Monday, May 23, 2016

Welcome, Madilyne Jane

I left Greencastle, Indiana, on Monday at 4:45 p.m. I completed the 18-hour drive, along scenic, un-trafficked Route 36, by 5:15 p.m. the next day, spending the night in Hannibal, Missouri, but taking no time to wander in Tom Sawyer's footsteps along the banks of the Mississippi. I was a woman with a mission: to get home in time to welcome my new little grandbaby into the world.

And I did.

Madilyne Jane Wahl was born on Wednesday, at 1:00 p.m.: 8 pounds, 8 ounces. I wasn't in the hospital room for her birth via Cesarean section because I was home taking care of now-big-sister Kataleya. Later that afternoon we met "baby sister" for the first time.

For the next three days I was Nanny Mimsie as Madilyne's parents were busy with her at the hospital. I did my best to give Kataleya a good time while we eagerly awaited Madi's arrival home on Saturday. (The photos are sideways, alas, for some unaccountable reason, and impossible to fix on Google Blogger, but if you turn your head you can see her sweet little self.)

We went to the park.
She rode the bus for the first time, to the university library, for me to get some books.
Finally, Baby Sister came home!
I'm so grateful this photo is posting right-side-up. If Madilyne Jane isn't Little Miss Huggable, I don't know who is. Welcome to the world, darling little girl. Mimsie loves you already.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Culture of Appreciation

Today is my last day at DePauw. My students turn in their final work for the term at 5:00 p.m., and I start driving to Boulder at 5:01, in order to complete the 18-hour drive in time for the birth of granddaughter Madilyne Jane (via c-section) on Wednesday.

This last week - indeed, these last few weeks - have been filled with end-of-year celebrations of every kind. One thing this place excels at is displays of appreciation. I have never worked anywhere where I have felt so appreciated or been given so many opportunities to show my appreciation for others.

I attended the Senior Showcase, where the top graduates present their best work to an audience of faculty, parents, and peers. I beamed with pride at the Phi Beta Kappa initiation dinner where five of my students were inducted into membership. I happily accepted an invitation to a recognition ceremony at one campus sorority. Many of my students received end-of-year honors at the Academic Awards assembly. Faculty publications were heralded in a fat booklet shared at the Faculty Recognition Reception where half a dozen colleagues were feted with exquisitely worded 8-10 minute tributes for their recent books or other accomplishments. The Prindle Institute for Ethics sponsored an elegant dinner where students received prizes for papers in a range of disciplines focused on the discussion of ethical issues. President Brian Casey hosted an extremely fancy gathering at his home to announce faculty recipients of endowed chairs, where colleagues gave beautiful send-offs to retiring faculty with speeches that moved many of us to tears.

I thanked my students for a wonderful semester with parties in each class. After the immigration class party, one student asked me if she could meet with me briefly to discuss her final paper. She asked me a couple of halting, awkward questions for a minute or two - and then her two co-conspirators came bursting into my office with flowers, a cupcake, and a postcard of Greencastle so I would never forget them. One of them wrote on the postcard that if there were a Nobel Prize for teaching, I would get it.

This is completely untrue, of course. What IS true is that if there were a Nobel Prize for expressions of gratitude and appreciation, these students would get it, nurtured by a university culture that encourages all of us to take the time and make the effort to let others know how much they are valued.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sister Fun in Indy

One of my regrets from this final semester (ever?) of teaching at DePauw is that I haven't made enough time to savor the charms of my adopted state. My first years here I was obsessed with exploring Indiana. I would stay up late reading Indiana guidebooks, too excited to sleep. My sister, then living in New Jersey, would come to Indiana on business, and we would have weekends crammed full of sister fun: outings to the former utopian colony at New Harmony, Lincoln's boyhood home, the early territorial capital of Vincennes, the stunning resort at West Baden Springs, museums in Indianapolis.

Now my sister lives right here in Indiana, just an hour away from me, but I've had less time for sister fun than I did before, given my heavier teaching load and more frequent  visits home to Colorado. But with just two weekends left before I drive home to Boulder on May 15, sister fun could be postponed no longer.

So yesterday she and I headed to the Indianapolis Art Museum for their new exhibit honoring Indiana's bicentennial. What would be the most fitting way for an art museum to honor two hundred years of Indiana history and culture, you might ask. Why, a mini-golf course on a rooftop plaza with each of the 18 holes designed by an artist in celebration of some aspect of this state's life and lore, of course.

The first hole honored the Great Squirrel Invasion of 1822, a moment from Indiana's past that I must confess had not been on my radar.
I did not succeed in getting my ball to drop out of President Benjamin Harrison's mouth.
My ball did ping off the chimes set to play "Back Home Again in Indiana."
Naturally one hole depicted Indiana's patchwork quilt of farmlands:
And another showcased its covered bridges.
Cheryl and I are both decidedly non-athletic, and even though the little buttons we were given to wear proclaimed that mini-golf was "like a sport, only easier," we were both very bad at it, which only added to the hilarity. Candor compels me to confess, however, that she beat me by three strokes in the end.

I've so loved being Hoosier sisters! But even if, in another two weeks, we'll no longer be living in the same state, we'll still be sisters, and silly sisters, forever.