Day 281: Transplant Herbs on Bakers Rack to Garden

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It was 80 degrees on this overcast day, yet there is no doubt that fall is here and cooler temperatures are coming. My backyard garden is in full splendor, alive with colors and textures, insects and frogs. I spend much time here, my heart and soul soothed and at the same time, expanded, by the peace and beauty in this space. I know with the first hard frost, the landscape of the garden will change. It is almost time to put my garden to sleep for the winter months. For my first today, I transplanted the herbs on the cheery yellow bakers rack, on the porch, to the garden.

Fall garden herb rack

This is my second year to have pots of fragrant herbs on the front porch. While waiting for the yard to be remediated last year, having the bakers rack full of green growing plants appeased my desire to be gardening. I enjoyed the rack so much that I repeated the experience this year, even though I planted an apothecary garden in the backyard. Last year, I wintered some of the herbs inside, and some I let die and tossed out after they became very leggy. This year, for the first time, I was able to move those potted herbs to a new home in the backyard, in the hopes they will reappear next spring.

Fall garden 4

I lugged back containers of rosemary, lavender, common sage and pineapple sage, basil and cinnamon basil, Italian oregano and lemon balm. Keeping to the apothecary section, the plants were lovingly placed into the ground, tucked among the mature plants stirring in the light breeze. As I worked, the heady scent of the herbs filled the air around me. I am so pleased with the way the garden filled in this year and look forward to seeing what it does next year!

Fall garden 3

A couple of weeks ago the big black kettle arrived from Arkansas and was placed in the herb garden as well. For fall, I’ve planted yellow mums in it. Next spring, I hope to find calendula plants to fill it. The kettle belonged to Greg’s grandmother and was given to Greg’s parents years ago. Dad Moore passed it on to me recently. There was an azalea bush in the kettle that I estimate to be at least 16 years old. I transplanted that bush into a partially shaded spot on the east side of the house, where it will get morning sun.

Fall garden black kettle 2

After I finished my planting, I walked around the garden snapping pics. The grasses have put up their plumes. I love ornamental grasses and the interest they add to the garden. I sat for a time, the breeze cooling me off. Dark clouds were massing to the west. We have three days of rain in the upcoming forecast. The newly transplanted herbs should thrive with the cloudy, rainy days. There is nothing else to add to the garden this year. Phase One has surpassed my dream. Next year, I will begin Phase Two. For now, I am simply enjoying. And that is enough.

Fall garden 6

Fall garden 5

Day 280: Meet My Neighbor Down the Street

Good neighbors

After I moved back into my house, 18 months after the May 2011 tornado, I realized I had a new neighbor down the street. I would see her working diligently in her yard, or walking her dog, and I’d think, “I need to go introduce myself.” Yet, I didn’t. I’d wave as I drove by. Or she would smile as she walked by with her small dog, yet we never stopped to make a connection beyond the wave or the smile. English was not her first language but she was happy and friendly. I was drawn to get to know her, and yet I hesitated.

This year, in moving past comfort zones and a sense of inertia that can freeze me in place, I am moving beyond. I wanted to meet my neighbor and tell her how much I appreciate the flowers and trees in her front yard and the attention she gives them. With that intention, I looked forward to catching her in her yard and saying “hello” at last.

And then, in late spring, she left for an extended time. She has family in California and Mexico, her friend said, that she was visiting. People would come and go at her house, caring for her yard, but not as she does. The days stretched into weeks and then months. I wondered if I had missed my opportunity to get to know this quiet yet hard working woman.

Last week, she came home! I noticed first that the front yard gardens were looking well kept and freshened. And then I saw her and waved joyfully at her as I drove by. She smiled. Greg spoke to her and prepared the way for me, telling her I’d be visiting her to introduce myself. She said good, she could practice her English. Today, for my first, I at last ventured down the street to meet my neighbor. She smiled as I approached. Aware that she speaks only a little English, I spoke slowly. I welcomed her home. I told her I admired her yard and her flowers and how much time she puts into making her home and property look nice. She smiled. I smiled. She spoke with a beautiful accent and we agreed to get together soon and chat.

