Monday, May 27, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Starting Over

I really, really miss my gardens -- the chaos, the profusion of flowers and colors and butterflies, the beautiful mature (but never ever "finished") beds.

Hey, flowerbabies...I miss you!
Here at the new house, I had to put most of my energy into the deck container plantings, because that's where we spend the most time, and because I sort of want to see what exists as is for a year season first half of the growing season.

Some of the deck containers

So far, it looks like that's a whole lot of garlic mustard (invasive NY weed), autumn olive (invasive NY shrub), honeysuckle (invasive NY shrub), dandelions, sneezeweed, and a tiny smattering of fun surprises (mostly daffodils and our amazing magnolia tree).

So, I planted a garden in the corner by the road, even though I can't see it from the house. It makes me happy to plant something that I'll see every time I come home, and that will add beauty to the neighborhood. Eventually.

Man I wish our address was Peepers Hollow!
This was at least THREE wheelbarrows full of sod that I dug up with a spade and pulled by hand (more lovely dark dirt to come and real edging). There's two false indigo, three veronicastrum, two sea hollies, three foxglove, and two black eyed susan vines that will eventually cover the tuteur in the middle. I can't help but think it looks like a pet cemetery. Going in this week are purple and rose salvia, orange and yellow hummingbird mint, purple coneflowers, and Moonbeam coreopsis. 
It is easy to forget that my gardens before were a product of at least TWELVE YEARS of sweat, muddy knees, and hours out in the garden. In the beginning, they weren't much bigger than my new little corner plot. They were just as sparse. It takes time for beds to fill in, for the trial and error of plant selection and soil amendment and watering and deer resistance to result in an explosion of color and textures.

It doesn't happen overnight. Kind of like healing from loss, you want it to just POOF be healed, but it takes time for things to take root and multiply and become the garden you want it to be. It takes time to heal from wounds of the heart and soul, and like my garden, there's always work to do, things to tweak, plants that don't work out and need to be replaced. And in this garden, rocks that need to be dug up and that are a pain in the tuchus, but that you can use as makeshift edging.

I'm excited for the opportunity to go through the process of creating all new garden spaces, little by little, and to see how they will evolve and grow over time.

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

Sunday, May 26, 2019

700 Posts: A Love Letter to My Life

This, right here, is my 700th post. SEVEN HUNDRED. That's crazy.

When I started this blog, I was so hopeful that what we wanted and saw other people achieving would be our ultimate takeaway. The title says it all, "My Path to Mommyhood." It wasn't "My Path Through IVF Failure, Ectopic Pregnancy, Miscarriage, Not Getting Chosen By Expectant Parents, Having A Breakdown, and Ending Up Not Parenting." That would have been lengthy, and depressing. (The title is misleading now, though...I need to figure out how to change it.)

I started this post by going back through old posts and reading to see what it was like at the start versus now.

I stopped at 2011, one year into blogging. In just one year I saw the hopefulness and certainty that it was just a matter of time grind to a horrible halt when we had our first pregnancy end in an ectopic that needed to be surgically removed, and then failure after that.

I realized, I don't want to go back and read through all of the pain I went through right now. I don't want to see the gradual loss of innocence and insistence that THIS time would be the time, through all that we went through. I don't want to go back and experience all that again -- it was starting to make me sad, and 700 posts later I do NOT feel like being sad in this moment.

Right now, Bryce is out on our deck, grilling up some bratwurst for our Memorial Day party of two (yes, I realize it's almost 10 pm, but we had sundaes out after a long sweaty walk today and then I gardened more and we are terrible at eating at a decent time, so thank goodness we have tomorrow off!). We had a beautiful day in what is now our truly beautiful life.

THAT is what I want to take away from 700 posts. That there was so, so much pain. So much uncertainty and seemingly forever cursed circumstances. An endless parade of watching other people achieve what we could not through a variety of means, and feeling so awful and empty as everyone else's life went on and we were stuck in the same old place.

BUT NO MORE! I can honestly say that the power of resolution is awe-inspiring. To no longer be in limbo, to live our life for what we experience NOW and what is, and not the wisp of what we strove for, fruitlessly... it is glorious. I wish I could go back and tell myself that everything was going to be okay, more than okay, just not how I'd hoped, originally.

