Tag Archives: winter

Reset Button

In early November, Seth and I were in Annapolis for a beautiful wedding with lots of old friends.

I have so many friends! The thing I said about Annapolis is true!!

While there, Seth got a text in two parts. The first part was something along the lines of:

Please don’t say no right away, take some time and think about it…

Time to think about what? The second part was the invitation:

Want to come with us on a 12 days cruise to Australia, Fiji, the Maldives???

We balked, of course. Hence the first part — our friends know us too well. Twelve days off work PLUS the travel time to get to Australia? How could we possibly?

But they’d asked us to think. So we thought. Could we? Should we?


We returned to Wisconsin a couple days later and first thing Monday morning was my final pregnancy test — a negative, of course. We promised ourselves no more. We laid down our arms, walked away from the infertility battle, and thought a little more about that trip.

We’d spent the last 5+ years carefully saving vacation time for trips to and from the fertility clinic in Madison, hoping that our stockpiled days wouldn’t be used for more trips, but for the birth of our baby.

The fact of the matter is, there isn’t going to be a baby for us. So… Australia… Fiji… with our best friends… a once in a lifetime opportunity… why not?

We said yes. We booked flights — CWA > DTW > LAX > SYD. We’re really going!

A short while later, all of the sudden, the new job I’d been working on building/acquiring came to fruition. I start on Monday.

And just like that, we’re hitting the RESET button in a very big way.



I look back on my life five years ago, newly married, fresh out of grad school, really digging my life as a scientific writer, and excited about the family we were going to start and it’s easy to see just how big of a reset this is. I expected us to be full on nuclear, in the family sense — focused on having and rearing a couple of toe-headed braniacs with stubborn dispositions (that’s anice way of saying jerks… but they would have been my little jerks). But that’s not reality, and a reset is necessary to bring me back to earth.

I’ve always enjoyed the end of one year and the beginning of another. I love that the advent season, with its time for reflection and focus on the coming light, blends seamlessly with the new calendar year and two weeks later with a new year for me personally when my birthday hits. This year is extra special, a bonafide reset, for three reasons.

First, early on the morning of November 7th, before our last negative pregnancy test, my sleepy Seth rolled over in bed to tell me that no matter the results, he loves me and I am enough. My heart… it somehow simultaneously broke and swelled. He thinks that I, just me, no baby, am enough. I can’t tell you how much that settled me into this new reality. Seth, Curls, and me — a happy little family.

Second, on Monday, I start my new job — my dream job, really. The dream I didn’t know I had until two years ago when I started working more and more with community facing programs and the amazing woman who will be my boss. I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve done so far and I’m so excited to dedicate myself full time to a position I feel so passionate about. I was feeling a bit insecure on Friday — what if they find out they hate me? But I start during Christmas celebration week and I’m the Leslie Knope of gift giving AND cooking baking… there’s no way they won’t be impressed. Bring on Sneaky Santa!


Finally, on January 28th, we’ll be getting out of dodge, crossing the equator for the first time, and heading to the other side of the world for nearly three weeks. I never thought a trip like this could possibly be a reality, but we’re doing it together, with our friends, and it’s going to be incredible. I know it in my bones.

omg. omg. omg. @rachelstanksi is ME!


Meanwhile, a reset is really only a reset if the reset-y things actually change you for the permanent. And in this case, I very much suspect they will.

For the time in maybe ever, I actually believe that I am enough for Seth. Worthy. I know that makes me sound like I’m in some sort of terrible, abusive relationship, and maybe I am… but Seth’s not the perpetrator. My traitorous psyche, the “second track” I’ve often referenced, is. But what further proof could I possibly need than everything we’ve been through for the sake of having a baby, and to have Seth still, faithfully, happily by my side? He thinks I’m enough (block head, frizzy hair and all), and I think he might be right — we’re M-F-E-O*, baby or not.

Second, I’ve found true meaning in my work. I am so excited to dedicate my time and talents to the amazing things being done in the Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach. I see such incredible work going on, such incredible dedication to community health from a variety of perspectives (e.g., high risk youth, alcohol and other drugs of abuse, social determinants of health), and I want to tell the story, give it a voice, make people aware, continue to build programs and make them replicable in other communities.