I invited her to come, soon, and see my garden in the backyard. We might be limited in the words we will use, but we both have a love of growing things and getting our hands into the warm earth. We both enjoy being outside and that joy can be shared without using many words. I can offer her tea, or we can simply sit among the riotous, glorious flowers and plants and enjoy the sunshine and breezes, the butterflies and bumble bees, and the signs of fall approaching. And…..we can smile.

morning garden e

Day 279: Where in the World….is Cindy Moore?

Where in the World question mark e

Today’s first was a combo of a couple of things: Greg and I met Elissa and Dayan at their home to help Dayan hang an assortment of items on his bedroom walls, and Dayan and I played a version of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”. The four of us had fun completing Dayan’s room in the house that Elissa bought recently. And, Dayan is always great to help me with interesting ideas for firsts!

Elissa is transforming her house into a charming cottage style home, with industrial touches. It has an uncluttered, warm feel that I love. Dayan was allowed to do what he wanted in his room. This young man loves geography and architecture, music and playing the tuba, books and video games. Since moving into the house, he has been patiently waiting for some help hanging up his pictures, maps and awards. He is very busy with after school activities and the rest of us with work and a host of other projects, but at last, our schedules all meshed and tonight, Greg and I showed up with a few simple tools.

Where in the World Dayans room e

Elissa ordered in pizza and the fun began! Dayan had his items laid out against the walls they would occupy. With several pairs of eyes and helping hands and Dayan’s guidance, Greg skillfully hung each item, moving methodically around the room. We all have a great time, no matter what we are doing. There was much laughter and storytelling and good natured teasing. And in a short time, the walls of Dayan’s room were no longer bare.

A vintage looking yet current map of the world hung in its new spot above the headboard of Dayan’s bed. He knows all the countries and can tell you capitals, flags, facts about each one. Wanting to add a geography element to my first today, Dayan suggested a variation on the well known children’s tv show that teaches geography, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Using a small felt circle, Dayan and I took turns closing our eyes, spinning around and then throwing the felt piece onto the map. The other person watched to see where the circle landed. Amazingly, with all the water on the map, we both landed on countries. I selected Papua New Guinea and Dayan ended up with Niger. We each have to write about our countries. I’m including my facts about my country here, while Dayan will post on his Facebook wall.

Where in the World map e

Here is what I learned about Papua New Guinea, using this format:

P opulation of over 7 million people

A n Oceanian country that occupies eastern part of Island of New Guinea north of Australia

P ort Moresby is the capital

U ndiscovered plants and animals are thought to be in the vast rain forests in the country

A nthem: O Arise, All You Sons

 

N ational Flag was adopted in 1971 and features a bird of paradise and the southern cross

E ight hundred forty-eight languages are spoken in this small country making it very diverse

W ish for traditional villages and communities to remain as viable units of society

 

G ermany ruled northern part of the country from 1884 – 1905

U nity in Diversity is the national motto

I ndependence from Australia granted on September 16, 1975

N ew Guinea was coined by Spanish explorer Ynigo Ortiz de Retez…Papua origin is unknown

E xtremely rugged terrain makes some of the country accessible only by foot or airplane

A ustralia ruled country for 70 years, until independence in 1975

I appreciate Dayan’s spirit of adventure and his willingness to have fun learning new things! I look forward to reading what he discovers about Niger. And, I love the way his room reflects who he is and his interests. It’s a young man’s room, not a boy’s any longer. All too soon, he will be leaving for college. I have no doubts though that we will continue to journey together through many more adventures!

