Saturday, November 27, 2010

The origin of the blog url

My dad
 It dawned on me last night that my blog has a name in the url that probably makes people wonder. Suzy Sassafras is just one of many nicknames I have. My dad is really into nicknames for his kids (Lisa was Half Pint; Joe was Chucker). My emails to him always end with, "Love you. SS".

Not sure why (maybe because I was such a goofy kid) but I've ended up with quite a few. My personal favorite is Suzy Sassafras. Some of these names have stories, some do not. Here are the other names my dad has made up for me over the years:
  • Kunkanookles (Your guess is as good as mine.)
  • Knees Nolan (I always had a band aid on my knee because I was a klutz.)
  • Smash Kath (see Knees Nolan.)
  • Dirty Diver (I invented a dive where I slathered mud on my bathing suit then dove into the water and came out all clean.)
  • U Knock Ferry (My dad used to swim with me on his back and he'd say "Here comes the New York Ferry!" which I of course couldn't repeat correctly.)
My other nicknames come from friends who perpetually feel the need to either invent new names for me or shorten my name (Kath, Kat, KD, K). The one thing I've noticed is that everyone calls me "Kathy D" even when there are no other Kathys in the group (like at church). No one else gets a last letter, but for some reason I do. Other nicknames and their origin:

  • Snapper (From friend Patty. No clue where this came from. She also often adds "-doodle" to the end of it.)
  • Nolan (My maiden name that some high school friends call me.)
  • Killer (My friend Carol calls me this for some reason and it's pronounced in the MA style - Killah.)
  • Loser (Carol again. Also pronounced in the MA style. I do not take offense.)
  • Sally (Because of my love of the song Mustang Sally. I think I'd prefer to be called Mustang instead. Definitely cooler.)
  • Neolani (Friend Gretchen has been calling me this since 8th grade. This was a guest character on Star Trek and it sounded so much like Nolan that she adopted it as my nickname.)
Everytime someone calls me by a nickname, I think back to the joyfulness of its creation. Nicknames are, I think, signs of affection. Shortening names is a way to show that you are fond enough of that person that you want to call them something less formal.

That's probably why my dogs have always had a ton of nicknames. It's my little gift to them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Food as legacy

One half of my kitchen area
I just spent the evening baking. One of my absolute favorite things to do. Tonight, in preparation for Thanksgiving, I baked my traditional apple muffins from a recipe I have in my 8th grade Home Ec class cookbook. That's where I learned to bake.

My mom is a good cook and my dad is a wiz at pie crusts, but I think I got my baking gene from my paternal grandmother. I've been told by quite a few people that I am the spittin' image of my Nana. A wonderful legacy that I tap into quite a bit. She had the same brown eyes, body shape, love for baking and quilting, and general wise-ass sense of humor that I seemed to have inherited.

My folks love(d) to entertain. I think I learned that from them. There's nothing more joyful to me than having a house full of people eating whatever I baked/cooked and drinking whatever is in the liquor cabinet. I love a party where I can hardly move in the kitchen.

I was reminded today that one of the big appeals I recognized when we bought this house was the huge kitchen. I have TONS of counter space. For someone who loves to "create" with food, I was instantly lured to the expansive counters and island. And the amazing cabinet space that could hold my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer, serving dishes, and china.

As I was starting my third "creation" for the night tonight, I thought about how happy I am that I have a niece due on my side of the family. There are wonderful Nolan recipes from my Nana that I fear would have ended with me. My sister has a son but boys tend not to carry on the traditions like girls do. I am so happy that I'll have a girl in the family to pass all the traditions down to.

So much of family history is entwined in the recipes we use. My Nana's turkey soup, stuffing, and pies. My mother's amazing pumpkin bread. My scones and squash souffle. This is how we honor our family tree and keep our treasured traditions alive.

I know that some day I will be gone but my recipes will live on. Maybe some day my niece will say, "And I got this recipe from my Aunt Kathy." In that one sentence I will come alive again and live through future generations.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Same old same old

