left, it is a piano-bench cozy. On the right, it is a too-wide and not-deep-enough mass of wrinkled, misshapen wool.

I guess I could cut the sides off and use the remaining fabric for something else. Coasters, maybe? Hot pads? Purple is soooo not a part of my kitchen/dining room [or any other room in my house] décor.

But to tie this failed knitting project back to today's quote, I am absolutely convinced it is possible to make a cool and perfectly proportioned, carpetbag-sized purse. Others have done it; you can Google for scads of photos of completed projects. I just need to try again. And believe it can happen.

And maybe I should double-check my gauge.

Thirty-six days until race day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This isn't what I'd planned to write about today

I really was going to talk about some knitting progress [or lack thereof], and my run yesterday [eight miles in 88 minutes – yeah, me!]. But then Amy wrote yesterday:
i've been wondering lately about some dieters. folks who've been at the same weight for ages and ages and are still trying even though nothing seems to change. i've been wondering where the breaking point is? when is it time to accept mediocrity if not defeat?
Hmmmm. You talkin' 'bout me, Amy?

This particular weight-loss trip started for me in January, 2006. By October I'd lost 43 pounds – not as much as I'd hoped to lose, but certainly enough to make a huge difference in body, mind and spirit. Most of my exercise was walking on hills; I'd just started running again during the summer.

Then I developed plantar fasciitis, and couldn't run or even walk for a very long time. I tried to compensate by using the rowing machine, but it's boring hard to row nowhere for the length of time necessary to release endorphins and burn fat. I tried to eat less and more carefully, but I eat when I'm bored and depressed. And when I can't exercise the way I like to – running outside is my number-one choice – I'm bored and depressed. And also? I eat.

So I reluctantly accepted the return of 10 of those 43 pounds. And they've pretty much been here ever since, give or take a pound or two.

I am the definition of someone who's 'been at the same weight for ages and ages and [is] still trying even though nothing seems to change.'

I haven't reached my breaking point. Yet. I don't feel like I'm even close to giving up, and I don't really know what giving up would look like. Would I start eating sugar on a daily basis? Would I make more fast-food drive-through trips? Would I stop running? I'm not doing any of those things. Yet.

Ten years ago, at my thinnest adult weight and also at my fittest, I thought I would never get fat again. I did, though, gradually and eventually, regain the weight I'd worked so hard to lose and added even more. How did it happen that it was okay for my fitness level to decline and my weight to grow, year after year? What will it take for that to happen again?

I hope to hell I don't find out!

I think, although I don't know, my first step to giving up would be to stop blogging. Whether you need me or not doesn't matter. I need this accountability and I enjoy this venue for spouting off and celebrating and sometimes even whining. As Amy said, "We're here to support each other."

Amen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Great weather for speed drills

Heh.

There is no great weather for speed drills, as far as I'm concerned. I don't like doing them and, since I'm not particularly interested in breaking any records [this being my first long-distance race and all], I'm thinking of just running the prescribed number of miles and not even thinking about alternating jogs and sprints for six miles. Plus the warm-up and cool-down miles. Can't forget those.

It's as exhausting for me to remember where my mile markers are as it is to speed up every so often. Maybe I'll just run fast for three songs and slow down for one.

At any rate, today's total mileage is supposed to be eight – eight!?!?! – and today's high temperature will only be in the low 50s. Not a bad combination.

I really look forward to the long runs on Saturday. I feel strong and athletic and capable when I start and only once have I not felt equally strong, athletic and capable when I finished. I just have this mental block about the Wednesday drills.

Following this week's schedule, I added an extra short run yesterday. Tuesdays have been, until now, rest or cross-training days. I was supposed to do three miles at 13:45 Monday and yesterday; I did four miles at approximately 13:00.

I got a rousing ovation at the Alderson AA meeting last night when I told the inmates that hearings on sentencing reform were held by the US Sentencing Commission yesterday. I also injected my personal opinion that if they had been sentenced to a camp [lowest security level in the federal system], they might as well have been put on house arrest.

I think I have a whole bunch of new best friends. Heh.

Our older dog, Molly, doesn't board well. She's always eager to go, unlike our little Hershey, but more often than not she gets very stressed, which means she gets up in the middle of the night, panting and puking and wanting to be let outside.

Which means I get up in the middle of the night to take care of her and then can't get back to sleep. But you know what? Today I have to run eight miles, so I'll probably be able to get a pretty good nap in this afternoon. Now that's what I call making lemonade from lemons.

Thirty-eight days until race day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I might need to start another blog

To keep this one on topic, at least for the first paragraph or so, may I shout from the rooftops that I lost two pounds this week?

Hey! I lost two pounds this week!

My waist size has not changed, but I feel like it has, which is almost as good.

The funny thing is that I didn't run for four days, and I didn't track food for two days [or the two days since – it's so easy to get out of that habit!]. So how did the weight loss happen? Who knows? It probably has more to do with what I did the previous week than what I did last week. Meaning next week I'll bounce back up again.

