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.

5 thoughts on “A Pinterest-Worthy Birthday Bash in a Church Basement. Also cake.

  1. oh man, sometimes it takes reading it fresh to remind you that pulling oneself up by their bootstraps is, indeed, an impossible task. It’s not a synonym for self-sufficiency. I’m not sure everyone uses it like that…

    I get into those spirals too. It helps to think of all your friends and people who care about you (there are a lot!) but you’re right– rational you doesn’t listen well. Which reminds me– “98% of your thoughts are a complete waste of time. They do nothing but freak you out” (Michael Singer)

  2. Rachel, you are so awesome!! I love reading about your life. 🙂 I also love how much you love my nieces because they are stinkin’ sweet! You will be a fantastic momma, no doubt! ❤️ Kari

  3. I just don’t think it would be possible to love you or your words more even if we were next door neighbors!

    Please please can I sit at the Harry Potter table at your 90th birthday?!?!?!! I’ll be 100 after all so I better get my preferred table!

  4. Amazing party, I’ve never seen anything like that! They did a fabulous job! I truly believe family is a choice as well, with good friends just as applicable as blood relatives.

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