Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lazy Summer Days

Do you want to know what is quiet?  Here is what is quiet: Memorial Day weekend in Greencastle, Indiana.  With DePauw commencement a week ago today, all the students are gone.  Many faculty are gone as well, off to summer adventures.  The campus has no activities whatsoever listed on its website calendar.  Even the Blue Door Cafe is closed for these three days.

So I had to make my own fun.  Friday night I had dinner with my friend Keith at the Final Approach restaurant out at the Putnam County Airport.  Our table was right next to the runway, so we could watch all the planes take off and land.  Well, we could have watched all the planes take off and land if there had been even one single plane that had taken off or landed during the time we were dining.  But the $4 flavored martinis (I had green apple with cherries) were delicious.

Saturday morning I found the one truly happening spot in town, the Greencastle Farmers' Market, open now for its second Saturday of the season.  I have to confess that the pickings were slim: fewer than a dozen stands, most selling crafts rather than farm produce, and most of the farm produce just lettuce.  But I was there for almost two extremely happy hours, sitting in the shade on the courthouse steps chatting with colleagues and watching their little children at play.

Saturday afternoon stretched ahead.  What to do?  Then I opened up my Indianapolis guidebook and launched a lovely plan to take myself on an outing the Indianapolis Museum of Art
It is an extremely wonderful place, set on the grounds of the Lilly family summer estate, with gorgeous gardens (see above) and a truly terrific collection of European and American paintings, as well as African and Asian art. I treated myself to a light pureed broccoli soup and half chicken salad sandwich at the Nourish Cafe there, as well.  And guess what they had on offer as a beverage?  Fruit-infused water!  My new favorite thing in the whole world!  I had a mix of pineapple and strawberry.

Now it's Sunday.  Church this morning - thank God for that!  Peaceful puttering at the Prindle this afternoon to finish writing the abstract of a paper I've been asked to contribute to a forthcoming volume of philosophical essays on manipulation, done with a full two hours to spare before I leave for the airport for my flight to Chicago, where I'll connect for my flight tomorrow to Beijing.  My lazy, quiet summer is about to take a turn for big time adventure!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Countdown to China

In a little more than forty-eight hours I'll be heading to the Indy airport to fly to Chicago; I'll stay overnight at an airport hotel there, and then on Monday morning, I'll hop on another plane and travel half the world away to CHINA!

I was lucky enough to be invited to the inaugural Chinese/American children's literature conference, hosted this year at Ocean University in Qingdao, China.  Ten American scholars and ten Chinese scholars were invited to attend.  The theme of the conference is "The Image of the Child in Chinese and American Children's Literature."  My paper is titled "Wimpy Boys and Spunky Girls: The Image of the Gendered Child in Postwar American Children’s Literature."  It looks at the trend in chapter books to create series starring strong, sassy girls versus series starring hapless, overwhelmed boys and locates the origin of this trend in the Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby books of Beverly Cleary.  All of our papers had to be submitted by April 1 to allow time for translation, as the conference will be bilingual.

Before the conference begins on June 1, several of the American scholars are meeting first in Beijing for sightseeing.  I'll have one day on my own with two scholar friends going to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and one day going on an organized tour to the Great Wall and the Summer Palace.  We'll also have a sightseeing day in Qingdao, which lies right on the Yellow Sea.

I think I have everything in order: passport, visa, hotel reservations in Beijing (everything will be taken care of for us in Qingdao), high-speed train reservations from Beijing to Qingdao, business cards (I learned on my trip to Taiwan that people in Asia love exchanging business cards), gifts for our hosts, travel guide, and lots of books downloaded onto my Kindle to read on the plane, as well as plenty of pads and pens for writing, of course.  

I'm only going for a little more than a week, but it's so far away - and it's CHINA!  So today I feel like Marco Polo must have felt as I double-check my piles to make sure I haven't forgotten anything.  Oh, maybe I need a plug adapter so I can recharge my Kindle and Ipad at the hotel?  And maybe I need a special notebook for journal of my trip?   Oh, and I should charge the battery for my camera!  And put a vacation message on my email.  And just let myself get as excited as possible.  In just two more days, I'm on my away to CHINA!

