Author Archives: sweetridgesisters

About sweetridgesisters

Kate grew up composing soap operatic dramas while hanging laundry on the line. She has consistently found herself barefoot in the big city and wearing four inch heels in the barnyard. She spent several years in the heat of North Carolina running a theatre company, unloading trucks of produce, getting lost in the mountains on the way to photograph farmers with secret stores of moonshine, and living in a cabin with no plumbing. To her surprise, she currently loves living in the big city of Pittsburgh. She is a harpist, bellydancer, wife, mother, and composer of soap operas while hanging laundry on the line. Kate can be reached at kathleen.slattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Mary Brigid is the second sister in the family and the fourth of 9 kids. Riding her horse, gardening, running and reading are pretty much crucial for her. She loves drinking too much coffee, rain boots, quiet time at 6AM, and is slightly obsessed with sunshine. The most important things in her life are the Catholic faith, agriculture, her flower garden, and horse and dog. Mary is interested in psychology, traveling, geography, health/health food, reading, baking, colors, locating lost hairclips to lose in her hair again, chronic journaling, owning too many pairs of earrings, laughing with (and at) loved ones, sarcastic humor, and stubborn people. Colleen Rose is strangely serene for a Slattery girl, runs dozens of miles a week, loves poetry and music, and is currently setting out on the adventure of both married life and teaching 5th graders in the nation's capital. Clare is the youngest Slattery, and is reluctant to participate in the blog project. However, she's also an amazing photographer and her work is sure to show up soon, even if her words don't appear on the page quite yet.

Re: Letting Go

By: Clare

I never write blog posts. I have sworn off blog posts for the rest of my life. And yet here I am, writing this, and there you are, reading this, and somewhere 3 sisters of mine are sitting behind a screen grinning gleefully because I promised “By: Clare” would never appear on the sweetridgesisters page again. But Kate was right, she has inspired me to do many things, including write a blog post, You got the oldest’s view, now you can have mine, which is valued at a higher price than Donald Trump.

All my life I’ve undergone The Interview. Meaning, I meet a person. Person learns I am the youngest child. Wait, I am the youngest of how many? Eyebrows shoot up. Eyes scrunch together. Then I hear The Question: “Sooo, do you like being the youngest?” My answer is always, “Well, there are pros and cons.” Then I give a soft chuckle and sprint walk away in the politest way possible.

It’s true, there are many, many pros and cons. But by far the biggest con has always been the niggling knowledge in the back of my head that whispered in my ear yearly and told me that I would always be left behind. And I was. The truth unfolded quietly and slyly; I never knew things were changing until it had already happened, like a rug being pulled out from under my feet.Six-year-old Clare discovered her siblings didn’t like playing Blind Man’s Bluff on the trampoline anymore.

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Eight-year-old Clare accepted the fact that her siblings would never agree to play tag again.

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Ten-year-old Clare saw Raph leave for college and knew the indoor games Raph directed would cease. At 14 her best friend/sister left, at 16 her worst enemy/brother. My siblings grew up so fast, and I was so eager to join them. I puffed up my chest and tripped over my feet to get there, but somehow always felt like I was lagging behind.

In a day I leave the cocoon of my home, where I have tracked my siblings’ adventures and dreamed up my own. In a day I will stand at the door and receive a final blessing and cross the threshold into adventure. It seems almost surreal, because I’ve seen it done so many times before, but always with me in the background. I thought I had my whole life planned, but I only just realized that goodbyes can be so hard, and the future can seem so vast, so mysterious, and so lonely.

Yes, there are perks to being the youngest, but there is always a gentle, yet unrelenting burden pressing on my shoulders. There are pages and pages of stories my siblings have written in our Slattery Book of Life, and mine has always and will always come last, just before the “The End.”  Everywhere I go, I leave a wreckage of red stamps that read “Finished.” Everything I do is carried on a wind of nostalgia and is narrated as “the end of an era.” Because of this, in some ways, it feels like I let down the family just by growing up.

