Sunday, November 16, 2008

End of a Century: Marian Loeser Wheeler

Marian Loeser Wheeler would have been 99 years old last Friday, but she passed away last September. David's Grandma ("Mom" Loeser to some, "Grams" to others) was famously shrewd about money and investments, and while she didn't see the recent vagaries in the stock market, she certainly saw her share of ups and down in her 99-year career as a hard-working, well-dressed, tough-nosed, fine-arts-appreciating New York State dowager.

Born in 1909, she was the precocious and well-loved only daughter of a German immigrant butcher. Her mother died when she was young, and she took over handling the books for her father's business and managing the home. She spoke English though her parents were German, and her father doted on her. Marian outlived husbands, World Wars, cancer, and saw the coming (and perhaps the going?) of tv's, phones, filament light bulbs, mainframe computers, cars that crank, and other antiquities. The daughter of a working class immigrant, she became a propertied New York State matron, with children with PhD's.

Up until her last few days she was mentally sharp and enjoyed reading without reading glasses (!) and watching Lawrence Welk. Her hearing was going, but her mind and eyes were sharp, and, if she heard you, she could have a completely lucid conversation about any number of topics. A person of tremendous wherewithal and a capable businesswoman in her own right, she consulted with acuity -- almost up until the end -- with her accountant and lawyer as well as her nurses and doctors and friends and family.

She was adamant that her family eat nutritiously and her physical power until the last days is a great testament to basic German engineering, of course, but also to eating your vegetables 3 times a day. I think she told me to be sure and eat them at least a few times in the 12 years I knew her. Grams told all of us more than a few things, I suspect, in the years that we knew her, as she was outspoken about life's material practicalities -- meals and nutrition, finances, clothing. Grams enjoyed lovely things -- nice fabrics, delicious meals, jewelry -- and wanted us to be smart so we could enjoy those things, too, one day.

Grams loved to play bridge and travel on cruises, and she traveled all over the world. I have seen happy pictures of her in ornate caftans presiding over cruise ship dining tables. She looks eminently at home in those pictures, to me, and I suspect that was a particularly home-y spot for her: a woman given a manly sense of adventure and forthrightness, but living with a controlled and old fashioned idea of what is proper for ladies when traveling.

It's amusing and touching to me how I see much of that little, tiny firecracker of a lady -- last propped up in her wide, white hospital bed -- in my tall manly husband. ...In his practical and dogged and frugal German sensibility, his quick intellect and tactical, pragmatic approach, his bluff speech, and physical strength.

Grams was a small but powerful bundle of hard work and true grit -- an outspoken character that fitted a novel better than a nursing home, so she couldn't really have gone on much longer at sweet St. Ann's. And even her formidable grit couldn't wrestle down that Final Appointment. When we lost Grams, we lost a family legend.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Slow-Cooker Beef Stew

My sister in law, Suzanne (this is one of my favorite pics of her from a while back) and her husband, Bob, served this and said it was delicious! You could double it if you have a large slow cooker. They are good cooks so their recommendations are trustworthy! I think this would be good over rice.

Beef Stew with Zinfandel and Green Olives
Submitted by: Safeway
Prunes dissolve to form a rich, deeply-colored gravy for slow-cooked,
tender beef stew.
Servings: 4

1 (3 pound) Rancher’s Reserve(TM) Tender Beef Top Round or chuck
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Safeway Vegetable Oil
1 cup red Zinfandel wine
1 cup Safeway Low-Sodium Fat Free Chicken Broth
1 1/2 cups pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted green olives
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Season roast with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan over high
heat, heat oil. Add beef and cook, turning, until well browned on all
sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a slow cooker.
2. Reduce heat beneath pan to medium. Pour in wine and broth and, using
a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits stuck to pan. Add prunes,
olives, and garlic, bring to a boil, then pour mixture over beef in slow
cooker. Turn slow cooker to HIGH setting, cover, and let cook until meat
is tender when pierced, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
3. Lift out roast from slow cooker (it may come out in pieces).
Coarsely shred with two forks. Return meat to liquid. Stir in parsley.
Serve over mashed potatoes or buttered noodles.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Domestic Generalist: The Broadening

Here is a GK Chesterton discussion as a response to those women who find domestic toils to be demeaning. What do you think?

The Emancipation of Domesticity | G.K. Chesterton | From What's Wrong With the World

"...Unless the Socialists are frankly ready for a fall in the standard of violins, telescopes and electric lights, they must somehow create a moral demand on the individual that he shall keep up his present concentration on these things. It was only by men being in some degree specialist that there ever were any telescopes; they must certainly be in some degree specialist in order to keep them going. It is not by making a man a State wage-earner that you can prevent him thinking principally about the very difficult way he earns his wages. There is only one way to preserve in the world that high levity and that more leisurely outlook which fulfils the old vision of universalism. That is, to permit the existence of a partly protected half of humanity; a half which the harassing industrial demand troubles indeed, but only troubles indirectly. In other words, there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not "give her best," but gives her all.