I wish I could go back, a sort of Ghost of Resolution Future, and whisper in my ear as I mourned our losses of so many flavors:

You are going to LOVE your life. You are going to be able to move forward from all this, and even though it seems completely foreign and scary now, not parenting will not be the horror show you think it will be. You will have your amazing husband, and a beautiful house, and a great job, and end each day just so freaking GRATEFUL for the life that you have. Not what could have been, but what is... RIGHT NOW. You, my dear, YOU are one of the lucky ones. 

I really feel that way. It was a long, long road to get here.

But man, am I grateful to have survived all that and landed here.

Thank you for traveling with me.

Sunset from our deck tonight

Bryce looking out over the backyard earlier today

View out my office window

My cozy office, and an amazing mermaid pillow featuring Jeff Goldblum's face, a birthday prize from a friend. Nevermind the packing tape on the chaise lounge in a futile attempt to get Lucky not to scratch it. 

Fire table out on the other side of the deck

The world's most prolific magnolia tree, a few weeks ago, and our house on the hill

The last picture I have of us post-surgery, with my silver highlights, and Bryce's burly beard (he's trimmed it since)

Monday, May 20, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: A New Family Member

We have a new kitty!

Meet Maebe, our sweet older girl who we adopted May 3rd after meeting her the day before at our local Human Society shelter. She is slowly adjusting to our home -- she's a bit skittish and Lucky seems to be enjoying terrorizing her just a LITTLE too much. They are both 12 years old, but Maebe is more of a sweet old biddy, and Lucky is still a frat boy at heart and wants to haze the crap out of her. She is pretty confident with the bedroom level of the house, and we'll find her in the shower or in our bedroom when she's not in the guest room, which is hers, but she has only come downstairs of her own volition once (and we've sort of forced the issue a few times to try to get her to be a little more comfortable).

Making her way downstairs...
The one time she made it on her own! (So far...)

We were looking to adopt an older cat, more like 5-8, but she just loved on us and we knew we could give her what she needed. Because, she is a bit of a fragile flower... in addition to being 12, which is considered "senior" and not quite "geriatric," she has a low-grade heart murmur and an old left hip injury (although she's super agile), and we found out at her first vet appointment that she has concerningly high blood pressure (so she's on meds like we are, ha ha). Thank goodness it's apparently thyroid and not heart failure, which was a possibility.

Making herself cozy at the vet's

Anyway, welcome Maebe...cross your fingers that she and Lucky learn to be at least peaceable if not buddies soon, and she gets brave enough to explore the rest of the house and hang out on the couch.

Lucky, stalking her like a tree leopard

Playful girl chasing ribbon
I love my new home! (Also, the receiving blanket is perfect for new kitties...)
Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The End of Recovery

It seems crazy that I go back to work on Wednesday, that nearly six weeks have come and gone. It feels like both forever and a short slice of time, and I'm honestly ready to go back and finish out the school year. Family in the Midwest were confused, because they're almost done if not done, but we go until June 26th (although last day with kids is June 19th). So I have almost a month left, but really just 19 school days when I show up Wednesday. Which is NUTS.

Since my last recovery post, I've been able to do more, which is lovely. Only in the past few days have I been able to feel like I'm truly back to regular activity, although I still get real tired.

As of Three Weeks, I was largely couchbound, and halfway to going back. I had my second post-op followup with the surgeon on Friday 5/10, and he cleared me for regular activity, within reason. "Don't go doing everything all at once," he cautioned. So what did I do? I went to see Avengers: Endgame with a friend, went to dinner, went to Home Depot, went back to cooking and being more up and around, went grocery shopping for my mom's Mother's Day brunch... and by Sunday afternoon I thought I was going to DIE. I honestly felt like my incision was opening up and my intestines were going to come spilling out at any moment. It hurt SO BAD. I felt better on Monday after spending Sunday evening on the couch, moaning, and Monday on the couch as well, limiting my stairs and my movement.