Where in the World Papua New Guinea  Where in the World Papua New Guinea flag

Day 278: At Home Store

At Home exterior e

For my first today, I visited an At Home Store, located in the Broken Arrow/Tulsa Ok area, with my sister Debbie, my niece Ashley and my great nephew Kaleb. Our outing today was to visit the store, since I had never been in one, and to see if they had any large metal garden cranes left in stock. Debbie had seen such cranes earlier in the season. I missed my opportunity to purchase a couple in Joplin. After seeing a pair of metal cranes outside the grand front doors at Thirlestane Castle, I especially want a pair for my backyard garden! I just love that connection.

At Home interior 1

The At Home Stores are a superstore type stand alone shopping experience. The warehouse style interior is FULL of amazing products for the home and garden. They sell furniture, art, décor and pillows, patio and outdoor products, rugs, curtains and bedding, house wares and seasonal products. Being the time of year that it is, there were huge sections of floor space devoted to fall, Halloween and Christmas! Oh my. I could have wondered around all day. So many pretty and interesting items to look at! I’ve signed up to receive emails about their specials. I make it to the Tulsa area often enough to plan a future trip around a shopping spree!

 At Home Kaleb    At Home Kaleb 2

We browsed through the store. Kaleb, who was riding in the cart while I pushed him, was a trooper. He graced me with a serious face….and one of his funny faces for my iPhone camera! Occasionally we came across rooms vignettes set up to give an idea of what the product looks like, placed together in a room setting. Great idea. I intend to visit again before Christmas. So many themes and colors and a great selection of product for the holidays. Ashley and Debbie picked out a few items. Alas, we didn’t find the cranes. Sold out. I’ll have to check back next spring and not hesitate this time if I find them again. I look forward to seeing the garden and outdoor area in full display mode!

At Home interior 4

I loved a painted wall at the back of the store, at the end of the main aisle. It read, “Welcome to the home of endless possibilities….” That phrase caught my eye, and snagged my heart. Great promo for the store. And, great sentiment for me. In my mind, I adapted it to, “Welcome to my home of endless possibilities….” That just works on so many different levels, for my home, my garden, and me, personally. What a welcome, indeed!

At Home interior 3

At Home Store

Day 277: Sleepover with Kaleb & Ashley’s Chili

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Today has been spent with my sister Debbie and niece Ashley and her family. Weeks ago I promised Ashley’s small son, Kaleb, age 3, that I would visit soon and spend the night, sleeping in his room. This weekend, I was able to fulfill that promise.

As I drove toward Broken Arrow, OK my sister told me Kaleb was watching for me. That made me smile. This little boy, with the old soul, and I have a strong connection. I love all the children in my family. Grandkids, great nieces and great nephews, they are all precious children to me, full of promise and enthusiasm for life. My oldest grandchild, Dayan, and I spent many a late night when he was young giggling and whispering stories back and forth during sleepovers. I look forward to creating such memories with each of the younger members of the family.

Kaleb helped me carry in my overnight bag, pillows and sleeping bag, anxious to settle me into his room. He’s asked me several times today if I’m really sleeping in his room. I’ve got my sleeping bag rolled out next to his toddler bed. That seemed to reassure him.

We spent the day running errands with his mom and Meem, the kids name for Debbie. I got to see the new house my nephew Scott and his wife Nicole just purchased and moved into. They joined us back at Ashley and Jon’s house for dinner, bringing their adorable son Weston to join in the fun. It was a party now!

Ashley fed us her amazing chili with sides of cornbread and Fritos. Flavorful and spicy, the chili was a first for me as well as it was made of venison, pork and beef. I’ve never had chili with deer meat in it before! The rich sauce also contained tomatoes, garlic, a jalapeño from Ashley’s garden and a surprise ingredient, mushrooms. What a delicious treat.

After dinner I enjoyed reading books to Weston and Kaleb, who got himself ready for bed. Kaleb’s older brother, Ethan, joined us and asked me space and constellation trivia questions. The boys were playful, fun and active, the last burst of energy before settling down for the night.