Our old analogy of the fire remains the most workable one. The fire need not blaze like electricity nor boil like boiling water; its point is that it blazes more than water and warms more than light. The wife is like the fire, or to put things in their proper proportion, the fire is like the wife. Like the fire, the woman is expected to cook: not to excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is earning the coke by lecturing on botany or breaking stones. Like the fire, the woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original and artistic tales, but tales--better tales than would probably be told by a first-class cook. Like the fire, the woman is expected to illuminate and ventilate, not by the most startling revelations or the wildest winds of thought, but better than a man can do it after breaking stones or lecturing. But she cannot be expected to endure anything like this universal duty if she is also to endure the direct cruelty of competitive or bureaucratic toil. Woman must be a cook, but not a competitive cook; a school mistress, but not a competitive schoolmistress; a house-decorator but not a competitive house-decorator; a dressmaker, but not a competitive dressmaker. She should have not one trade but twenty hobbies; she, unlike the man, may develop all her second bests. This is what has been really aimed at from the first in what is called the seclusion, or even the oppression, of women. Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs. It was only by partly limiting and protecting the woman that she was enabled to play at five or six professions and so come almost as near to God as the child when he plays at a hundred trades. But the woman's professions, unlike the child's, were all truly and almost terribly fruitful; so tragically real that nothing but her universality and balance prevented them being merely morbid. This is the substance of the contention I offer about the historic female position. I do not deny that women have been wronged and even tortured; but I doubt if they were ever tortured so much as they are tortured now by the absurd modern attempt to make them domestic empresses and competitive clerks at the same time. I do not deny that even under the old tradition women had a harder time than men; that is why we take off our hats. I do not deny that all these various female functions were exasperating; but I say that there was some aim and meaning in keeping them various. I do not pause even to deny that woman was a servant; but at least she was a general servant.

The shortest way of summarizing the position is to say that woman stands for the idea of Sanity; that intellectual home to which the mind must return after every excursion on extravagance. The mind that finds its way to wild places is the poet's; but the mind that never finds its way back is the lunatic's. There must in every machine be a part that moves and a part that stands still; there must be in everything that changes a part that is unchangeable. And many of the phenomena which moderns hastily condemn are really parts of this position of the woman as the center and pillar of health. Much of what is called her subservience, and even her pliability, is merely the subservience and pliability of a universal remedy; she varies as medicines vary, with the disease. She has to be an optimist to the morbid husband, a salutary pessimist to the happy-go-lucky husband. She has to prevent the Quixote from being put upon, and the bully from putting upon others. The French King wrote--

"Toujours femme varie
Bien fol qui s'y fie,"

but the truth is that woman always varies, and that is exactly why we always trust her. To correct every adventure and extravagance with its antidote in common-sense is not (as the moderns seem to think) to be in the position of a spy or a slave. It is to be in the position of Aristotle or (at the lowest) Herbert Spencer, to be a universal morality, a complete system of thought. The slave flatters; the complete moralist rebukes. It is, in short, to be a Trimmer in the true sense of that honorable term; which for some reason or other is always used in a sense exactly opposite to its own. It seems really to be supposed that a Trimmer means a cowardly person who always goes over to the stronger side. It really means a highly chivalrous person who always goes over to the weaker side; like one who trims a boat by sitting where there are few people seated. Woman is a trimmer; and it is a generous, dangerous and romantic trade.

The final fact which fixes this is a sufficiently plain one. Supposing it to be conceded that humanity has acted at least not unnaturally in dividing itself into two halves, respectively typifying the ideals of special talent and of general sanity (since they are genuinely difficult to combine completely in one mind), it is not difficult to see why the line of cleavage has followed the line of sex, or why the female became the emblem of the universal and the male of the special and superior. Two gigantic facts of nature fixed it thus: first, that the woman who frequently fulfilled her functions literally could not be specially prominent in experiment and adventure; and second, that the same natural operation surrounded her with very young children, who require to be taught not so much anything as everything. Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren't. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

But though the essential of the woman's task is universality, this does not, of course, prevent her from having one or two severe though largely wholesome prejudices. She has, on the whole, been more conscious than man that she is only one half of humanity; but she has expressed it (if one may say so of a lady) by getting her teeth into the two or three things which she thinks she stands for...One's own children, one's own altar, ought to be a matter of principle-- or if you like, a matter of prejudice. On the other hand, who wrote Junius's Letters ought not to be a principle or a prejudice, it ought to be a matter of free and almost indifferent inquiry..."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Westminister Confession of Faith: Of the Civil Magistrate

A document produced in 1647 still has wise words for us today, particularly #s 1 and 4...

1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers. (Romans 13:1-4, I Pet. 2:13-14)

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the name of managing whereof, as the ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasion. (ie, magistrates may wage and fight a just war. Prov 8:15-16, Rom 3: 1-2,4, Psalm 2:10-12, I Tim. 2:2, Psalm 82: 3-4, 2 Sam 23:3, I Pet. 2:13, Luke 3:14, Rom 13:4, Matt 8:9-10, Acts 10:1-2)

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, or, in the least, interfere in the matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of the civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger....[2 Chron 26:18, Matt 18:17, Matt 6:19, Heb 5:4, John 18:36, ad so on)

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake. Infidelity or difference in religion does not void the magistrates just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the Pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any pretence whatsoever. (1 Pet 2:17, Rom 13:6-7, Rom 13:5, Titus 3:1, I Pet 2:13-14, 16, Rom 13:1, Acts 25:9-11, 2 Pet 2:1, 10-11, Jude 8-11)