I panicked. I can't go back to school soon if this is how I feel after normal activity ran through my head over and over, until I called the surgeon's office and left a message on the nurse's line and then used the mychart portal to send an email, hoping for a response sooner. They said no. I'd asked for my back-to-work letter on the 10th, and even though I hadn't submitted it yet they were like, "If you need to change your date you need to see the doctor, so we'll set up an appointment for Monday (5/20) and see what happens." I was honestly annoyed, because I was only asking for two more days of not working (this year we have a miraculous four-day weekend for Memorial Day, so if I went back on Tuesday 5/28 I would be gaining nearly a whole week for two days of work). But, the RN said that it's normal to feel like crap after returning to normal activity, and I still had a week and a half to suss it out, so let's see, shall we?

So I slow rolled it a bit, and worked my way up to more activity throughout the week. By the end of the week, I could do a little gardening, I could go for a 3 mile walk, and I didn't have any of that "I've been gutted" feeling. A little sore, yes... in need of naps, yes... but feeling like death? No. So I cancelled the appointment and wrote a message in mychart that they were right, I just needed to keep building up my stamina.

It will be nice, because I go back Wednesday, I have that day and Thursday, and then I have a nice long weekend to gear up for a four day week, and then there's only two full weeks and a three day week left after that, with students. I can do this.

My big accomplishments have been planting up the deck railing planters and pots (with the help of a friend who did all the heavy lifting for me on Wednesday), planting my small corner garden out by the street (the first 5 plants were done by my mom, I felt well enough Saturday to brave the shovel  and get 5 more plants in the ground...), taking a long walk, and starting to get back into school work.

Oh, and reading -- although getting back to normal activity definitely took time out of my schedule and so my numbers slowed down, which is okay. I also watched a few movies and am enjoying Dead to Me on Netflix, although I was surprised my friend who recommended it didn't mention the pregnancy loss aspect of it, which I'm going to take as a compliment, but was initially jarring nonetheless.

To recap, here's the list from the beginning, bringing me up to 18 books so far (I'm just starting my 19th, I fear my weird overly ambitious goal of 20 won't come to pass):

Week One
Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett
You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Week Two
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
The Power by Naomi Alderman

Week Three 
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patti Yumi Cottrell
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Maeve in American: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins
A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Wild Gatherings: Quirky Collective Nouns of the Animal Kingdom by Matt Sewell
Man-eaters Vol 1 by Chelsea Cain +

Week Four
- The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Week Five
- The Secret Place by Tana French
- The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams
- Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Week Six (so far)
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang

I loved all five of these, not a stinker in the bunch.

The Hazel Wood was definitely a favorite, I'd had it for a while but it finally called to me, and I read it in almost a single sitting. It was upper YA fantasy, but not other-world-space-or-dragons type fantasy,
more of a meshing of worlds, I suppose. I can't really say much without ruining things, but it was very well done and it didn't make me want to throw it, not once. I thought the characters were fascinating, and it wasn't predictable. LOVED it.

The Secret Place has been on my to-read shelf for about a year, and while it wasn't a particularly fast read and the beginning sort of dragged for me, by the third-to-halfway-point I was utterly captivated and couldn't put it down. It was fascinating, taking place largely at a girl's boarding school in Ireland, where a murder of a boy from the neighboring boy's school happened last year, but now someone has put a card on this anonymous message board meant to give girls an outlet and give the adults insight into problems, a card that says "I know who killed Chris." So the present day parts take place over one day of interrogation at the school, and the past parts go back to the beginning of the school year until the day the murder happened. It made me eternally grateful not to be a teenager now, it was fascinating for some procedural stuff about interviewing minors, and it had several layers that kept me guessing.

I could (and will) write a whole blog post on The Unwinding of the Miracle. It was not a light and beachy read, as Julie was a real person who wrote about living with and dying of Stage IV colon cancer, but it's not just a "I have cancer" book. It's the story of her life as a visually-impaired culturally-Chinese immigrant from Vietnam, it's the story of how she wanted to portray her coming to grips with her illness and preparing for her death as brutally raw and honest, it's a philosophical journey into what it means to know you're going to die young (she was in her early forties) and how to try to plan for your family after you're gone... it was just beautiful. And a lot of what she said about how people treated her could be transferred over to infertility, although obviously not apples to apples because typically you don't die from infertility. I would put this book up there with Nina Rigg's The Bright Hour (another young woman writing about the process of living with and dying of cancer, but in her case Triple Negative metastatic breast cancer), which I also loved and recommend highly. I was glad I read this one on my Kindle, because I highlighted the ever-living crap out of it.