Monday, May 21, 2012

New from the Blue Door

Now that Commencement with all its attendant hoopla is behind me, it's time for me to reconnect with other Greencastle pleasures.  I had breakfast this morning out at the Prindle Institute with Nicki and Linda (apple water today! as tasty as last week's orange water), and lunch at the Blue Door Cafe with Keith.  There I was thrilled to see that the Blue Door Cafe aprons had arrived for purchase, my own marketing suggestion, if I do say so myself.  And with them were Blue Door Cafe potholders!  I snapped up several sets, of course, and hurried back to the Prindle to model my new outfit for Nicki and Linda.  Nicki took this picture of me, as Linda framed me in a Vanna White moment.

Linda did seem somewhat puzzled that I would be so excited to have a Blue Door apron and Blue Door potholder when I never cook anything all year long and consume all my daily calories from Prindle breakfasts, Blue Door lunches, and Dairy Castle dinners whenever I'm not eating the enormous amount of free food constantly provided at every university event.  She seemed relieved, however, when I told her that I do cook on both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And now I now exactly what I will be wearing on both occasions.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


My first year at DePauw is coming to its official close.  I will be based here at the university through the end of June (though departing from here for two conference trips, one to Boston and one to CHINA), but this is the weekend for all the ceremonies that mark the end of the academic year.

So far I've attended:
1) barbecue for the Prindle Institute student interns at the beautiful home of our director, Bob Steele
2) reception for graduating Philosophy Department seniors at the beautiful home of my colleague Jeff Dunne (side note: one of the features of life in Greencastle that most provokes envy from a transplanted Boulderite is the incredibly amazing houses that can be purchased for less than a quarter of what they would cost in Boulder - no, more like a fifth or a sixth of what they would cost in Boulder - you can get a stunningly restored Victorian charmer for $155,000!).
3) women's studies luncheon for Sara Lennox, prominent German studies feminist scholar who is receiving an honorary degree from DePauw (her alma mater) this year
4) commissioning ceremony for a student from my Rousseau class who has just become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marines
5) graduation ceremony for students in the Posse Program - a terrific program that brings outstanding minority/first generation students from New York City and Chicago to DePauw and helps provide them with the support they need to succeed in this very different environment - this year, for the first time since the program came to DePauw fifteen years ago, all ten students in the New York Posse graduated together, many with highest honors
6) Baccalaureate service - beautiful music, moving interfaith prayers, great speech from President Casey who arrived on campus four years ago as a new college president, accompanied by this very graduating class, then brand-new freshmen
7) DePauw Under the Stars - campus trees decorated with fairyland lights or hung with Japanese lanterns, big band jazz, cake, free-flowing champagne.

And this morning: Commencement!
And then, for me as for the students: the rest of my life.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


As part of my new craze (well, standing craze) for self-improvement, I am trying to make myself drink more water. It sounds so easy, just to pour yourself a glass of water, eight times a day, and drink it.  But for some reason, it hasn't been easy for me.  I'm daunted by the thought of that volume of wetness.  (I don't much like getting into a swimming pool, either.) And although I think of myself as adoring all things having to do with Indiana, I must say that the water here tastes funny, at least for someone used to the taste of water in her home state of Colorado.

So at the Prindle yesterday, Linda, Nicki, and I were talking about water, and how boring it can be as a beverage.  There are a number of books with "water" in the title: The Weight of Water, The Color of Water.  We thought of our own title: The Boringness of Water. Then I left to go to my Philosophy Department office to collect my students' final papers for the semester, in my favorite ceremony where each student individually hands me his or her paper and we have a sweet moment of closure on the course we've shared together.

When I returned to the Prindle, I opened the refrigerator in the Prindle kitchen, and what did my eyes behold?  The most exquisite container of water, with sliced oranges floating in it, prepared for us by Linda. I poured myself a glass of water, turning the little spigot at the bottom of the container.  I tasted the water.  It was delicious, infused with a subtle flavoring of orange - nothing overpowering - but amazingly refreshing.

Orange water!  The best!

I hastened to Kroger after work to buy apples, limes, more oranges, a cucumber.  Apple water!  Lime water! Cucumber water!  I can hardly wait.
One of the little quotes on a Celestial Seasonings tea box says, " Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea."  Now I know that water can so easily be flavored water.

