Monday, December 11, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Whomp Whomp Update

Today was a weird day. I went for my yearly uterus check, which is crazy because that means it's been a whole year since I've had my melonballer procedure (more accurately known as endomyometrial resection), and almost a year since I've had any form of period. A trend I hope continues indefinitely.

At my check, I asked if the doctor could also check out my ovaries, you know, because I have a (somewhat) irrational fear that all the hormones I subjected myself to to no avail are going to try to kill me via ovarian or breast cancer. Ovarian cancer is particularly scary to me because it can be asymptomatic for a while and then BAM, bad news.

Good news -- I don't have ovarian cancer.

Also good news -- I can take care of all my gynecological exam needs at my specialist's office, which means that next year I can get my uterus (and ovaries) checked AND get a pap smear/chat about impending menopause. And there won't be any pregnant people milling about (sorry pregnant people but that's a plus for me), AND no one will EVER ask me if I could be pregnant. Everyone there knows that's impossible.

Then I went and had a lovely facial -- I decided to start doing fancy things for my skin in October, and this is my second facial at the same place where I get massages. The first time was lovely, and even though the aesthetician (never know if I spell that right) was pregnant, it wasn't awkward. Well, she's way more pregnant now and it came up EVERY FIVE MINUTES of the hour, no joke. I look forward to when she is no longer pregnant. I think the low part of the chatting was when she told me that she specifically timed this pregnancy to fall around the holidays so that she wouldn't have to do too much and would get out of hanging lights and whatnot, which was funny but also HOW NICE TO BE ABLE TO PLAN THAT KIND OF THING...she's in her early 20s though so maybe it's easier then for most people. Yeesh. My skin is very soft though, and she is actually very nice despite being all about the belly right now.

Anyway. I am feeling less brutally sad about the demise of our final embryos (and I wasn't in tune with the universe, the thaw date was 11/29, because I had to ask, but I can pretend that the news traveled to me early or something, right?), and steeling myself to write the card to the couple to respond to the incredibly heartfelt words of sorrow that they sent to us through Snowflakes. Words that made me cry, as we'll never share an odd sort of family together, but I loved how they said that we'd always be part of their story. How do you write a card that is both condolence and encouraging, I'm sorry for your loss and our loss and all the loss, period? I guess I'll find out. It's definitely still weird to think that this whole chapter of our life is totally over.

Huh. This is somewhat of a WHOMP WHOMP downer update, but some of them are just like that. I hope that the holiday season is kind to you!

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Heartbroken

My phone rang just minutes ago, and it was an 800 number. I don't usually pick up unless I know who will be on the other end, but for some reason I thought maybe I should pick this call up.

Maybe it was because I just placed a whole boatload of Christmas shopping orders and I worried something was wrong.

Well, something WAS wrong, it just had nothing to do with the holiday purchases.

It was my contact at Snowflakes, who was calling with an unexpected update.

At first when she said that I thought that maybe the woman in the couple was unexpectedly, spontaneously pregnant, and I braced myself for this news, because that would be wonderful for them but I didn't know how I would feel about it.

I never in a million years expected that they decided to do a transfer and didn't call with an update until all was said and done (which I totally understand, my goodness the pressure of updating people on your cycle doings). And that when they went to thaw the 2PN embryos that were Bryce's sperm and donor eggs... NOT ONE OF THEM SURVIVED THAW.

None.

And just like that, the last dream of hope has died.

The hope that we held that our embryos could survive and become children to be raised by another family.

The hope that another uterus was the answer to our fertility woes.

The hope of any answer at all.

The hope for this couple, who was beyond sweet and we felt a strange long-distance kinship with and exchanged words of hope and condolences with over the past two years.

I feel like all my hard-won scar tissue has been ripped open and I'm raw and bleeding all over again.

