Happy Faces

Why so gleeful?

That there in Levi’s hand is his last IV. The PICC line will come out tomorrow morning and swimming may commence.

I am of course delighted and also I would like to take a mammoth nap. I was talking to Paul this morning, and we agreed that one part we really dislike about IVs is the uncertainty. Are we done today? Don’t know. If we’re done today, will the line come out today? Don’t know. When can I swim, Mom? Don’t know. These are only three questions, but they’ve been repeated to me approximately one zillion times. Will I need to leave work early for another week to make it home to do infusions? Don’t know. Will we have to take a cooler with us for the meds on our outing this weekend? Don’t know.

I don’t know why uncertainty is so draining, but it is. So I am happy for answers.

Done. Tomorrow morning. Yes to swimming.


A Word Problem

I’ll be honest, I never liked word problems much in math class. Words were so much my friends in other contexts, and in math class they just seemed confusing. But Paul has requested this one specially, and even I will admit it’s kind of cool.

This is my Uncle Harold in 1944, when he was 12 years old.

1944 Harold Stoller 12 yrs

Is he not adorable?

It runs in the family, as I used to say when I was four or five and didn’t know better than to parrot what my older siblings had brainwashed me to suggested I say.

Anyway, he grew up and married my Aunt Luella, and they had three boys. The boys were born in three different years, and they were all single births.

They will all be 56 on their next birthday.

This statement was true yesterday and it is true today.

If you want to figure it out on your own, stop here and have at it.








A hint, you say? Okay. This happens regularly. Specifically, every four years, for two days, all three sons will be the same age on their next birthday.








Don’t feel bad. I’ve known about it forever and I still made Paul type out the dates for me so I wouldn’t get wrong. And I still might, because it’s been that kind of week. But here you go.

The first two boys are almost exactly a year apart. The third came a year and a half later, on a leap day. Doug was born on July 18, 1961, and on his next birthday (tomorrow), he will be 56. Art was born on July 16, 1962; on his next birthday (a year from yesterday), he will be 56. Tom was born on February 29, 1964, and in about 2 1/2 years, on his next birthday, he will be 56.

I don’t know when Uncle Harold figured this out, but I have been hearing about it all my life. It is so quintessentially Stoller-nerdy.

If you didn’t know Stollers are a little nerdy, I think you haven’t met a sufficient amount of Stollers. My brother (our mother was a Stoller) was strictly rationing his driving at one point so that on New Year’s Day, he could drive the last mile required to make his car odometer read 100,000 miles even on the date 01/01/01. I found this hilarious and told everyone I ran into, which is how I discovered at Christmas dinner that one of my mother’s brothers was doing the exact same thing. Neither of them knew about the other until that moment.

Ner. Dy.

Me, too. It just mostly manifested in language instead of numbers. (Ask me about apostrophes sometime. When you have a lot of time.)

I don’t know whether the off-topic rambles can be attributed to the Stoller influence or if that’s just me, but regardless, it’s kind of a fun one, no? It’s good for two more hours before it expires, but it’ll be back around again.

July 2021, baby.

Daddy Eggs

For breakfast this fine holiday morning, we had a bit of nostalgia.

As Paul and I lolled in bed at a shocking 7:00 AM (remember, this is a man who rises daily without an alarm at the inhuman hour of 4:45), he said, “Ugh. I don’t feel like making breakfast.” He does, most days. He wasn’t really asking me for anything, just indulging in a little kvetching, but I had some bacon left from a recipe, and some time.

“Hey!” I said, “I’ll make Daddy Eggs.”

Daddy Eggs start with bacon strips cut into small pieces and fried. Going into the skillet, they look like this.

I hate frying bacon. I much prefer baking it and skipping all the popping grease. But I’ll fry it for Daddy Eggs. Even if I think up creative nonswears (Lucifer’s flaming hairline!) while I do.

Once the bacon’s done, you drain it. Then you beat a bunch of eggs with a little milk, start them cooking in the same pan, and sprinkle the bacon on top. That’s it. It’s not really a recipe. It earned a name by virtue of being the only thing my daddy ever cooked.

Daddy Eggs were company food. We had them on Sunday mornings when we’d had out-of-town overnight company. It never occurred to me as a child to question the timing, but with age and experience, I have come to realize that Daddy Eggs were a life preserver.

My mother, whose theoretical enjoyment of hostessing was sometimes compromised by the reality of same, was coming off two nights of extra people in the house and company meals, and facing the Sunday morning flat-out dash to church. My father was trying to make sure she didn’t go under.

He probably didn’t much like doing it, really, but he did. In other words, he was a grownup.

