Thursday Thought-Self-Help: Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving With Grace by Gordon MacKenzie is one of the easiest self-help books I’ve ever devoured. There’s no jargon, no quoted sources or case studies (or if there is, they are a minor mention at best).

MacKenzie writes about his time working for Hallmark and the frustrations of a creative thinker trying to be productive in a corporate one-size-fits-all structure. He shares his methods for coping. Most of his ideas wouldn’t work in the majority of businesses. These days, they wouldn’t even work in “creative” business, such as broadcasting. They’d be great for advertising and marketing.

One of the most important lessons I learned is from Chapter 19. “Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.” (I once quoted this, then had to explain the meaning, which shocked me.) This may be the best advice I’ve ever read.

This is an older book (1998); technology has changed many things in our world. But the human brain, if properly treated, can triumph.

MJ Monday-Meals: Potato Pie with Hamburg Gravy

Every year, my mom makes a birthday dinner for each one of us. This year, I requested something different. Something from my childhood. Comfort food. Except my mom couldn’t remember how to make it, even though it was a regular meal at our house while I was growing up: Potato Pie with Hamburg Gravy.

Please note: this is NOT Shepherd’s Pie. Whenever we tried to Google or Pinterest a recipe, we always came up with Shepherd’s Pie. NO. The dish is similar but not the same thing.

My sister had modified the recipe for her family, although she hadn’t made it in years, so Mom further modified her version for my birthday dinner.

There are three key components:

  • baking powder biscuits
  • mashed potatoes
  • gravy with onion and ground beef.

The way I remember the dish is with the biscuit crust, filled with mashed potatoes, then baked. When the pie was done, one ladled the gravy over it.

We ended up breaking open a biscuit on our plate, topping it with mashed potatoes, then with the gravy. It was so good. My daughter asked for the recipe a few weeks ago.

If anyone knows or remembers how to make the pie–is it only a bottom crust or both? How long do you bake it? –please reach out to me. This is an entree that shouldn’t get lost.

Thursday Thought: Holidays Aren’t a Day Off

Happy Memorial Day. My grandmother always called today Decoration Day, because one is supposed to decorate the graves of  deceased soldiers. When I was in high school marching band, we marched in three Memorial Day Parades. Then it was off for a family picnic.

We still have an annual family picnic. I love my family. I have wonderful nieces and nephews, and even young ones from the next generation. My sibs are great, and I’m lucky to still have both of my parents.

But now that I’m a working adult, I have concluded that just because a person doesn’t have to report to a day job on the holiday, doesn’t make it a day off. The work is just a different kind of work.

When my children were younger, I had to get them ready to travel, pack a change or two of clothing, and prepare a pot luck contribution. They’re responsible for themselves now, but I still have to prepare food to share. I like to cook, don’t get me wrong, and I enjoy the challenge of finding dishes that take everyone’s food foibles into consideration. It’s still work, though. I have to make certain I have enough meat for my gang (our picnics are bring your own meat and a dish to pass). I have to do the shopping.

Where is my day off?

 

MJ Monday-Manuscript Excerpt

Besieged by the Moon (tentative release date July 8, 2020)

The cool night air felt light, as opposed to the heavy, humidity-laden summer nights of Phoebe’s home. Nothing weighed her down, not even the awkwardness of her mating with Parker.

“Are you okay to walk?” Parker asked, as if she hadn’t already walked to the diner.

“It’s not the walking that has me dawdling,” she admitted. “Your friend’s mate gives off a lot of negativity. I’m not in the mood to deal with attitude.”

“Well, you and Ethan were giving off some strange vibes,” Parker reminded her.

“You thought they were strange?” Phoebe’s voice rose half an octave. “Try being on our ends.”

“I still don’t understand it.”

Phoebe studied the overhead sky. Too much ambient light in town dimmed the stars, even though she viewed them through the shimmer of tears filming her eyes. “He reminded me of . . . someone. I don’t want to talk about it.”

They walked in silence, their footfalls scuffing on the uneven sidewalks. Most of the houses they passed were dark. Here a backyard light was on; there the pale bluish glow of late-night TV illuminated a window. A string of early Christmas lights twinkled on the eaves of another dwelling. Dog droppings scented the air.

They rounded onto the block on which Ethan’s house sat. Phoebe noted there was only one other house on the block, and it seemed to glitter in the feeble beams of the corner streetlamp.

Help me. Please.

Parker’s head jerked up. “Did you hear that?”

Phoebe nodded. She tilted her head to get a better sense of the direction from which the plea came.

Please. Somebody.

“Over there.” She pointed to the sparkly house across the street from Ethan’s.

“Helga,” Parker muttered, and sprinted toward the house.

Phoebe followed.

“Helga?” he called out. “It’s Parker Rowe, a friend of Ethan’s. Are you okay?

“I fell,” came the weak reply.

He tried the doorknob. Locked. “I’m going to have to break down your door,” he said.

“Wait,” Phoebe said. Wasn’t it just like a male to be destructive when a little finesse would do?

She didn’t have her tools on her, so it took about sixty seconds to disengage the lock rather than the fifteen it should have taken, but nothing was destroyed in the process.

The look Parker gave her as she opened the door, was quick but disturbing. He rushed past her to the occupant, who was sprawled in the middle of the living room floor. “What happened?”

Phoebe followed, nose prickling at familiar scent of burnt sage clinging to the air.

“The batteries in my TV remote are dead, and I haven’t had a chance to get to the store,” an old woman whined, as Parker knelt next to her. “I was going to turn on the TV and fell. I hate getting old.”

Thursday Thoughts: Food Obsession

I sometimes feel like I’ve obsessed about food my whole life. I have a tendency to enjoy eating. I love flavors. Textures. Food. Even as a child, I read cookbooks, looking for recipes to make. I’ve always enjoyed cooking.

Here’s the thing. I tend to be overweight. I’ve tried cutting calories, I’ve done Weight Watchers and became a lifetime member. And yet I’m still overweight.

I. Like. To. Eat. So I’ve changed my relationship with food.

I’m through apologizing for being hungry. If eating a bowl of ice cream makes me happy, then I’m going to be happy.

I know people who talk about good food and bad food. “Oh, I was bad and ate a crumb of fudge, so now I can’t eat anything except lettuce for a week.” Did the fudge make you happy? Does lettuce make you happy?

My categories are different. Do I like it? Then it’s a good food. Do I hate it? Then it’s a bad food.