Sisters Are.…

“Sisters are blossoms in the garden of life,” Author Unknown

“Sister to sister we will always be, a couple of nuts off the family tree,” Author Unknown

“A sister shares childhood memories and grown-up dreams,” Author Unknown

“Sisters may share the same mother and father but appear to come from different families,” Author Unknown

“You can kid the world, but not your sister,” Charlotte Gray English author and professor

“May and I are sisters. We’ll always fight, but we’ll always make up as well. That’s what sisters do: we argue, we point out each other’s frailties, mistakes, and bad judgment, we flash the insecurities we’ve had since childhood, and then we come back together. Until the next time…” Lisa See, in Shanghai Girls

“Having a sister is like having a best friend you can’t get rid of.  You know whatever you do, they’ll still be there,” Amy Li, author

“If you don’t understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child,” Linda Sunshine, author and editor

“Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply…” Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814

“Sisters are probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship,” Margaret Mead, anthropologist

“We acquire friends and we make enemies,…. our sisters come with the territory,” Evelyn Loeb, author

“Sisters share the scent and smells – the feel of a common childhood,” Pam Brown, Australian poet.

“Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize.  Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks.  Borrow.  Break.  Monopolize the bathroom.  Are always underfoot.  But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there.  Defending you against all comers,” Pam Brown, Australian poet.

“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers.  It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage.  Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at,” Maya  Angelou, poet and author

“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other,” Carol Saline along with photographer, Sharon Wohlmuth, has co-authored five photo-essay books. Their most popular, Sisters, spent 63 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and sold over one million copies.

My sisters are all of these and much more. Together we face the world, even when we cannot face each other. Their children and grandchildren are a part of me and mine, in a way I cannot define. Time, distance, death does not break the bond we worked hard to make, no matter the bittersweet of anger, hurt, broken trust….

We are sisters…..

©2016 Susan Kendall. All rights reserved


Happy Mothering Day…


…is fundamental to all beings.

…involves nurturing and raising children.

…extends far beyond biology and bodies.

…is the act and practice of love and the passing on of knowledge.

…occurs across multiple times and spaces

…is political.

…is life.

“Mothering is not limited to relationships between a female parent and her biological offspring. Mothering, as a relationship and practice, is a social and cultural act that occurs between multiple configurations of people of many generations – individually and communally. This is something Indigenous peoples have always known, celebrating extended families and lauding the wisdom of matriarchs as it applied and was transmitted to all the younger generations of a community. Mothering, understood in this way as a complex web of relational practices, was and is fundamental to life. This is perhaps also why mothering has often been so threatened while simultaneously holding the potential for (re)building the inherent strengths in our communities.

Aboriginal mothering is recognized as extending beyond the biological act of giving birth and involving a multitude of roles and relationships across times, spaces and generations. Strength to move forward as healthy individuals, families and communities is inextricably linked to Aboriginal women, mothers, grandmothers and aunties….”

The Sacred Space of Womanhood- A National Showcase on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Women and Mothering

©2012 National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health

©2016 Susan Kendall. All rights reserved



Cat Call…….

In August, 1966, my sister Leslie and I, and our Cadette Girl Scout troop took a long awaited camping trip up Poudre Canyon, in the Rocky Mountains west of Fort Collins, Colorado. All of the girls in the troop had worked hard to raise the money for this adventure. We sold a lot of cookies, calendars and had formed a folk singing group, complete with granny dresses. Directed by the leader’s oldest son, we performed “The Cruel War” and “Blowing in the Wind’, and other folk songs of the early 1960’s for church women’s groups, community gatherings, Grange meetings. We sang for donations and made enough money to take around 10, 8-10th grade girls and six adults on a five day camping excursion.

We had a great time that summer. We went horseback riding, camped on the Cache la Poudre River near Rustic, CO, where we toured the original stagecoach hotel, visited the Red Feather Lakes area where we were given a tour of a fire spotter tower with a real forest ranger and clambered around a volcanic rock area. I was not looking for kimberlites and lamproites, rock areas where diamonds are sometimes found, the rock formations were fun to climb and were just plain cool.

