Thoughts from a Noble Woman: On Holidays and Family Dinners

In honor of the Season, and all the accompanying stress it brings, I hunted through M.A.’s journal hoping to find something that could help us. (In case you missed it, our discovery of M.A. was first mentioned HERE.)
Sure enough, we found something! Not only that, we found a most intriguing recipe for apple pie that includes… wait for it… wine! (Gasp!)

MA 2

From M.A.’s Journal

The holidays bring mixed feelings: Joy, for what we hope they will be, Dread, for what we fear they will be. We place so much importance on these days, wanting everything to be perfect, only to be tired by the end of them.
Remember that holidays are made by humankind, for humankind. No more than that. They are what you make of them. Resolve now to make them what you need, not what you imagine you want.

Family is coming. Why does that make us nervous? Are these not the people with whom you shared your childhood?
Yes. Perhaps that explains it.
When apart, we choose to think of our past as we want. When together, we’re forced to see things as they really are. No matter what we want to believe of ourselves, these are the people to whom we belong.
Are we shamed for not living up to their standards, or for they not living up to ours?
No matter, for both are folly.
If it is your actions, then change them. If it is theirs, accept. It is all you can do. That, and love. Love the quirkiness, the eccentricities, the pain. Yes, even the pain, for all of it is what made you who you are today.
Therefore, the Noble Woman has three tasks before her with regard to others:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Love

With regard to herself, a fourth task is added to these:

4. Resolve to do better

Also, make a pie. Families who eat pie together, smile together. No one argues. No one fights. The world is a happier place when people eat pie.

This is truth.

From M.A.’s Recipe Drawer

Tipsy Apple Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy with cheats
  • Print

There's not enough alcohol in this pie to qualify as tipsy, but the wine helps bring out the flavor of the fruit. If you'd rather not use it, I suggest a tart fruit juice such as cranberry.

Apple Pie

Ingredients

  • basic pie pastry for a 9″ double-crust pie*
  • 6 to 7 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used the Golden Delicious variety)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine (I used a Zinfandel)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Egg wash and raw sugar for top of crust

Directions

Heat oven to 425°. Roll out pastry for bottom of pie, line 9″ pie plate. Roll out top crust; cover with a clean towel as you make the filling. (See note below for alternative to using crust.)

In a large bowl, combine apples and lemon juice. In another bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add to apples, along with wine, and stir. Fill pie plate with fruit, top with bits of butter. Cover with top crust, cut and flute the edges. Cut a few vents on top of crust; brush on egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower oven to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes. Test to see if the fruit is tender by inserting a knife through a vent.

Note: You can use pre-made pie crusts to make this easier, or skip the crust altogether and make an Apple Crumble: Pour fruit filling into a greased 9″ baking pan or casserole dish. For crumble topping, mix together: 4 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and a pinch of salt. Bake as directed above. 

Thoughts on Beauty, Pigeons, and Persian Cats

I was thinking about Beauty the other daythat’s Beauty with a capital Bwhen that Byron piece popped into my head:

She walks in beauty, like the night
               Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
    And all that’s best of dark and bright
        Meet in her aspect and her eyes

Actually, those exact words didn’t pop into my head. It was more like,

She walks in beauty like the… um… night
   Something, something… yada, yada…
How’s that go again?

So I Googled it and got the exact wording (see above, top).

Word on the street is that Lord Byron penned these words after seeing his cousin in her mourning dress. Even if black was her color, we can assume the dress wasn’t the reason for his rapture. (Though with Byron, anything goes.)

Third stanza:

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow, 
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, 
The smiles that win, the tints that glow, 
But tell of days in goodness spent, 
A mind at peace with all below, 
A heart whose love is innocent!

There was a woman I knew from my younger days, way back when, who I think illustrates Byron’s point to some extent. She went to our church.

Usually children never take much notice of older people unless they impact our lives in some way. Such as a neighbor lady who bakes cookies, or a friend’s mother who will back the cost of the ice cream man.

Children are selfish beasts that way.

Be that as it may, this particular woman I noticed. My mother was talking to her and as I stood to the side waiting — I never participated in any conversation willingly — I was struck by her brightly colored dress. Church ladies in those days typically chose subdued prints, such as a demure pastel floral. But this woman was wearing magenta.

Magenta!

Secondly, and more importantly, I noticed how happy the woman appeared. Most of the women of my acquaintance, the best you could hope for was that they were mildly pleasant. More often they were… shall we say, a little on edge. So much so that an empty juice glass set next to the sink, rather than in the sink, could send them off the deep end.

