When Zoey was younger, I used to take her on trips, just the two of us. When she was 10 years old, we bundled up for a February trip to Washington, DC and New York City to see the sights and to visit with my dear friend, Cheryl, who lives in DC., and acts as an unofficial godparent to Zoey. Cheryl is a psychologist for the National Institutes of Health and she had just gotten a new job within NIH. This was a cause for celebration.

As you may know, I love good food. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to watch chefs cook. I love to read about fine cooking. New York City is the home of Eric Ripert’s La Bernadin, which is considered the best seafood restaurant in the U.S. Anthony Bourdain even wrote a chapter in one of his books about the man who butchers the fish there! I had made reservations for Cheryl, Zoey, and I to go out there. It was a celebration for Cheryl so the meal was on me.

La Bernadin has a prixe fixe (fixed price) menu. At the time, I think it was $99 a person, $99 for each person of any age. Zoey was and still is, an extremely picky eater. $99 is a lot to spend on any meal, especially one that doesn’t get eaten and is complained about. I was worried that I wasn’t going to get what I paid for and further, her behavior might be embarrassing. The day of our reservation, I casually offered, “Hey Zoey, the food at this restaurant is pretty fancy. If you’d rather, I can take you to McDonald’s beforehand and you can have dinner there.” She declined my invitation.

La Bernadin is a beautiful restaurant. For extra credit, the staff did not give me the evil eye for bringing a child there. We looked at the menu. There were options for each course. I saw that there was an entree option for some kind of simple pasta without meat. Yay! Something for Zoey! I pointed it out to her. “No Mom, I am getting the lobster.” When the waitperson arrived for drink orders, Zoey politely asked, “I have a question. What types of tea do you have?” The waitperson brought out a beautiful box filled with a grand assortment of teas. Zoey asked about the flavors of a number of them and made her decision. Every course of dinner was delicious. Zoey ate everything and did so, with appreciation. The lobster was her favorite. Cheryl, Zoey, and I had a lovely evening. I got more than my money’s worth.

This has been a different Christmas season. For one, I usually take off a whole week from work. I didn’t this year. I was concerned about money. As many of you know, being ill is costly. My heart issues have not been as costly as my cancer treatment was but I still lost a significant amount of work time. As a self-employed person, I don’t make money if I don’t work. My dad went to the hospital and to rehab. He has only been home for a week and is adjusting, with ups and downs, to being a physically disabled person. I have been going to all of his doctor’s appointments that I can, in addition to my own.

Putting up a Christmas tree seemed like too much this year. John’s mom was supposed to visit but that fell through. Zoey’s home from college but she really doesn’t notice stuff like Christmas trees. So I didn’t put one up. I’m cooking a simple but nice dinner tonight and tomorrow, we’ll have soup that I made yesterday. We’re going over to my parents’ house later in the day for a dessert potluck and gift exchange. I am not eating added sugar right now, due to my cardiologist’s recommendation of an anti-inflammatory diet, so I am bringing fruit and whatever is leftover from a Costco apple pie that I am serving tonight. (There should be plenty. Those things are enormous.)

I was feeling down a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, I was feeling ripped off. I love entertaining. I love my job. I find myself cutting back on these passions, in order to take care of myself. I think I do a pretty damned good job taking care of myself. And still, I get sick. And other people get sick, too! And I don’t get to have a Christmas tree! No fair!  After a day or two of letting myself have those thoughts and feelings, I felt better.

It is Christmas Eve. I am looking at the Christmas presents stacked in the corner of the living room. I see the Christmas stockings (all hand-made by me, by the way) and the nativity set. My shopping is done. I don’t have the rush and stress of holiday entertainment. I am just sitting and writing in the quiet of my home.

Merry Christmas, friends!

I couldn’t find a photo from the trip to NYC, but here is a photo of Zoey, Cheryl, John, and me from 2013, when Cheryl visited Seattle.