My fondest memory, the one that still causes me to laugh out loud today, was a drive to an abandoned homestead, complete with log cabin, in an alpine meadow. We were driving across a cattle ranch area and had just passed over the cattle guard crossing. We were in a four door sedan and the going was rough so the car was moving slowly. The windows were down and as the car slowed to a crawl there were several cows not far from the vehicle. Leslie leaned out the window and called, “here, kitty, kitty.” The cows looked up at her briefly and then went back to grazing. The other girls and I were stunned and then we laughed loud and long. It was priceless. Ah, younger sisters, can never get away with anything, especially, in our family.

Over Labor Day weekend, Sally, Penny, Leslie and I went “RVing” to western Kansas for our sister weekend. We visited several places, Monument Rocks, Gove County; St. Fidelis Church (Cathedral of the Plains), Victoria, Garden of the Gods, Lucas, Nicodemus and ate fried chicken and the best cole slaw in the world at the Brookfield Hotel, Abilene. Leslie was driving her RV through the cattle range on the road to Monument Rocks, when we passed over a cattle guard and saw a herd of yearlings milling around over the gravel road ahead. They were about three quarters of the way across the road. Leslie slowed to a stop to assess the situation. In the distance, there was a vehicle coming towards us. Leslie drove forward, moving to the left. As Leslie pulled up beside them, Penny rolled her window down and yelled, “HAW!” The startled young cattle turned and galloped away. We all laughed and the “here, kitty, kitty” memory on the other cattle range all those years ago flooded me.

Today is Leslie’s 60th birthday. She is celebrating, with Aunt Mary, Uncle Chuck and Cousin Tami at the cottage in New Hampshire. Her birthday party is being given by her nieces next Saturday evening. We are all looking forward to a fun evening with family and friends.

“A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost,” Marion C. Garretty, American journalist, broadcaster and author.

Happy Birthday, Leslie, wishing you many more……….

©2013 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved



Mother’s Day ……

My sister had a project scheduled in the northwest Chicago suburbs this week. She wanted to know what we could do if she came to town on Sunday morning. After checking the calendar and consulting with Sam’s Mom and Mike, we made our plans for Mother’s Day. My sister and I would have brunch and then pick Sam’s Mom up at her in-law’s. From there we would attend the Evanston History Center Annual Mother’s Day Historical House Walk and Tour. This year the walk was held in the Lake Shore Historic District.

All I can say is ….WOW! The houses were built from the 1870’s thru 1890’s. One house was said to be modeled after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house in Cambridge, MA. I visited HWL’s home in 1992 and was interested in the similarities. The foyer and main staircase is definitely the same as I remember. The gardens in all of the homes were beautifully landscaped and arranged.

One of our favorite parts was the row of cabanas along the oval, sculpted edged pool at the second house. The cabanas were like something out of a movie. I have done a lot of home tours in many states and I have never seen anything like this. The cabanas in Katherine Hepburn’s The Philadelphia Story come close.

One of the 1870’s houses had an attic completely outfitted for children, including hidden passageway rung ladders up from the children’s bedrooms on the second floor.  After examining the ins and outs of the passageway I mentioned the need to do something different when the children become teenagers. They will be able to find a way out of the house and down the front staircase while the parents are sleeping in the master bedroom at the back of the house. Having been through this particular nightmare several times, I’m just saying…..

The day was wonderful and we laughed and shared and had a great time with each other. A very good day…….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Memory Lane……

My sister called last Wednesday afternoon. She was in the Newark Airport trying to get home. There seemed to be a weather related, air traffic controller problem and her flight was not leaving until 9 PM. The Southwest agent had suggested a flight to St Louis or Chicago. She would sit up all night in either airport waiting for a flight to Kansas City Thursday 6 AM. She wanted to know if I was available for an impromptu 17.5 hour layover. The plan included a flight to Chicago that evening with a Thursday 4 PM flight to KC. Sam’s mom agreed to change Sam Day to Friday.  We were set for a sister holiday. My role was to do the pick-up and drop-off at Midway.