Yet this woman was smiling and cheerful and looked for all the world as though life was a wondrous thing to be savored and enjoyed. She was positively radiant.

Later I asked my mother who she was and was shocked to learn she had attended our church for several years. This was news to me. How was it I never noticed her before? Or her radiance?

“Oh, she didn’t use to be this way,” my mother replied.

I asked her what changed.

“Her husband died.”

And so you see? Lord Byron was right. Grief is a beautiful thing.

Continuing on our theme of Beauty, I met a pair of pigeons the other day.

They were enjoying a quiet respite in the grocery store parking lot, where someone had very thoughtfully dropped a milkshake and half-eaten container of french fries. The couple was partaking of the bounty.

As I passed, the male regarded me in that peculiar pigeon way they have, where they study your face very carefully and store the knowledge, as it may come in handy later.

He was a pretty boy and so I told him. I said, “Aren’t you a pretty boy.” Not as a question, you see, but as a declaration. For indeed, he was pretty. The top of his head was a shimmery purple and his breast had specks of green and black, with just a dash of gray. Truly, he was a pigeon among pigeons.

He showed no sign of false modesty after hearing my compliment. Birds never do. They don’t look down at their feathers as though to say, “Oh, these old things?” They simply accept your words as a matter of course.

Then I noticed his companion and frankly, I was shocked. With her scruffy grayish-brown feathers and dull aspect, she looked the bird equivalent of a woman in an oversized t-shirt and sweatpants.

And not a flattering oversized t-shirt and sweatpants, neither.

You would think that such a noble bird as he was, she would make more of an effort, wouldn’t you? But no, not her. She squatted in the midst of milkshake froth, a limp french fry dangling from her mouth.

Pigeon

Honestly. I was embarrassed for her.

And yet — and yet, people — it did nothing to diminish his admiration of her in any way. And that is the main thing.

For Love is a Beautiful thing. And blind. Terribly blind.

So if you’ve been paying attention, Beauty is both Sad and Lovely.

Yet there is another aspect to Beauty I think we must discuss, for it is something I learned from a Persian cat. And anything you learn from a Persian cat is something worth discussing.

Missy, for that was her name, the name of the Persian cat, was a gloriously beautiful, white cat.

All cats know they are beautiful, especially Persians. Even when they are not beautiful, cats know they are beautiful. This is a scientific fact.

Missy shared her home with a Cockapoo named Bubbles.

Yes, you read that right: Bubbles.

Bubbles was an embarrassment to the entire canine community. I knew it, Missy knew it, Bubbles knew it.

Bubbles was afraid of everything. The sound of the furnace kicking on sent her cowering to the corner. A sheet of paper flying off a table made her jump. The dog was a walking bundle of nerves.

So it probably didn’t help matters that Missy’s favorite form of entertainment was to sit on one side of a doorway and wait patiently, oh-so-patiently, until Bubbles entered the room. And then, floomph! Missy sprang out and Bubbles yelped, taking off in three different directions all at once, usually urinating in the process.

Meanwhile, Missy ambled away as though nothing happened, returning to her cushioned throne, where she would groom herself.

Persian cat

For Beauty is Cruel.

Beauty is Sad and Lovely and Cruel.

And thus ends my treatise on Beauty for today.

Thoughts from a Noble Woman: On Clothing and Fashion Mishaps

We have an interesting development in our mysterious M.A.’s diary (first discussed here): it looks like she gave considerable thought into how she presented herself, clothing-wise.

How many philosophers can you name spent time thinking of such things?

Yeah, same here.

And yet, it can be argued, it is hardly a trivial pursuit. How you dress makes a difference in how people see you, and perhaps in how you perform.

But as M.A. points out, there is a dark side to taking such matters seriously, that being, feeling yourself superior as a result.

And personally? I love how she struggles with it!

Just see for yourself:

MA 2

Do not think that because you choose your attire with care that you are somehow better than she who does not.
Such as the woman you saw at the store this morning.
What was she thinking? For goodness sake, what would her mother say?
What would my mother say?
No! Stop it!
All women are your sisters – remember this. No matter how they are dressed, they are your equals.
Do not judge them because their slip is showing; you’ve been there too.
Never laugh at their fashion choices; you’ve taken questionable paths as well.
However scandalous the hemlines – oh dear, they are scandalous…
No! Don’t think it! Instead, repeat to yourself:

Clothing is not Morality
Clothing is not Intelligence
Clothing is not Kindness

And if in finding a woman who thinks as you do, who shares your fashion sense, if together you show contempt for a younger woman’s clothing, what does that accomplish except cause division among your sex? Will it cause the younger woman to change her attire? Of course not! She will see you and your friend as obnoxious prudes. For that is what you are.
So stop it!
Nay, keep your thoughts to yourself. Instead, let your own mode of dress speak for you and be kind.
In all things, be kind.