I am devastated. I am devastated first for this couple, who took a chance on embryos that came from a couple who were unsuccessful at EVERYTHING related to family-building, who believed in our embryos and wanted to give them the chance we couldn't. I am devastated that NONE of our embryos worked for them. I can't imagine how it must feel (well, maybe I can, actually) to thaw 6 one-day embryos in hopes of maybe 2-3 survivors and be left with NONE, right before Christmas. To have fought for a transfer day over a period of years, and have it end with a fizzle.

I know what it's like to have an anticlimactic end to an era of cycles. I don't know what their plans are, but if they continue on they'll need to match up with another family looking to place their embryos and go through all this all over again, or start a brand new process, or make peace with a life without children. But to have things end with this loss of all hope instilled in those 6 tiny cells... how awful.

And of course I am heartbroken for us. There were no second chances. There won't be a strange, grafted family tree. We won't get to see any of our genetics play out in other children raised halfway across the country. That dream is dead. The hope that some part of us could live on and we could have some kind of relationship in the future is dead. And for the love of all that's holy, we couldn't catch a break with ANYTHING?

I am also heartbroken because I feel somehow responsible for this couple's misfortune, for their grief. I know it's not logical. I know that they chose us knowing that our material was "unproven." But we still feel like we set them up for failure somehow. That anything related to us and our journey was somehow tainted by whatever dark and noxious cloud sat on everything reproductive for us.

The odd thing is that yesterday I was unbearably sad. I can't explain it. I literally just felt like curling up in a ball and pretending to hibernate. I told Bryce I felt like a pillbug (or a roly-poly, or an armadilla bug, depends on where you're from). I just sat in my chair downstairs and cried silent tears. I sincerely wonder if the thaw failed yesterday. If somehow I knew that something was not quite right in the universe, that there was something to cry for, something big to mourn. I chalked it up to the holiday blues, but now I wonder if it was some sort of in-tune-with-the-cosmos mourning.

There's just so many layers to this loss.

Monday, December 4, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Walking Away

I found this at the teacher's union craft sale a couple weeks ago, and finally put it in a frame that was originally going to house one of our photos from our California trip (but woefully I have yet to have prints made).

I think it's quite something, don't you?



Especially since it just appeared, at a very mainstream, very family-friendly event, and spoke right to the heart of me.

It's in my beautiful office now, a reminder that sometimes walking away is the hardest choice, but it's also the best choice so you can keep on walking forward.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! Also I am so proud of myself for playing by the rules this time -- FOUR sentences! WOO!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Any News?

I am home sick today with a supposed sinus infection that has me dizzy, exhausted, feeling like I have a head full of poison, and no voice. I tried to go into school yesterday and ended up leaving at the end of 5th period (after my English co-teacher basically banned me from his room and said "GO HOME." and my TA had been after me to go home, too). It was a bizarre day, since I'd taken NyQuil the night before and actually got a good night's sleep, but woke up at 7:20 (I'm supposed to be at school by 7:30) and rushed to get out the door and in to my classroom by the start of class at 7:55. I just made it, but sans glasses -- I realized after shutting the door and walking to my car that I didn't have them on my face, but I had my keys in the car to defrost the windshield, and I decided to run with it since I had prescription sunglasses in the car. Sigh. Not a good day.

I went to the doctor at 3:30 after a long nap, and it was the same nurse practitioner who saw me through my horrible flu bout two years ago in April. She is definitely the earth-mother type and has a great sense of humor. She always talked with me about adoption, especially since one day I had the Adoptee Survival Guide with me as reading material and she asked a bunch of questions since her husband was adopted and he did not have a good experience with it. He had passed years earlier, but she thought that her children might want the information about search and reunion for their own knowledge, since it was a closed adoption and they had little information, and clearly health history would be important since he died young (in addition to just the right to know).

I forgot I hadn't seen her since before April.

"So, any news? What's new?" She asked with a twinkle in her eye.

"Um, this year is going well so far, work is going great..." I said in my hoarse voice.