One of my dear, dear friends e-mailed me yesterday and said my dinner behavior the other night sounded "normal." I replied that if it were normal, I wouldn't have to report it. But maybe someday – if I live long enough – eating a few bites of dessert and leaving food on my plate will be unremarkable.
• • •
Now to the reason for today's title.

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you know that I'm a volunteer at Alderson Federal Prison Camp. I would never want to work there – being in a position of power over inmates seems to bring out the worst in most of the staff –
but I love volunteering.

Many groups here in the States are working for sentencing reform – the Drug Policy Alliance, the Sentencing Project and Families Against Mandatory Minimums are a few. Other groups, about which I know less, are involved in more general prison reform – improving conditions in prisons, championing rehabilitation instead of just warehousing, for instance.

Bo Lozoff's mission is to help inmates make the best use of their time while they're locked up, to be present during their incarceration, to create community with other inmates and to prepare themselves for their release by becoming strong, quiet, calm, kind and humble.

I left last night's workshop feeling pretty high, and you can be quite sure that no alcohol or drugs were involved. Bo and his wife, Sita, are the founders of the Human Kindness Foundation, the name of which sounds all new-agey and straight out of the '60s. I may be a child of that generation, but new-agey I'm not.

And yet, who couldn't use a little more human kindness?

In additioning to doing workshops and writing books, Bo is a musician, and he opened his presentation with some lovely original pieces. We then did a good old-fashioned sing-along to Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door.

I was hooked.

A couple of his remarks really made an impact on me. He spent quite a bit of time contrasting our society 50 years ago with the present day:
  • We're "connected" by cell phones and Blackberries and Palm Pilots so that we're never out of touch, and yet we're disconnected from the person sitting across the table from us.
  • The cure for low self-esteem is not high self-esteem; it's humility, or not needing self-esteem at all. [His opinion, and one I share, is that the self-esteem 'curriculum' introduced a generation ago in our schools has pretty much backfired.]
He spent two hours there, not nearly enough time to hear what needed to be heard, but it was a great beginning. As he was getting ready to wind it down, he asked them if they wouldn't almost give their right breasts for a home-cooked meal with their families. Definitely a laugh-and-cry moment. [Prison food sucks.]

He then suggested that the first piece of clothing they buy should be a grey sweatshirt.

You should have heard the protests! Alderson inmates wear grey sweatshirts, grey sweatpants and grey t-shirts every day of their lives. They were just sure they'd be buying hot pink and bright orange their first trip to the mall. Some even said they'd never wear grey, khaki or green again, ever in their lives.

So when they calmed down, he suggested that of all the troubles that landed them in prison, grey wasn't one of them. And he went on to say that while wearing grey, they'd stayed off drugs and been isolated from bad influences and gotten their GEDs and found good, true friends. In fact,
grey had served them pretty well.

It was A Moment. One I'll never forget. You could see the wheels turning, and I'd bet money that several of these women will be buying grey sweatshirts when they finally leave Alderson behind.

One area of prison reform that doesn't get much attention is transitioning back into the community. I believe the government is attempting to implement programs on the inmate side, but no one I know of is working on our end of it. Sentences are never finished. Inmates are always ex-cons, subject to different rules about jobs and voting and perceived by society as not quite up to snuff. The way our justice system works makes this inevitable. I'd like to live long enough to see this change, but I doubt that will happen.

Thirty-nine days until race day.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Let's hope it lasts

I feel really, really good this morning. The weekend was not at all stressful, as social situations frequently are for me, and I'm well-rested and ready to tackle the race training with a renewed mind and spirit. Thank you for your comments yesterday.

[A quick note for Adam: bourbon = beer, or, in other words, your body metabolizes alcohol the same, regardless of the source. I think. Heh.]

As I mentioned, it seems like several other weight-loss bloggers had the same psychic shift I had Friday night. I wish, wish, wish I could remember who you were! Recognizing that it's not the last time you'll ever have the opportunity to eat something is a Pretty Big Thing. Feeling satisfied and stopping is new behavior, worth reporting.

We're such all-or-nothing thinkers, usually, that it will take a while to adopt this "eating normally" approach without being taken aback when we do it right. Heh.

Will eating the foods on the YOAD plan "normally" work? Will that feeling of deprivation eventually set in? Part of why I felt full after dinner, I think, was because the food was well-prepared and beautifully
presented. Somehow ladling lentil soup into a crockery bowl doesn't have the same caché as being served a gourmet dinner on china. And the caché really does add to the satisfaction quotient of the meal.

The plan for the day is to clean the floors and the master bath this morning, while it's still cold. The dogs will be ready to pick up at the kennel around noon. [I love our kennel: Each dog gets a bath and a pedicure in the morning on the day I pick them up. I just wish our little dog loved the kennel as much as I do. She trembles and shakes each time we have to take them.]

