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20

Jan

Day 170, Bennington’s Biggest Loser
I’m back home after my first residency at Bennington’s MFA in Writing program. The cats are happy. I’m still recovering.
I expected to have my ass handed to me but it’s still right where it’s always been. Even more surprisingly it’s the same size, possibly a bit smaller. I felt sure that sitting on it constantly for 10 straight days, eating like a lumberjack, and avoiding the grim space that passes for the campus gym would have had the opposite effect. Note: “eating like a lumberjack” is a direct quote by a gorgeous and talented California fiction writer. She knows who she is. I’m planning to use that quote often. I’m only providing attribution this one time so please do take note.
Perhaps the first residency should be renamed The Bennington Diet. It looks something like this:
Arrive on campus. Worry incessantly that Admissions made a mistake. Assume that every new person you meet is going to explain this to you. The first pound disappears in about 20 minutes.
Attend every graduate lecture and reading. Devour cookies by the handful while marveling at levels of erudition you can never hope to match.
Take a break for lunch. Sample every dessert.
Consider the very real possibility that the graduating class has explored every decent topic in literature. There’s nothing left for you to write. Eat another cookie.
Pig out at dinner while listening to the scintillating literary conversations that surround you. Realize that you have wasted your life reading nothing of value. Serve yourself seconds from the ice cream bar.
Toss and turn on your thin mattress wondering whether any of the clothes you packed are going to fit tomorrow or any other day.
Repeat for the next nine days.
I’m amazed that after 10 days of eating like a lumberjack and zero gym time I came home a few pounds lighter. And today’s yoga class was a breeze. Maybe in this strange alternate universe my first assignment (a 25-page essay that’s due in about seven seconds) will be easy. I’m going to have to adjust my eating habits accordingly. Thanks to The Bennington Diet all I need to do is maintain.

Day 170, Bennington’s Biggest Loser

I’m back home after my first residency at Bennington’s MFA in Writing program. The cats are happy. I’m still recovering.

I expected to have my ass handed to me but it’s still right where it’s always been. Even more surprisingly it’s the same size, possibly a bit smaller. I felt sure that sitting on it constantly for 10 straight days, eating like a lumberjack, and avoiding the grim space that passes for the campus gym would have had the opposite effect. Note: “eating like a lumberjack” is a direct quote by a gorgeous and talented California fiction writer. She knows who she is. I’m planning to use that quote often. I’m only providing attribution this one time so please do take note.

Perhaps the first residency should be renamed The Bennington Diet. It looks something like this:

  • Arrive on campus. Worry incessantly that Admissions made a mistake. Assume that every new person you meet is going to explain this to you. The first pound disappears in about 20 minutes.
  • Attend every graduate lecture and reading. Devour cookies by the handful while marveling at levels of erudition you can never hope to match.
  • Take a break for lunch. Sample every dessert.
  • Consider the very real possibility that the graduating class has explored every decent topic in literature. There’s nothing left for you to write. Eat another cookie.
  • Pig out at dinner while listening to the scintillating literary conversations that surround you. Realize that you have wasted your life reading nothing of value. Serve yourself seconds from the ice cream bar.
  • Toss and turn on your thin mattress wondering whether any of the clothes you packed are going to fit tomorrow or any other day.
  • Repeat for the next nine days.

I’m amazed that after 10 days of eating like a lumberjack and zero gym time I came home a few pounds lighter. And today’s yoga class was a breeze. Maybe in this strange alternate universe my first assignment (a 25-page essay that’s due in about seven seconds) will be easy. I’m going to have to adjust my eating habits accordingly. Thanks to The Bennington Diet all I need to do is maintain.

31

Dec

Happy new year!

Warm wishes for a fabulous new year!

30

Nov

Breakfast service

PCS Breakfast Club continues to meet at my website www.jacquelinehouston.com. Today is Day 282. I’m still reading, enjoying breakfast, and counting down the days of my husband’s 400-day tour. Hope to see you for coffee soon.

27

Nov

PCS Breakfast Club

Breakfast is now being served here. Please stop by for coffee.

26

Nov

I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other. Rainer Maria Rilke
Day 286. Breakfast with 52 Hertz.
Yesterday I learned about a whale with a singular voice.

Dubbed “52 Hertz” after the frequency range in which he typically sings, the animal has been called the loneliest whale in the world, since his love songs seem destined to go unanswered. Most other species of baleen whale, such as blue whales and humpbacks, sing at frequencies much lower, between the 15-25 Hertz range.

A friend had shared a photo of the majestic mammal and many people had remarked on the sadness of his plight. Other whales don’t respond to his unique songs or cross his migration path yet he’s survived alone for at least 20 years. I find 52 Hertz inspiring. I only sing when I’m certain no one can hear me, I choose my own path carefully, and I enjoy my solitude most of the time. It helps to remember that mine isn’t permanent.

Day 286. Breakfast with 52 Hertz.

Yesterday I learned about a whale with a singular voice.

Dubbed “52 Hertz” after the frequency range in which he typically sings, the animal has been called the loneliest whale in the world, since his love songs seem destined to go unanswered. Most other species of baleen whale, such as blue whales and humpbacks, sing at frequencies much lower, between the 15-25 Hertz range.

A friend had shared a photo of the majestic mammal and many people had remarked on the sadness of his plight. Other whales don’t respond to his unique songs or cross his migration path yet he’s survived alone for at least 20 years. I find 52 Hertz inspiring. I only sing when I’m certain no one can hear me, I choose my own path carefully, and I enjoy my solitude most of the time. It helps to remember that mine isn’t permanent.

