Ode to a Sister

Hello Readers! It is I, Laura, the younger sister to a blogger who(m?) you know and love. Much like the giant overhead cup featured at Carowinds’  water playground, which tips over every few minutes when the level inside – fed by spickets from above – gets too much for the rocking cup to bear, I have been teetering on the brink of a blog post for weeks, waiting for the pressure to rise so high that the words could not be contained any longer. There are several topics and posts begging to be written, but one deserves attention over all the others. It will probably be slightly longer than you actually desire, and certainly this post would have been far more timely on July 4th… which is not only the best time to wear those cheap Flag shirts from Old Navy, but also, the birthday of my blogging sister.  A lovely person named Katrina Ember Tenny turned Ryder.

Readers, I give you…Ode to a Sister.

Katrina and me in April 2007. Dylan and Lilia in our respective ovens.Of course, someone needed to do rabbit ears on this otherwise perfect photo.

I have known Katrina my entire life.  Seems like an obvious statement since she is two years older, but when you think about it – it’s pretty amazing.  After all these years, I can tell you that Katrina is my best friend.  She and I are very different…  but we speak the same language.  To quote one of Katrina’s and my favorite cheeky female literary characters (Anne with an E!) “A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really
kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.”


You'll probably have to click on this particular scanned picture in order to see them all better, I am new to the world of scanning pictures, so please excuse the poor format. (Top Left) - Maybe some of it made it to the pan. No wonder my childhood nickname was "Puff McD". Those cheeks were ridiculous. (Top Right) - My 4th bday. Anyone else see Lilia and Addie? (Bottom Left) - Beginning of Sisterhood leaves Katrina looking dismayed. (Bottom Right) - Katrina, still dismayed. Me, plump and happy. My Mom... so beautiful.


After the typical sibling upbringing where we alternatingly loved and despised each other depending on menstrual schedules, Katrina and I had very different lives between high school graduation and marriage.  She did all the right things, and I did all the wrong things.  Actually, it’s more that she did most of the right things and only a few wrong things, whereas I did most of the wrong things, and a few of the right things.  With each of us essentially going in circles, we ended up both living back at our parents house in 2001 when she was in grad school breaking and making engagements and I was a single Mom waitressing and growing up.  All that we went through and learned during those years deserves a post of its own, but suffice to say that we were both in major transition and benefited greatly from each other’s presence, encouragement, and experience.  We could not have been in more different places, and yet – God had us under the same roof once again.

I'm bigger, but she calls me Little as a nickname. I'll take it. Anything over Puff McD.

In 2005, when Katrina and Jeremy settled on the other side of the world as missionaries in Papua New Guinea, she and I developed a friendship that transcended sisterhood, an occurence which I think surprised and delighted both of us.  Somehow, Yahoo Messenger was the perfect mechanism.  Each happily married with children, we could share life well together.  We managed to be pregnant simultaneously not just once, but twice!  When she returned back to Waxhaw, NC, we fell into a comfortable groove of friendship.

Return home celebration in 2007

I love Katrina, and she loves me.  We laugh together, a lot!  And we cry together, too.  Sometimes, we laugh and cry at the same time.  I don’t know anyone else I can talk to in the nearly effortless way I can talk to Katrina.  How many times we have been on the phone, both of us ignoring or generally attempting to escape our children – sharing stories of toddlers urinating in strange places, babies doing amazing and adorable things, kids who repeat phrases they learned from us (whether wise or awful)….  And Katrina is a great phone person because I can say “Gotta Go, Bye!” at a moment’s notice and she will understand that it’s probably due to a) mortal injury to one of the children involving some art supply, or b) feces.

It is clear to me that if I don’t stick with my mental outline for this post, I will tangent into a multitude of stories and memories of Katrina and me, replete with hilarity, poignancy, pregnancy, and ripe with SNL skit inducing family togethers.  But I had something happen yesterday that was so personally inspirational, it shaped up and sharpened my idea for a Katrina-post into a clear and thought provoking memoir.  I can say memoir even if the person is still alive, right?  Hey, guess who I could ask that question to?  Yep, you guessed it – my sister. She knows everything grammar, English, literary, academic, intellectual, scholarly.   This is an excellent segue into the meat of this blogoir.  Oh, please pay attention, reader, there will be several words beginning with “blog” that you may not recognize.  That is call blogcabulary.  One of many skills I picked up from Katrina.