By noon, the temperature is supposed to be Perfect for Running, so I'll drop the dogs off and head down to the flat two-mile stretch of road and do four miles. I'm not going to try to break any records; I just hope to enjoy the run and feel some confidence that four days off didn't do any damage.

This evening is the last night of this session of the drawing class at the prison, but there is a Bo Lozoff workshop scheduled at the same time that a couple of my students want to attend. It sounded interesting to me, as well, so I asked for permission to sit in, and I'll give all the students credit for class. I'll let you know about the workshop.

In other words, I'm planning a wonderful, productive, healthy day. I wish the same for you.

Forty days until race day.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The frost is on the daffodils

Actually, I don't have any daffodils, but we did see frost on some roadside daffodils yesterday morning. And if I did have daffodils, there'd be frost on them today.

My cold is gone, but due to scheduled weekend events I've continued to rest instead of exercise. The weird thing about it is I don't feel bad about this at all. As OCD as I've been about following my training schedule pre-CISE-ly, I'm astonished at how nonchalant I feel about neglecting it for the past four days.

I plan to begin anew tomorrow, when the temperature will be more tolerable [mid 50s instead of low 40s].

On Friday Mr. Shrinking Knitter and I drove to Abingdon, VA, for a fundraiser for New Beginnings, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Dryden, VA. We are fortunate to know the team of dedicated and creative people who helped bring this particular house of hope to life, and we heartily support their work.

The evening's speaker, author Adriana Trigiani, was stuck in New York due to the bad weather, but she did a lively Q&A by speakerphone and much money was raised. [Her mother admonished her from the audience: "You should have come a day earlier!"]

I confessed to one of our friends that I'd never read any of her books and, in fact, had never even heard of her. She donated copies of her first book, Big Stone Gap, to each of us in attendance, so I will have the opportunity. But I would have passed it by had I seen it in a bookstore. Just not my kind of cover; it looks like a romance novel in the worst sense of the expression.

However. She seems to have a huge audience, has sold tons o' books and I'm open-minded. Mr. Shrinking Knitter has already read the first 30 or so pages and says she's quite a good writer.

The big news for those who actually live in Big Stone Gap, VA, is that pre-production for the film begins this summer, and they'll be filming on location. I've been to Big Stone Gap – it will surely be the most exciting thing that's happened there in decades. Maybe ever.

I've been catching up on your latest blog adventures and have been struck by some who are learning that mindfulness about eating and exercise doesn't necessarily have to come with a ball and chain. That's kind of how I've felt this week. I knew it wasn't good to continue to stress my body by running when I had a cold. So I rested. I'm not happy running in frigid temperatures. So I rested. I'm also not happy running on the treadmill. So I rested. All this rest has been as good for my mind as it has been for my body.

I've eaten well and not too much. The fancy dinner included cheesecake for dessert and I even had some of that. I went three months without sugar, so it's time to climb back on the wagon, but I didn't think I was "bad" or even "naughty" for eating it. And I didn't eat it all – just a few bites, to satisfy my curiosity, and then I put the fork down. I left food on my dinner plate, not because I "should," but because I'd eaten what I wanted.

Quite a strange little earthquake going on in my head these days.

Forty-one days until race day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Quote Day

I consider being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill.
Samuel Butler
I'm not too ill. Massive doses of Vitamin C and a "healthy-as-a-horse" constitution find me feeling fit as a fiddle this morning, actually. Today is a scheduled rest day, and Mother Nature is conspiring with the schedule to force me to rest for another day or two. It is rain-rain-raining now, and may be snow-snow-snowing tomorrow. Spring? Wherefore art thou?

And, since Friday Quote Day is all about motivation and inspiration, a bonus quote!
Envy can be a positive motivator. Let it inspire you to work harder for what you want.
Robert Bringle, quoted in Redbook
We good little Judeo-Christians grew up thinking envy was a sin, so wrapping one's brain around the idea that there's a good side to envy can bring up some conflicting thoughts. But there are two sides to every coin, including the envy one.

If what we envy – desire, covet, want – is an achievable goal, though, we can use it as a carrot-on-a-stick, always just slightly ahead of us, spurring us on to work harder and more diligently. Feeling envious is often seen as a negative emotion, but turn it just slightly and we're happy for someone else's good fortune, and we naturally want it for ourselves.

I'm certainly envious of a toned, normal-sized body. I'm a bit repelled by stick-thin actresses and models – and I like to eat – so I'm not likely to starve myself down to perfection.

But admiring a physique that is, for me, achievable through consistent exercise and healthful meals is a great motivator.

I hope this doesn't sound too narcissistic, but my carrot-on-a-stick is me, 10 years ago. I know what's possible. I've done it before. I regret having to do it again, but I believe there's some lesson in here I need to learn, and I think it has something to do with caring for myself – outside and in.

Blog break alert: I won't be around the computer much this weekend, but most of you aren't, either, so I don't think anyone's going to miss me. If you're Irish, drink a green beer for me!

But make it light. Heh.

