Sweet Day

When I was teaching, I had almost no social life. I taught literally all the time. I taught writing which means hundreds of essays to read, correct and respond to. And, I taught seven classes. A full load for a tenured faculty member is four classes one semester, three the next. This means in a whole YEAR that person teaches as many classes as I taught in a semester. Usually they had grading assistants to help with their load. I had grading assistants two semesters in my entire 35+ year career. Seven classes means I normally taught three classes a day. My seventh class was usually on Saturday morning. I really didn’t have the time or inclination to get to know anyone.

When I moved away from California, I left virtually no friends behind except the one who, a year or two later, moved to Colorado Springs, and my wonderful neighbors who’d already moved to work and live on a ranch in Northern California.

Moving to Monte Vista changed my life in almost every way, but the desire to know people has been one of the best. I moved into a neighborhood and, in my neighborhood, I found friends.

Yesterday we got together for one of our infamous tea parties (but we had coffee). This was kind of special because it was on St. Lucia’s Day which, in my family, was always the first day of Christmas. It was the day we put up our tree. Sometimes my mother invited guests for dinner and she cooked Lutefisk of song and legend. She wasn’t Swedish, but my dad’s mom was. It was a huge event if that’s what happened.

Lutefisk is dried, salted whitefish that’s been preserved in lye. (Cue Viking music.) Lutefisk wasn’t easy to find, but my mom always managed to find it. It had to soak over night, transforming from a whiteish, silverish, grayish boardlike thing to a gelatinous mass. It was then boiled, served on boiled potatoes with a creamy white sauce that my grandmother made with real butter, my mom with margarine. Along with it we had lingonberries and potato sausage (yum). Sometimes Swedish rye bread.

My neighbor, K, is Swedish and last year we talked of a tea party on St. Lucia’s day, but I was very sick last year and it didn’t happen.

But it happened yesterday. My neighbor, E, made traditional Swedish saffron buns and I made Swedish fruit soup. Remembering that no Swede in my life EVER drank tea, I made coffee.

Our conversation went from cooking to memories to family to the future in the hands of upcoming generations (none-to-soon, IMO) to the sudden preponderance of complaints by women of sexual harassment. It’s a hot-button topic for me, not the most congenial subject, but there we were. Having been — most of the time — a single, working woman — I have had WAY too many experiences with it. When I complained to bosses, supervisors, I was NEVER believed. “He didn’t mean that,” was one response I got from a boss when a fellow teacher stood behind me while I was working on the shared computer in our office and said, “You know you want to stick your hand down my pants. Why don’t you?” He harassed another woman, too, and rather being reprimanded, he was told to get psychiatric help. Another case involved a fellow teacher who was on the tenure review committee when I was going for a tenured position. He made it very clear to me that if I didn’t “do him” I could forget tenure. I didn’t “do him” and I didn’t get tenure. When I complained, a supervising colleague believed me, but the Dean did not. These are just two stories of a long litany that left me thinking that some men (most men? all men?) will demonstrate dominance in whatever way they can whether it’s sexually or, as in the case of a boss at SDSU, by verbally abusing me in front of staff.

E seemed to think the “Me Too” movement would have an effect on changing the society. My take is that it’s human nature and that’s pretty hard to change, but maybe it would make people think twice. We didn’t reach a conclusion.

I don’t know. I am just grateful not to be on the road any more. Not to be walking into classrooms or called in by some boss who doesn’t understand what I do because he’s a system’s analyst and I’m a writing teacher. I love this valley with all my heart and soul. I like my neighbors very much and I’m grateful to have been dropped into this little nexus of kindness and old-fashioned values and manners. I don’t know the answer to the world’s problems, but I suspect more Swedish saffron buns, more fruit soup, more congenial conversations, more good neighbors, more generosity of heart and soul could fix a lot of things.




23 thoughts on “Sweet Day

  1. Lutefisk? RUN!!

    Lol…the rest of it sounds absolutely wonderful though, including the company.

    It’s “some men”. But they give “most men” a horrific reputation. I’m sorry you came into contact with more than your share of those “some”.

    • I figured it was “some men” because it was always just some men but way too many, starting my freshman year in college. 😦 A good thing about being old and retired is NOT dealing with that.

  2. I love that you have found a “home” with caring friendly sharing wonderful neighbours. I was so involved as a single parent raising my family, I didn’t take time to make friends. In the small community in which I lived, people got together at a bar I wasn’t interested in being with people whose goal was to drink until they dropped. It’s never been my thing. So I worked, raised my kids, was there for them whenever they needed me and I was gloriously happy. Now that I’m older and have moved, I’ve made one friend. Her work schedule is crazy and we had one lunch since I’ve met her. I look forward to sharing good times with her again when her schedule allows. I’m not given to making friends, close friends. Indeed, I feel closer and have shared more about my life here, with you and several others and feel closer to you than I have many I’ve met in my life outside of “internet world”. Your acceptance, interest in my tidbits of writing are touching indeed. Your sharing of your life stories has filled me to the nth degree with interesting humourous intriguing moments I am delighted to find on a daily base. I can’t thank you enough for your friendship, your comments, your stories. You are a delight.