Yesterday, I visited Katrina’s house.  She was not there, being on a camping trip with Jeremy.  My Mom was there with Katrina’s three kids, and I brought my four kids, and we had a crazy fun day of eating Katrina’s food, making a mess of her house, porch, yard and driveway, and watering her grass and flowers with the pool and sprinkler.  While there, I had a profound epiphany.  As I walked into her quiet house (all the kids were outside with my Mom), moving around in the space Katrina calls home – I was more aware of her presence than ever before.  It was the tangible sense of her influence, her being, her identity – imprinted upon the objects she is most often surrounded by, the spaces and surfaces most impacted by the person of my sister.  As if, in my observation of her absence, she arrived.  These types of deep thoughts can be appreciated at their fullest by one person in my life…  Katrina herself.  A woman who(m?) (again, a popular grammatical issue that could be solved by our fairy blogmother, Katrina) I believe thinks a little less highly of herself than she ought.  Yes, less.

Because here is the thing, my obviously still engaged reader: 🙂

Katrina is awesome at everything she does.  Let’s explore.

The pictures are not the best in terms of photography, but I wanted to capture how my revelations came with simplicity - it was the everyday objects that resoundingly spoke of Katrina. It was the signs of pleasant routine, the classic mundane and yet bright mosaic of life. Although I don't know the story here, I can assume that Katrina planted this plant and helped glue the ribbon and the foam stickers (most likely purchased at a deep discount) with the kids. I am sure the afternoon was complete with butterfly cut PBJs, or meat roll up, or homemade cookies, if not Luigi's mango ices...(also certainly purchased at deep discount).

Huswifery is a word I learned from Katrina.  It means “the business of a housewife; female domestic economy and skill”.  I love this word.  Katrina does excellent huswifery, with the intentional prioritized balance of Biblical wisdom first,  Judy Tenny’s  example second, and snarky comments third. Not only does she execute this huswifery well, she has the added (let’s admit it, ladies, often irritating) ability to stay one-stripe-pajamas thin.  (Snarky comments run in the family)  Her house is beautifully decorated, with a calming balance of colors, a comforting array of books, plants, artwork, crafts, charmingly current and quaint all at once…warm and inviting, utterly pleasant and somehow, in some way, romantic to the point of inspiring one to blog.  It is blogspirational.

Katrina’s clothing and laundry always smells amazing.  My Mom and I spent several minutes yesterday remarking on this fact.  You can smell all of 5 of them from several feet away, and its a combination of crisp sun drenched linen and absolute aqua cleanliness.  Peering in her laundry room, with all its apricot cheeriness and towering, tumbling organization, one notes that she uses Tide and Snuggle.  However, one may conclude, after attempting the same combination  in one’s own home and achieving less than the total olfactory saturation one was seeking, that obviously Katrina must be using 8 or 10 dryer sheets at a time – although the sheer waste of such a dear item would fly in the face of my next observation.

Katrina knows how to shop, coupon, meal plan, budget, save, give, inspire, and teach finances.  She is, in her own witty, self-deprecating and clever rite, a financial expert.  I could write lots on this topic, but any follower of hers is already nodding their head vigorously.  My own family has saved hundreds and hundreds of dollars, thanks to Katrina encouraging me to coupon, and showing me the way.  I raise my glass of B2G3 Old Orchard to you, Katrina!  I pass my kids Super Double free Danimals crush cups, and think of you, Katrina!  More importantly, I bear my non-existent but much pretend-appreciated certificate of graduation from Ryder Resolution group proudly.  From this savvy sister of mine, I learned about spending for the present.

She hangs up her children's artwork. This may seem like a little thing, but it is more than I can claim to do!

Addie, Dylan, and Anika – Three lucky kids.  They will be just fine… just as fine as my own kids, at least.  It is refreshing to know that another Mom is teaching her children the 5 second rule, the dessert for breakfast rule, the “TV is ok when Mommy is stressed” rule, the correct words to “Ach von spieler Musica!”, and, of course, “Jesus Loves Me” and “He’s Got the Whole World”… Katrina loves her children with total abandon, with unrestrained affection, with perfect realism, tender belief, and transparent humanity.  She has had many memorable examples of great Moms in her life, and who else better to follow in the footsteps of mothering, than Judy Tenny.  Well, and me, of course.  I became a Mom first, so Katrina learned everything she knows from me.  Obviously.  Blogviously.

Welcome to the Ryders!

Katrina has a green thumb.  And it is getting greener.  She has a beautiful array of flowers outside her home, at the mailbox, everywhere!  She has herbs and cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli (I think) and other veggies.  I know she has worked hard to learn gardening, and has written about her escapades with the deer and the slug and the square vegetable patch…  but let me tell you, what I saw yesterday amazed, impressed, and astounded me.  Lush, green, colorful, vibrant, fruitful!  No matter how disappointing she may find her veggie “take”, trust me – it’s more than I ever have done, and I wager, for the majority, more than you also, reader.

Books abound. The nice thing about Katrina's house... she has read them, dog eared them, studied them, written about them.