25

Nov

Man is a genius when he is dreaming. Akira Kurosawa
Day 287. Dream big.
I follow Smith College Executive Education for Women on Facebook, even though I have zero interest in being an executive myself. I’m interested in possibilities.
I gather from my various readings that societal attitudes about achievement and gender have changed and continue to change. Judging by my own personal observation and experience we’ve still got a long way to go.
I’ve never forgotten an incident I experienced as a 19-year-old Smith student, almost 30 years ago. Smith is a women’s college and part of the Five College Consortium that allows students to cross-register at neighboring schools. I decided to enroll in a course in modern Japanese film and history at Amherst College. My professor, whose name I forget, was a hip, witty, young Japanese-American who expected intelligent discourse from his students. He had posed a question, looked at the array of upraised hands, and called on me to respond. I started to answer and when I paused for a moment an Amherst student broke in. I wasn’t done so I turned to the other student and said politely and firmly, “Excuse me, I’m not finished.” He replied nastily, “You must be from Smith.” It seemed like every other student in the room laughed, although I can’t say so for sure. It wasn’t funny to me. I thought his remark and tone were ugly and unreasonable, albeit true. I was about to say something like, “What’s it to you, bub?” but our professor silenced everyone with a pithy remark that I wish I could remember. The professor made it clear that he was interested in carefully considered discussion points, not in the gender of the person presenting them.
Gender does matter. The important question to me is how does gender matter to each of us, especially when it comes to aspirations, to dreams.
This Forbes article discusses the impact of childhood dreams on the choices we make as adults. “In looking at the career aspirations of U.S. professionals as children, it seems that the astounding lack of women in some of the world’s most powerful professions could be explained by their childhood dreams.”
I think dreams should be big, brave, and free of gender associations. A career expert quoted in the article says, “The fact that childhood dream jobs are gendered isn’t all that surprising. As children our dreams tend to come from what we see right in front of us.”
I don’t remember wanting to be anything in particular when I was a child. I just wanted to make things. Looking over my varied career I wish I’d had the courage to focus on making more things earlier. I never stopped dreaming big, though, and now I write something every day. Maybe another person will see that I’m pursuing a dream and decide to do that, too; then I’d get two dreams fulfilled for the price of one.

Day 287. Dream big.

I follow Smith College Executive Education for Women on Facebook, even though I have zero interest in being an executive myself. I’m interested in possibilities.

I gather from my various readings that societal attitudes about achievement and gender have changed and continue to change. Judging by my own personal observation and experience we’ve still got a long way to go.

I’ve never forgotten an incident I experienced as a 19-year-old Smith student, almost 30 years ago. Smith is a women’s college and part of the Five College Consortium that allows students to cross-register at neighboring schools. I decided to enroll in a course in modern Japanese film and history at Amherst College. My professor, whose name I forget, was a hip, witty, young Japanese-American who expected intelligent discourse from his students. He had posed a question, looked at the array of upraised hands, and called on me to respond. I started to answer and when I paused for a moment an Amherst student broke in. I wasn’t done so I turned to the other student and said politely and firmly, “Excuse me, I’m not finished.” He replied nastily, “You must be from Smith.” It seemed like every other student in the room laughed, although I can’t say so for sure. It wasn’t funny to me. I thought his remark and tone were ugly and unreasonable, albeit true. I was about to say something like, “What’s it to you, bub?” but our professor silenced everyone with a pithy remark that I wish I could remember. The professor made it clear that he was interested in carefully considered discussion points, not in the gender of the person presenting them.

Gender does matter. The important question to me is how does gender matter to each of us, especially when it comes to aspirations, to dreams.

This Forbes article discusses the impact of childhood dreams on the choices we make as adults. “In looking at the career aspirations of U.S. professionals as children, it seems that the astounding lack of women in some of the world’s most powerful professions could be explained by their childhood dreams.”

I think dreams should be big, brave, and free of gender associations. A career expert quoted in the article says, “The fact that childhood dream jobs are gendered isn’t all that surprising. As children our dreams tend to come from what we see right in front of us.”

I don’t remember wanting to be anything in particular when I was a child. I just wanted to make things. Looking over my varied career I wish I’d had the courage to focus on making more things earlier. I never stopped dreaming big, though, and now I write something every day. Maybe another person will see that I’m pursuing a dream and decide to do that, too; then I’d get two dreams fulfilled for the price of one.

24

Nov

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus
Day 288. Breakfast with Larry.
I read the LA Times obituary for Larry Hagman before breakfast today. I didn’t know much about him beyond his wildly successful stints on television. The article included a quote about his approach to life that made perfect sense to me. Mr. Hagman wrote that he tried to live “…life as fully as possible before the clock runs out.” This is a particularly timely reminder for me as the winter solstice approaches. I’m not overly concerned about the Mayan doomsday prediction; I simply dread winter every year. My perspective on winter is different this year; I’m actually thrilled to be spending time in Vermont and starting school. Living my life as fully as possible will include curling up in front of a roaring fire with hot cocoa and my Kindle…and enjoying every moment of the coming winter.

Day 288. Breakfast with Larry.

I read the LA Times obituary for Larry Hagman before breakfast today. I didn’t know much about him beyond his wildly successful stints on television. The article included a quote about his approach to life that made perfect sense to me. Mr. Hagman wrote that he tried to live “…life as fully as possible before the clock runs out.” This is a particularly timely reminder for me as the winter solstice approaches. I’m not overly concerned about the Mayan doomsday prediction; I simply dread winter every year. My perspective on winter is different this year; I’m actually thrilled to be spending time in Vermont and starting school. Living my life as fully as possible will include curling up in front of a roaring fire with hot cocoa and my Kindle…and enjoying every moment of the coming winter.