Off to pour myself another glass. . . . 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Breakfasts at the Prindle

The happiest part of my happy days at DePauw is my breakfast every weekday morning out at the Prindle Institute, where I have one of my two offices (the other one is on campus in the Philosophy Department suite in Asbury Hall).  For the last several months, I've been having breakfast every day with Linda, our assistant director, and Nicki, our graduate intern.

I'm usually the one who arrives at the Prindle first, and I busy myself in my office until Nicki comes to announce to me that she and Linda have arrived and it is time for breakfast!  Occasionally, if I'm absolutely beside myself with eagerness for our breakfast, I pace around by the front door (accumulating beneficial steps counted on my pedometer) and peer out to the parking lot for the first glimpse of their arriving cars.

We each bring our breakfasts from home, or else keep the supplies for them stashed in the cupboards and fridge of the Prindle kitchen.  Linda's breakfasts have the most variety and are of exemplary healthfulness: a hard-boiled egg, or an egg poached in her little-microwave-poaching device - and some kind of fiber-rich cereal, and fresh fruit (blueberries, an apple).  Nicki and I have no variety at all.  Nicki has Lunchables, which actually look more appealing than they sound, as she spreads her crackers with herbed creamcheese and thin-sliced turkey.  I have half of a grapefruit with one packet of sugar and half of a toasted Ezekiel-brand whole-wheat English muffin, topped with some Amish cheddar cheese from the Bloomington farmers' market.  Once you start eating the Ezekiel-brand muffins (introduced to me by Linda), you can never go back to Thomas's, which were for decades my English muffin of choice.  After Ezekiel-brand, Thomas's is like eating air.  An Ezekiel English muffin stays with you for hours.

So we assemble our breakfasts.  Then we eat them together, perched on the Prindle counters.  We talk over all the MANY MANY developments in our lives since we departed from each other's company yesterday afternoon or evening (Nicki and I walk most evenings, with her dog, Henry).  And then we are ready to start our day.

I find myself remembering one of my best-loved passages from Winnie-the-Pooh:

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing  you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh.  "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
 Pooh nodded thoughtfully.  "It's the same thing," he said.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Filling a Frame

I'm back in Indiana after a brief, but delicious, Mother's Day getaway to Colorado.  In three short days, I celebrated Christopher's graduation from his U.S. Army Reserves occupational training (construction and masonry) and Gregory's successful completion of his sophomore year at CU, working toward his double degree in computer science (College of Engineering) and jazz studies/saxophone performance (College of Music).  In addition to two festive family meals, I had dinner with my friend Diane, tea with Rowan and Gretchen, a hike with Rowan, breakfast with my writing group, and playtime with Cat and her darling little boy, Max.  Best of all, I attended church on Sunday, where Christopher returned in glory, wearing his military uniform, to resume his beloved post at the St. Paul's piano to accompany our prelude-and-postlude singing group, Alpha and Omega. 

All of this made me think that the brief time span of a short visit forced me to use my time wisely, to plan it out carefully, making sure to cram it full of as much fun and joy as possible.  I didn't have any time to waste, so I didn't waste any.  Every moment was one to remember.

I'm now keenly aware that I have just thirteen and a half months until my appointment in Indiana comes to an end on June 30, 2013.  I have so much still that I want to accomplish while I'm here. This coming fall I'll be teaching Children's Literature, in the English department at DePauw, for the first time in my life.  I'm organizing a major conference on Ethics and Children's Literature; I've just reviewed the submissions from my call for papers, and they are amazing.  I have so many sights in Indiana left to see.  And of course, I plan to go home transformed by my experience and present myself as the new, improved Claudia!

It helps to have a clear time frame to fill, whether it be a weekend, or thirteen-and-a-half months, or thirty more years of a lifespan.  It's time for me think of what I really want to do with those hours, months, years.  And then to do them.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last Day Party

Today is the final day of my class on Feminism and the Family.  We've been having student presentations for the last few classes, with each of the 9 students in the class giving a half hour presentation on the topic of her final paper for the course.  Students are addressing such questions as: Is it ethically permissible for white women to adopt black children? Should adoption be open or closed?  How directive should parents be in their child rearing, given respect for children's emerging autonomy?  What is meant by the concept of "unconditional love"?