From M.A.’s Recipe Drawer

All Dressed Up with No Place to Go Egg Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy breezy
  • Print

An egg salad elegant enough for company, whether elegantly attired or not.

Egg salad with smoked salmon

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 4 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon finely snipped, fresh dill
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Mayonnaise

Directions

Mix first ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, add enough mayonnaise to bind together.

Use as a sandwich filling or to serve with crackers.
Another option: Make deviled eggs! Slice hardboiled eggs in half and remove yolks, chop and mix with other ingredients. Spoon a generous mound of salmon-yolk filling into each egg half. Place a bit of dill or chives on each for serving.

Words from a Noble Woman – Thoughts on Home and Hearth

As I present these meditations from our mysterious M.A., first talked about here, I find myself in a bit of a quandary. There are times she seems to contradict herself.

For instance, in the passages below, you’ll see how she first tells herself to not take her home too seriously, then in the second she says never neglect it. How do we reconcile these thoughts?

I think it’s important we realize that by all appearances, they are her private reflections. It’s natural that her thoughts drift from one idea to the next, first believing one thing, then another. It is, after all, how we grow as thinking individuals. Always open to new ideas. (Would that all people were this flexible, eh?)

Also, I can’t help but notice M.A.’s fondness for the semicolon. I counted up to four uses in one page alone! To own the truth, I grew faint. Did she use them correctly? Hell if I know, and I’ve been to college. (Perhaps, at least in this, Kurt Vonnegut was mistaken.)

But enough with our rambling preamble. Let us begin. Here are two more of M.A.’s entries (plus a recipe!) that I managed to decipher from her atrocious handwriting:

Continue reading “Words from a Noble Woman – Thoughts on Home and Hearth”

Thoughts From a Noble Woman: M.A.’s First Entries

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been hard at work deciphering the scribblings of our mysterious M.A., and I’m happy to report I have a few entries to present today.

I’m giving you the first two I found, therefore I’m calling them the First Two Entries. (Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?)

Please keep in mind nothing was dated, so let’s not get too concerned whether they were actually M.A.’s first writings, hmm?

In the same way, don’t worry about whether I’m making all this up or not. There’s much to be said for losing yourself in story.

There are far worse places you could find yourself.

Continue reading “Thoughts From a Noble Woman: M.A.’s First Entries”

Recent Discovery: the Diary of a Noble Woman

In a previous post, I lamented the lack of philosophical writings for women. A collection of ideas where the chief goal was to empower, embolden, and other em-words like that there.

But was it true? Did we really lack such writings, or was I falling into a “poor me” mentality, as satisfying as it is lazy? I had to find out.

My trip to the library produced mixed results. The reading materials were plentiful and the cold brew coffee sold in their cafe (only $3.95) was lovely. The problem, as I saw it, was that the writings focused too much on what was wrong with women. They came from a premise that we were broken. Battered down and weakened.

After two hours of disheartening research, I bought another cold brew and headed home.

That was when my trip took an interesting turn. Continue reading “Recent Discovery: the Diary of a Noble Woman”

On Philosophy, Pronouns, and Stoic Women

Last week in an article in the New York Times, columnist Laura Collins Hughes referred to a recent performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

No, not that performance. The one Hughes spoke of was at an all-girls high school. Not only were all the roles played by girls, the word “man” was changed to “girl” throughout the script.

Hughes wrote:

“Thou art the ruins of the noblest girl that ever lived in the tide of times,” Mark Antony said over the dead body of Caesar, and I thought: When do we ever describe girls as noble? When, in the stories we tell, do we ever take them that seriously?

–from “When Women Won’t Accept Theatrical Manspreading
by Laura Collins-Hughes, the New York Times, July 17, 2017

To which I say, “Right?!”

It started me thinking – or rather, it returned me to thinking, as it’s not my first time – how powerful language can be, especially the words we choose to describe ourselves.

I’ve been doing some reading into Stoicism (because I’m weird like that), partly because it reminds me of my dad. He was a calm, quiet Norwegian. A perfect fit for Stoicism.

