By: Bettina – Bolinas, CA

Somewhere in my dreams, I would have enough time to dedicate to doing meaningful things that fill my soul with joy.  I think we all strive for the same thing.  When I get to do them, it fills me with such deep gratitude…

Yesterday I was invited to a lovely home in Marin County to give a cooking demo in honor of a very strong woman who just finished her last round of chemotherapy.

When I arrived Christine had on a really hip wig as she has lost all of her hair in chemo.  She so graciously asked me if I would be ok if she took it off to cook as the wig was highly flammable. I felt an immediate pang of guilt at having ever been one of those people who are made uncomfortable by someone else’s pain.  She took it off and I was then struck by happiness when 30 minutes went by before I even noticed.  I marveled at how easy it is to gawk at someone who is wearing their suffering like a chemo patient is and conversely how hard it is to actually look them in the eye.  I looked at Christine’s eyes a lot yesterday and it felt nice.  She has such kindness, survivor strength and raw humility that it’s an honor to be in the presence of someone like that.  Raw people… magic.

The motive of the gathering was for Christine to celebrate the end of her chemo and thank the women who had helped her throughout her process. 16 women were there and more who couldn’t be.  Women who cooked for her and cared for her while she could not.  This is community.  This is family.  This is where people show their best sides.  I was so elated to be a part of this event.  And in preparing for it, I had an idea.

I AM THAT GIRL: For a year now I have had the lovely Emily Greener in my life.  Emily founded an organization called I Am That Girl.  It is a group that empowers women by shining a light on women, girls and how to love and support each other instead of tearing each other down as we see so much in the media.  Emily invited me to a dinner once and I have since had many of these dinners myself, where a group of women get together and talk about what we struggle with, what we’re grateful for, what we’re scared of… no holds barred.  I asked Christine if I could bring this to the dinner and we did and it was so lovely.  I won’t share what everyone said but I will share that it was a gracious outpouring, very insightful to the beauty of caring for people, the beauty of health and the gift of knowing how to accept help graciously.

Together with these women we made some healthy dishes of Babaganoush and Tomato Confit; Herbed Green Quinoa, Massaged Kale Salad, for dessert some vegan chocolate pudding.  But the food was so secondary, even tertiary.  The fact that Christine can be so aware of how well she has picked the women in her life and how that has made her almost “grateful” to her cancer for it’s lessons, that was primary.  Then the luck of being able to gather to celebrate the beginning of Christine’s recuperation and being present (I didn’t see a single person with a phone in their hands all night). And finally, the immense power of women gathered in support of each other.  This is a greater healer than any food we could have served.

Thanks to Christine and her friend Katie, for inviting me to be a part of your meaningful Sunday. I learned and received far more than I could give. Once again reminded of how lucky I am to have these opportunities and for having the company of a person who saw this opportunity and helped me realize it.