Weston left with his parents. Ethan had a bedtime snack and headed to his room. Kaleb and I tucked ourselves in. He held my hand and we whispered in the dark. He asked one last time if I was really spending the whole night. I assured him I was. His eyes closed and just as I thought he had drifted off to sleep he stirred and raised up, peering at me in the semi darkness of his room. “I want to go with you to that castle,” he murmured drowsily and then he settled down with a sigh and sleep overtook him. I continued to hold his hand and whispered blessings over him and wished him a great night’s sleep. Earlier in the evening, Kaleb was playing with my iPhone and asked about the “big house” pictures that he saw. I told him a wee bit about Scotland and the castle. He listened attentively. And now he wanted to go. I smiled in the dark. Of course I’d love to take him, along with any of the children in the family who would enjoy going. I’ll join Kaleb in sleep soon. Perhaps we will both dream of castles and Scotland.

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Day 276: Doobie Brothers Concert

Doobie Brothers Concert 2e

My friend Mike set up tonight’s first. A few weeks ago he asked about artists I’d seen in concert. My list is short: Michael Jackson, years ago when they were the Jackson Five, and Michael Bolton, twice. That was it. Mike bought tickets for himself and his friend, Peggy, and for Greg and me as a special treat and to contribute to my year of firsts. This evening, we all piled into Mike’s vehicle and headed to Downstream Casino, for an outdoor concert featuring the Doobie Brothers.

I came into an appreciation for music later in life than most people. While I listened to the radio some as a teen, and had a few pop favorites, I was not a big fan of anyone. I was familiar with musical artists. I just didn’t rush out to buy their albums! As an adult with small children, I finally began to listen more to music. I tended toward the ballad style of Michael Bolton, and then came to love the genre of soundtracks. Listening to a movie score brings back memories of all that I love about a film.

Mike, on the other hand, is a musical genius. He began listening to a small transistor radio while still a small boy. He enjoyed a variety of music. As a youth he worked in a music store for a time, familiarizing himself even more with artists, their songs, their backstories, and who sang with which group and for how long. If I ever want to know something about music or an artist, I just ask Mike. He knows. And he enjoys music, at a heart level. It’s not just the facts. It’s the way music invades his soul and moves him.

So to attend a music concert with Mike was not only a first, it was a privilege. He made sure we had great seats. The concert was held at the outdoor theater at Downstream Casino, just a few miles over the Oklahoma state line. After a series of storms moved through the area yesterday, the temperatures dropped drastically into the 40’s as the sun set. That didn’t hamper the enthusiasm of the crowd or of the performers as they took the stage. Leading with the familiar song, “Jesus is Just Alright” the Doobie Brothers delighted the audience with a mix of newer songs from their last release and old favorites. We enjoyed them all, clapping, cheering, getting to our feet often. Well, they all did. I stood occasionally, giving my still aggravated Achilles tendon a rest by staying off my feet!

Doobie Brothers Concert 3e

The Doobie Brothers, founded in 1969, have become an important part of American music with their unique blend of musical styles. They continue to write and record new material and tour the world. Some of their top hits include “Black Water”, a favorite of mine which was performed tonight, “China Grove”, “Long Train Runnin’” and “What a Fool Believes”. They have formed a relationship with Nashville and have an upcoming release with a country-based theme. For this project they have paired with some of Country music’s biggest names. Singer, songwriter, guitarist Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers says, “We’re basically an American band – we cover a lot of areas. We cover blues, R&B, country, bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll. It’s based on rhythms, rhythm structures, picking, and harmonies. That’s been the signature of the band.”

That flow of music was present tonight, and in spite of the chill in the air, the Doobie Brothers delivered an outstanding performance. I had such a fun time, watching the band, watching the crowd, watching Mike as he leapt to his feet to sing along with his favorite songs. The four of us finished the evening with a late dinner, great conversation and laughter. I appreciated that Mike not only suggested a first for me, he made it happen. I am grateful!

Doobie Brothers Concert pic e

Day 275: The Giver

The Giver Poster

My sister Linda and I got to enjoy a movie this evening and have some girl time. She picked the movie although it was one we both wanted to see. For my first today, I watched the film The Giver.