There is a big to-do in the state of MA this week about corruption uncovered by an independent study of the state probation department. It uncovered systemic abuse and patronage at very high levels. I am actually more surprised at the surprise generated by the Ware report than anything else. This state runs on who-knows-who and always has. Let me tell you my little story.
About 25 years ago, I was trying to get out of a dead-end corporate job. I applied at the University of Lowell (MA) in some sort of research department. It was my alma mater and the job looked interesting.
They called me in for an interview and I talked with the supervisor and then the director of the department. The director looked me in the eye and told me that in order for me to get the job he had to get a phone call from a senator. He made no attempt to explain why. I just had to do it.
So, my dad laughed and then called his close friend who was pals with the Kennedys. George happened to have an upcoming gig with Ted. So when they were in the back of the limo together, George slipped Ted a note with the director's name and number and my name also. Ted said, "I'll take care of it."
I got a call from the director the next day. I assumed he was calling to offer me a job. Nope. He said that Ted had called him and that he was surprised I had that connection. Then, he said that this wasn't the senator he had in mind and gave me the name of some state senator.
Dad called back George who called Ted who called the state senator. The next day, lo and behold, I'm promoted out of my dead-end job (think they knew I was looking to get out?). Then I got a call from the ULowell director offering me the job. The pay was not as good as my new promotion so I declined.
I called George and thanked him for his efforts and then I started to think about what it would have been like to work in that state job where nothing got done unless you had political connections. Or that connections were tested - which I now believe was a bigger part of that story.
My story is one of many that takes place every single day in this state. I don't know what it's like in other states but I grew up with the understanding that you pull strings to get things done here.
I'm all about networking but this goes beyond that. I was more than qualified for that state job but still had to prove my worth. I often wondered who got that job and how many hoops they had to jump through first. Or if the hoop-jumping is what made them qualified.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Signs from the universe

A Celtic knot:
Symbol of interconnectedness
It's been a real roller-coaster week. We met with the oncologist last Thursday to find out the results of mom's CAT scan for her pancreatic cancer. The doctor told us that the chemo she was on (the #1 chemo agent for her type of cancer) was not slowing the cancer down. So we are trying the #2 drug and are hoping - again.

This sad news came with the happy news that my sister is expecting her second child in May after multiple failed attempts. This time it's a girl. The baby was conceived the week my mom was diagnosed.

My interest in the theories/philosophies of Carl Jung led me to the concept of synchronicity. Though largely a theory of parapsychology, I've always thought of it as a way to understand the interconnectedness of seemingly unconnected events. In other words, not all events can be written off to coincidence.

I belong to a discussion group of people who are slowly getting used to my belief that a higher power (I use the term "universe" while others may choose the word "God") is at work. That doesn't mean they believe it, but I think they've begun to understand that it's my sincere belief - mystical though it might be.

When Lisa announced that she was pregnant, my first thought was "It's a girl." Not a replacement for mom because she cannot be replaced, but a reminder nonetheless that the cycle of life continues.

I spend a fair amount of time at night when I cannot sleep thinking about these connections. Within grief there is joy; within death there is life. To me, a belief that all events are random slams the door on life's lessons. If we can't or won't open ourselves up to the possibility that there is a greater truth, I wonder if we can we ever obtain a deeper understanding.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Do what you can do

The mumsie

Helen Keller said, “I’m only one person and I can’t do everything. But I can do something. I will not let the fact that I can’t do everything prevent me from doing what I can.” At my town's Board of Selectman's meeting last month (fast forward to the 20-minute mark), I asked that they proclaim November Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in Westford. It's a national movement driven by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and is designed to raise awareness and funds for a cancer that is the 4th deadliest cancer yet only receives 2% of the National Cancer Institute's funding for research.

My mom is a fighter and has a great attitude. However, the odds are obviously stacked against her. In this week's local paper, I asked that my editor publish a short article on the BoS proclamation and noted a few of the facts about the cancer. In that article is a link to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network where you can donate toward reasearch funding and/or contact your reps and senators to encourage them to push for more funding.

I know that my mom has a huge battle ahead of her but I've always felt that you can't just wring your hands and watch when something unfair happens in life. That's just being a victim to me and not my style.

When Ron and I adopted Brit through Springer Spaniel Rescue, I started to volunteer there and continued on to major leadership roles in the organization. I couldn't save all of them, but I could save the ones I could.

I can't save my mom. But I'd like to feel somewhat empowered and fight in a way that I can for her. She's worth the effort and so are all the other cancer patients out there. Won't you help?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A foreboding

I just talked to my folks who said they had to make two attempts to vote today because there was absolutely no place to park. My mom said, "Well, a high voter turnout usually means Democrat." To which I responded, "Not in this political climate."

It was like this when Brown was elected. The people want change. I'm not sure they even know what they want, they just know what they don't want.

My prediction for the MA gubernatorial race has always been that Patrick doesn't really want to be governor any longer. He will fight hard enough to say he tried, but ultimately, he just wants to go to DC and work for Obama.

Given the high turnout when the race is so close, I'm inclined to believe that Patrick will get his wish.