Crows Attack Sedum Garden

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
What the heck?  There are many resident crows near our lot, who seem to have a strong distaste for my terraced sedum garden atop the birch nurse logs that make up a retaining wall.  I'm really bummed, as daily I see the sedums scattered throughout the yard and removed from the pots around the property.  I wish I could read their minds and find out why they are doing this . . . ugghhh.  My vision for a backyard habitat for birds is facing a new reality.

Discovering Bosky Dell Nursery in West Linn

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I discovered a slice of magic in these troubling times that has trumped even my most favorite of nurseries in Portland: Bosky Dell Natives.  I can't tell you enough how truly special this nursery is, but I will try!

When we arrived, I saw the owner, Lory Duralia, greeting another customer with her dog in tow.  I met Dan and Rebecca, employees of the nursery, who were hanging out near two greenhouses and a nearby camper-trailer (nursery office) and more than willing to engage us in conversation or talk natives.

Corner after corner I found natives I never knew existed tucked in corners of recycled materials, old window sashes, old antlers, rocks, and nurse logs.  I was in an Oregonian's paradise.

Lory is very knowledgeable about all things native, and I loved reading her story about how she came to create Bosky Dell after being a single Mom and bartender.  It made me love this place even more to find that she was a self-starter, inspired by native plants, the environment, birds, beetles, and bees.

To find myself at a native nursery was a new experience for me.  I found myself in wonder at the selection of beautiful natives of the Willamette Valley that I have always been drawn to, but have had trouble tracking down at other nurseries.

The old camper trailer on the premises is used as the check-out counter/office, and I was invited to come on in, sit down at the old formica laminate counter, where I continued my conversation with Dan, the Bosky Dell employee, signed up to join their e-mail list . . . my eyes roamed the interior of the cabin, taking in the old eco-friendly vintage posters hanging here and there, skimming over old business cards thumb-tacked to a bulletin board that had seen better days, and thank-you notes tacked here and there on the walls of the old trailer, faded over time, from grade-schoolers who had learned something from Bosky Dell and its owner, Lory, during a day-trip excursion.  

Right in line with my style of using old nurse logs as borders for paths, I knew I had found a nursery owned by someone after my own heart.  I can't wait to meet Lory personally and talk to her in depth about . . . the sky's the limit!  I want to interview her and find out more about this special place, the plants, and her life story.  I hope she publishes an autobiography one day.  

Look at those trees, native starts, and the old shed built from recycled materials.  I took lots of much-needed deep breaths of the fresh air, basking in the beauty of the property with deep native roots no matter where you looked.

This old tree was a heartbreaker, I'm sure, to take down, but the logs will be used wisely, integrated into the landscape, continuing to serve an important purpose.

Lory integrates nurse logs wherever she can.  They can become supporters of other plants, growing native ferns, for example, sustaining life for many years while they continue to decay.  They add great beauty and purpose to the native landscape.

The look on my face is pure happiness and bliss, which was much-needed after many, many difficult shifts at work.  I serve in a giving profession, and at the end of this week, I felt I had nothing left to give.  I left Bosky Dell feeling rejuvenated and inspired . . . and, oh, boy, will I be back.  I'm in love with this place, and so happy to find myself connected even further to a network of those that want to bring back native plants, restoring our backyards one at a time to become the habitats they are meant to be for our local birds, insects, and environment.  

The Girls

Monday, January 29, 2018
On nights like these, I hope I always remember how lovely it was in the winter of 2018 to have a cat like Pepper, and two little girls in matching pajamas:

Planning a Birthday for My First Teenager

Sunday, January 28, 2018
I've been thinking about ideas for Sam's 13th birthday--many ideas have come and gone, but the one that has stuck has been going on a tour through the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland.  I'm also planning a pizza party at our house with homemade cake with all his friends for his actual birthday. 

Since the weather is supposed to be nice during his birthday weekend, I'm thinking of taking advantage of some one-on-one time with him the day before his birthday and letting him skip school.  I think a morning at the credit union to open up his first savings/checking account (I'll make a special deposit), then a morning hike after we stop at a coffee shop, then an evening underground tour, just the two of us.  Saturday night, it'll be a house full of pre-teen or newly teenage boys hyped up on cake, playing X-box.  Friday, though, it'll just be me and my boy.  x o, Karli

Sam two years ago (almost 11 years old)--now almost 13.