Forty-three days until race day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The rhinovirus smackdown

Remember yesterday, when I said:
"I'm telling myself that I might have a cold on race day, and would that stop me from showing up at the starting line? No way!"
That will teach me to boast.

I got ready to drive down to my running road and the skies parted. It wasn't just a little sprinkle – it was pouring rain. Remember that I wasn't eager to do this run anyway. I went back in the house, changed to shorts and a t-shirt and thought I would just suck it up and do the tempo run on the treadmill. While listening to the rain. Grrrrr.

I walked the first mile, no problem, cranked the speed up to 4.8mph [which is a 12:30 pace, as prescribed] and barely made it through another mile. I had to stop once to blow my nose and twice to drink water and I pushed myself to keep going until I'd been on there for 30 minutes and then I gave up.

Today I'm supposed to do one of those "easy" four-mile runs. I'm not promising anything.

After I got off the treadmill in utter defeat, I showered, changed into comfy yoga pants, wool socks and a sweatshirt and finished knitting the ski cap. It was 72° here yesterday afternoon, and I was freeeeeeezing! I thought about trying to just walk outside, but I really was so, so tired, and so chained to a box of Kleenex, that I just settled into the couch. By 7 p.m. I'd moved to my bed and I didn't wake up until 8 this morning.

I do feel better this morning, proving that I needed the rest. Or that I'm lazy – you make the call. But I don't know if I feel better enough to run. That's probably pushing it.

Don't you just hate whiny posts?

I wasn't too sick to take pictures of the cap. I know it would look better modeled by my son-in-law than by wadded-up plastic grocery bags. But he's in another state. I hope he likes it as well as he did the first one. I know I do!

Forty-four days until race day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why, yes, I do still knit, as a matter of fact

How about a little knitting update, since there's been no weight-loss progress lately, hmmmm? After all, I named this blog the Shrinking Knitter so I could talk about yarny things as well as fitness things.

Last time we checked in with Mrs. Shrinking Knitter, here's what she had on her needles:
  • Three pairs of socks
  • Sailing Pullover
  • Noni Felted Carbetbag
  • Ski cap
Guess what? They're all still on the needles!

I've also neglected to sew the buttons on the baby romper I finished knitting weeks ago.

I haven't touched the socks in a long time. Once it started warming up, I realized I probably wouldn't be wearing wool socks much any more until next fall. Socks are great to knit in hot weather, because they're small and don't pile up in your lap like blankets or sweaters do. But there are More Pressing Knitting Priorities here than wool socks. I probably won't work on them again until August, when I'm dreaming of fall.

Why can't we ever be satisfied with what we have? That is the one, true Secret, I think.

The back panel of the Sailing Pullover is finished and the front panel is almost to the point where I have to shape the neckline. So that's coming along, and since it's straight garter stitch I can work on it at odd moments when I don't have to pay a lot of attention to what I'm doing.

Same with the carbetbag, although it is now huge and big and hot and unwieldy and did I mention huge? And I still have 20 or 30 rounds to go before it's ready to felt. This is one big bag, I'll tell you. You could probably store a carpet in it.

The ski cap is what I've been working on most, since it needs to be mailed soon. Only about 20 more rounds to go on it, and it's looking very good.

So there you have it: knitting progress in an otherwise stay-the-same world. Heh.

Did a light weight-training session yesterday and walked outside for about 30 minutes – one of the least active cross-training days I've had since I started training for the race. But I also started working on the perennial beds and came to the startling realization that I don't have to do all of it at once! Imagine that. Our very long driveway is lined on both sides with perennials and the first task of the spring is to rake off all the dead leaves. So I'm going to do three or four feet on each side every day. Eventually it'll be done. Just looking at those endless long messy flower beds makes me want to go back in the house. And knit.

Today's training schedule is a tempo run – one mile warm-up, five miles at a pretty fast [12:30] pace and a one-mile cool down. I don't have a flat seven-mile loop, so I'll probably go to the nine-mile road and walk farther before and after the five-mile section. I'm not exactly looking forward to this today. I had a low-grade fever last night and woke up with a runny nose this morning. But I'm telling myself that I might have a cold on race day, and would that stop me from showing up at the starting line? No way!

Forty-five days until race day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Are you nuts?

The YOU doctors' eating plan suggests eating a fistful of nuts – walnuts, almonds, peanuts are recommended – as a snack. Nuts, in moderation, are a healthful in-between-meal option; just about everyone says so! [I can hear my mother saying, "If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" Only her example was a bit more, um, earthy.]

I can't [or won't – my mother also said "Can't never did anything!"] just do a fistful of nuts. I like repetitive crunching, and nuts are perfect for that, as are pretzels and dry cereal and any number of other unhealthy-in-quantity choices. So when I get a repetitive crunching urge, I head for radishes, baby carrots, red pepper strips and celery. Nuts are great, though, in recipes, and I include half an ounce of walnuts in my morning oats.