Thursday, we ate breakfast at Leslie’s favorite place, Colonial Café, server of her favorite, the Morning Glory Muffin. Our server shared the secret recipe with us, Karp’s frozen Glorious Muffin mix, distributed by Fox River Foods. After breakfast we loaded up the luggage and went on a reconnaissance mission to find Emerson Creek Pottery Tea Room near Oswego. The pottery store opens May 4. The Tea Room opens May 7. I am thinking a May visit with friends is on my horizon.

Our next stop was The Growing Place, my favorite plant and garden center, located in the southeast section of Aurora. We wondered through the paths, looking at the cold hardy plants and garden accessories on display. The farmhouse garden shop is filled with a wide array of garden décor.  Window shopping was very relaxing as we shared our summer garden dreams.

The Antique Mall on the parameter of the Fairfield Mall at Fox Valley has been on my list of places to visit for years. We stopped by to check them out. We wondered the aisles looking at treasures from yesteryears. We reminisced about this piece of pottery or that piece of furniture. There was a brand new dealer* putting her items on display. We exchanged pleasantries and I glanced at a doll standing at the back of her booth.  It was an Ideal Saucy Walker 32” doll. Other than the sandy blonde hair she looked exactly like the Christmas doll Santa Claus brought me Christmas 1959. My doll was a brunette.

My sister and I shared a moment with the dealer. The story of my wanting that doll more than anything. She was on the “doll wall” at the old Sears and Roebuck Co. department store located on Kansas Avenue in downtown Topeka, KS. On Christmas morning after all of the presents were opened, I watched my siblings playing with their toys. There was not a doll in sight. My dad asked me to look behind the window curtain beside the Christmas tree. There was my doll. I named her Pamela Ann, after my Aunt Mary’s little girl.

My grandparents were coming over so Mom sent us out to the kitchen with Dad to eat breakfast. She was straightening up the living room when we heard her call out, “I told you to go out to the kitchen and eat breakfast,” My dad looked at us and counted out six children. “Betty,” he called, “they are all here.” Mom showed up at the kitchen door laughing, “I thought the doll was one of the kids.”

Christmas 1961, is when Leslie received her doll. A Bride Doll, she was a little shorter than mine and had a more adult figure. She, too, was located on the Sears and Roebuck, Co, “doll wall”. Every time we went in to the store that fall, there she was. Sometime in December the doll disappeared from the wall. I put my arm around my sister as she suffered through the disappointment. I do not know why we were both surprised to see that Bride Doll under the Christmas tree that year. Santa always did a really good job at our house.

And my sister has found the Morning Glory muffin recipe, so there might be MG muffins next time I am in Kansas……..

*1010 Treasures, Suzi Highberg, Proprietress, 40548 Fox Valley Center Dr., Aurora, IL

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Diet Sunkist Lemonade……..

My sister Deb lived life with passion. She tackled most any task or desire with a single-minded determination second to none. This trait led her down some interesting rabbit trails. Her favorite drink was Sunkist Diet Lemonade*.  There was not a retail location for this beverage in the area surrounding the Kentucky town where they lived.

My brother-in-law would drive to a retail location south of St. Louis and pick up cases of the previously special ordered stuff.  We considered this to be above and beyond the call of husband duty and were suitably impressed with his willingness to grant Deb’s wish for this drink several times a year.

Remember the gas crisis? Not this one, the previous one, several years ago.  My brother-in-law decided the price of gas was too high and the SDL would be staying in Missouri. My intrepid sister decided to see if she could re-produce the beverage in her kitchen.  Deb could not get the ingredients exactly right. Not one to give into such mundane obstacles, Deb called Cadbury Scweppes and explained her inability to drive to Missouri at this time and how she could not seem to get the ingredients exactly right. The person on the phone responded by exclaiming, “we have heard about you!”

