Tag Archives: siblings

Be still, Cody.

My sister-common-law (because my brother loves her and therefore, so do I, married or not) is in love with Jeff Goldblum. It’s cool to say that here because (1) it’s hilarious to me and (2) my brother is the one who told me about the celeb crush, so it’s not like it’s a secret or anything. Plus, I can totally get on board with the hotness of Jeff Goldblum– turns out, not only is he a fabulous actor in a million and one good movies, but he’s also a crazy amazing jazz piano player. Look it up. Good stuff.

Source: Ummm... Steph's favorite?
Source: Ummm… Steph’s favorite?

One of my favorite Jeff Goldblum characters (besides the “must… go… faster!!!!” Dr. Ian Malcom in Jurassic Park) is Alistair Hennessey in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He makes me laugh so hard… especially when he meet’s Cody, the dog, asks his name, and then instantly smacks him on the nose with a newspaper and says, super seriously, “Be still, Cody.” Even though Cody was already being totally still and well-behaved. It’s just so ridiculous.

Alistair Hennessey {Source}
Alistair Hennessey {Source}

And I thought about that two Fridays ago while I was home sick from work with a fever and ridiculous cough (I told you, Satan moved into my chest and was not about to leave) and spent the day watching Wes Anderson movies (!!) on the couch while texting my brother and sister. I thought about it because “Be still, Cody.” was going to be the name of my next blog post. My next someday blog post. Which ended up being a really long time away. Yet, here we are. Finally!

Impossible to not think about how much I love my sibs during this one.
Impossible to not think about how much I love my sibs during this one.

I really did get real sick. Don’t worry though, I say that with complete perspective realizing that it’s not like I was diagnosed with cancer or ebola or something real serious. I just mean that I got knocked on my butt by a nasty virus. For two solid weeks. Also by some opportunistic bacteria that took residence in my ears and caused a double ear infection on top of the viral crud. Any amount of walking (and I seriously mean any… like even walking-to-a-meeting-down-the-hall any) caused an unstoppable coughing jag, complete with gasping for breath and tears running down my cheeks and the whole nine yards, and it was two full weeks of that. I couldn’t do anything. I had to be still.

Curly would snuggle a bit, but didn't love the coughing. Can't really blame her. It was obnoxious.
Curly would snuggle a bit, but didn’t love the coughing. Can’t really blame her. It was obnoxious.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally love a little stillness in my life. I love to lounge around and read books without moving for long glorious periods of time. So long as it’s a choice, though. Because as the kitchen rapidly deteriorated and my diet of all cereal all the time became totally boring and the laundry piled up and Curly wasn’t getting walks and, and, and… the stillness got to be really out of control. But the fact of the matter is, I did not have a choice. So stillness it was. For two weeks. No cleaning, no blogging, no yard work, no cooking… just to and from work (also the urgent care), to and from bed (or the couch or the floor, I wasn’t picky for a minute there), to and from Walgreen’s (because I went through three boxes of Mucinex), and to and from coughing fits. Blech.

During the second week of my cold, Seth was in Miami. And as the dishes and laundry and cough drop wrappers piled up, I felt guiltier and guiltier. I really didn’t want him to come home to that mess. The evidence of my laziness.

Except, he told me on the phone, between coughing spells, that he really didn’t care. He was just glad to be coming home. To be with me and our pup. To sleep in his own bed (on which I promised to at the very least put new sheets). He really didn’t care. I was sick and I did what I had to do.

And what I had to do, for two weeks, was be still.

Like getting whacked on the nose with a newspaper, my cold made me practice some serious stillness. I did not love it.

Interestingly, at the same time I was coming down with this cold, I was also starting a local mindfulness class with my friend Emily. And although I missed a week (on account of the coughing), I am learning and thinking about how important some intentional stillness can be on a daily basis. There I am realizing just how hard true intentional stillness can really be. Different from the stillness associated with relaxing with a book on the couch, where my mind is anything but still. But true, mind, body, and soul stillness. If only I could have thought about that and given myself some of those blissful, yet challenging, minutes while I was sick.