I recently received a tin of almonds from the California Almond Board filled with a single serving of almonds. [I can no longer find the link for the free sample offer.] I'm a sucker for tiny containers, and this one is about half the size of an Altoids tin. It holds 23 almonds, about 160 calories' worth. I suppose that's a snack for some people, but it's beginning to look more like a meal to me.

My calories in/calories out/poundage progress this week looks like this:
  • Average daily calories consumed: 1275
  • Average daily calories burned: 496
  • Pounds gained/lost: None
Staying the same can be a good thing. I suppose.

But staying the same for weeks – nay, months! – on end is getting pretty old. I know, I know, it looks like I've got maintenance down pat, doesn't it? But [insert whiny voice here] I'm not ready for maintenance!

It's just nuts.

I imagine some of you might be thinking I'm just nuts for continuing to frustrate myself. Why not just call it done and be satisfied where I am?

The reason I don't is because I've lost this weight before, and I know I can do it again. I'm stubborn and, apparently, much more patient than I ever thought I was. I appreciate Anonymous's suggestion to add interval training; I can easily throw that into my training runs, I think. Wednesday's speed drills are sort of interval-like, but with longer distances on both the speed and recovery segments. It'll be good for both my mind and my body to try something New! Improved! Different! after all this time of same-old, same-old.

You can see from those numbers up there that I'm having trouble limiting my daily caloric intake to 1200 or below. One day last week it was 1201, and two days was much lower. Which means the remaining days were greater than 1200, and one day was much greater. I was ravenous all weekend, after the long run on Friday. I handled the Saturday-night party food very well, but Sunday was awful. I just couldn't get enough to eat. And, of course, with a Tuesday weigh-in all the good work I did earlier in the week was undone.

So today begins yet another do-over. The upcoming weekend includes a reception and dinner out of town, over which I will have no control, so I'll have to be extra vigilant to make up for whatever kind of food landmines I'll encounter.

Before I close, I want to provide a clickable link to the Cole Hahn/Nike dress shoes Jeannie mentioned a couple days ago. I would never spend that much money on a pair of shoes, but they really are cute. We just don't need dress-up pumps much out here in the Middle of Nowhere.

Also, I'm with M@rla, who said in yesterday's comments that eating normal amounts of healthful food without gaining weight would be so, so nice. We really are learning patience, aren't we?

Finally,
I do have one good number to report. In one month following the YOAD plan, I've lost 2.75 inches from my waist. Take that, bathroom scale!

Monday, March 12, 2007

You wanna ramble?

Jen wrote an interesting post yesterday at angryfatgirlz which has spurred some thinking on my part. That could be dangerous.

She starts off quoting others [Jonathan and Lori] on how unfair it is to have sluggish metabolisms and work so hard for so little weight-loss reward. She then quotes a new-to-me blogger at length, and gets to the meat of the matter, so to speak, by discussing the fact that whether we like it or not, society judges our outsides before poking into our insides.

Sure, some larger people are judged for their accomplishments instead of their dress size – opera singers and chefs immediately come to mind – but in normal day-to-day living a size 6 is taken more seriously than an XL.

I do it, too. And I'm far from a size 6, and I should know better.

I'm not the first to ponder the incongruity of being the biggest person in the room and yet being pretty much invisible.

When I'm complimented on my looks, I try to say thank you and move on, but I usually add, "But I have a long way to go!" It isn't just a long way in pounds. It's a long way in miles run and calories counted. It's a long way in issues tackled and feelings confronted. In fact, it seems like an endless trek.

Especially now, when my already slow progress has come to a halt in spite of eating healthfully, training rigorously and being sugar-free. How much more can I do? What have I forgotten? Where am I slipping up? Why isn't this working?

My husband told me this weekend I'm one of the few people he's met, and the only person he knows well, who has done so much and lost so little. He decided the first of March to lose 10 pounds by the end of the month. Here we are, less than two weeks into it and he's halfway there. His body and mind are working together, efficiently and successfully.

Mine seem to be working at cross-purposes. And I can't figure out why. Or how to fix it.

Forty-seven days until race day.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Party hearty

The party we went to last night was so much fun. All age groups were represented, from a tiny toddler who boogied on the dance floor with the best of them all the way to a very old fellow in a wheelchair, who didn't boogy but did seem to have a good time.

It was a wedding reception for a woman who was born and raised here, but now lives about as far away – in every sense of the word – from the Middle of Nowhere as one can get. And it was wonderful to meet her husband, celebrate with her and her family and mingle with people.

I'm pretty much a loner; my interactions with others are limited to Mr. Shrinking Knitter and my prison volunteer duties. Sometimes when I'm in a crowd I get kind of nervous and want to back off, but last night I found myself "working the room," visiting with many acquaintances and promising to "get together soon."

The food – substantial hors d'oeurves – was fabulous. I won't indulge in any food porn, but suffice it to say that I'm still sugar-free – Mr. Shrinking Knitter got two pieces of wedding cake. One of the offerings was a platter of grilled vegetable. Better than cake, if you ask me! Mr. SK asked what the yummy round orange thing was, and couldn't believe it was sweet potato. He hates sweet potatoes! Or so he thought.