The Cadbury Schweppes representative on the phone expressed the sentiments of many persons who came and went in Deb’s life.  Whether singing for weddings, church events, taking care of children, planning family birthday parties, preparing holiday meals, shopping, mothering her sons and first and second generations of nieces and nephews, hosting servicemen’s wives, or whatever she chose to do, Deb was gung ho all the way.

Her sisters think of her whenever we are together.  We include her in our sister gatherings by joking about her place at our table. Sometimes, we often reflect upon “what Deb might have to say” about the situation or what we are doing at the time.

If you ever have the opportunity to drink a Sunkist Diet Lemonade, lift your glass to my sister Deb, a true original………

*Sunkist Diet Lemonade is a licensed product manufactured and marketed by Cadbury Schweppes. To find retailers that sell Sunkist soda products, contact Cadbury Schweppes at (800) 696-5891 or on the web at

 ©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Breakdown Lane Recovery Op…….

Did anyone notice my hiatus from writing has coincided with the Oprah show hiatus? What can I say? We needed the time off. Having my phone stolen, turning 60 festivities, viruses running rampant in my office all signaled yellow for caution. The red light flashed really strong when I wanted to write about my sister Deb.

Debra Jean was born on March 30, 1955. I was four years old. The memory of picking Mom and her up from the hospital is one of my strongest. Jim, Leslie and I were so excited; we were bouncing in the back seat. Today, we would probably not even have been hanging out in front of Stormont-Vail Hospital, Topeka, Kansas, anxiously waiting for the nurse to wheel our mother out holding her precious bundle. The car seats would have taken up all of the room!

Deb lived her life large. She could sing and played the violin in elementary school. One time she told the music teacher I would play the piano accompaniment for a violin trio. To say I was filled with dismay is an understatement. We brushed through well enough.

My second sister had a mercurial temperament. She experienced a fair amount of life’s peaks and valleys during her walk. Deb was Daddy’s little girl for six years until Sister Sally was born. Max and Rick were born in between and barely registered a blip on her radar. Sally and Penny were her very own baby dolls.

Deb was the first of us to complete her college degree. She started out in music and spent a semester in Vienna, Austria studying voice.  She came back and switched to nursing. While working as a ward clerk at St. Francis Hospital, Topeka, Kansas, she commuted to Kansas State University for classes. She also volunteered me to sing, with my guitar, for patients. She failed to tell me I was being recorded for the hospital TV channel. We brushed through well enough.

Deb graduated from Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas with a degree in Politcial Science. Her education was definitely eclectic! She was more politically conservative than Leslie and me and would occaasionally mention she was the one with the formal political education.

Deb married in 1985 and went off to Montana where her US Air Force Captain husband was stationed. She looked forward to lots of travel as a military officer’s wife. Their tour of Italy was bittersweet because of the stillborn birth of her first child. She came back to the United States the next year, terrified and pregnant with her second child. Her valiant effort to recover her resiliency was successfull. She and her husband had three boys in a row.

She embraced motherhood and being a wife with all of the energy she had shown as a child. She was plagued with health problems and had several surgeries to try to alleviate some of her genetic back issues.

On December 28, 2008, Deb died in her sleep. She was on medication for bronchitis and was not doing very well. It was Saturday night and not realizing pneumonia had crept into her lungs she went to bed thinking she would go to the doctor the next day.

On Christmas Day 2008, I received a phone call from her. We had a really good chat. I found out later she had talked to all of her siblings at one time or other over that Christmas holiday. She would have appreciated the irony.

Thanks for the memories little sister. Love you, miss you………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Walls Were Talking….

Our church family was an important part of our life growing up. My parents were married in the First Church of the Brethren at Eighth and Topeka Avenue.  When I was five or so a new church building was built in the Rochester Community north of Topeka. There is a postcard of the church building that pops up every once in awhile among old photographs and other paper memorabilia. Whenever I see the picture a really warm feeling fills me and memories flood through me.