The Giver stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan and has a brief cameo by Taylor Swift. It was directed by Phillip Noyce and is based on the novel by the same name by Lois Lowry. This sci-fi drama is rated PG-13, for mature themes and mild violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes.

Set in a future time after a war called “The Ruin”, a community exists without crime, hate, fear, danger, suffering or differences. Also missing are books, art, music, and color….the residents experience the world in black & white and the movie begins that way. The citizens have also lost being unique and different, freedom of thought and action, and emotions, including love. Three young adult friends, Jonas, Fiona and Asher, (Thwaites, Rush and Monaghan respectively) have completed their education and are being assigned their jobs and roles in life. Fiona becomes a nurturer and Asher a drone pilot but for Jonas, there is a special role given. He is selected to become The Receiver. From an older man (Jeff Bridges) called The Giver he will receive all the world’s memories, which are kept from the residents of the community. Only to Jonas, who is deemed strong enough, will the memories be entrusted. Jonas is recognized as being different, in a world where sameness is not only encouraged, it is a rule. Jonas sees beyond. He sees more. Ten years previously, The Giver had attempted unsuccessfully to pass on the memories to another named Rosemary (Taylor Swift). It is hoped that Jonas is more capable.

Becoming The Receiver is thrilling to Jonas, as The Giver begins to show him what the world was really like before, via his stored memories. Color begins to appear as Jonas’ eyes are opened. Emotions begin to surface from deep within as the young man ceases to take the daily “health” vaccination. He also begins to recognize the flaws in the so called perfection of his current world. In an attempt to prevent future war, the Elders have created a society where choice is taken away and everyone lives by the same rules. Love has been forgotten. Babies are created and nurtured in a facility until such time that they are considered strong enough to live with a family selected for them. The elderly and the unselected among the babies are “realeased” into Elsewhere.

As he receives more and more from The Giver, Jonas recognizes that the safety of his community is really control and manipulation. Being released is death. The vaccines suppress all deeper emotions. He sees that his parents (Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes) are well trained pawns and that Fiona, the young woman that he is growing to love, must be awakened, along with the rest of the community. He discovers that Rosemary was The Giver’s daughter and that he loved her very much. When a baby named Gabriel is destined for Releasing, Jonas intervenes, rescuing the child and fleeing for the mysterious Elsewhere beyond the borders of his small community. The Giver tells him if he can reach the boundary, all memory will be restored to the citizens. His own future and that of his world is at stake as Jonas sets out on a journey of freedom.

This was an interesting movie to watch, leaving me with much to think about! I loved the use of black and white film in the “perfect” but boring world that was created for everyone’s safety. As Jonas, and The Giver before him, discovered maintaining order, following the rules, not feeling, and being safe, do not equal LIFE. The messiness and chaos of deeper emotions, such as love, fear and desire are what make life vivid, powerful, meaningful. The arts and literature flow from those emotions. The freedom to choose, to make mistakes, to experience pain infuse life with color.

I thought the film was very well done and enjoyed Jeff Bridges as The Giver and Brenton Thwaites, who was a newcomer to me, as Jonas. I loved that he had the ability to see beyond and nurtured that ability, even when no one else understood what he saw. One of my favorite quotes from the movie says it all for me: “Have Faith, The Giver told me. He said Faith…that was “seeing beyond”. He compared it to the wind. Something felt but not seen.” Seeing beyond, for me, is like that, being present in this moment, and yet seeing beyond, feeling beyond, the present circumstances, situations or trials, to a largeness of life that calls to me in the midst of all that is now. It brings my head up with anticipation and opens my awareness. And my heart, indeed my whole being, responds to that call!