My Cat Pepper

Saturday, January 27, 2018

She is the sweetest cat ever.  Some mornings, I lay in bed for a long time into the morning, sipping coffee, watching the backyard birds, and taking in the morning sunshine as it streams through our bedroom windows.  On a lot of mornings, Pepper joins me.  She will be five years old this April--we love her so!


Friday, January 26, 2018

On some nights, it's just me and this notebook, keeping me on task.  I use notebooks for work meetings, for gardening, for blogging, and for newsletter planning (for our unit).  I guess I've never been much into journaling, but I love the idea of notebooking. 

Tonight, I met Sarah at a wine bar, where we planned out our next newsletter.  A source of inspiration in my nursing career, and I'm learning a lot in the process.  Plus, I love what Sarah and I have created together, which is inspiring in and of itself, because it reminds me that together, we can accomplish great things.  x o, Karli    

Date Night with Adam at Corkscrew

Thursday, January 25, 2018

I told Adam tonight that we needed to get away, even for an hour, and so we did.  There is a wonderful wine bar called Corkscrew in Sellwood, and we split a bottle of wine and a small bowl of olives.  Adam and I have fought through thick and thin to be together, but through it all, we always believed we would find a way.  This was a song that we listened to many times over the year plus we waited to be together, and even today, the lyrics ring true:

Everybody's been a-talkin'; they say our love wasn't real
That it would soon be over; that's not the way that I feel
But I don't worry, honey; let them say what they may
Come on and stick with me, baby; we'll find a way
Yes, we'll find a way
Everybody's been a-talkin'; yes, the news travels fast
They said the fire would stop burnin', that the flame wouldn't last
But I don't worry, honey; let them say what they may
Come on and stick with me, baby; we'll find a way
Yes, we'll find a way
Come on and stick with me, baby

There were many nights I fell asleep not knowing how Adam and I would find a way, but we kept loving each other, and our love found a way.

x o, Karli

Backyard Certification Process

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Our site assessment was this morning with a technician from Backyard Habitat Certification Program, Antonya Pickard.  She spent over an hour with us, discussing our site, resources, and the wonderful options for transforming our space into a supportive habitat for birds and insects.  It was amazing, and I can't believe I am only just now doing this!  I was so inspired to learn more through the visit, which is the point of the program--these people truly love what they do and want to help wherever they can to make even the smallest difference. 

I am so excited now to launch into a new perspective on gardening; that is, one which centers on native species and supportive resources for our birds, insects, and plants that have evolved for thousands of years to survive in our particular habitat. 

If you have any questions about this program, or want to learn more, don't hesitate to message me!  I would love to hear from you! 

Beginnings of a dry well, which will have many native plants eventually all along its borders.  Certification in Progress sign in background!

Visiting Georgeann and Learning About Pi Tang Kong

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
We paid a visit to our old neighbor, Georgeann, yesterday afternoon, and she gave me many cuttings from different plants around her yard! I've always loved paperwhites in the house during the last month or so of winter as a little reminder that spring is right around the corner, but these little darlings are new to me: Galantus nivalis, also known as snowdrops. They are sweet little things and will spread around the yard to their hearts content. They come up in late January with the crocuses. I'll plant these bulbs later, but for now, I quite like them indoors. 

She also gave me phlox, salvia, sarcococca, euphorbia, two large stonecrop sedums, and many other sedums in red and green.  I'm excited! 

The girls always love visiting Georgeann, and think of her like a grandmother to them.  They used to run over all the time and spend hours with her.  Amelia says her house is enchanted.  I think so, too.  Look at one of the beautiful murals she painted in a corner of her dining room: 

I noticed this beautiful pot with a Chinese dragon on it, and Georgeann told me all about Pi Tang Kong, which translates to "Container of Preserved Eggs".  In China, it is popular to eat eggs preserved in rice husk and clay.  I will cut and paste a wonderful description at the end of this post by an author signed "IP", who responded to an online inquiry from someone wanting to know more about this very same pot.  Georgeann brought this one back from China, as she lived there for a time.

This picture is a little blurry (taken with Georgeann's phone by Juniper), but it captures how much Amelia adores her.  She's an avid gardener, an artist, retired graphic designer, reader, world traveller, and friend.  She now joins us on Christmas mornings and we think of her as family.