"No, I meant, ANY NEWS?" and she winked.

"Oh. OH. Oh, no. Um, we ended that journey last spring. That didn't go well. I'm so sorry not to have better news for you." She looked a little crushed, so I continued on,

"You see, last year was horrifically bad. We had a 10 month period with absolutely no calls, and then two calls that were very last minute and hopeful but resulted in not being chosen, and it just got to be too much. Maybe if we hadn't done 13 IVF cycles before starting adoption it might have turned out differently..."

"Oh, oh yes. That sounds so hard, a lot to deal with. Only you are an expert on you, and what you can and cannot handle." She said, like a true wise woman.

"Yup, and when you land yourself in the ER with scleritis and the prednisone mimics heart attack symptoms and you have a bit of a mental breakdown at work...well then it's time to re-examine your priorities."

"Oh my. How difficult that must have been."

"Yeah. It was pretty awful. I'm on anxiety medication now, which has helped, but it was all just really unfortunate."

Then, I forgot how we got to it, but she said something along the lines of "Life is not just, there's just life." Which I love. What a great way to put things.

At another point in the conversation, between listening to my lungs and sparing me the indignity of the scale, she said, "Ah, it's like 'Where is the happy uncomplicated life I signed up for?'" while shaking her fist at the ceiling.

"Oh no," I said. "For as much as we've lost so much, I am actually very happy with my life. I have a lot to be thankful for, I am very fortunate in many other ways." And that's truly how I feel, and what I remind myself of when I feel down at the endless stream of family Christmas shoots and tree-cutting and even the weird tradition of putting your baby on some bearded guy's lap at the mall so they can cry adorably.

But then I realized...she is not the last person to not know what happened with our journey. I will have to repeat this conversation with my gynecologist when I go for my annual, and with neighbors who don't know yet that we pulled the plug who might ask out of curiosity. And not everyone is going to react in such a caring, loving way as the nurse practitioner.

Just the other day I ran into the Superintendent, who had been supportive during our quest and "hands are tied" apologetic about the sad state of adoption leave with the district, despite offering "more than any other district at 5 days paid leave." I realized he didn't know we weren't adopting anymore, so I pulled him aside in the hall and told him. His response was a little bit shocked, a little bit sad, and then this, "Well, you never know what the future might bring, there's always hope if you have faith." Um, that's nice and all, but I actually DO know what the future will bring here and it's not bringing any tiny miracle babies. I let him know that we were actually at peace with our decision and we look forward to a happy life as a couple, but it reminded me of how many people still see that as a very sad outcome, and can't justify in their minds that you can be childless and happy at the same time.

I am still figuring out how to do my holiday cards this year in a way that will make it abundantly clear that we are now a family of two plus cats, and I'm struggling. I still intend to have the picture of me with a cocktail in a pretty dress on my chaise lounge, but what other pictures? Pictures of our California trip? I toyed with the idea of having someone come take pictures of us enjoying our life as is, eating a delicious meal that we cooked together, reading in pajamas in our new chair, me typing in my new office, out for a hike...but Bryce thought maybe that might be construed as "sad." Which then made me sad, because I find great joy in those things. But last year we had a little text on the back of our card explaining the second year of the adoption process, and I feel like maybe a little tribute to the end of our journey wouldn't be bad since some people actually thought last year's tongue-in-cheek card was a pregnancy announcement (!).

Maybe if I send out something abundantly clear but joyful, I won't have to explain to the few people left who don't know our situation. And then next year's card can just be a card, without any sort of message about our family status. A non-press-release card, ha.

I guess people won't ever stop asking the question, but I'm hoping that at some point everyone I know will know how this particular chapter of our story ended, and I won't have to tell it again and again to people who saw some sliver of what our life was like while we were desperately trying to introduce a child into our family.

Monday, November 27, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: You Don't Have Kids

I had another lovely interaction with a coworker, one I also didn't challenge, for some reason.