There were weddings. Aunt Mary’s wedding, with more children than adults in the wedding party. Aunt Margie’s wedding with 2 flower girls and 2 ring bearers. I can still see the matching white dresses.  There was Rick’s, Penny’s, Sally’s, Deb’s, Keri’s, Jami’s, mine, Jill’s blessing ceremony, as well as, extended family and friend weddings. There are lots of memories and stories. Sally’s wedding story is one of our more memorable family legends.

Sally was in the Navy in the mid 1980’s. She met a Marine while stationed at Rota, Spain. They became engaged. My mother started planning a wedding in Kansas. The bride and groom began figuring out how to be there. The groom was in a training school in Texas during the month before the tentative wedding date.  We lived in Illinois and were responsible for two candle lighters and a flower girl. I bought the Jessica McClintock matching candle lighter dresses off the rack at Carson, Pirie, Scott’s and made a floor length pink flower girl dress.

We left after work on Friday and drove to Kansas, arriving about 3 AM. The rehearsal was at 10:00 AM with an early evening church ceremony and reception, followed by an informal party at my parents large Victorian home. Sally had arrived several days before. The groom’s parents arrived from Wisconsin before the groom. The introductions to their new daughter-in-law and her family were made and the wait for his arrival by military flight to Forbes Air Field in Topeka began

We all made it to the rehearsal. While the wedding party walked through their steps and Deb practiced her music, Leslie and I were in the church kitchen pulling out crystal glassware and setting up for cake and punch. Somehow everyone was dressed and ready on time.

The candles were lit; the minister, groom and best man were sequestered in the little room to the right of the sanctuary. The sanctuary was bathed in beautiful candle light and filled with soaring organ music. Penny decided to walk down the aisle early, taking the head usher in charge of the procession by surprise. The organist looked up in surprise, shuffled music until she found the traditional bride’s processional and met the challenge. Penny arrived at the front and realized she was there alone. She looked back down the aisle sharply waving her arm and hand forward indicating to flower girl Jami she was needed at the front. Never mind the head usher clutching the back of his flower girl daughter’s dress to keep her from following.

Penny kept sharply flicking her wrist and hand to Jami until Jami swished her body hard, releasing her father’s hold and marched down the aisle for her Aunt Penny, who gave a sigh of relief and straightened to see a stunned audience. The look on Penny’s face was priceless. As if on cue the audience laughed all together.  Penny flushed and Jami arrived at her side.

Meanwhile the minister, groom and best man had hustled out the side door as soon as the organ music changed. We were all waiting with baited breath to see what would happen next. The bride and our father made it down the aisle, vows were made and parties ensued. Later on, Dad was the center of attention as he told the tale from his perspective. He says he grabbed Sally’s wedding skirt as she tried to hightail it out the front door in embarrassment. Or at least that was his story and he stuck to it. Sally was not available for a rebuttal. She slipped out with her new husband, probably hoping to never see any of us again.

Actually, the walls of the church were not just talking, they were belly laughing………….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Tales from the Sisterhood……

We laugh a lot, my sisters and I. Humor laced with bits of irony, maybe a touch of sarcasm and on occasion a little satire fill our sister weekends, trips, breakfasts, lunches, dinners. During holiday family gatherings and extended family reunions we might keep our more hilarious humorous tendencies to a minimum…. or not.

This particular sister weekend started out to be a Las Vegas weekend on Sally’s January birthday. Since none of us won the lottery or received a really large bonus the weekend changed to the Jeff Dunham* show at the Expocentre arena in Topeka.

There is a lot to be said for having sister weekend in a non-work or home location. Penny was working in between sister activities. Of course she did think our plans were for the second March this year. ** I digress…. Several years ago I hosted a sister weekend and worked all day Friday and had to be to a meeting at 7:30 AM Monday morning. They carried on without me.

Plans were made for Leslie and me to pick up Penny, then Sally and go out to dinner before the show.  Sally called and offered to drive if her older sister was too shook up after her morning tangle with the Illinois license plate. Penny called and told us to slow our progress down a bit. She was running about five minutes late. We would still be on time, she said. She only had to change her clothes and put on mascara.