My hands hold my childhood tightly tucked inside my heart. There you can find me sailing through the stormy seas of the English Channel on a trusty ship greatly resembling our hammock, or me carrying three antique schoolbooks down our dirt lane to a one-room schoolhouse greatly resembling our chicken shed, or me winning an Olympic gold medal after my killer serve was left unreturned by my Russian opponent, who greatly resembles the side of our white farmhouse.

For me, letting go means giving back. I want every other child to feel the innocence and love I was blessed with as a child. I want to dedicate my life to that cause and follow God blindly and humbly. I just have a lot of work to do on my way.

Like packing. Lots of packing.

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Letting Go

By Kate

My littlest sister leaves home this week. She’s leaving behind the cool green ridges of Western Wisconsin for the heat and the hustle and the dust of Dallas, Texas.

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Texas is a long way from Wisconsin, and the University of Dallas is a long way from a tiny high school in a farm town complete with hitching posts outside the hardware store. Not a lot of Amish people in Dallas, I imagine. Not a lot of Wisconsin farm girls either. It’s a long journey and a huge leap, but I know that my bold, beautiful, and surprisingly sophisticated sister will do just fine. In fact, she will shine, as she always has and always will.

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Clare has been beautiful since she was born. I was 17 when that happened, and part of the reason I put off leaving for college for an extra year was the fact that I couldn’t bear to disappear without holding her (and all the rest of my littlest siblings) for as long as I could. I read them stories and sang them to sleep and cried because I was terrified that they would grow up without having me be a real presence in their lives.

It turns out that my personality is strong enough to make a significant mark in the life of my family even from thousands of miles away. That’s a good thing, since my path has taken me further from home than I could have imagined. Before I left home when I was Clare’s age I fought fiercely to hold my family and my land in my heart, and there they remain. I let go, and I held on. I’m pretty sure I still managed to form Clare’s childhood quite a bit. If nothing else, I imparted the importance of wandering out of the farmhouse barefoot and dressed like a gypsy or a wood nymph or a queen, carrying a book about any of those type of characters, headed for the woods to dream under a tree. Dramatic makeup and a super amazing photographer like my sister Nicole on hand? Even better.

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Here is what is hard. Clare leaving for college is not just the end of her childhood. It’s the end of all of ours. As the ninth and last sibling to leave the nest, her departure means that we are raised, at least officially speaking. Granted, the height of the clamor and the chaos died down years ago. It’s been a long time since we played our particular version of tag, which at one point regularly included climbing out the third floor windows and scrambling around the roof while whooping and howling. We’ve ceased causing near heart attacks for our farmer neighbors and some of us are selling them corn or life insurance instead. We’re growing up and settling down and beginning to raise another generation of children, and that’s a wonderful thing. The past is gone, but the future is bright, particularly for my bright eyed, flame haired, college bound baby sister Clare.

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I’m far away from home and soon Clare will be too, but I’m holding her in my heart as she leaps out into the future.

Colleen, Joe and Jolly Roger

By Mary

My little sister and her new husband drove off in the early morning light last week to start their life anew in Washington DC. Before leaving they spent a considerable amount of time packing the little bubble shaped black Mazda car that they now share. From the hatchback to the front, the compact car was packed with wedding gifts as well as the remnants of what the two of them have been lugging about while essentially living out of a suitcase for the last two months following graduations, wedding, honeymoon and then the last few weeks with family here in Wisconsin. When gathering together the vast pile of wedding gifts to fit into the car, Colleen took our dad’s wheel barrow and wheeled load after load from the barn to the car. I know she was excited to pack and leave and I know her heart is now bursting and breaking in Washington D.C. as she begins a new life. She will be a wife and a school teacher far from both Wisconsin and Dallas which have been the foundation of her formation and existence the last 22 years.

Colleen has taught me so much about life. She is such a special and beautiful person both inside and out. Her compassion, loyalty and optimism never cease to amaze me. Her new husband, Joe, has also taught me a lot recently. The main lesson I have come to know through him is that the expansion of family and sharing someone who you love so dearly is not a compromise. It’s simply a growth in the love, generosity and loyalty that only makes life more rich and full.