Finally, I’m going to live my life now — starting by spending the time to go on an amazing vacation. No more saving and banking for something that may or may not happen. And I need to translate that into using “yes” and “no” appropriately at other times as well. Yes to community engagement and social events, but no when it becomes to much and I need to recharge the introvert batteries. Yes to the things that are truly good for me, and no when things hurt. I’m practicing already — we’re going to a dinner party with friends tonight! Yes, yes, yes!


Anyway, given my recent track record, I suspect I won’t write again before the new year — so I hope you enjoy the holidays, wherever you are, whoever you’re with, and I’ll look forward to sharing a new adventure in 2017!!


A light shines in Stankowski-ville.

It’s Friday, it’s Lent, and we live in Wisconsin. So, naturally, we headed out this evening for a delicious church basement fish fry in Halder.

Halder might as well be Stankowski-ville and I just love it.

Baked fish, crinkle cut fries, homemade desserts, and enough left over for lunch tomorrow… what’s not to love?

The best part, though, was that on the way there, at nearly 6 pm, Seth pointed out that it was still light out. Still! At 6 pm!

And just like that:

“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” –Matthew 4:16

Too literal? Perhaps, but man, does daylight ever make a difference this time of year.

It’s still cold (like real cold) and there’s lots of snow left on the ground, but to see the sun when I get up in the morning and when I leave work in the evening? Absolutely glorious!

Post-work walk in the sunshine.
Post-work walk in the sunshine.

“Maybe one of the great unknown–unrecognized–truths of life is that light always dawns, eventually; that there is no such thing as a perpetual darkness of the soul. I know that in my own case the darkness only existed because I refused the light. I simply did not want the light. I had been in the cocoon of darkness for so long I thought that it was light.

“Maybe life is simply a going from light to light, from darkness to darkness till the last Great Darkness signals the coming of the First Great Light. That would explain why we are in a constant state of ‘disillusionment.’ I have come to understand that it is not protesting what we do not like that counts. It is choosing what we do which, ultimately, changes things.” –Joan Chittister

Light and dark make such powerful metaphors, don’t they? Maybe it’s because light and dark can be so powerful, even literally.

The last two lines though.

I have come to understand that it is not protesting what we do not like that counts. It is choosing what we do which, ultimately, changes things.


Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.

Shed light in a dark place and the powerful hold it has vanishes.

If we want to bloom, we must stretch toward the sun.


Stretching toward the sun, sharing the light I have when I have it, and promoting the things that I love– those are choices. Positive choices. Choices that lead to positive change. I will continue to look forward to the light. Even in the darkest days of winter.

And just to prove it, I’ll buy a really cute pair of wedge sandals on Zulily in the middle of January.

Yessss, yessss. That’s why I bought those shoes.

So cute, right?! Come on sun!
So cute, right?! Come on sun!

A science project with a missing piece. Where are my shoes?

My sister-in-law Kayla, Sister Athletic Trainer, is an absolute genius at puzzles.

I don’t mean that Kayla likes puzzles, although I suspect she does. I mean that she is literally a puzzle genius. She can walk by a table holding a 12,000 piece puzzle entitled “sky on a cloudy day” and find at least 6 pairs of matching pieces before I can even figure out which way to orient the picture on the box.

I am not being facetious.

Maybe Kayla has just had a lot of practice. She has spent three of our last 11 week long cottage vacations doing puzzles as she recovered from major knee surgery (as good as she is at puzzles, she’s not exactly awesome at keeping her own ligaments from tearing). Maybe it’s a gift from God or something. (Drop Dead Gorgeous reference… anyone?) I don’t know. But she’s real good.

At the moment, I feel like I’m staring at a complicated and beautiful puzzle and all that I have left is one particularly challenging bush or patch of sky or something. Once I get a couple pieces in place, the whole dang thing is going to fall together, but I can’t figure out where to start and I am le frustrated! (The “le” is intentional– I’m pretending that the word frustrated is French.)