The woman who sat beside me was a school chum of the bride's and I'd never met her. When I asked what she did for a living, she said she owned a gym and was a personal trainer. There was a time, not all that long ago, when I would have been very intimidated chatting up a personal trainer in a social situation. But she was friendly and outgoing and guess what? We talked about stuff other than fitness!

The worst part of the evening was my very uncomfortable shoes. I couldn't dance in them – the soles were too slippery and I'd have totally embarrassed my husband, I'm sure, if I'd fallen. But I did a lot of standing and walking around and why, oh, why can't dress-up shoes be as comfortable as my running shoes?

Today's a rest day. Yesterday I walked four miles [with a little bit of running when Thunder on the Mountain and Elvis Presley Blues popped up on the Shuffle] and did my 20 minutes of weight training. My left knee hurts; I need to start wearing the patella strap I used to use or I'm asking for trouble. I'd hate to further aggravate it at this point. There's not enough training time left to get over an injury!

Forty-eight days until race day.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The halfway point

Today marks the beginning of the seventh week of my 14-week training period for the half-marathon.

Are you all bored with the ad nauseum race-training posts? These scheduled runs have taken over my life, and seem to have taken over my blog as well. I did warn you, I think. If my dial-up connection wasn't so sluggish this morning I'd do a blog search to make sure I have.

Mr. Shrinking Knitter and I are going to a fancy-schmancy party [I think it might even be a dancy party!] tonight. Knowing that a nine-mile run pretty much wipes me out for the day, I opted to do it yesterday. Better to be wiped out when you have no evening plans than to fall asleep in your supper, right?

The problem, though, is that I've been restricting my calories all week – I'm averaging 1200 at this point [I thought I was doing better than that!] – and I truly didn't realize what a difference it would make to do a long run with slightly less fuel and no rest on the prior day.

It. Was. Grueling.

But I slogged through to the end, and only tacked three minutes on to last week's time. I did the first 4.5 miles in about 45 minutes, but it took a full additional hour to complete the loop. I probably walked a mile and a half of it, and the whole second half of the run was against the wind. Whine, whine, whine.

I need to do another weight-training session today to make two for this week. Since I'm so unrealistically resistant to weight training, considering the benefits one receives from it, I'm starting out with two 20-minute sessions per week using four-pound dumbbells. I'm quite sure my granddaughter could do that!

Jonathan commented yesterday, about my Friday quote:

A meeting member argued with me on this point this week. Her contention was that you have to have a dream to aspire to if you are going to get anywhere. For example, you don't apply to college unless you are at least thinking about graduating.

My response to her was to "Dream as big as you can, but set the smallest possible goals." I made that up on the spot and I'm not sure if it was the right thing to say!

I know for me focusing on the big picture is counterproductive. If I started every training run thinking that someday – soon! – I'm going to have to run 13 miles straight without stopping I'd probably never put one foot in front of the other. The same with the idea of losing 70 pounds. And I know many of you have more to lose than that. Looking at a giant goal may be inspiring, but it's also intimidating and when progress is slow it can be downright discouraging. To me, anyway.

Your thoughts?

Seven weeks until race day.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Quote Day

Most people would succeed
in small things
if they were not troubled
with great ambitions.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Now what does that have to do with losing weight, you might ask? Here's how it hit me right between the eyes.

The great ambition is to Get. To. Goal. Oh, and NOW would be nice.

The small things are a pound here and an inch there.

Instead of wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and prayin' for The Big Day to arrive, the one where I hop on the scale and the magic number shows up, I need to take pleasure in the little stuff. Like those NSVs we were talking about a couple weeks ago.

Somehow I've drilled it into myself that the small things aren't as important as the great ambition. And that's just not true. [Pardon me while I talk myself into this.]

No World Series-winning pitcher got to the Show without day-in and day-out practice, practice, practice. The famous musician has tossed dozens of scores before finally creating a beautiful piece of music. How many unfinished novels equal a best-seller?

How many steps does it take to win a race? The runner doesn't wake up one morning, don a comfortable pair of shorts and a t-shirt and expect to be the first to hit the tape. It takes weeks – months! – of training, the right equipment, proper fuel, lots of planning and a winning attitude.

So when I look back at my weight-loss logs, I would be better served by noticing how far I've come, instead of how far I have to go.

Taking it a day at a time wouldn't hurt, either.

Fifty days until race day.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

They lied! And another thing or two.

Here's how badly I didn't want to run on the treadmill yesterday. I usually start running at 10 or 10:30 a.m. That gives breakfast a couple of hours to settle and gets me home at a time where I can eat lunch within about a half hour. [This strategy is recommended in Marathoning for Mortals.]

