Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This time of year is a tough one for me.  Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday and in my past life (translation: before being diagnosed with lupus and everything that goes with it) it was filled with recipe planning, list making, grocery and Farmer's Market shopping, baking, slicing, dicing, basting, simmering, roasting and cooking, cooking, cooking.  I loved it!

All that changed in 2004.

I was ten years into my diagnosis and, despite some major health ups and downs over the years, had always managed to dodge being sick during Thanksgiving.  I'm a big foodie and got great pleasure out of preparing a huge traditional dinner with all the trimmings for my husband's very large family-- usually more than 30 people.  Nothing made me happier than to see his smiling face at the end of the dining room table surrounded by all of his loved ones.

That Fall had been a rough couple of months filled with extreme fatigue-- the hit-the-wall-crash-and-burn kind of tired, along with significant pain in my joints that left my hands and legs weak and sore, and a few other sinister ailments rearing their ugly heads.  

My rheumatologist had just given me his best "skip the holiday cooking" speech trying to convince me to put myself first-- (I despised that speech) and as I drove to meet my husband for lunch I cried all the way.  I had 32 people coming for dinner in 9 days and I didn't know how I was going to make it all happen.

And then Frosty The Snowman started playing on the car stereo and that pushed me over the top.  I had to pull the car over to the curb and cursed to high heaven, crying and slobbering the whole time.  It's a silly, harmless holiday song but man-oh-man, I was a crazy woman.  I had no idea how I was going to manage Thanksgiving and here some bozo radio station was already playing Christmas caroles.

Truth be told, I'm sure the massive dose of Prednisone I was on at the time helped jack up my drama, (or at least I'd like to blame it on that) but I was a wreck.  Eventually I sucked it up, applied a massive amount of make-up to cover my red nose, put on a happy face, and headed over to our favorite coffee shop to meet Husband.

The minute he saw me the look on Husband's face was proof I wasn't fooling anyone.

We've been eating at this family owned coffee shop for years and know the owners and staff well.  My husband and I huddled at a corner table holding hands as I once again cried-- The staff instinctively knew to just leave us alone for a while.  After about 15 minutes, I vaguely remember the owner slipping a stack of napkins on the corner of the table as I was clearly out of Kleenex.

Finally my waterworks stopped long enough for Husband and I to have a meaningful conversation about how to feed our gaggle of family on Thanksgiving.  The thought of a supermarket prepared turkey dinner reduced me to sobs again.  The idea left me completely defeated.

Then over my shoulder I heard the magic words...  "Do you want us to make your Thanksgiving dinner?"

Paul, the owner of the coffee shop, which by the way, is only open for breakfast and lunch, was offering to not only make us a huge dinner, he was also offering the entire restaurant to our family.  He would rearrange the dining room so we'd have one big family table and serve all the food family style so people could eat as much of whatever they wanted-- just like at home.

Did I mention it is very rare for my husband and I to meet on a work day for lunch?  I have no memory of why we had arranged it that day after my doctor's appointment, but there we were.

The thought of Paul's generosity and kindness makes me cry again just thinking of it-- And honestly, I'm not a big crier, despite all the crying mentioned in this post.  He truly saved me and our Thanksgiving.

I've never cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner since.  Each year, we're back to the coffee shop for Thanksgiving and our family loves it-- The turkey is delicious and moist, there are two kinds of stuffing and potatoes, a river of gravy, multiple vegetables and on and on...  The food is all "homemade" and lovingly prepared.

That Thanksgiving was a significant turning point for me.  To some degree I "surrendered" and finally accepted my health limitations realizing I didn't have to be Wonder Woman" all the time.  It was a hard one to swallow, but ten years after my diagnosis I'd finally learned to actually respect the illness and that there are times I have no control over it.... No matter how hard I may try.

This time of year I am reminded of the true meaning of Thanksgiving and in many respects I owe it to Paul and his coffee shop.  I am thankful for the kindness and generosity of people around me and for the understanding I receive when my health limits my participation in life.  I am thankful for my doctors and the medical community and their quest to keep me well.  I am thankful for my husband who never once has complained about the limitations my illness can sometimes place on me and I am thankful for my family.

This year may you all be blessed with good health, great family and friends and lots of leftovers to enjoy!

Until next time...
Joanna J. aka Lemon-Aid
Photo Credit: © GeraKTV -


  1. This is hands down my favorite holiday and I have not yet gotten to the place you reside. I stubbornly get cooking two days prior for the pies and such and get up early to put "harry" in the oven. This year won't be all the bells and whistles but as long as the turkey doesn't squak or the pie crust is actually cooked, I don't think anyone will mind.

    You were meant to be there and God heard your cry.

  2. What a great story! Thanks for sharing Ms. Joanna! Happy holidays, and looking so forward to following along with you here. Best to you and yours!

  3. The kindness of the shop owner made me tear up! Granted, he wasn't offering it you gratis, but offering you an alternative when you were clearly in need of a little assistance was very kind indeed.

    I hope you have a lovely Christmas!