  3. I totally agree that it’s human nature. We are in the midst of an awareness campaign, but I fear that’s all it will be in the end, and that change is unlikely. We are, after all, animals, and those who are being ‘outed’ have acted on their animal instincts.

  4. Lutefisk sounds kind of awful, but so does gefilte fish and I often like it, especially when its homemade.

    Friends are the best part of life.

    As for “Me too,” we have all been having this conversation. I think it will make people more careful about how they behave. I don’t think it is going to be a huge thing. I wish I did think that, but it’s too much of a giant grab bag where merely being annoying and making really stupid jokes is lumped in with actual rape and assault. That stuff has to be sorted out. It is NOT all the same and should be. Will this ever get really sorted out? Your guess is as good as mine. But I think it will make public people (at least) more cautious and that’s something.

    • It might also make it more likely that women will be believed when they try to report it. I could always tell the difference between flirting, joking and something that was completely inappropriate. I think most of us can tell the difference. I guess that’s the part that pissed me off the most, when a boss would say, “Oh he’s just flirting,” well not when he talks about me putting my hand in his pants. That’s not flirting.

  5. It makes me smile to read your posts about where you live now, Martha. I know I’ve told you before, but the love and warmth just shines through. Your home looks very cozy and is that Mindy in the photo? She looks adorable.

    • Yay! My neighborhood could use a person like you. We have no kill shelters that work their tails off (not a pun) finding homes for dogs. One of them — in the small and incredibly beautiful town of San Luis drives a van load of dogs 150 miles every Saturday to a big city for an adoption fair. Lots of free-roaming, not-neutered farm dogs so it’s a problem. We are a neighborhood as big as Connecticut, wide, open spaces, NICE NICE people (you’ve read my blog), farming, ranching, hunting for actual FOOD not for fun.

      Our schools need teachers. Oh my god!!! So badly.

      Standard of living is somewhat low, median income around $25k, nice BIG houses go for around $160K, little cute ones like mine under $100k. Seriously. Horses, sheep, wild animals, BIG mountains, the Upper Rio Grande. It’s the most beautiful place on the planet (except for all the other most beautiful places on the planet 🙂 )

      We have some of the usual problems of impoverished regions. It’s not perfect here, but everyone takes responsibility to care for his/her neighbor. Seriously. When I first moved here, I sometimes wondered (seriously) if I’d died and just didn’t know it and had landed in Heaven.

      • You’ve given me a lot to think about. I suppose I should visit first. I just signed on to be a grant writer for a dog rescue in New England so I’m glad to be contributing to the cause. If I had my own place down there I would absolutely have as many animals as humanly possible. Maybe I’ll send out my resume . . . I’m looking for a change of scenery.

        • We’re very informal out here (since there just aren’t that many people). That was a big adjustment for me and I haven’t made it completely. Here’s the rescue I was telling you about. It’s really two elderly-ish people and a lot of volunteers. https://www.facebook.com/slvaws/ If you do Facebook and you were to follow them for a while you’d get a good sense of how things work, not just animal rescue but everything. 🙂

        • Last year the superintendent of the Saguache school district (beautiful, beautiful small town in a pretty part of the Valley) wrote about their teacher shortage and how difficult it was to get teachers to stay. There is a university in Alamosa as well. So…the opportunities are here if you want to check them out. And definitely visit first. I love this place, but I know it’s not for everyone. There’s no real airport — our airport is one of those that has two flights a day out to big cities and a couple flights to smaller towns in the area. Most people just drive to Denver to get a flight. It’s 3 hours from Albuquerque, four hours to Denver, 3 to Colorado Springs. Lots of people drive to Pueblo to shop — they don’t think anything of it and it’s no big deal in good weather. It can happen that all the passes out of here are closed, but it’s rare. It also gets very, very cold for 1 week to 10 days every winter, like -20. We also have one week in summer when it’s hot. Otherwise, the weather is moderate, pleasant. The wind can blow, but nothing like I experienced in California. The sun shines almost 300 days/year which is wonderful. More stuff to think about.

  6. This is a nice tribute to Monte Vista and the people who live there. As you know, I feel the same about Craig. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about you, your upbringing, and your killer work load. I don’t know how you survived.

    • Thank you! What I don’t understand is why I stayed. I could have come back to Colorado any time and I NEVER did. I think my nose was just so close to that grindstone that I couldn’t see!!!

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