 P.S.  Stay tuned for a post tomorrow detailing our site visit with a technician from the Backyard Habitat Certification Program!  


    Q:  I recently bought a very large piece of pottery at a yard sale. I have done some research on it, but still don't know really what I have.  Any help would be appreciated. The jar is all brown with two dragons on it. The woman I bought it from said that it was used to store rice and that she purchased it in China herself several years ago, but she is moving and it costs a lot to ship. I would guess it weighs around 50 lbs.

    The only mark I can find on it is a "X" with a square around it. The dragons look as if they are above water; the inside is more of a mute yellow, golden color and has very heavy brush marks.

    Could you tell me about how old it is and its worth.

     A:  I was just reading some of your new posts in the Q & A section of your page and just wanted to make an addition to this specific post about this large jar.

    We have over 40 of them in our house, who are being used as flowerpots. They are originally called "Pi Tang Kong" and I would say the majority are from China, though a few may be from Taiwan. As you know "Pi Tang" are Chinese preserved eggs. These eggs are rolled in a combination of rice husks and clay and then, preserved. (How, I have no idea.) "Kong" means container thus the name literally translates into "Container of Preserved Eggs".

    They are modern pieces, made to ship a large number of these eggs. In the local Chinese grocery stores in Malaysia, these jars and their contents are put in front of the shops on the sidewalk to sell the eggs. The jar usually having a round wooden cover.

    Once the eggs are sold, the jar is usually sold to avid gardeners who punch a hole through the bottom with a drill to convert them to flower pots. I know, cause I have punched many of these holes myself. Use only drills cause if you use a hammer and a chisel the whole bottom of these jars will give way leaving a hole, way too large for a flowerpot!

    I have seen four types of these jars. The first has the same glaze as the one shown here, but has pattern of the dragons simply incised in the clay before firing.

    The second type is of a lighter color (more like sand) with the dragon pattern applied as a thin layer of clay (like sticking a thin piece of clay to the sides and carving away excess clay until a pattern of a dragon emerges). This type tends to be composed of a rougher type of clay with more grit. They are usually lighter, more porous and have thinner walls.

    The third type is similar to the second type above, but tends to be larger, has greenish or pale olive glaze. The rim and dragon patterns are usually glazed brown. These types are by far the heaviest and have thick walls. The usual sizes of these types are about 20-25 inches high and about 25 inches in diameter but I have seen larger.

    The fourth type is the one seen here. These seems to be the most common. In addition, they come in two distinct sizes. The smaller is about 10 inches high and about the same in diameter. The larger is about 15 inches high and about the same in diameter.

    These jars are very useful for a wide range of things. Personally, I have seen them as containers for rice, water, dry foodstuff, manure, fertilizer and a whole lot more.

Backyard Habitat Certification Process

Monday, January 22, 2018
I am really looking forward to our site visit with a Backyard Habitat technician this Wednesday morning!  Our new property is a blank slate, for the most part, and I have been in the process of transplanting potted plants into the soil (finally!) after many years of container gardening as a renter.  I've always been curious about the certification program created by Audubon Society of Portland and Columbia Land Trust, seeing the sign you see above posted in various gardens around town.  Now that I'm starting on a brand new garden, it was important to me to sign up and get the certification process started so I can be connected to resources and support in creating a healthy habitat for the bees, birds, and plants (hopefully, many native!).  

There are certain certification criteria you work on over about a year before one usually receives the silver certification. The certification is good for up to three years, and there are various degrees of certification you can receive (silver, gold, and platinum).  The five elements of a backyard habitat that are addressed prior to certification are removing invasive weeds, growing native plants (not exclusively), pesticide reduction, stormwater management, and wildlife stewardship.  If you click above to the criteria, you will see that it is not too hard, and many of us may already be doing the important things that the program is trying to promote.

I'm excited to work together with a technician on ideas for making our yard more of a supportive haven for native species and wildlife. Following Wednesday's site assessment, I will be receiving a report with plant recommendations and steps to certification. Any invasive species will be identified, and I will be given support and resources to reach my goals. The resources includes discounts on native plants in the area! I have already ordered 15 native plants from East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD), which will arrive in mid-February. Am excited to grow my first red flowering currants (Ribes sanguineum) and golden currants (Ribes aureum), as well as mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii)!  Very exciting!  I already have a Ninebark Pacific (Physocarpus capitatus) and Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) in the yard already, both of which are natives.