But also… well, have you ever read something and thought to yourself, “Yes! This, right here! This is meeee!” (Squealed in a most stoic fashion, I assure you.)

You find out you’re not a weirdo after all. Someone — okay, someone in ancient times, but still, it’s someone — thinks the way you do. Only smarter and with a better vocabulary.

Stoicism is like that for me. But there’s one little problem: it’s a wee bit masculine. Oh hell, it’s all the way masculine. I mean, they were all men.

(Okay, fine. I realize there were some female Stoics, but we know very little about them, and they don’t appear to have written anything. Not so much as a grocery list.)

So after hearing of the plucky girls doing Shakespeare, I started changing the language of what I was reading.

For instance:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.
― Seneca

becomes:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great woman struggling against adversity.  ― Seneca, feminized

Granted, it’s a small change. Just one word. But that one word not only makes it more relevant to me, it’s done something more.

It got me to thinking: Maybe there are other women, maybe lots of women, who would like these Stoic thoughts too.

To tell the truth, I never felt I had much in common with other women. It wasn’t a gender issue, but more a mental one. I wasn’t as interested in the things they were (or what I thought they were – shopping, makeup, diets, fashion), which may explain why I always had more male friends than female.

But what if that was based on misplaced thinking?

Women are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them. — Epictetus, feminized

Consider the basic Stoic principles of humility, self-control, equality, justice — are those strictly masculine ideals? Of course not. Do all women practice them? No, but then neither do all men. That’s why we call them ideals. (Also, did you notice how christian they sound? Again, ideally speaking.)

Okay, so what’s the big deal, you say. Just read “man” as humankind. If these ideas aren’t exclusively male, then neither should they be exclusively female.

To which I say, Geez fella, lighten up! After several centuries of language going your way, you can’t give us a few quotes of our own?

Because just as it is for an all-girl Julius Caesar, changing the pronouns makes the quotes more meaningful to the average female.

She who lives in harmony with herself lives in harmony with the universe.
— Marcus Aurelius, feminized

A nice concept, isn’t it? A woman living in harmony with herself?

Imagine if young women were hearing messages like that, rather than “Jeans that Make Your Butt Look Great!” (from Seventeen)

Of course, I realize we’re not in the habit of quoting philosophy to our kids, either to our daughters or our sons. That’s not my point.

(Though if you do quote philosophy to your kids, I want you to know how much I love you.)

My point is… well, I’m not sure what my point is. Let’s say it’s my wish. I wish we had a Stoic equivalent for women. Because Stoicism is far more than tweetable quotes, it’s a way of life.

I wish there had been a female Marcus Aurelius who wrote down all her thoughts on how to live a good and honorable life. Maybe Marcus had a second cousin, twice removed.

Let’s call her Marcia. Marcia Aurelius.

But what’s the use of wishing? (Wishing is not a Stoic-approved practice.) Maybe we don’t have ancient philosophies to bolster us up. That doesn’t mean we can’t make use of them, or alter them if need be.

Or — hey, how ’bout this? — what if we wrote our own Meditations?

One day, someone will find a wise woman’s diary — your diary — filled with ideas, admonitions, private reflections; Empowering words on how to be a good, noble woman.

I really wish we had something like that. Tell ya what – I’ll work on mine if you work on yours.

Deal?

Waste no more time arguing about what a good woman should be. Be one. — Marcus Aurelius, feminized

What’s the Harm in Being Happy?

Young man dancingSo you believe there is no meaning to life, everything is random and there is no purpose.

What’s the harm if, just for today…

You marvel at the miracle of life?
You give thanks for each passing breath.

What’s the harm if, just for today… Continue reading “What’s the Harm in Being Happy?”

The Election is Over; It’s Time for Philosophy and Cookies

Beings how I scheduled this post ahead of time, I have no idea how the election turned out. Therefore, I shall make a prediction.

I predict,

  • The sun rose today
  • The birds sang
  • The neighbor’s dog pooped in my yard

statue of philosopher eating a cookieOne more thing that’s fairly safe to predict: No matter who won, the other side is plenty unhappy about it.

It’s times like these when we need to step back, seek wisdom from our philosophers, and eat cookies.

(Not many people know this, but philosophers regularly ate cookies. If they look morose, it’s because someone over baked them.)

So whether your candidate won or lost, consider these philosophical musings, as well as a cookie recipe that promises world peace. (No, really!)

Continue reading “The Election is Over; It’s Time for Philosophy and Cookies”