Bird Box was a curiosity project, because I watched the Netflix movie when my dad was here and then learned that it was a book first (I thought it was adapted to a book from the movie, which sometimes happens but not in this case), and wanted to read and see which one I liked better. I absolutely HATE that the cover has that printed "Netflix movie" sticker marring what is otherwise a lovely cover image, but it was that or an actual movie cover, so lesser of two evils it was. It was structurally very much like the movie, going back and forth between Malorie's trip down the river with the children and flashbacks to how she got to that point in the first place. The movie was DEFINITELY Hollywood-ized, and some of the more ridiculous scenes from the movie did not quite happen that way in the book, but I see why they did it. The movie was also updated, as you could tell technology had progressed quickly since the book was written. Amazing how quickly things become dated now! The book was taut, and the prose was spare, reminding me of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I thoroughly enjoyed it and consumed it like candy.

I seemed to go back and forth from fun to heavy, and The Collected Schizophrenias was definitely not like consuming candy. It was, however, well-written and a fascinating window into what it is like to live with schizoaffective disorder, to be diagnosed later after an initial bipolar diagnosis, and to learn just how stigmatizing having anything resembling "schizophrenic" in your chart can be. The collection of essays covered everything from the diagnosis process, to higher education's difficulty accommodating for the severely mentally ill, to various delusions, to decisions regarding children, to Slender Man, to the trouble with reality when you get immersed into certain movies. It was beautiful, and interesting, and gave a lot of food for thought about treatment options for the severely mentally ill, the effectiveness (or not) of involuntary hospitalization, medication, and how to live your best life when you know you will have psychotic episodes that are terrifying. A solidly absorbing read that's also super informative.

So there it is, only two days left before I dive right into the sweaty time of year, the crazy end-of-the-year days of middle school. I am already looking forward to going to bed at about 8:30 on Wednesday night, anticipating the exhaustion but also the excitement of seeing my kids again, of getting back into a routine before the expanse of summer hits and I have free time again but without the inability to physically do all the things.

Monday, May 13, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: An Answer For The Unexplained

Technically speaking, I did not have unexplained infertility -- we had several diagnoses working against us. I was (finally!) diagnosed with PCOS (polycycstic ovarian syndrome), and Bryce had male factor infertility (low counts, low motility, low morphology). There was no mysterious reason why we would have trouble, we were spared the hazy and infuriating "unexplained infertility" that came from having no revealed diagnoses.


As we continued through cycle after cycle, as we suffered negative after negative, two losses, donor egg, and donor sperm, and STILL had no became clear that while we had diagnoses, we were still Unexplained.

Because all of the things that we did to combat our infertility should have been mitigated by any or all of our treatment decisions. By the end of our time at our first clinic, our doctor said, "I should be able to tell you why you can't get and stay pregnant, but I can't -- it's an unfortunate mystery."

But now, four and a half years after our last attempt to make my body do what I now know it never could, I have the answer, because my uterus is no longer in my body and could be poked and prodded and forced to give up its secrets in a pathology lab.

I had my second follow up with my surgeon, and he confirmed that yes, adenomyosis was likely the culprit for our failure to conceive despite a zillion IVF protocols, use of donor egg, and use of donor sperm; that based on my history of heavy, painful periods, abnormal uterine bleeding, and pelvic pain, it was likely there all along. As I blinked back tears, he said that I could take comfort in the fact that it is commonly not diagnosed until hysterectomy and that there isn't anything they could have done to mitigate the condition in order to result in a pregnancy. (Two articles on adenomyosis and infertility: 1) easy to read celebrity story, 2) mind-dizzying NIH report that I read all of and comprehended maybe 70%, but if you're science-y it's fascinating and also fills me with fury that there's a possible treatment for this in infertile women but very little research done to extend it.)

I'm not looking for blame or a gotcha, but I do feel like had I known that I had a condition with no treatment that would inhibit implantation and even contribute to first trimester miscarriage, I would have known there was no hope. I could have, in theory, stopped the relentless march down path after path promising possible pregnancy that ravaged my body and soul.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. All moot. I have no time machine. It makes no difference.

I'm glad I asked though, and I heard the too-late bells tolling for my uterus's functionality. It is so sad to me to realize that pregnancy was never, ever, EVER going to be something my body could achieve to term. But it is also freeing to have an answer, to have it confirmed by my surgeon, to have my uterus finally do something useful at the end of its miserable life.