Here’s what’s up:

In my job (like my real J-O-B) I work as a scientific research writer, which basically means that I help clinicians and scientists to write grants and manuscripts (and yes, sometimes even eulogies and other speeches and such) about whatever scientific endeavor they favor at the moment. I’ve worked on tons of different things. It’s awesome, really, because as much as I dig STDs, 6 years of nothing but gonorrhea and chlamydia got to be a little bit much. I’m not that into it. In my current job, I get to learn about new and interesting things all the time– oncology, genetics, bioinformatics, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic kidney disease, pancreas divisum, diabetes, neuroprostheses, patient navigation, and the list goes on. It’s awesome… like being in school minus the grades plus a real salary. Life is good.

Because I really love science and because nerdiness is my life, not just my job, I get quite invested in the things I do. And it’s all that much easier to get sucked in when I work with really passionate investigators… and so many of these investigators, just wow. These clinicians see a problem in their practice and come to us to either study the problem or solve the problem, and it’s inspiring. I have three projects swirling around in the back of my mind all the time right now. And there’s something about them that’s similar, they are related, they are somehow the answer to one another’s problems, but I can’t figure it out. That’s my puzzle. And it’s becoming my obsession. How can I make these things work together for the good of patients? I won’t know until I can fill in the sky!

Not long ago, I worked with a pediatric nephrologist and learned about Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS)– a rare genetic disorder that results in cilia malfunction and many consequent symptoms affecting nearly every organ system in the body. Because the disease is so rare, finding care for these kids, especially coordinated care with specialists who truly understand the disease, has always been a major problem for BBS families. Recognizing that challenge, Dr. Haws started The Treatment Center for BBS at the Marshfield Clinic to provide coordinated, comprehensive care for patients around the country… and even around the world. It is the only BBS clinic in North America and has already served 16 individuals from 14 different families in its 3 clinics to date. I helped Dr. Haws capture survey results from providers and families that participated in the clinics and the comments from the grateful families were overwhelming. I was particularly struck by the woman who blogs here at 71toes.com (polydactyly is a common symptom of BBS and her family of 7 was no exception– how clever!) as she documented her family’s participation in the clinic. So cool!

Coordinated care for kids with special medical needs… it’s a thing that’s done well for many kids at Marshfield Clinic. But what about kids in the foster care system?

I have also spent a lot of time working closely with the medical director of the Marshfield Child Advocacy Center. She is totally committed to creating a Foster Care Medical Home (FCMH) for kids in the foster care system in Central Wisconsin. Medical homes are a really effective and interesting way to make sure that healthcare needs are met in a timely, consistent, and patient-centered manner and it’s something Marshfield Clinic has really embraced in recent years resulting in huge cost savings as well as huge reductions in the need for emergency care and hospital readmissions. We don’t have one for kids in the foster care system, though, and they likely really need it. At the moment, I’m working with Dr. Iniguez to complete an American Academy of Pediatrics planning grant for the FCMH and we just completed our third of four focus groups with foster care providers and past participants. Holy… wow! These families. I mean, I was into it before, I thought it was a great idea… now? I’m smitten! I want this to succeed, to help these families, so very, very badly! I am committed. But how? Where do we find the funding? Whose going to coordinate the care? Can it be like the BBS clinic?

And finally, behavioral health. I told you about my big fat $1.5 million HRSA grant? The one that kept me from blogging for over a week, right? What I didn’t tell you was this: due to a “misinterpretation” of the guidelines, the grant was triaged without being reviewed. WTF, right? I know, I’m furious, but trying to be cool about it… because the program is just way too important to let die now. Yes, it was a big mistake. No, I was not at fault (thank goodness, right?!). But dang, do I ever feel responsible… disappointed… dejected even. It was unpleasant news for everyone involved. And now we’re looking for another way. Another way to bring behavioral health services to patients in the primary care setting who desperately need them, but cannot get them due to the provider shortages we face in our area. How does this fit in? Well, you know who else desperately needs behavioral health services but can’t get them? Kids in the foster care system. These kids benefit tremendously from the notion of trauma-informed care… care that keeps in mind, always, that these kids have been through a really stressful, really awful situation and that those traumas subconsciously inform their every single action.