For me, what it takes to be still is conditional. When I was sick, it was the cough initially, but ultimately the notion of just letting it going– recognizing my limitations, being patient with my lungs and my ears and my throat. In a moment of mindfulness, it’s a deep breath in and a deep breath out, sometimes a mantra (God is good… Always… Always… Always…). In moments of fury, it’s a relaxed conversation about something else that brings me to a place of good humor (that sentence is about this morning, 5 minutes chatting with Marie and I’m always better). Whatever the cue though, there is definitely something to be said for being still. Letting the rest go.

Even more to be said for not coughing. Thank goodness that’s over.

But most of all, this:

Ha! What do you think -- Tom? Steph? {Source}
Ha! What do you think — Tom? Steph? {Source}

A Pinterest-Worthy Birthday Bash in a Church Basement. Also cake.

Of all the months on the calendar, April, May, and June seem to be the biggest months for birthdays and such in my year– my sister, my dad, my mom, my husband, my sister-in-law, several friends plus Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and I feel like I’m constantly falling behind on cards and calls and celebrating. (Also, I’m bad at mail and phone calls and such. Real bad.) Fortunately, all those people know how much I love them (so so much!) so I don’t think it’s a problem.

October was kind of like that this year too… not the norm, but when you turn 90, it calls for a big celebration. And a big celebration turns HUGE and relatively difficult to coordinate when it’s a Stankowski-style celebration, so my grandmother-in-law’s birthday party was moved up from December 17th to a weekend in October. We celebrated in Halder, Wisconsin, the same day my Grandma Rita celebrated her fourth annual 73rd birthday (how nice that she stopped aging at 73 years gorgeous!) in Lansing, Michigan, and my friend Krystal and Aunt Susan had some celebrating to do shortly after that.

So, as you can imagine, October became a month for celebrating some seriously amazing women… although, I’ve got to admit, that first party in a church basement in Halder was mildly panic attack inducing (yes, it’s an oxymoron and I know it) because I looked around at 90 years worth of a life well lived and thought “wow” followed shortly by “crap! I am so behind!”

Rational me: “Behind at what?!”

Crazy me: “Ummm… life! Obviously!! I should have at least” [pause for mental math…] “four kids by now if I want any hope of my 90th looking anything like this!”

Rational me: “Good point.”

And it was all over from there. Crazy is always more convincing.

You see, my father-in-law is one of 12 children, 10 boys and 2 girls. Not to take anything away from any of the boys because they are very talented at many things, but the two girls are absolutely reee-dic-u-lous at throwing meaningful and gorgeous parties. (Also they both try to give the other all the credit, but I have a sister of my own and I know that they are synergistic as a pair. That’s how sisters work. Btw, did you know that the term synergy was originally coined based on combining the words “sister” and “energy” into something even greater?! Seems reasonable, right? Maybe it’s even true…)

All 12 Stankowski sibs with their parents... just two of twelve girls. Good looking bunch, eh?
All 12 Stankowski sibs with their parents… just two of twelve girls. Good looking bunch, eh?

So Nancy (left of center) and Margie (right of center) did their thing and when I walked into that church basement I was absolutely floored.

Each table was decorated with a centerpiece carefully selected to represent some part of Lucille’s life.

From left to right, top to bottom:
From left to right, top to bottom: cookbooks and a hot pad, gardening tools, a rosary and favorite hymn, hummingbird nectar and canning rings, clothespins and clothesline, cookie cutters, buttons and a zipper for repairs, canning tools, lemon drops and a deck of playing cards, and denim for patching.

A childhood photograph of each and every one of Lucille’s nearly 30 grandkids was made into a flower.

Love, love, love these sweet pictures! Is this not the most Pinterest-worthy decor you've ever seen?! But it gets even better!
Love, love, love these sweet pictures! Is this not the most Pinterest-worthy decor you’ve ever seen?! But it gets even better!

Handmade Happy Birthday bunting.

The color scheme, the handmade-ness of it all, so in love!
The color scheme, the handmade-with-love-ness of it all!

Streamers, balloons, photos, food…

It's a big family-- hence the church basement.
It’s a big family– hence the church basement.

So much good going on!

Except, amidst all that good, I got a little sad, because like my crazy brain said, what on earth would my 90th look like? I’m (sniffle) not going to have any of that. It’s hard to have grandkids and great-grandkids if I can’t even manage to have kids. And spiral.