Knowing is so much better than not-knowing.

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day Past, Mother's Day Present

After my birthday last week, I was thinking on how I'd said my birthday didn't make me sad and I'd felt I'd reclaimed it. It still holds true -- I was able to celebrate my 43rd and not feel any reproductive or family-building angst about it at all. I remember thinking, "The same does NOT hold true for Mother's Day...that one still stings."

But now here I am, almost through Mother's Day, and I have to doesn't sting. Not the way it used to. I have proof of this: I've written post after post after post on surviving Mother's Day. I've shared all my self-care methods to preserve my sanity and treat myself tenderly on this day that is spattered all over and only applies to a select few.

It's a hard day for many -- those who've lost their mothers, those who've lost a child, those who've lost a pregnancy, those who ache to be mothers but aren't yet, those who have complicated relationships with their mothers, I imagine birthmothers (I don't personally know anyone who is, so I have to imagine), those who are waiting to adopt but aren't making headway, and those who aren't moms and will never be. That's a LOT of people for whom this holiday is at best conflicted and at worst a day to burrow in deep and hide from.

Going back and reading my Mother's Day survival/preparation/coping posts all the way back is fascinating to me. There's good advice in there, but also an evolution of what I felt at each stage of my shitty journey to living childfree not by choice:

- 2018: First Year Not In The Thick of Crisis, Second Year Knowing This Won't Ever Be My Holiday

- 2017: Still Deep In The Fire, Just Past Calling Off Adoption, The Mother's Day Post That Wasn't

- 2016: I Host Brunch And Feel Prematurely Smugly Okay With It, I Rant On About Cards, Potted Plants, and How Even Though I'm Waiting Through Adoption I Can't Celebrate For Me Yet

- 2015: Newly Waiting For Adoption, I Say No To Things, Bryce Accidentally (But Fortuitously) Books My Birthday Trip On Mother's Day Weekend

- 2014: Last Year of IVF (not sure I know this yet), Surviving Through Hermit-ing

- 2013: Year of Egg Donor IVF, I Am Frustrated With The Holiday And Wondering When This Hell Will End

- 2012: Hopeful Short-Lived-Ness Of Being Unable To Celebrate, Survival Tips, The Year I Miscarry in August

- 2011: My Very First Mother's Day Post, My Second Year of Enduring Infertile Mother's Day

After getting over the fact that I have NINE Mother's Day posts from NINE years of blogging (if you count this one now), I realized a theme:

  • Have the courage to say no and take care of yourself if you are just not in a good place
  • Make it a pajama day inside or a gardening day in the backyard to avoid the parade of strollers
  • Stay off anything with ads -- Cable TV/Services with ads, radio
  • Stay the EFF off social media for at least two days -- you think you're safe on Monday but you are NOT, it's not truly safe until Tuesday or even Wednesday (you can go directly to your mom/mother-in-law's pages to wish them a Happy Mother's Day, and then for the love of all that's holy, resist the urge to self-torture by looking at your feed AT ALL. 
  • Do what nourishes you.

I saw all the hope that one day this holiday would be mine to celebrate. I saw that hope waver. I saw that hope turn to a sort of bitterness/rage-filled/grief-fueled disbelief that still, STILL the holiday wasn't mine.

And then... acceptance. Glorious, end-of-limbo acceptance that I can still be tender with myself on this day, but that it doesn't hurt quite as much as when I still thought it was possible to "join the club." I can honor my mom and my mother-in-law and my grandmother (for I am fortunate to still have one of those on my father's side), and then make it a Sunday like any other, but maybe with more pajama time and reading and the customary Not-Mom Champagne.

I loved Mali's post this year on Mother's Day: "That Day" Again. It has so many wonderful messages, my favorite of which is:

"It  has power if we give it time passes, it is easier to stand up straight and say, 'nope, I'm not giving this day power over me.' It is easier to dismiss it as irrelevant to our lives. The guilt for not caring goes too. And you know what rushes in? A sense of relief, and freedom." 