I have to be a grownup this week. Tomorrow morning, Levi and I will go to the hospital so he can have a PICC line placed for IV antibiotics. We’ll likely come home Thursday, and for the next couple of weeks, my phone alarm will yell at me multiple times a day so I don’t miss any infusions.

Levi is a little nervous, but mostly fine. I am cranky and resentful and eating all the cookies. It’s not so much the overnight hospital stay, or the IV routine, though both of those things are a pain in the neck. It’s that I don’t want to have to think about cystic fibrosis, and I can’t avoid it for the next little while. I hate it, worse than I hate frying bacon.

You probably didn’t think this is where this blog post was going. Honestly, neither did I. Sometimes in writing, as in life, we arrive in unexpected places. So often, the only choice we have in the matter is how graciously — or not — we go to our fate.

I am, though I sometimes wish it were not so, a grownup. I will attempt to be gracious, and to make memories of the mundane. We won’t have Daddy Eggs at the hospital, but we’ll have something else. (Chicken fingers and pizza in bed has played well in the past.)

And we will, as before, be fine. Just don’t hide the cookies.

Also At the Circus

So I posted about strawberry shortcake on Sunday night, and everything was great and everybody was having fun, and then someone dropped a psychological stinkbomb or something, and Levi and I were both mad, and Elias was scared and my sister was uncomfortable, and Paul was trying to sort out what had actually just happened. Honestly, I don’t know. Still.

I got up and left the table, because when this happens and I stay, things usually get worse. Leaving also escalated the situation. It seems like the only possible way for me to avoid scenes like this would be a complete personality transplant.

Full disclosure here. At the circus: great food. Also at the circus: sobbing nuclear meltdowns, mostly but not exclusively on the part of the children.

Lovely, truly.

I could pack a week’s worth of clothes in those bags under my eyes. HOT.


So, I make killer shortcake. Also, I yell at my children, and my stovetop is probably going to be declared a federal disaster area.

I’m not telling you this so you can feel sorry for me or try to make me feel better. I’m telling you because we are all in this together, but we don’t seem to know it. I’ve talked to so many women who think everyone around them has got it goin’ on. Every one of them thinks she is the only one who cannot pull herself together.

I really think the only way to change this is to be a little vulnerable with one another. Start small. Tell one person. Don’t start with the scariest thing. Start with the laundry, like, “I am so behind on the laundry that my children are running naked from the shower to dig through the clean clothes pile for underpants.” 95% of the time the person you are talking to will look relieved, because THANK GOODNESS someone else is a mess too.

We are all just trying to get through the day. Sometimes the only thing we can offer each other is the assurance that we are not alone.

Be brave. Go first. You can always take with you the knowledge that at any given time, two of the three rings at this circus are a disaster. It’s not just you; at the very least, it’s you and me.

Strawberry Shortcake

Last night, Paul distracted the two-legged mauraders long enough to gather a nice bowlful from the strawberry patch. He requested accompaniment.

We are picky about shortcake in our family, truth be told. The first time I was served angel food cake under the name shortcake, I thought there had surely been a tragic mixup.

My Aunt Luella had this recipe, see, and she gave it to my mom, and it was the only  shortcake I knew growing up. It is rich and buttery and eggy, and once you have had it warm from the oven with cold, cut strawberries and whipped cream and maybe a splash of milk, you are ruined for life.

It was one of the first real desserts I learned to make in my teens, and I’ve made it at least once a year since. Paul tasted it after we got married and became an instant convert, although he eats it with ice cream and cannot be considered a true aficionado.

My general policy is that I will make the shortcake on demand, as long as someone else is willing to provide the prepared strawberries. Paul having fulfilled the basic requirement (he convinced my sister to wash and cut them), I was happy to oblige.

The chunks you see on the left are cold butter cut into a flour and sugar mixture. They are tidbits of ambrosia, and the exclusive province of She Who Bakes. The cook always gets the best snitches.

Elias started with a modest portion.

He did not stop there.

I started with an immodest portion.

I also did not stop there.

That’s real whipped cream, by the way. My sister was starting on it and Levi walked up and said, “Why are you whipping that cream?”

“Because it was bad.”

“How long have you been waiting to use that one,” I asked, “your entire life?”

” … maybe,” she said.

And that’s June at the circus.

Camp Report

Well, we all came through camp with flying colors.

My friend Wendy texted me on Sunday morning. Wendy has known me more than half my life, so she knows that I have never attended any camp except outdoor ed in the sixth grade, and also that I am likely to check off all the required items on a list and pay little attention to the optional ones. I identify this as a basic survival skill, but it does mean that I sometimes miss some fun stuff. Instructions about camper mail were in the optional category on the list from camp.

Because Wendy is a very nice person, she said, “I’m sure you know this, but …” and then informed me that receiving mail at camp is A Very Big Deal. Like, multiple letters. Even for a two-day camp.