I had an appointment at 1 p.m., so I knew the run would have to happen earlier than normal. At 9 a.m. the wind was calm and the rain/snow hadn't started. My friends, I jumped in the car, headed for the two-mile flat road and – even though it was cold and early and did I mention cold? – started running at 9:10 a.m. Six miles later [jogged one mile, ran the next mile four times back and forth, jogged the last mile] it was 10:20 a.m. A faster than necessary pace, but it was cold! I think I might have already said that.

The wind started blowing just as I got home from the run, but the rain/snow didn't happen at all and, in fact, it was quite a gorgeous day. Coming back from the hairdresser's I saw a sign in front of a bank that said 63°!

I'm now going to spout off on a topic that's dear to my heart, but may not be to yours. If you think we're [that would be the U.S. in general] soft on crime, you might want to switch to another channel.

As you know, if you've been here for any length of time, I volunteer at a federal women's prison. Tuesday night's meeting was one of the most intense and rewarding sessions in the more than five years I've been a volunteer. It was, of course, unplanned. But sometimes God works magic when you least expect it. And when you most need it.

The prison is classified as a camp – the most minimum security level in the federal system. Most of the inmates are there for drug crimes; those who aren't are there for money crimes. Sometimes the two cross over – embezzling money to pay for drugs, for instance.

The facility has 1000 beds; the current population is 1145. Those who aren't assigned a bunk bed in a regular cubicle get to sleep on cots along with 30 or 40 other women in a TV room or entry way. Privacy? Fuhgeddaboutit. Dignity? You've got to be kidding.

Drug crimes include manufacturing, distributing, selling and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the drugs involved can be anything from weed to meth to heroin to cocaine to prescription goodies dispensed by your doctor and mine.

Okay, back to the meeting. One of the first women who spoke is young – 19 or 20, maybe – and she asked how she could learn to accept that God meant for her to spend the next 17 years of her life there. This was her first offense, she wasn't physically present when the crime occurred, her co-defendants told that to the judge and yet she was sentenced to more than 200 months, all because of the kind and amount of the drug that was sold. If you Google 'mandatory minimum drug laws' you'll find out what that means.

Now here's the thing. The people who wrote those laws didn't mean for moms and grandmas to get thrown in jail. They wanted Mafia kingpins to get caught and sent away for a long, long time. Long enough, maybe, to do something meaningful about the drug problem we have. Their intention was, I think, good. The execution, though? Couldn't be worse. Judges have interpreted these laws – mandatory minimums and conspiracy laws – to mean that if a sister doesn't rat on her brother, she's as guilty as he is.

It's probably more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

I'm not saying these women aren't culpable to some degree. I'm saying 17 years for a first offense is, um, a little harsh. And not terribly rehabilitative. But then our prisons aren't really in the business of rehabilitating any more.

Another woman spoke a little later in the meeting [we were talking about the Serenity Prayer, by the way], and wondered whether she could change her young children's situation or whether she had to accept that their dad was using again and leaving them alone for days at a time. They live 500 miles away from the facility, each phone call costs $3 and she makes 12¢ an hour helping to keep the prison operating. She was desperate for advice, and while we don't usually give advice, there was plenty available. There also was plenty of experience at handling the exact same situation.

She learned several things during that meeting:
  • She wasn't alone.
  • There is a solution.
  • It might be the hardest thing she's ever had to do.
Now here's the miracle part. We have a new assistant warden who believes everyone deserves to be treated with compassion and concern. Do you know how rare this quality is in correctional workers? I invited her to drop in on our meeting any time, and she came both last week and this one. She does this on her own time. She said she enjoys it, and she'll leave if she ever feels that any of the inmates are censoring their converstions.

There's not much she can do about the woman with the 17-year sentence. That's a done deal, and public defenders aren't known for mounting aggressive appeals. She's going to intervene in the other woman's situation, however. She's compelled to, and she said if we [the volunteers] know of other situations like that we should let her know. She'll do everything she can.

Not because it's her job. Maybe I'm naive, but having been through several wardens and assistant wardens during the past five-plus years, I think I can tell the difference between one who's putting in time until retirement and one who cares about making an intolerable situation a little more tolerable.

I realize the prison I'm involved with is a minimum-security female camp. I wouldn't be so sympathetic to a rapist or murderer or even a drug kingpin. These women deserve better. Our prison population would decrease by half, instantly, if they were just put on house arrest instead of sent away.

Their children are being cared for by grannies and sisters and, sometimes, drug-addict daddies. And sometimes foster care. Those children are learning that the stigma of prison isn't so bad after all. They might, because of their life circumstances, also end up doing hard time.

We're losing the drug war. If you've read this far and want to learn more or help, go to:
It also would be helpful [but I'm not holding my breath] to find a politican willing to take a stand against mandatory minimums. You can locate your Senators and Representatives by clicking on the links. You voted for them; they need to know how you feel. Mine know how I feel … which is why I'm not holding my breath for change to take place in time for that 17-year sentence to be reduced.

Thanks for putting up with me this morning.