The Giver We gained control

Day 274: Drying Herbs From My Garden

Drying herbs in window e

My herb garden has matured so much since it was planted in the spring. The plants are lush and aromatic. I love walking through the garden and catching the scent of lemon balm, basil and lavender as the breeze stirs the plants. As fall brings the promise of cooler weather, it is time to begin harvesting the leaves. Today, for my first, I made a simple drying rack and began gathering herbs into bouquets to dry.

I love using herbs for occasional cooking. I don’t cook much except during the holidays and in the cooler months when I enjoy making chili and an assortment of soups. I especially enjoy dried herbs in making my own teas, potpourri and beauty products. I wanted an Apothecary garden to be a central part of the backyard garden. With such an abundance of healthy herbs, I intend to learn more uses for these versatile plants.

Drying herbs garden e

Today I gathered lemon balm, oregano, lavender, globe basil and regular basil, mint, thyme, lemon grass and Russian sage, fresh from the garden. I loved inhaling in the amazing scents as I snipped sprigs. Using a heavy string, I tied the herbs into bunches. In the spring, I had saved a couple of small bamboo trellises that two of my clematises came with. I knew I would find a use for them. This evening I repurposed them into a simple drying rack, tying the two together with more string. Greg secured four cup hooks above the kitchen sink for me and attached the makeshift drying rack to them, looping string around the rack and creating slipknots. I was impressed with the knots! He was a boyscout….I was a campfire girl. I focused more on making fire, I suppose!

After the rack was suspended above the sink, in front of the window, I attached each bunch of herbs, upside down. The air can circulate freely and dry the plants. After the herbs are thoroughly dried, I’ll crumble them up and store them in airtight containers. The herbs will preserve their flavor and aroma for a year. I’ll hang a thin curtain over the window tomorrow so the plants won’t get direct sun while they dry.

I stepped back and observed my work. What a thrill, to tuck those young plants into the ground last spring, nurture them and watch them grow, and now begin the drying process. In the past, I’ve bought dried herbs from a favorite health food store. Now I’ll have my own. I love that I have a relationship with these plants! As I use the herbs this fall and winter I’ll reflect back on their time in my sunny garden and the joy they have given to me. Next spring they will push up through the earth once more to grace me again with their presence. One lovely gift they offer now is that I won’t mind standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, with the fragrant herbs drying there. I might even start cooking early this fall so I’ll have an excuse to be in the kitchen!

Drying herbs named 2

Day 273: DIY Facial Mask

DIY face mask ingredients

Today’s first was inspired by the fact that September 30 is National Mud Pack Day, according to holidayinsights.com. I opted out of using mud, and instead browsed through a variety of Do It Yourself facials online until I found one I wanted to try.

There is an abundance of DIY facials available, most using ingredients I already have in my kitchen. I love making my own beauty and bath products. I haven’t tried a face mask yet so I was excited to pamper my skin this evening. This recipe came from the Woman’s Day website, where I found DIY face masks for all skin types. I selected one for dry skin that soothes, heals and moisturizes. It was so easy to make!

Honey & Apple Cider Vinegar Face Mask for Dry Skin

Whisk together in a small bowl:

2 Tablespoons of honey

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (can use lemon juice instead)

Smooth over clean dry face and leave on for 20 minutes. Rise off with tepid water followed by a cool rinse. This facial can be done three times a week.

Honey is a humectant and a natural antibiotic and heals and moisturizes. Apple cider vinegar helps to balance the pH of skin and soothes damaged skin. I whisked the ingredients together while a cup of green tea was brewing. After the liquid cooled slightly, I soaked two cotton squares in the tea. Green tea tones, refreshes and “de-puffs” the delicate under eye skin.

DIY face mask e

I gathered my iPhone and ear buds and prepared to be soothed for 20 minutes. After dabbing on the face mask, I got comfortable on the bed and covered my eyes with the green tea soaked cotton squares. I snapped a pic, which wasn’t easy with my eyes covered! I like to document what I am doing though. And then I relaxed and listened to Audible on my phone while the face mask did its magic. Alright, I really fell asleep a few minutes into the Audible book, but that’s okay. Apparently, that’s what my body needed. The time stretched to 40 minutes before I stirred and sat up.