Today is our class party.  I always like to have a subject-matter-themed party if I can.  Last semester, for my Rousseau class, we ate foods Jean-Jacques mentioned in his Confessions: crusty baguettes, Swiss and French cheeses, ripe cherries.  This time, because we had shared together so many stories about our own families and how they raised us, I asked student to give me a list of their childhood favorite foods and drinks.

So this is the shopping list for my trip to Kroger's this morning:
Hawaiian punch
goldfish crackers
gummy bears
Sour Patch Kids
apple cinnamon rice cakes
zebra cakes

As I decided we also need to have what might be called "real food," I'm getting a Subway party platter as well.  Then we'll indulge in some nostalgic treats. And another semester will be over.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hoosier Happiness

Today in my quest for my fill of Hoosier happiness, I organized an outing with my friend Nicki, who is always a most agreeable companion on my Indiana explorations.

First stop: the Bloomington farmers' market, with fresh salad greens, asparagus, and dead-ripe strawberries galore, as well as artisan breads, Amish cheeses, and more.  We both bought greens and strawberries; I also bought an extraordinarily delicious bowl of hot, steel-cut oatmeal cooked with raisins, dried apricots, cinnamon, and vanilla for a lovely late breakfast.

Stop number two: lost from taking the wrong turn at a poorly signed detour, we found ourselves at the Tibetan Cultural Center and wandered around a bit there.  Nicki had just told me, when we were lost, that she learned on study abroad in Ghana to be contented wherever you ended up, even if it wasn't where you had intended to be, so she enjoyed seeing that philosophy of life so appropriately confirmed mere moments after she uttered it.

Stop number three: the best stop! -the home and studio of famed Hoosier Impressionist artist T.C. Steele and his second wife, a fellow artist.  Their House of the Singing Winds has carved over the fireplace these words: "Every morning I take off my hat to the beauty of the world."  The beauty of the world was everywhere around us, in green rolling hills, gardens of peonies, choruses of birdsong.

Stop number four: lunch at the Muddy Boots Cafe in the charming touristy town of Nashville, Indiana, a restaurant recommendation we solicited from an artist painting on the grounds of the T.C. Steele historic site.  After that, we stopped for home-made ice-cream, of course, and poked into a  few shops.

Then we drove home: Brown County to Monroe County to Owen County to Putnam County.  Indiana, from now on, I plan every morning to take off my hat to your beauty!  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Indiana Insomnia

I have always been a sleeper of legendary talent.  I would go to bed, place my head upon the pillow, fall asleep moments later, and sleep until I would awaken eight or nine or ten hours later, more out of guilt than wakefulness.  I have often said that I wouldn't mind dying if there could be a clock somewhere on the inside of my coffin that I could check periodically with the welcome thought, "I don't have to get up yet!"

This has changed since I moved to Indiana. For the first time in my life, I am having trouble sleeping. I wake in the middle of the night, obsessed with Indiana, all the Indiana places I want to see, all the Indiana adventures that yet await me.  I have several guidebooks that I read before going to sleep at night, which doesn't help: My Indiana: 101 Places to See (I want to see them all!) - Scenic Driving Indiana (I want to drive all of it!).  My friend Keith loaned me an Indiana guidebook published in the 1940s, written by FDR's Public Works Administration: delicious!

I was relieved two weekends ago to visit New Harmony and Lincoln's boyhood home with my sister: I could cross off that corner of southern Indiana.  But then my friend Linda told me that I hadn't yet seen the West Baden Springs Hotel, dubbed the ninth wonder of the world.  How could I have missed it?  Now I need to go back to southern Indiana again.  And there is so much of the rest of Indiana left to see!

For this weekend, I'm frantically planning outings for both Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday: a drive with Nicki to the farmers' market in Bloomington, and then on to scenic Brown County and the historic home of Hoosier Impressionist T.C. Steele.  Then on a future trip I'll have to return to that part of the state to visit the town of Columbus, Indiana, ranked the sixth most architecturally significant city in the United States because its public buildings have all been designed by famous architects.  Sunday: the world-class Children's Museum in Indianapolis with colleague Rachel. 

I need to work today, I really do, but I can't stop peeking in my guidebooks to plan my route for Saturday so I don't miss any other wonders of the world along the way.  And I have a feeling that tonight may find me awake at 3 a.m., thinking: artists' colonies in Brown County?  Brown County State Park?  Little shops in Nashville, Indiana?