Fifty-one days until race day.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Back to the treadmill

At least for today.

I had every intention of doing the Wednesday speed work yesterday, because today's forecast isn't good at all. But it was so cold and so windy yesterday that I ended up doing some weight training and nothing else. [Jen, I read your encouraging comment about five minutes after I completed a 20-minute dumbbell session – including lunges, which I hate doing! Thanks!] Tuesday is a rest day, so I'm on schedule, but now I wish I'd just sucked it up and run outside. I'm not looking forward to six miles on the treadmill today.

And by the way, how can it snow if it's going to be 56 freaking degrees?

I've always thought I had a height problem, rather than a weight problem. I'd be in fine shape if I was 5'10" tall. Oh, and had a large frame. [I have a small frame. Not much I can do to change that. Or my height, either, darn it.] I know the grass is always greener, but I do think tall has way more advantages than short. Fitting comfortably in a compact car just doesn't seem like such a great thing when the rest of your life is spent searching for step stools so you can reach the top shelf.

Do you suppose if I ask and believe, I'll receive a couple extra inches? With my luck they'll end up horizontally on my hips instead of vertically on my spine or legs.

Fifty-two days until race day.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

When life hands you lemons …

break out the tequila and salt.

Well, okay, y'all know me well enough by now to know that I didn't head for a bottle after my little binge yesterday. After adding in dinner calories the grand total was 1961. It was a very bad day.

One of the recommendations in Marathoning for Mortals is to eat something salty – they specifically mention pretzels – after your race. My run yesterday, though, wasn't particularly difficult: five miles in 60 minutes, and because it was cool and windy I barely broke a sweat.

I don't usually have a snack in the car – there's that pesky little "no food in the car" rule I have for myself. And the road I've been training on is less than four miles from my house, so it's not like I'm going to keel over before I make it back to my kitchen.

My error was in going straight to the gas station – 14 miles away – instead of stopping off at my kitchen first.

Live and learn.

So the weekly totals look like this:

Daily average of calories consumed: 1386
Daily average of calories burned: 583

Pounds gained: One.

Lainey also is training for a half-marathon and experienced a significant drop in pounds last week by limiting her calories to 1100 per day. I'm sure I need to do this, as well. I've been telling myself that 1400 or 1500 per day is okay, since I'm running about 28 miles per week. Anyone who runs that much ought to be able to eat a little more than a normal dieter, right?

Apparently not.

The food I've been eating, as recommended in the YOAD plan, is nourishing and filling and I haven't been hungry. [Let's not talk about yesterday afternoon, okay?] But obviously there's too much of it. I'm not able, physically or mentally, to increase my activity, other than to continue trying to add more strength training. I'm still not consistently doing two or three weightlifting sessions a week. More like one halfhearted one.

After I threw all that food away yesterday, I thought the best thing to do would be to go knit in our office/family room in front of the television. I had about two hours before I had to leave for my art class at the prison. Here's what I saw when I turned on the TV [it makes for much more colorful blog fodder when one has one's camera at hand all the time]:

and here, after a walkoff home run, was the final score:

Can I just say how happy I was to be watching the Yankees play baseball? Even if it was only pre-season and even if it doesn't count, it makes me think spring really is on the way.

My large tins of steel-cut oats arrived yesterday. I didn't have time to get a batch in the crockpot last night, but I do have plenty of time this morning to make some on the stove, and I intend to do just that. I've learned that oatmeal for breakfast leaves me satisfied longer than any other breakfast option.

And I won't be running out of them for a long, long time.

Fifty-three days until race day.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Trying to avert disaster

A second post today, of the emergency variety. In order to avert further disaster, I thought it would be prudent [can you hear Dana Carvey as GWB the First, saying "Wouldn't be prudent."?] to write down that as of 1:45 p.m. I've already eaten 1146 calories of almost nothing but junk food. Things I never or rarely eat. Things like:
  • potato chips
  • pretzels
  • peanuts
  • candy [sugar-free, but still]
Who am I kidding?

I finished my five-mile run at noon and had to go fill up the car. [Gas prices are on the rise again … there must be lots of More Important News because I haven't seen any stories on Nightly with Brian Williams about it.] And there's a little mom-and-pop type store near the gas station and I just decided to pop in. I've been looking for a black display-type shelf that looks like a ladder; my hairdresser got one there quite a while ago, so I keep checking back.

I didn't need all that crap food. I have chicken noodle soup, vegetarian vegetable soup, cottage cheese, pb&j, stuff to make omelets – in other words, a stocked larder full of healthy lunch options. I'd have done well just to drive to the gas station, fill 'er up and drive home. Instead of stopping to fill me up on the way.

I usually follow a no-eating-in-the-car rule. Broke that one, too.

Is there a good thing here? Well, I did run five miles before I caved in. And the leftovers – yes, believe it or not there are leftovers – are already in the trash, covered with coffee grounds, and the trash goes to the curb tomorrow.

And, hopefully, it's over.