The facial washed off easily. My skin felt smooth, soft and toned. I was pleased! The concoction smelled pleasant to me, although if one doesn’t like the smell of apple cider vinegar, this wouldn’t be the facial for her. The mixture was sticky enough to cling to my skin, and fingers when I reached up to touch my cheek, yet rinsed away cleanly. I will definitely use this facial again and try some others.

Most importantly, I took time tonight to do something good for myself. And when I do that, even in a small way, it makes me feel great all over. That’s a great return for such a simple project.

DIY face mask results e

Day 272: The Fault in Our Stars

the fault in our stars poster

Tonight was movie night! In keeping with my desire to not shy away from movies that tug at my heart and provoke my tear ducts, I selected a film I wanted to see, but would have avoided before this year. I’ve missed so many sad movies during my life. I’ve yet to have a “keep a box of tissues nearby” movie marathon, but I’ve stopped shying away from my emotions. I’m glad. I don’t want to miss any more great movies.

The Fault in Our Stars features Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell and Willem Dafoe. It was directed by Josh Boone and is based on the novel by the same name, written by John Green. This drama romance is rated PG-13, for the theme, brief sexuality and minor strong language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 6 minutes.

Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) are teenagers who have fallen in love for the first time. Yet they are anything but typical teenagers. Hazel’s constant companion is an oxygen bottle, while Gus walks with a slight limp, due to a prosthetic leg. And they met at a cancer support group for youth. Their journeys have sharpened their wit and given them a stark perspective on life. Although both have been in treatment and are currently stable, they know, with a solemn certainty beyond their tender years, that their days are numbered.

Hazel shares her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, with Gus. The main character, Anna, has leukemia and the story ends, mid-sentence, when Anna dies. Hazel and Gus want closure to the story, needing to know what happened to the other characters in the novel, and embark on an adventure to Amsterdam, to meet the reclusive author, Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe). Although the alcoholic writer is rude and cryptic in his responses to the teens, the trip ignites the love building between Gus and Hazel. In the midst of their blossoming romance, Gus reveals that his cancer has returned.

Although they could wallow in self pity and rail against the unfairness of life, Gus and Hazel instead live all the days that are given to them. Hazel, who is the narrator of the tale, says they didn’t always hang onto their courage and humor, but for the most part, the young adults lived with grace and dignity and purpose. Hazel, for much of her young life, felt a responsibility to remain alive for her parents’ sake (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell). She feels a sense of release when she realizes her mom and dad will feel pain at her loss, but they will live with that pain, much as she has lived with the pain of her cancer.

This was a well done, powerful movie. Shailene and Ansel, who starred together in the movie Divergent, perform wonderfully, playing old souls living short but significant lives. Gus, when asked during the support group to share his fears, says he wants to live an extraordinary life and not slip into oblivion. He wants to be remembered. As his life proves, sometimes embracing the life we are given creates the extraordinary. And being remembered by a few, or even one, is enough. He and Hazel found a way to create a forever, in a limited number of days. He is grateful. She is grateful. I watch a film like this that questions the fairness of life and realize again that life is what it is and by accepting what is, I allow freedom and peace to flow to me, through me. Whether our lives are numbered in days or months or years….many years or a few… we are given that gift of life. We live it. We cherish it. We are grateful to share it and enjoy it.

The film opens with Hazel saying, “I believe we have a choice in this world about how to tell sad stories.” I was struck by that. I rewound and replayed that segment several times and let the words sink in. I have not wanted to hear sad stories. I have been afraid of sad stories because of the emotional upheaval they brought into my life. I have a choice as well about whether to receive sad stories. They can undo me, emotionally, without unraveling the fabric of who I am. I choose to hear. And be impacted by them. Gus says, “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world. But you do have some say in who hurts you.” Like him, and Hazel, I am okay with that.

the fault in our stars quote