My sister, the writer.  Pretty self explanatory, provided that you are not reading this blog for the first time.  Not only does she write beautifully, but she understands writing.  Her literary analysis(‘?…es?…s’?) (how do you make the word analysis plural, oh Blogfessor Ryder?) always astound me with their complexity and clarity.  I love reading her blog!  I have loved the letters she has written me, the quickly jotted emails, the post-it notes left through the years.  Katrina wrote me a poem one time from college, and even today, though I have read the poem a hundred times, it still brings me to tears.  I’ll post it separately if she wants me to.  (I can only take the surprise Katrina Roast post so far)  She has written so many short stories and the start of many (not a dig, Katrina, we know you’ll finish one day!) novels, and she plans to write a Bible Study, which I am sure will be insightful and graceful and have intermittent sarcasm – just like her.

Katrina learned how to make a lot of things from scratch while in Ukarumpa. This is August 2006, when Mom and I visited Katrina in PNG.

Katrina is a regular Food Network Star!  Yesterday when I assessed the contents of the fridge to withstand the impending vacuum of two adults and seven children, I found neatly stacked matching tupperware, containing many amazing and thoughtful dishes, complete with innovative and healthy ingredients and, of course, loads of fresh basil from her garden.  Curry chicken, pasta salad, homemade garlic hummus, roast beef, and a unique herbed chilled rice and corn salad.  She will probably laugh and say that all those things were made from the dregs of ingredients in her kitchen, or made with items bought for practically nothing, or made hurriedly and without thinking – still the fact remains that Katrina can throw down some good eats!  Plus, she can bake.  I mean, the girl whips up scratch made bagels that will make you want to die on the spot from happiness.

I am so thrilled that each of my daughters has three sisters.  Moreover, I love each of my four sisters-in-law.  I am glad to think that they each have their own biological sister or sisters, so I am pretty sure they understand exactly what it means to have a someone who knows you like no other.

So, you see, all the ways that Katrina achieves greatness.  A woman who seeks after the will of God first, the will of Jeremy second, and the will of a good book third.  She does it all with style, despite claiming to have none, and finesse, despite claiming to have little, and even a level of expert greatness which can only be attributed to a few Huswifers each decade.  We salute you, Katrina, you huswifblogger.  Perhaps it should be bloghuswiffer.  Hmm.  Makes me think of a floor cleaning product.  We’ll have work on that one back at blogtionary central.

I love you, Katrina!!!


7 thoughts on “Ode to a Sister

  1. Love this post, Laura. I love how you mention your mom – who I think of often when I bake for my own children – she always had the tastiest treats – I remember her making pretzels this one time… Yum. I love that you and your sister are so close… Beautiful.

  2. Ah . . . I can’t believe that you did this!!! How did you sneak this up. I even checked last night and there were NO DRAFTS. You are too clever. You are the BEST for making me sound so awesome. 🙂 I will not self-depricate too much, but I will tell you that where it comes to crafts, you should never expect it was me. That pot that you praised (in which the plant is totally DYING) was a teacher gift to J from a student. As for the laundry smell, I admit to inconsistency; I use Wisk even more than Tide and whatever dryer sheet is cheapest, so I do not really know the recipe for the smell that you seek. Thirdly, whom where you would say her and who where you would say she. 🙂 Fourthly, I haven’t read all the books on that shelf, but I will. Fifthly, 99% of the artwork that comes into this house goes straight into the trash, however, as Addie is an artist, even the 1% amounts to quite a lot which must be displayed. Sixthly (a terrible word), I love you Little. 🙂

    1. How I did this… I spent the entire day ripping my hair out just to spend another five minutes at the computer fending off requests for yet another snack and mediating fights with such widom as “Just hit her back”. This is why I can’t blog more regularly! I have the insane need to write a mini series and then spend the five hours after “Publish” thinking of all the actually pefect tidbits I should have included. So much more could and should have been said about you. I can’t believe all that I had to leave out. I did not capture even a smidge of who you are… but hopefully a smidge of a smidge. 🙂 If you aren’t crafty, who is responsible for the square foam rocket ship art on the porch door? The decorating in Dylan and Addie’s room is crafty, to put so much in and on a small space – that’s amazing! You have more toy and toy categories than I tout in the Castle, and yet in 1/4 the space. Genius. Total genius. I wish my camera hadn’t died after the first few pictures, I wanted to get even more of the moments I observed…. Ah, well, next year’s post.

    2. Katrina, I just realized that I forgot to include your love of pottery and beautiful serving dishes… it’s always fun to come to parties at your house, because everything is always SO lovely. And HOW could I forgot your love of autumn? Your signature earrings?? I am thinking of more and more things I could have included. 😉

  3. Loving this sister love! Makes me want to write my own sisters a note to tell them how much I admire, appreciate and love them!

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