I'm in a Young Adult Book Club, where teachers and staff get to read new YA literature and discuss it so we can recommend it to kids and keep current. So, naturally, November's book was Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (you know him from The Fault in Our Stars, or Paper Towns, and he is amazing).

One of the teachers in my hallway stopped me a week ago and said, "Have you read Turtles All the Way Down yet? Can you get it into it? Does it get better?" [I loved it, in case you were wondering]

And I said, "Well, um..."

"You FINISHED it, didn't you!"

"Yes," I replied, and before I could say more she said,

"Well of course, because you don't have kids, you can read more!" and then disappeared back into her room, leaving me more than a little flabbergasted.

Because she knows me, if not super well, then well enough to know that I DON'T HAVE KIDS FOR A REASON, and that reason is painful and a terrible loss and really not a hallway-flyby sort of matter.

What I was going to say was that I finished it because I coerced the librarian into giving me my copy of the book several weeks early, because I was dying to read it. And yes, I finished it quickly, and yes, having no children at home probably definitely does make it easier for me to read voraciously (I read a book a day over Thanksgiving break, which was possible in part because I was (am) sick and so couldn't really do anything else, not that I wanted to).

But, it threw me off how flippantly she said, "It's because you don't have kids at home."

On the other hand, maybe I am just so well-adjusted (publicly) from this grief and loss that people can forget about the horrorshow that was last year and the pain of the last 8 years, particularly if they didn't know me that well during most of it, and so she said that because she CAN forget that I don't have kids because I tried just about every way you can and hit roadblocks every. single. time. Because it's not apparent, because I am not a sad sap, because I appear (and I am) happy.

The librarian actually said that today, "You look so upbeat lately, I keep meaning to ask how you're doing with all the transition and that part of your life being over, but I keep forgetting because you seem so happy."

There's no seem about it. I am happy. And I am grateful that a side effect of my loss is unabridged reading time -- that's a positive I'll take!

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Phrase I Just Don't Get

I was hanging out with a teacher friend one afternoon. We talked about our stories, our challenges, and the fact that your struggles aren't always easily apparent. She was a really good listener, and she was super sensitive about my situation, and very much in the vein of "I had no idea you were going through all that to the extent that you were until you broke last year, but it was never apparent to students or coworkers, you just didn't let it ooze out onto us."

Which was lovely, and made me feel good because I tried real hard to make that be the case until I couldn't anymore, but I NEVER took it out on my students.

But then for some reason we got onto fears, and I shared one of my biggest -- that I might die young, either from a gynecological cancer related to the many years of treatment and fiddling with my body, or in a random act of violence. The random act of violence one has been there forever: I am petrified of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and have been known to ask Bryce if we can leave a place because I get an icky feeling. (I'm sure this isn't related to my anxiety at all.) The specificity of the cancer is new, but the weaselly-in-the-brain thought that I might die of an incurable disease? Not so much.

She said she got it, and that for the longest time she thought she was going to die when she was some random age in her mid-thirties. Like, convinced. So much so that when she hit that year the whole 365 days was fairly anxiety-ridden and unpleasant. But it didn't happen, and that was a long time ago.

When does the phrase I simply don't get come in? When she said the dreaded,

"But by the time I was that age, I had children, and so I had no choice -- I COULD NOT DIE, IT SIMPLY WASN'T AN OPTION."

I mean, not that she was PLANNING it or anything, but that the mere idea of dying young when you have children is just not plausible, because you have so much to live for, tiny lives who depend on you.

It's not the first time I've heard this sentiment, that once you have kids, dying is just not an option.

Yet I'm pretty sure there are people who have died who had young children.

And the inverse is incredibly icky.

I GUESS DYING IS TOTALLY AN OPTION FOR ME. I mean, I don't have children to live for. So what's the point?