(Please note that I completely recognize the self-centeredness of the above. For real, my husband’s grandmother is amazing and she is the matriarch of an incredible crew– I’m super lucky to have been welcomed into the clan and I was really happy to spend the day celebrating Lucille. Unfortunately, my own truth has to be based in self-centeredness (see this post) so it’s going to sound that way for a little while… but I think we’ll get to a happy (and delicious) point and you’ll forgive me for the pity party, k? k.)

Later that month, Seth and I dropped our crazy fur baby off at my in-laws and headed to Green Bay for the weekend to celebrate our friend Krystal’s birthday and to meet their sweet new baby girl Amelia Mae and see her sister Charlotte Jean (I use their full names here mostly just to brag about what pretty baby girl names my friend Krystal picked). We had a blast with our friends basically doing nothing, as per usual. Their girls are incredible and so so so much fun and we always have a super relaxing and generally hilarious time when we hang out with the Kussows here, there, or wherever. But I have to say, and self-centeredly so (see disclaimer paragraph above), that the highlight of that weekend for me was the puppy chow.

Me, Seth, Krystal, and Justin… we have a problem with puppy chow. A delicious problem. Justin had made a big batch for us to munch on when we got there and when we finally got around to singing to Krystal and cutting the cake, here’s what she found:

Did I just learn how to make collages for Instagram? Why yes, yes I did...
Did I just learn how to make collages for Instagram? Why yes, yes I did…

A puppy chow pinata! Yessss!!!

So we ate and we laughed and we drank and snuggled Amelia and played with Charlotte and her puppy (and some of us got mani/pedis and went shoe shopping because it was Krystal’s birthday, after all) and basically just had a good time.

And that’s when this blog post started writing itself. Because I’m pretty sure that Justin and Krystal (they’re younger than me) and Charlotte and Amelia and Charlotte’s and Amelia’s someday babies will all come to my 90th birthday party!

They may not be blood, but family often isn’t. It’s nice when it is, of course, but family can be so much more. I blurred the lines between family and friendship just the other day, albeit in the other direction, but today I want to point out that the opposite can also be true. It’s what happens with in-laws, and you know I wouldn’t trade my bro-in-law Stuey or Uncle Ed for anything, so what’s the difference here? Not a thing.

On my Grandma’s previous 73rd birthday, I told you about how amazing she is and how welcoming a place her house always is, even on big “family” holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. There were always friends and neighbors and other people amongst the crowd. I always thought of them as other people though. I imagine that my Grandma probably does not. To her, they’re probably just more family. Because family is a choice and can be built and blended in any which way.

So, when I turn 90, I want tables decorated with mason jars full of things that remind you of me (oh look, I’ve already got one full of rocks to get you started)… you’ve got 60 years to be my friend and make more babies for me to love and then let’s celebrate just like the Stankowskis did one recent weekend in October.


Isn’t that just like me? Bootstrapping my way up out of a pity party day after day? (And she’s humble, too…) You should consider filling a mason jar with bootstraps at my party. What are bootstraps anyway? I’ve always imagined them as boot laces, but then why bootstraps? And why is boostrapping suddenly a genomics/bioinformatics term too? I really don’t even get the concept. I ought to stop using the word. Maybe wiki can instruct me… huh… that is enlightening… the intro is worth a read if you’re interested. Idioms are hard.

A Scientifically Sound Algorithm for Calculating Your Ideal Weight

I have always been a big fan of my little brother’s sense of humor. It’s like Will Ferrel, Carl Sagan, Andy Samberg, and Friedrich Nietzsche got together to have one, very tall, very skinny, very fascinating love child… and that is my brother. (Steve Martin and Bill Murray are his exceptionally influential God-parents, in case you were wondering.)

We don’t get to chat terribly often, but when we do, it’s always good. (Especially when it’s a long text conversation that involves cyber-bullying our sister… but that’s another story for another day.) When the Superbowl got Superboring this Sunday we struck up one such conversation and although it never really ended, I went to bed.

Such glorious things were waiting for me when I woke up!

First: a list of genius movies for a Vonck-style film fest. Ummm, yes please! Where do I sign up?

You so want to come, don't you?!
You so want to come, don’t you?!

Still not the point though– (and I am taking my sweet time getting there, aren’t I???)