The day after Colleen and Joe packed up their wedding bounty I mulled over missing my sister and Joe while cleaning out the barn apartment that they stayed in for two weeks after the honeymoon. After washing the last few dishes and gathering together of load of towels and wash clothes I went out to check on my goats. Seeing the goats made me really miss Colleen. Yes, that’s right, tending goats makes me think of Colleen and Joe, and this is why:

For some odd reason Colleen and Joe are just about the most interested in my sheep and goats of all the family. I don’t really expect anyone to care about them, although I always appreciate people feigning interest. However, the two of them act like preschoolers at a petting zoo around my livestock and that REALLY humors me. In fact, I delight in it! Right after they came back from their honeymoon, the first thing they did was take a walk and discover a 2 day old baby goat that was born while they were away.

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While Colleen may insist that she is not naturally maternal, she and Joe literally flocked to the cute (but not overly intelligent) billy kid that was dubbed by Colleen as  “Jolly Roger”.

They spent two weeks holding him like a baby.

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All he had to do was give a bleat and they would head out to check on him just to see if he was okay.

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To be honest it’s really funny to see them looking enthusiastically preppy while cuddling a Boer goat of all things.

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But it was a great sight to behold. I look forward to seeing them again, and in the meantime we will stay in contact. That reminds me, Colleen texted me the other day. I forgot to respond. The text read, “I miss you, how is Roger?

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Patched Up

By Mary

While June may be a busy time of year, it wouldn’t seem complete without the annual round-up that is held over at the ranch. The round-up consists of a busy Saturday with a full crew of help to gather cows from the hills that are covered in mist early on summer mornings. This year my sister in law Nicole showed up as an amazing addition to the crew, to document the event in photographs. Nicole is an amazing photographer and you can find more info about her work here.

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After riders bring the cows and their calves in they get sorted into corrals that hold groups of the mama cows and isolated pens of nursing calves.

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Every cow is given a series of shots

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and some are freeze branded with the classic ranch’s D symbol.

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If the calves are bulls they get castrated and their testicles are thrown into a heaping bucket that sits out in the sun all day. Later on in the evening rocky mountain oysters are served along with a big cowboy supper for all the people who spend the day helping out. Need I mention exactly how fresh and local this entré is? Ick, is makes my stomach sick to think about. The brief description above is more or less the general outline of what happens each and every year at the round-up. This year there was a funny addition to the day though.

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If you are wondering why in the world there is a big patch on the eye of a calf that has essentially a get well card scrawled across the denim patching, that’s a totally reasonable question! To fully understand why there is even a patch on the eye of the cow, I should clarify that the beef herd has been dealing with a flare up of pink eye which is a common problem in cows. Cows with pink eye need treatment to get better. The treatment can be done by administration of medication, and at times an eye patch that is put on with a square of rubber cement glue. The day before the round-up I had been over at the ranch working moving cattle. Just before leaving, I asked my sister-in-law, Aurora if she needed any help with anything before I went home for the night. Now I will clarify that Aurora is super pregnant and super exhausted these days, so she was more than happy to get any help she could to aid in the craziness of pulling of the round-up which is to be honest a ton of work and productive chaos.

Aurora handed me a heap of Patrick’s old work pants that have been destroyed from thousands of hours of farm labor and asked if I could cut out patches for the next day. I joked that I wanted to turn the task into a quilting job and that I just so happened to have fabric markers in my car. This joke tuned into serious business when kids started flocking over to “help”. I sent one to my car to get the markers and before I knew it I had a circle of kids around me who turned the task into a crafting activity and were fighting over scissors, markets and ideas.

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I am a huge proponent of creativity and find great joy in sharing it with kids so it was a humorous blessing to watch them delight in drawing pictures

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and sympathy cards on the patches.

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Each kid has was proud of their work

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and their aunty was pretty amused with the entire unexpected project the next day when watching calves burst out of the chute.

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It put a smile on my face just to sit on my horse and watch patched up calves with art on their eyes charging about bellowing!