(This is purely rhetorical of course. Please do not send out the Mobile Crisis Unit for a mental health arrest.) 

I really hate that phrase because while I can understand feeling like children give you a reason to live, um, can't other things do that, too? It's fine for your kids to give you a reason to live, but should it be the ONLY reason?

It seems to totally back up that whole "My life just meant more when I had children" thing that people say.

I'd like to think my life means "more" now, even without children.

My husband depends on me.

And if I didn't have a husband, my family, my friends, my cats, my neighbors, my coworkers, my students...I'd like to think that they would all be sad and irrevocably changed if I were to pass away.

This is a far more morbid post than I'd intended, but it begs the question...

Is your death sadder if you have children? Is your life worth more because of it? 

I'd like to think no. I'd like to think that every single person would be missed for a variety of reasons, and children are just one. That a life can be just as meaningful and just as much of a loss, and that your life is just as much worth fighting for if you DON'T have children than if you do.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, I've seen quite a few posts on what people say about having children that makes the inverse cringe-worthy from Mali, Different Shores, Infertile PhoenixLoribeth, BentNotBroken, and more.

So why is this such a thing? And why didn't I challenge my teacher friend on it? I thought about it, but I felt maybe we didn't know each other QUITE well enough for me to say, "Well, I guess I can just roll over and die, since I have no children to live for and never will" followed by maniacal laughter. It's possible that might not have gone well.

I wish people would think about the implied (if not always directly) inverse of these statements. Then again, what would I have to write about if so many people suddenly gained this kind of sensitivity? (Cue maniacal laughter.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2017 Thankfuls

I try to be aware of the things I have to be thankful for on a regular basis, but of course this week of (American) Thanksgiving means a set time for reflection, often where you feel the need to share these feelings of gratitude publicly. I used to do the Thankful November thing where you post one thing every day on Facebook that you are thankful for, but I didn't do it this year in part because I found myself busy and forgot until the second week of November and in part because it would mean going up on Facebook daily and I am really trying to scale back a bit. (Not in any small part because November is National Adoption Month and that might have just a tinge of pain and loss for me when I see all the frames that say "Touched by Adoption" by friends who actually were successful and it leaves me feeling just a tad bit...loser-y. Like a failure, someone who couldn't cut the mustard. I have to remind myself that moving forward was NOT failure.)

I thought it might be nice to come up with a list of 30 things that I am thankful for this year, this shitty-ass year of 2017. Because although it was a year of losses and illness and letting go, a lot of good things happened, too. Sometimes as a result of the shitty things.

So, in the spirit of filling the bucket and not draining it, here is the list of things I am thankful for from this past year, one for each day of November, not ranked in any way shape or form:

1) My marriage. I mean, that's handsdown #1 if this was a ranked list, but it's the first thing I think of, always. I am so fortunate to have a marriage strong enough to survive incredible stresses and thrive in the face of adversity. We nurture it and work it and it's something I'm proud of, as well as thankful for.

2) Bryce. Okay, related to #1, but he is truly the best partner I could have hoped for in this crazy loop-de-loop of a life. He's patient, he's funny, he's incredibly adoring, he's adorable, he gives great hugs, he's smart, he's cultured, he's a great cook and baker, and I don't get tired of spending time with him. He's sexy, too.

3) My friends. Friends I see frequently, friends I talk to at least weekly, but also friends who live far away but are such total kindred spirits that I can pick up where we left off 6 months ago and have it be just as comfortable and funny (and usually a 3 hour conversation). Friends who stopped in to see me when I was going through my crisis last spring. Friends who text me when I try to disappear into a pit. Friends who encourage me to go out there and do fun things I probably wouldn't do any other way. I am so fortunate to have friends in many different arenas, many of whom (ahem ahem, many of you reading this) who I've never met yet but still feel a special bond with.