Oh dear.

So I engaged the reliable relative network and texted my sister, who promised to show up at the house that afternoon with two letters. I handed Paul and Elias writing implements and paper after they ate their lunch, and a few other people came through, too. Despite my total ignorance about the importance of mail call, Levi had a pretty good haul, really. I’ll start earlier next year, though.

Not pictured are the letters from my sister, which didn’t make it home. He did say he ripped some by accident.

Mary Lou didn’t want Elias to feel entirely left out, so she also showed up with a form letter for Levi to fill out and leave for his brother.

Elias did actually sleep in Levi’s bed during the two nights. But not because he missed his brother because he did not miss his brother. He was very clear on this point.

This was the face that greeted me at pickup. He wants to go back next year, please.

I went into the dorm room to pick up his stuff, and he informed me that his toothbrush and toothpaste were definitely in the bag because he just found them that morning! And he is much older than when he left, because now he knows he can stay up late (TILL TEN!!) if he has to. Both his group leader and the nurse gave a great report. Because there were no tablets or TV to occupy him during his vest time, he was allowed to take a friend to keep him company in the nurse’s office. She said the only time he wasn’t completely cooperative for her was during his inhaled treatment when she told him he was not allowed to talk. I said that was surprising really since he isn’t much of a chatter normally.

Bahaha. Just kidding.

Elias had some jealousy to process and can hardly wait to go to his camp day now. He doesn’t get to stay overnight, but at least it’s something.

I did fine, really. Someone asked me on Monday how Levi was doing and I said, “Well, the nurse hasn’t called me, so I assume everything is awesome.” And it was.

As we were tucking them in Tuesday night (significantly before ten, thankyouverymuch), I asked Levi if he was tired. No. Of course not. He was not tired. He was very clear on this point.

He slept for eleven hours straight.

Oh, That Again

For a person who spends a fair amount of time examining the workings of her own brain and then posting them on the internet, I am sometimes not very self-aware. Over the past week, I have been sleeping fitfully, trying to keep myself from eating everything in sight, and maintaining a tenuous grip on my temper, usually over things that wouldn’t bother me on a normal day. (Whatever that is.) More times than I’d like to admit, I have thought, “What is wrong with me?”

This morning I woke up early to go the gym. I grouched my way through the weights. Everything was heavy. I didn’t feel right. But I finished, and on the way home, I sat in the idling car waiting for a train, and I thought, “I wish I could go to the cemetery before I go home.” Er, what? I’m not a big cemetery visitor. Paul goes a lot more than I do, even to visit the graves on my side of the family. I batted the thought away. Even if I’d been inclined to pay attention, there really wasn’t time. The train passed. I drove on.

And burst into tears, going down a back road past fresh shoots in fields on both sides, and not much else. There was definitely no visible reason for me to be crying as I drove home at 7:30 in the morning.

Seriously, I thought, what is wrong with me?

At that moment, I realized that we are entering the teens of June.


I have discovered this before, the creeping up of grief while I am unaware. I have even written about it before. But I am a slow learner.

I was going to say that what is wrong with me is that I am grieving, but that’s not true. The truth is there’s nothing wrong with me. Grief is not wrong. It’s hard, though. It’s a lot of work, and it continues to be work after you think you’re all done. So here we are again, in June, and I feel cranky and exhausted and, yes, a little bit like a motherless child. But now at least I know what’s going on.

I’ve been thinking about grief a lot lately. I know a lot of people who are grieving. If you are, especially if it’s fresh, I’d like to give you something my mother gave to me. I was sitting at her kitchen table on the worst night of my life, so weighed down I could not lift my head, and I said, “I feel like I’m never going to be happy again. Will I always feel like this?”

This is the answer she gave me: Yes. And no. There will always be times in your life when you remember this and feel this way. Right now it’s all the time. After a while, it’ll only be some of the time. After a long while, it’ll only be occasionally. Yes. This will always hurt this much. But it won’t always hurt this much all the time.

She was right. I have come to think of grief as coming like waves in the ocean. At first it’s like being taken down in rough surf; you can’t even find your feet. You might have a moment or two when you think you never will, that you’ll go under and never come up. After a while, the waves are a more measured. You can stand up. You might get knocked silly by a bad one, but you’re up again before the next one hits. After a long time, they’re mostly lapping around your toes. Maybe a big one gets you right at the knees. Say, when an anniversary approaches and you haven’t been paying attention.

This feels like a knee wave. Unlikely to take me down, now that I’m looking right at it.

So I’ll remember, this week, what my mother taught me about grief, and I’ll miss the way she looked right after she laughed.

And then the anniversary will be over, until next time.