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Predictions

By Mary

It’s a universal fact that sister’s love to talk.Conversations between sisters usually go far beyond the weather and what’s for dinner. Speaking on behalf of my sister’s and myself, we are known to share all sorts of eventful, sometimes zany, often times dramatic stories. Once in awhile we even are known to swap predictions.

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Colleen recently reminded me of a prediction that I made years ago that went something like this:

ME: Colleen, when you grow up, you are going to marry a guy from the East Coast. He is going to be both preppy and dorky and wear sweaters and be from the city, and you are going to leave to marry him and live somewhere over on the East Coast.

COLLEEN: “Mary, you are crazy, that is never going to happen.

ME: “Oh yeah, just wait and see!”

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While Colleen may have nixed my thoughts at the time when they were initially mentioned, she is now delighted to marry the love of her life who just so happens to frequently wear sweaters that are topped off with a bow tie which may just have been a preppy trend that he got from being raised on the East Coast where he will continue to live with Colleen.

In less than two weeks, Colleen will become the wife of Joe.

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The blog here will follow the wedding work and festivities that will be a joy to celebrate. It is an exciting blessing to welcome Joe into the Slattery family. He is a perfect fit for my sister. So perfect in fact, that Joe has always just seemed to make sense as her mate, even before the two of them met!

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Live a Life Less Ordinary

By Kate

My sister Colleen has always been extraordinary.

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Colleen is an athlete, an actress, a scholar, and a musician. She excels at everything she does. She is also officially the sweetest of the four Slattery sisters.

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In addition to her sweetness and competence, Colleen has always possessed a certain sophistication. She wears tweed jackets and pearls as though she were born in them.

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She was not. Colleen grew up barefoot and dressed in hand me downs, like the rest of the nine kids on our ridge top farm. She was usually smiling, often curled up reading, loved to play music on our hundred year old piano, and directed plays starring the youngest of the Slattery children.

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Four years ago, Colleen left the ridge to attend college. She had a plan- she always does. She was going to become a teacher, to continue to excel at running track and cross country. She was also going to find a boy who liked to listen to Carbon Leaf, a slightly obscure band she’d heard about from her big sister. Being a Carbon Leaf fan in Cashton, Wisconsin was a little lonely. Things at the University of Dallas, she thought, would be different.

She was right. In the autumn of her sophomore year, she was asked to attend the Symphony by a tall, handsome young man from a family even larger than her own. A tall, handsome, young man who just happened to be an avid fan not only of the symphony, but of Carbon Leaf.

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After the symphony, Colleen sent me this picture, snapped during the first moments of their first date, and from clear across the country in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I immediately predicted that they would marry. They looked so unusually well suited for each other. Their dress, their height, their body language, their general mien- there was a harmony about it.

Joe wooed Colleen well, wisely allowing himself to be directed by her in a collegiate theatrical production. He wooed her while wearing a mustache. Ridiculous? Romantic? You be the judge.

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In any case, it worked. Even from afar, it was a delight to watch their relationship deepen, and to witness the unusual level of rapport these two clearly share.

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Of course, they attended several live Carbon Leaf concerts along the way.

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Colleen and Joe are a unique couple, combining an energetic and youthful vivacity with a true enjoyment of the sort of activities more often enjoyed by people of a more advanced age. Strolling hand in hand? Picnicking? Perusing the newspaper? Attending the symphony? These two are all over it.

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Eventually, Joe traveled to Wisconsin, braving the fierce heat and crowded farmhouse far from the genteel Washington suburb where he was raised, to meet the Slattery clan. He wore a bow tie, of course.

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It is impossible to miss the joy in Colleen’s face when she is with Joe, a joy that has only deepened over the past few years of their relationship, and so it came as no surprise last summer when Joe proposed, and Colleen accepted.

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The year of their engagement flew by, and in a few days Joe and Colleen will become man and wife. I am sure that their life will be not only less ordinary, but extraordinary- like my sister, Colleen.

We’ll be posting more of the wedding story as it unfolds. A huge country wedding means lots of pictures and lots of stories. Keep visiting us for details. In the meantime, here are some of our past wedding stories to keep you busy.

Taking the Leap

Wedding Work

Nicole’s Story

Cale Plus Katelyn

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