4) My ALI blogging community. You guys are my friends, my life preservers, my beacon of hope when I feel lost. You get it. You challenge my thinking. You educate me on all the different paths there are to take in this crazy family-building quest that can resolve in so many ways and fork in so many different directions. I am so grateful to and for you.

5) My family. They are spread out across the whole freaking country, which makes visiting on the regular very, very difficult, but I love in-person visits and phone calls, cards and keeping up on that devil Facebook. You are supportive, you are funny, and I can blame the crazy on you. You have sustained a loss in our losses too, and you handle it with grace and go to bat for us when people are stupid (wittingly or not so). I am grateful to all of you.

6) My cats. They cozy up to me and seem to know when I need a little furry love in my lap. They let me hold them like babies and cuddle them like teddy bears. Even Gross Cat is snugglier than normal and has become quite enjoyable. Thanks for being my fur babies.

7) My job. I am not being a cliche when I say that I truly and utterly love what I do, and feel grateful every day that I get to do it. I mean, maybe not every SECOND of the day (like today when energy was high because it was the day before Thanksgiving and everyone was complaining about being in school when other districts were closed), but I love the challenge of teaching middle school, the way it makes me grow and learn as a person and as a professional, and the fulfillment it gives me. I love hearing from students and getting little notes that say "You are the best teacher" from time to time, that doesn't hurt, either. :)

8) My coworkers/school. Holy crow, I am so fortunate to work at the school where I do. My whole district is special, but I am particularly grateful to be at my middle school, because the community there is amazing. There are so many wonderful teachers, staff members, and administrators that I can learn from and truly feel that family vibe with. I love that there are people who get my sense of humor and who crack me up, daily. And there are people who make me a better teacher, daily. It's wonderful to go to school every day with friends and family.

9) My home. I know we keep going back and forth on moving versus not moving, but more and more I just love our home, our cozy little hobbit house, and am growing content with the idea of staying here.

10) My new couches/chairs/dining room table. It may seem like just furniture, and it's very nice and adult-like, but it is also marks a turning point. We didn't buy any of it until we were out of limbo. It was like the start of a new adult life stage, and the upholstery certainly screams "We don't have children" since it's light and it's not easy-clean microfiber.

11) Not being in limbo. As much as January to May really sucked the big one, I can't tell you how happy and thankful I am to no longer be living in an in-between place, a place of striving for something that just kept eluding us and kept pressing down like deep sea pressure on our (my) sanity. It is amazing to go for a walk without my phone in my pocket. It is wonderful to make vacation plans and not worry that it might cost us a profile opportunity, or that it wouldn't fit into our IVF schedule.

12) Being able to take a swanky vacation. I love, love, love that we (mostly) just went for it on our California vacation. And that we saw the Napa, Calistoga, and Sonoma regions before the horrific fires. I love that it was two weeks. I love that it really was our honeymoon. I look forward to the next trip, and am thankful that we have the ability to do this.

13) My new office. I love that I was able to take a room that was a total representation of everything we wanted and everything we lost in so many ways, and turn it into a sanctuary that's just for me. I write in here, I read in here, I craft in here, I grade in here, I plan in here, I wrap presents in here...the list goes on and on but it's all stuff that makes me happy and is CREATING something in a room where nothing materialized in other ways.

14)  Delicious gluten-free food. This seems small, but it's not -- I love food and it's wonderful that more and more quality stuff comes out that makes it possible for me to eat like a normal human. Especially out at restaurants. It's great to eat good food and not damage my body.

15) Friends who really support the gluten free thing. My bookclub is great with providing a boatload of delicious gluten free options, and I legitimately feel horrid when I have to cancel last minute due to illness or something because often they go out of their way to provide a GF spread. My coworkers always have a GF treat for me when we've done birthday celebrations. I have friends who make sure servers at restaurants know how important it is not to gluten me, and are almost aggressive about it. It is a beautiful thing, because it's not a dietary choice, it's a dietary treatment for an autoimmune disease.

16) Being able to see my dad three times this year. After not seeing him for years, having a last-minute visit in February in Toronto, a visit during our honeymoon in August, and then a visit two weeks ago (although for the unfortunate circumstance of my grandfather's funeral)...that has been a gift this year. 

17) A giant stack of books I haven't read yet to get me through the winter. I am so ready for a surprise snow day where I can just sit in my pjs and read all day.

18) My health. It could be better (stupid asthma, migraines, celiac, the eye thing) but it sure could be worse, and I got a little taste of that when I had my scleritis flare in the Spring Of Death. So far, so good and I am very grateful for that.

19) A good therapist. I LOVE my lady. A good therapist is gold. Don't settle for less, something I learned the hard way. Get someone who listens but who also challenges you and notices patterns without judgement. And for pete's sake, someone who respects your viewpoints. Challenging doesn't mean trying to alter your course that took forever to determine.

20) This blog. I'm thankful for the community I have met through it -- the friends across the country and even the world, but I'm also thankful just for this space to put my thoughts out there and process this journey as I keep on trekking on through it. This space is part of therapy, too. I appreciate the opportunity to explore thoughts and ideas and vent and commiserate on tough topics.

21) My car. Minus a few little bang-ups this past year (shakes fist at 2017), my car has been super reliable and maintenance has been easy and uncomplicated. I do have to replace my timing belt soon, which will be expensive and irritating, but it's worth it to hang on to this car for a very long time. I love you, Subaru.

22) My linen sheets. A strange one, but they are truly soft and cozy (once you get over the initial feeling of "I'm sleeping on a tablecloth") and regulate heat like nobody's business. I use them all year long and am never going back!

23) Bryce's gluten free cheese danish. Mmmmmmm. It's been a while, hint hint.

24) Other childfree-not-by-choice bloggers and friends. It's amazing to have people who've gone before me (or are going with me) to make the road less lonely and more hopeful for what is to come now that this huge thing we spent 8 years on didn't happen.

25) My neighbors. It's lovely to have neighbors who you can stop and talk to on a walk or while doing yardwork. It's even more lovely to have neighbors who feel like family and that you can invite over for a drink or dinner or to watch the Superbowl or toast to the New Year with. Even better is when your neighbor introduces you to a book club that's the first one you've belonged to for years and years, and where you've met wonderful new people that became friends who you never would have met any other way.

26) Good wine. We love our wine, and have tasted some really good bottles recently. Because why not?

27) Music. I love that there is music that can be piped all throughout our house and that one of our traditions is Sunday Baroque in the morning, and that if we sleep too late we pick it up in a station in Illinois or California. I love that Bryce is playing his guitar downstairs while I type. In the living room we have two guitar cases and my violin case, and it makes me very, very happy.

28) Tons of bookshelves. I love that our house is a library. I love that there are books in virtually every room, and that when we purge things books are the LAST thing to go. I am so thankful that we're both readers and are content to read together, listening to music, for hours on end. May sound boring to some people but we love it.

29) My beautiful new tattoo. Tomorrow is two weeks and I can finally stop washing it and slathering it in cocoa butter all the time. I am thankful for the balls to get it so big, for the artistry of the tattoo artist, and for everything it stands for.

30) Resiliency. I am thankful for our resiliency, for my resiliency, for the ability to get back up off the floor after being solidly dropped into an abyss of grief and sadness. I am thankful for the ability to laugh in the face of tragedy. I am thankful for the strength it took to say NO MORE, and the commitment to build a beautiful life from the ashes of our incredible attempts to have a child.

Well, if you're still here BRAVO, because that was a LOT longer than intended. But ah, how wonderful to have a big old stack of gratitude to feel and share.

Happy Thanksgiving! May the day be about trying to find the gems in the muck -- for some people the gems are closer to the surface, but for others there's some digging to do, but it's so worth it to come up with a few sparkling thankfuls to honor.