I would have never believed two years ago that so soon after the end of the dream of what we thought our life would be and the transition into the reality of our life as is, that I'd be sitting here on Mother's Day, grateful to have moms in my life to celebrate and so, so grateful for the life that I live. I don't need this holiday. (It does help that I have seen ZERO ads and avoid shopping locations around this time, and I studiously avoided all the New Mom cards when picking out for family.) It's okay that it's not for me. And I was reminded of that by several incredibly caring friends who called or texted to tell me they were thinking of me today, and that I am a good and giving person even though I don't have children, and this is a Hallmark Holiday, anyway. And most of them were moms, so it wasn't a mom-bashing thing. I felt seen, and loved, and I could honestly say I am good today. I can celebrate this beautiful house free of fertility ghosts, and all of the wonderful life we will live here, together, and all the love I have to give people that is separate from being a mom.

I give this day no power over me. 

I hope hearing this from multiple people at different points post-family-building helps anyone battered and vulnerable to the throes of this holiday's power gives you hope -- you may wonder if this holiday will ever be yours. But it's also good to know that even if it never results in cards or potted plants or brunches in YOUR honor, it can be good, too. No matter what happens, there can be an outcome that isn't terrible and sad. It can be the start of a beautiful new life, defined differently.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Reclaiming My Birthday

Sunday is my birthday -- I will be forty-three years old.

I have had a complicated relationship with my birthday thanks to infertility -- it was always this harbinger of doom, of time running out, of reminders that I have a reproductive expiration date (or more like a "best by" date I suppose), that it is much harder to get matched with expectant parents when you are over 40, that the older we got the more we had to weigh in how old we were going to be when our child graduated high school and things like that. It sort of took joy out of celebrating my day of arrival on the planet.

It's amazing how taking all that OUT of the equation has freed up my birthday to be a celebration, and to not be sad. I am not really all that concerned with looking older -- I mean, I have a peel scheduled for Monday and I have quite the collection of skincare items, but I am not examining my face for wrinkles and contemplating injections or anything like that. I am continuing to grow out my gray hair, which is like silver highlights in my mind, and when it's all natural, then I will choose what I want to do with it.

But age, now that it is separated from my ability to reproduce or my attractiveness as a potential adoptive parent, isn't something I am ashamed of or sad about anymore.

My laugh lines and crinkles about the eyes are from moments lived and enjoyed.
My (new) worry lines across my forehead are from anxieties I've survived.
My silver highlights show that I am experienced at life, and I have stories to tell.

I may feel differently when they are less fine lines and more etched into my skin, but I'm not sure. I love Helen Mirren for being glamorous but also confident in the reality of her age, and for posting a "getting-ready-for-the-Oscars" selfie that was her with NO makeup, NO eyebrow filling in, wet hair... and it said, "What, you thought any of this was natural?" I LOVED HER SO MUCH FOR THAT.

Now I am free to celebrate my birthday for what it is -- another trip around the sun, another chance to do the things I love or aspire to do, the gift of more life to live. I love being in my forties, now that it's not a scary dead end, a boogeyman of the race against time. I don't love how my body seems to find new ways to torture me, but I do love that I've gotten rid of the organ that's caused me the most pain. Happy birthday to me; RIP Uterus.

I'm looking forward to a fairly low key weekend. I am seeing the matinee of Hamilton tomorrow after lunch with a friend, then having my dinner out with Bryce (hopefully sitting in the auditorium theater for several hours won't render me useless), then on my actual birthday having a glorious 90 minute massage, a visit from my mom and stepfather, and a homemade dinner from Bryce of the Roasted Buttermilk Chicken from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. If you haven't looked at the beautiful book or watched the four-part Netflix series, go do it. After watching the series, twice, I feel like Samin is another person who needs to be at the Dinner Party and I want her to be best friends with me. Especially when, upon experiencing the Parmesan cheese cave in Italy, she says, "I just want to stay here forever, and eat cheese until I die."

I'm sure there will be naps in there, especially as Saturday doesn't sound all that low-key. Hey, we bought the tickets before my hysterectomy was scheduled. We are in the wayyy nosebleed section (as in, I'm pretty sure there's no one behind us but wall), but it will still be amazing and thrilling and beautiful.

So there it is, 43, in just two days. A celebration of living a life I love, of leaving behind a time when my increasing age felt like stamps of failure in my family-building passport, and just enjoying What Is. Because what is is pretty damn good.