The final text awaiting me on Monday morning was a novel and brilliant way to think about your ideal weight (my brother– he gets me, you see) and I couldn’t get it out of my head all day. I believe my brother and the person he quoted were on to something spectacular, and I would like to propose this genius algorithm as the ultimate way to calculate your ideal weight.

The holy grail of health and happiness!

And it starts with considering how much you love puppies. Because of course.

First, on a scale of 0 – 10, how much do you love puppies? That’s your input:

Ideal Weight Algorithm

The algorithm output is your ideal weight and it’s actually a very simple calculation.

Say, for example, on a scale of 0 – 10, the amount you love puppies is 8. Then your ideal weight is simply the weight of you holding 8 puppies.

Let’s try another example, if the amount you love puppies is 5, then your ideal weight is the weight of you holding 5 puppies.

It even works if you don’t like puppies (for the love of all that is holy– what is wrong with you?! but no judgement…). In that case, your ideal weight is the weight of you holding zero puppies, and you’re there!

So the actual algorithm inspiration was this quote that my brother sent: “My ideal weight is the weight of me holding eight puppies.” Tom’s addition: “I think that’s a level of physical and emotional and psychological comfort everybody should strive for in so many different ways… in all of the ways.”


My sister responded with these:

ooooooo... mmmmmm... ggggggg...
ooooooo… mmmmmm… ggggggg…

But seriously, puppies are amazing. And puppies do not care what you look like for even a second— not even one! To a puppy in your arms, you are at your ideal weight. No need to worry! And that’s probably the best attitude you could take about it. The puppy attitude.

If you’ll excuse me please, I need to gain same pound(puppie)s…


(Seriously, that was a genius play on words, was it not?!)


A jerk! Because I love…

I have an amazing little sister and I love her so very, very much.

And because of that… this:

Abby's UndiesUNDERWEAR!

This is a guided tour of my little sister’s underwear that moves from conservative granny panties on the left up to butt floss-style thongs on the right.  She came home one day to this.

I’m not sure if my favorite part was the anticipation of Abby walking up the stairs and finding the underwear or the moment I heard her scream… knowing what it was about.

Either way…


And this was how it always was and probably always will be.  I tease.  A lot.  But for me to tease, I’ve got to be comfortable.  And for me to be comfortable, I’ve got to love.  So in a round about way, I’m a jerk… because I love.

It’s funny, really, how crazy much I love my sister these days.  Because it’s a far cry from when she first came in to this world.  I still remember the day she was born.  I was so mad that the stupid baby was making my mom stay in the hospital when she should have been home with me.  I was angry with her before I even saw her, despite the big sister classes with baby dolls and all of that.  My 3-year-old self could barely stand it.

And then she came home, and things went steadily downhill from there.  Not because there was anything wrong with my baby sister (except for the biting… there was a lot of biting…), but because I was no longer the center of the universe and I didn’t like that feeling.

So, in my desperation, I developed a series of mysterious medical maladies that our rather astute pediatrician eventually diagnosed as Abby-itis.  (Blast!  Foiled again!)

And so it went, for many years.  I must have been some sort of torturer in a past life, because I delighted in tormenting my little sister… and eventually my brother when he came along.  Evil was my middle name and I wasn’t even allowed to laugh in the car since it usually indicated I’d done something awful.  (Rachel Ann!  Stop it, whatever you’re doing!)

But, despite all of that, my sister and I grew into inseparable friends and it is my mission in life to make sure that if I ever have a baby girl, I’ll never stop having babies until she has a sister.  Because truly, there’s nothing better.

Nothing better for me, anyway.  Ask Abby, owner of all that underwear taped to the wall, and you may get a different story 😉


I suppose as long as I’ve got that picture I should really tell you about what you don’t see…

In addition to being a grade A jerk face as a child, I also tormented my younger sister by being exceptionally territorial.  And our room was always split in half one way or the other.

Did you notice the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling?  Right.  Those were only on my half.  And I refused to share.  Refused!

However, I did throw Ab a little bit of a bone.  My rule was this: if a star fell from the ceiling and she got to it first, she could have it.  We had bunk beds in our room and Abby was on the top.  So on that rare occasion that a star fell, she’d come scurrying down the ladder and head for the star– Smeagol-style.  (My preeeeeccccious…..)

And the evidence is still there on the ceiling in my parents’ house to this day.  It always makes me laugh… an evil, evil laugh.  Because I still love very, very much!