Having knowledge of Penny’s time management history, we slowed down accordingly. We were still pleasantly surprised to pull in the driveway behind her vehicle. Leslie and I chatted for a bit before tapping the horn to let her know we were waiting. Her husband sauntered out to tell us she was almost ready. He said she was dressed and standing in front of the mirror doing something. Leslie mentioned we did not have time for eyeliner, mascara better be the extent of her primping. He said he wasn’t sure what she was doing. I told him if she did not hurry she was paying for dinner. My brother-in-law left in a hurry, calling back over his shoulder the “she’ll be right out” promise. He broke into a trot and then a run as he neared the front porch steps. She appeared almost immediately. I did not see him push her out the door… however… I’m just saying.

We checked out a newer restaurant on Kansas Avenue. Sweet Pea’s is owned and operated by a cousin’s in-laws. The food was good. There were entre options, with sides served family style. The décor was early comfortable. The kitchen stove being used as a side server in one area would look good with my pinewood possum belly kitchen cabinet in the old-fashioned kitchen corner of our family room.

We were laughing and joking about whether Penny had made it out in time to avoid picking up the tab. The check came and I had another cup of coffee while she left to visit the powder room. The next thing we knew Penny was back and grabbing the check off the napkin holder. I heard her say she would pick up the check and tuned out the rest. The next thing I heard was her saying she had on one black pump and one navy blue one, wanting to know if we had time to take her back to the house to change. We three looked at each other and burst out laughing so hard we had tears running down our faces.  We disabused her of any side trip ideas to her house. She would just have to deal.

In the Jeep on the way to the Expocentre I called Keri to check on White Storm’s final placement in the derby. I was telling her the story of Penny’s one black and one blue shoe when I was shushed from all sides. It seems Penny offered to pay for our dinner as a bribe to keep the odd shoe story a secret. Oh well, that ship sailed. Keri wanted to know the statute of limitations on Aunt Penny’s shoe story. We arrived at the Jeff Dunham show laughing so hard our sides ached.

After laughing our way through the show and the drive home Leslie and I left Penny at her door. As she left the vehicle we told her she ought to wear the other pair of black and blue shoes tomorrow.

The family who laughs together finds a way to be together always……….


** Lilypad on the road…

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Busy Days……….

Hayley and her parents stopped by so Hayley could stay with Grandma and Sam for awhile. Sam and Hayley played side by side with Sam’s toys. Aunt Leslie had to go pick up milk at the dairy store. Hayley went along to see the cows and Sam took a nap.

Alice, Hayley and their mom came over to Aunt Leslie’s house after school. We talked and played and spent time together. They went home for dinner.

Sam and his mom went to dinner at the home of one of her close friends.

I dressed and went out with my friends of almost 55 years. Dinner was wonderful. The conversation was great. We sat and talked for several hours and then we went back to my sister’s home and talked until about 11:30 PM. We reminisced about school, friends, families, first puffs of cigarettes. Sam and his mom came home. He slept through the admiration party by all of the grandmas in the room.

Saturday morning found me with my three daughters and three of my granddaughters in a Kansas City suburb at a baby shower for one of the nieces from my first marriage. Their mother and I continue to be sisters-in-law in both deed and action. My niece was so cute with her baby bump and my other niece is obviously delighted with becoming an aunt. The other niece is engaged and her wedding will be in August. The save the date magnet is on my refrigerator. Hmmmm…..might be a really interesting story day.

Saturday afternoon we were at grandson Jacob and White Storm’s District Pinewood Derby contest. I am happy to report, White Storm came in 7th out of 105 contestants. Sam, his mother and I gave Alice and Kahlan a ride back to Topeka for a child care gig, while Peter, Jacob, Hayley and their mothers slumber partied in Olathe. After the derby, my son-in-law was somewhere, hiding out, I am sure.

Sam and his mom were off to another friend’s home while grandma was doing the town with her sisters.

Stay tuned for more adventures on the road with Lilypad and Co……….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved