Satellite Sisters' Uncommon Senses

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There are the five senses you're born with, and then there are the five uncommon senses you acquire when you grow up in a large family (5 sisters + 3 brothers = 8 children) that prepare you for life in the real world. Big Family Wisdom, if you will.

The Satellites have identified the uncommon senses as: A Sense of Connection; A Sense of Self; A Sense of Humor; A Sense of Adventure; and A Sense of Direction.

Therefore, there are five chapters in...

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There are the five senses you're born with, and then there are the five uncommon senses you acquire when you grow up in a large family (5 sisters + 3 brothers = 8 children) that prepare you for life in the real world. Big Family Wisdom, if you will.

The Satellites have identified the uncommon senses as: A Sense of Connection; A Sense of Self; A Sense of Humor; A Sense of Adventure; and A Sense of Direction.

Therefore, there are five chapters in the book, one chapter per sense. Each chapter begins with an opening essay by one of the sisters, and then is comprised of various pieces by the sisters that expand on the definition of the sense. Their essays mine the wealth of anecdotes from their childhood and their modern lives, showing off their individual personalities, their distinct points-of-view, and their unique comic voices. Besides the lists, recipes, quiz questions, and position papers sprinkled throughout the chapters adding punch and variety, this book makes for a terrifically engaging reading experience. You need not be familiar with the radio show at all to appreciate the wonderfulness of this book.

About the Authors

Satellite Sisters was born when the five Dolan sisters—Julie, Liz, Sheila, Monica, and Lian—set out to create some work they could do together that celebrated the importance of sisterhood and friendship. Singing and dancing were out of the question, but talking seemed like something they could pull off, and so a radio show hit the air on April Fool's Day 2000. Produced with partners WNYC Radio, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and Public Radio International, Satellite Sisters has become one of the fastest-growing new programs on public radio, heard on stations across the country. Satellite Sisters' Uncommon Senses is the Dolan sisters' first book, but Lian has several unsold screenplays in her drawer and Sheila still has her high school poetry.

Among them, the Satellite Sisters have two parents, three brothers, two husbands, five children, four dogs, and no cats. They live in Bangkok, New York, Portland, and Los Angeles.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The idea for a “Satellite Sisters’” radio show was spawned in the depths of a mud bath during a sisters-only weekend at a California resort. The next thing Julie, Liz, Sheila, Monica, and Lian Dolan -- who have among them “two parents, three brothers, thirty-five cousins, five kids, six nieces and nephews, three current and former husbands and ten in-laws" -- knew, they were on the air with one of PRI’s most popular call-in radio shows. From the days when they fought over the last pork chop and the family’s single telephone through the “transition years” of sleeping on each other’s couches throughout 39 cities and becoming corporate dynamos (among many other vocations), they’ve learned a thing or two. One is, as their Grandmother Klarman used to say, “Many hands make light work.”

So make your own load a little lighter with these wise words from the Dolan sisters, because in Uncommon Senses you’ll learn all about what it takes to make the decisions demanded by all those potentially crazy-making situations and opportunities that come up in life. Should you move to a place far from home where you don’t know a soul? What will you serve at Thanksgiving this year? Is it time to settle down and get married? How can you best prepare for delayed flights and lost baggage? What career path should you pursue? How do you handle dating after a divorce? They say it all comes back to using and developing your uncommon senses.

What are these uncommon senses, you ask? See below:

  1. A sense of connection: how you coordinate a family gathering. You make sure you have that “buffer guest” lined up.
  2. A sense of self: how you handle responsibility and do your part. You add paper to the office copy machine. (Make sure to read the story “Carry Your Own Skis” by Lian Dolan.)
  3. A sense of humor: how you become a “funseeker” and not a “funsucker.” You learn to make the best of any situation.
  4. A sense of adventure: how you make those life-changing leaps. You know it’s time to leave your job and you do.
  5. A sense of direction: how you find your way in life. “While it was important to have good role models, I also had to listen to my heart as well -- and my fashion sense.”
Pass this book along to the Satellite Sisters in your own life. And throw in a batch of your fabulous triple fudge brownies, too... (Jennifer Forman)
Publishers Weekly
The Dolans are known to listeners of PRI as the engaging Satellite Sisters, living in four cities on two continents, who have a weekly on-air conversation about topics that people really talk about, from clearing up bad credit to finding a breast lump. Having grown up in a family of 10, they believe their experiences have given them a unique perspective on how to get along in life. In their tenuously connected reminiscences, lists of dos and don'ts and even a few recipes, the women advise readers to develop their five "uncommon senses" those senses being connection, self, humor, adventure and devotion. Each sister's life story emerges from her brief essays. Julie, the oldest, lives in Bangkok and has dealt with a dozen household moves during her married life. Liz, usually the sensible one, left a powerful corporate job to "get a life" by pursuing the nonprofit road. Sheila and Monica, closest in age, have been best friends and rivals since childhood, and Lian, the youngest sister, relates the perks and trials of being the baby girl. The authors extol the advantages of a large family, but readers may wonder about the unmentioned, inevitable disadvantages, such as the amount of attentive nurturing their parents could give them, or the resentment older children may have felt when forced into a parenting role. While the appeal and popularity of the Satellite Sisters' radio program is undeniable, on the printed page their collective wisdom is limited. There is nothing wildly entertaining or groundbreaking here, but there are many readers (and radio listeners) out there who won't care, and this book will make them laugh. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Springing from their weekly one-hour Public Radio show, this book brings the Dolan sisters' words of wisdom to the printed page. From New York, Portland, L.A., and Bangkok, the Dolans connect once a week via satellite hook-up to chat live among themselves and with callers about any topic that arises. In their book, they share stories of birthday parties, holidays with 25 cousins, vacations, trips, college, and divorce. The book also fills in the blanks regarding the authors' personal lives, telling how growing up in a family of eight has given them a gift of gab that they heartily exploit. Features in O magazine and Good Housekeeping will fuel interest in this feel-good book. For public libraries. Lisa Wise, Broome Cty. P.L., Binghamton, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641591877
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/29/2001
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Satellite Sisters' Uncommon Senses

Carry Your Own Skis

By Lian

When my mother was forty, she took up skiing. Or, more correctly, she and her twin sister took up skiing. They got on a bus, went to ski camp for a week and learned to ski. After that, they'd get in the car and head up to Ladies Day at Powder Hill as often as they could to practice their stem christies. Don't let the name fool you, Powder Hill, which later became the more Everest-like "Powder Ridge," was no pushover bunny slope.

This was in the mid-Sixties, when skiing was work-decades before valet parking, fondue lunches, and gear that actually keeps you dry, warm and safe. My mother and my aunt took up the kind of skiing that entailed wooden skis, tie boots, and rope toes that could jerk your arm out of its socket. This was the kind of skiing where skiers, not the snow cats, groomed the hill in the morning. Ticket buyers were expected to sidestep up and down slopes and herringbone the lift lines. The typical A-frame lodge had a big fireplace, a couple of bathrooms, rows of picnic tables, and maybe some hot chocolate for sale. At the end of the day, there were no hot toddies by a roaring fire in furry boots or glasses of wine in the hot tub of a slopeside condo. Instead, my mother and her sister faced the inevitability of a station wagon with a dead battery and the long, dark drive back home in wet clothes.

Why did they learn to ski? It wasn't to spend some quality time outdoors together away from their responsibilities at home. They learned to ski so that they could take their collective children skiing, all seventeen of us. My mother's eight children and my aunt's nine. And learn to ski, we did, eagerly. There was, however, one rule my mother had about skiing: Carry your own skis.

My mother didn't teach us to ski until we could carry our own skis from the car to the lodge in the morning and, this is key, from the lodge back to the car at the end of the day. Even cold, wet, and tired, we had to get our skis, poles, and boots back to that station wagon on our own. No falling behind. No dragging. And no whining. My mother had the responsibility for her gear, the giant lunch, the car, and the occasional trip to the ER for broken legs. We were in charge of our own gear and meeting at the end of the day. These were the conditions to accompany siblings and cousins to the slopes. Carry your own skis or sit in the lodge all day.

No one wanted to get left in the lodge. A cold, wet day on the ice blue slopes of New England, freezing in leather boots and the generation of ski clothes before micro-fibers was far preferable to being left out of all that fun. Miss the lunches of soggy tuna fish sandwiches and Hershey's minis? No way! Sit in the lodge instead of sideslipping your way down a sheet of ice disguised as a trail or tramping through three feet of snow to get the pole you dropped under the chair lift? Not me! Forgo that last run of the day in near darkness, cold and alone and crying because your siblings have skied on ahead without you? Who'd want to miss all that fun? Sitting in the lodge all day just wasn't an option, once we reached ski age. We were expected to participate. We learned to carry our own skis.

The lesson was simple, really. Be responsible for yourself and your stuff, or you miss out. No one wanted to miss out. Getting across the icy parking lot and back seemed a small price to pay for the potential of great fun. And even if you dropped your poles or the bindings cut into your hands or you fell on your ass, that was part of the experience. The "carry your own skis" mentality filtered into almost every area of our life growing up. Doing homework, getting to practice, applying to college-be responsible for yourself and your stuff or you miss out.

I began to notice the people who hadn't learned to carry their own skis when I was as young as 11. I didn't have a name for this concept yet, but I had the notion that maybe other kids operated by a different set of rules. They thought that somewhere, somebody was going to take care of things for them. I remember the girls at summer camp that never signed up to pack out or pack in for a camping trip, expecting that someone else would provide food or do all the clean-up for them. But me? I would sign up to make the PB&Js and to clean up the mess. I'd load the canoes onto the truck and take 'em off again. And the tent? I'd put it up and I'd take it down. I didn't know any different. As a result, I was invited to go on a lot of camping trips. The lodge and back, baby. That was my attitude.

In high school, the kids who didn't carry their own skis called their parents to bring in assignments they'd forgotten or to ask for a ride home instead of walking or taking the late bus. In college, the no-ski carriers all had pink tee shirts-a sure sign that they had never done laundry before-and they complained about how much work they had. Isn't that what college was about? Doing your own laundry and finishing your work? Then you could get to the fun stuff.

The real world is riddled with people who have never learned to carry their own skis-the blameshifters, the no-RSVPers, the co-workers who never participate in those painful group birthdays except if it's their own. I admit it: I don't really get these people.

I like the folks who clear the dishes, even when they're the guests. Or the committee members who show up on time, assignment completed and ready to pitch in on the next event. Or the neighbor who drives the car-pool even though her kids are sick. I get these people. These people have learned to carry their own skis.

In early adulthood, carrying my own skis meant getting a job, paying off my student loans, and working hard for the company that was providing my paycheck. If I did those things, then I could enjoy the other areas of my life. Dull, yes, but freeing, too. When I wasn't responsible for myself or my stuff, I felt lousy. Sometimes, I could get to the lodge, but I just couldn't get back to the station wagon at the end of the day. It was an unfamiliar feeling to let someone down by missing a deadline at work or not showing up for an early morning run. I even felt bad for the people at American Express when my expense reports got a little behind my bills. On days like that, the parking lot seemed bigger and icier than I had anticipated.

Now, I have a life that includes a husband, two children, a dog, a house, friends, schools, and a radio show that involves lots of other people, including four sisters. The "stuff" of my life may seem much heavier than two skis, two boots, and two poles, but it isn't really. Just a little bit trickier to carry. I have to do more balancing and let go of the commitments that I'd probably drop anyway. If I commit to more than I can handle, I miss out. That's when I think of Powder Hill.

The funny thing is, some of the worst moments of my childhood were spent on skis or in pursuit of skiing. The truth is, I didn't really like skiing as a kid. And, I wasn't a very good skier. Most days, skiing for me was about freezing rain and constantly trying to catch up to my older, faster, more talented siblings. The hard falls on the hard ice. I can still feel the damp long underwear and the wet wool from the endless ride home. But whether I liked to ski or not didn't really matter. I was expected to learn to ski and I did. And I also learned that in life you need to be responsible for yourself and your stuff or you miss out. The lodge and back, baby.


How to carry your skis in everyday life

1. Add paper to the office copy machine

2. Take the dirty diapers home.

3. Bring the serving utensils for your potluck dish.

4. Find a sub.

5. Do your action items.

6. Have your checkbook and ID ready.

7. Return books you've borrowed from friends.

8. Get directions instead of winging it .

9. Eat whatever the hostess is serving.

10. Call your parents just to check in.

11. Bring in the garbage can for a neighbor.

12. Show up early when traveling with others.

13. Start the next pot of coffee.

14. Return your shopping cart.

15. Pick up after your dog.


Signs that you have not learned to carry your own skis

Suspicious about a new friend or co-worker and their ski-carrying ability? A person who has never learned to carry their own skis will exhibit some of the following behaviors:

1. Shows up late for a group night out with no cash and no ID.

2. Monopolizes the only common-area phone.

3. Never sits on the hump.

4. Wears all white to the community clean up day.

5. Waits for the closest spot in the parking lot, backing up a line of traffic.

6. Checks luggage when everyone else in the group has rolling carry-ons.

7. Never schleps toys to the park for their child but borrows yours.

8. Fails to bring the laptop for the group presentation.

9. Parks in the handicapped spot "just for a minute."

10. Responds "I don't care" when an office mate is rounding up lunch orders for the deli.

11. Arrives late to the meeting then talks the whole time.

12. Keeps everyone in the group waiting in the lobby while checking their e-mail.

13. Brings six liters of Diet Slice when assigned beverage detail.

From Satellite Sisters' Uncommon Senses by the Satellite Sisters, (c) October 2001, Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, used by permission

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2002

    Great Book...Couldn't Put it Down

    This is a fantastic book! I recommend it to anyone who craves a good read. It is the kind of book you could curl up with and read cover to cover in one sitting. It reminded me a lot of my own stories of growing up in a large family. The stories shared by the sisters are funny and can be related to by anyone, even for those who don't have large families.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2001

    I bought copies for my three best friends

    If you have sisters or friends who you depend on to entertain and encourage you, then you'll love this book. I did. It reminded me so much of the conversations I have with my girlfriends. I do not have any sisters and I have never heard their radio show, but a member of my book club who does listen to their show gave me a copy of the book. Now the whole club is going to read it. I just don't know how we will discuss it without laughing too hard to talk. I love this kind of fun storytelling, especially now when we all need to remember that the people in our lives are the most important things in our lives.

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