So, in conclusion, I feel like there’s something there… an invisible thread weaving its way through these projects and constantly tickling the back of my mind. It alerts me to the fact that there’s something in common, some answer that I’m overlooking, some person who needs to be contacted or informed or something. I just can’t find what that something is at the moment. I am missing a vital piece of the puzzle– I’ve got to find my special purpose! (The Jerk, yes?)


Two winters ago, my husband’s grandfather set up a card table in the living room and worked on a puzzle all winter to keep himself occupied while it was so cold. He did a bigillion piece puzzle or something and it had a lot of sky in it. Lots and lots of plain, blue pieces spread out on the table. And when he got to the very end? One was missing.

There was one piece of sky that was blank.

And it stayed blank for a while.

Until one day, Ed, my grandfather-in-law, bent down to put his shoe on and found a puzzle piece in it. It was in his shoe! Right there! All along! He snapped it in and the puzzle was complete.

I’ll find the piece. I’ll make the connection. We’ll make the foster kids a medical home and extend behavioral services to the population that needs it.

Where are my shoes?

Better yet… where is my sister-in-law???

Felix Felicis!

First order of business:

Holy crap! This is post number 100! I wanted to make it a big deal, but it just kind of snuck up on me. I logged on to blog about my felix felicis kind of day and saw this:

99 posts

99 total posts (and 779 comments– thanks, friends! I love, love, love when people respond to what I write!) and today’s makes 100.  (PS: yes, I changed my dashboard to purple. It makes me ridiculously happy.)

And that’s pretty much just the kind of day it’s been. The things that were supposed to happen– they did.

The weather here in Wisconsin is a super crappy mess of snow and ice and cold and I thought our office could use a little pick-me-up first thing in the am. Stopping at Festival Foods on my way to work for donuts, I noticed a cart full of steeply discounted Valentine’s Day candy. Reduced for quick sale! Seriously? I mean, V-day was only a week ago! I’ll take it!

Don’t mind if I do, kind cart! I grabbed a bag of each type available. Delish! And necessary… our candy drawer was getting quite low.

Then on to the donuts. I found some delicious looking donut holes– sugar and cinnamon sugar (mmmm…) so I picked those up and headed back out into the cold and to the Clinic for work.

I pulled into my parking spot and as I was putting on my hat and mittens, that super nice security man who has given me a couple rides to the building during this awful winter stopped right in front of my truck and offered me a ride. I was so glad it was today, of all days, on the day I had donuts. Last week, on Valentine’s Day, I brought him a little baggie of chocolates, but didn’t see him– dang! But this morning, I was able to offer him donuts! Even better! We chatted, he popped donut holes, and then I left him a couple for the road. Perfect!

Plus, like I said, the weather was miiiiiiserable this morning, so I was very appreciative of the lift!

Little things, but perfect timing… everything just worked out. And felix felicis immediately came to mind.

Felix felicis, aka liquid luck, is the potion Harry Potter won on his first day of Defense Against the Dark Arts under Professor Horace Slughorn. The drinker can basically do no wrong… and when Harry used it, everything went exactly as it needed to go.

Apparently, chai tea with vanilla almond milk was my felix this morning.

Harry imbibed and he made it to Aragog’s funeral to support his friend Hagrid despite restrictions for leaving the castle and tempted Slughorn to go with him by promising him a rare venom, managed to cast non-verbal spells to get him drunk, and extracted the memory he needed.

I imbibed and got a great deal on candy, a ride into work, and a chance to thank the security guard with some donuts.

You can see how this is pretty much exactly the same… yes?

That’s what I thought.

Anyway, thanks so much for hanging around for the first hundred– I’m looking very much forward to hundreds and hundreds more! Have a lovely weekend!!



For more information on felix felicis, please refer to the super sweet Harry Potter Wiki! (There’s one for the Muppets, too! Oh Wiki, how I love you!)