By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – Kim Carlson has had the same Thanksgiving tradition for as long as she can remember.
Drive to her hometown of Scribner, eat lunch at her dad’s house on Sixth Street and “act silly and do things I normally wouldn’t do unless my siblings are around,” said the UNK biology professor.
The second oldest of seven children, Carlson spends Thanksgiving with her dad Des Smith, four brothers, three sisters, nieces and nephews – 31 people in all.
They feast on turkey, green bean casserole, vegetables, stuffing, gravy and crustless pumpkin pie she makes herself. “With whipped cream, of course,” jokes Carlson.
The highlight of the day?
Those “amazing” Crock-Pot mashed potatoes her dad is famous for making. Few have the full recipe, but they’re fluffy and loaded with cream cheese, butter and sour cream.
“Everybody fights over the last spoonful of grandpa’s version of mashed potatoes,” Carlson said. “One year my youngest brother, Greg, just took his plate and filled the entire thing with Crock-Pot mashed potatoes. Said it was the best Thanksgiving meal he ever had.”
We asked Carlson what she’s most thankful for this Thanksgiving. From food, music and her grandmother, to her favorite place on the UNK campus, here are some of the things she is most thankful for:
Person – My grandmother, Victoria Novak, who I named my daughter after. She’s my Czech grandma who helped raise me, taught me how to cook and taught me how to be a good mom. I lived with her for a while, and she was the best person ever. Grandma passed away in 1988. She loved the holidays and always kept all of us together. She lived in Prague, a good Nebraska Czech town. She taught me how to make kolaches. She’d be upset because my favorite flavor is lemon, not traditional cherry. Grandma Vicki was that old traditional Czech lady with broken English. She always had an apron on, and she was always cooking. She just loved us unconditionally, and we all loved being around her. She was just so fun.
Music – Anything ‘80s. All of it. My husband and I disagree a little. I lean more toward Def Leppard, AC/DC and the hair bands. That’s definitely me. He’s all about Pet Shop Boys, Madonna and Duran Duran, so we kind of meet in the middle.
Place on Campus – Bruner Hall of Science. This is where I learned to love UNK. It’s home, and I’m glad I get to come here and be a part of it every day. And Kwik Stop near campus, because it has Diet Coke. I don’t drink coffee, so I’m fortunate we have Diet Coke somewhere so close.
Piece of Advice – My dad gave me this advice many years ago: Always treat people like you would be treated. But always treat the secretaries and custodians better than anybody else because they are the people who really run your organization. That’s really true. I see it every day. Those are the people who keep things running.
UNK Colleagues – My department chair, Julie Shaffer. We have been friends for a long time. We went to graduate school together, and we actually played volleyball against each other in high school because she went to Tekamah. She is a wonderful chair. This last year has been harder with my mom dying, and when I was going through this with my mom she was texting me at 3 in the morning and just there for me all the time. She’s a great friend and colleague, and I’m so thankful for her. Julie has a heart of gold and really cares about people.