I can't say enough about this certification program--check it out! Oh, and check out the Grow Smart, Grow Safe app that guides you to safer products for gardening.  In the end, I hope to have learned a lot, encouraged other neighbors and friends to create their own safer, more healthy and supportive, backyard habitats, and proudly display my beautiful sign after a lot of fun and creative work!  

Happy gardening!  x o, Karli

Cabin Porn

Sunday, January 21, 2018
I'm a long-time fan of Cabin Porn.  I've probably been following their site since their inception in 2009.  Can't think of a more perfect site destination after a long day.  I sneak peaks at cabin porn all the time.  If I'm not there after work, I'm over looking at shed porn on Pinterest--there are some beautifully designed backyard sheds out there!  But now for the point of this post . . . drum roll . . .

"Corn Crib" tiny cabin in Vermont by Lily Mead Martin
I finally found my dream cabin for the backyard!!!  I've pretty much decided that I will replicate this corn crib, only mine will be called "The Milwaukie Corn Crib" and it will be amazing.  Now to find a builder (Adam, Dad?).

Stay Inspired, Keep Fighting

Saturday, January 20, 2018
It was one year ago that Meryl Streep gave a powerful and inspiring speech at The Golden Globes (2017).  Two weeks ago, Oprah gave an equally powerful and inspiring speech this year.  Because I love them both so much, I am posting them here.  I do believe it will be women who come together and bring future change.  By the way, there are more women in power than EVER.  Every time you need to light a fire in your heart again, WATCH THIS:


So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say "Me too" again.

Ikea Hack: Bicycle Rack

Friday, January 19, 2018
I love this genius idea posted on Ikea Hackers for hanging bikes in the garage!  Going to see if my husband can make me a few . . . love!

How are you storing your bikes?

x o, Karli

Building a Terraced Sedum Garden

Thursday, January 18, 2018
My birthday present arrived! My Australian Mom and Dad sent me money for my 41st, so naturally, I ordered a hardy succulent tray from Mountain Crest Gardens.

I absolutely adore this company.  The succulents were beautifully packaged beneath crinkle paper and packing peanuts that can be dissolved in water.  An amazing variety that has been unmatched by any other source, and will keep my sedum gardens diversely populated for decades to come.

Here is a look at a part of our homemade birch retaining wall (thank-you, Dad), which I envisioned would be the future home of a terraced sedum garden.

I got started this morning by filing the cracks with chips from our stump grinding, and backfilled that with a sandy mulch for our sedums, the combination of which will help our sedums to THRIVE.

I just love the paperwhite birch logs next to the pops of green and red.  In a couple of years, this will be a beautiful sedum garden.  This is only the beginning . . . just like the drainage ditch/dry bed, I still have another 20-30 feet (or more) to go before it will be complete.  One step at a time . . . x o , Karli

Assessing Our Work the Morning After

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I'm in love with our dry bed so far!  We have only created a few feet, but by the time it's finished, each foot will have been given much time and thought, leading to a beautiful and unique space.  I even have plans to add a garden bench nearby, and can imagine reading a book in the sun with all my beautiful plants, stones, and ornate garden elements. 

Above you see a bluish Montana rainbow boulder, which Adam and I thought was so beautiful.  These sell for about 20 cents/pound at Smith Rock, Inc I added a few baby sedums around--I love the bright green ones, don't you? They are very delicate, and are one of my favorite sedums. I think they look nicely paired with this particular boulder.

Another element to gardening I love is adding cuttings from my friends' gardens.  This one above came from our dear friend Georgeann, and is called Lamium maculatum (aka Dead Nettle or Spotted Nettle), and is slow-spreading ground cover, and has lovely silvery leaves edged in greenish gray with pinkish flowers in the spring.  Does well in part-sun to shade, and this area gets a bit of shade from a huge overhanging maple in our front yard. 

English lavender paired with sedums, Montana cobble, and an Indian Creek boulder.  Yet another bright spot along the slope.  This is the first time this particular English lavender has been in the soil.  It has lived for many years in a pot, as I was forced to container-garden for many years while renting.

Not sure what surprise awaits us in the spring beneath these sedums.  Another gift from the lovely Georgeann.  The sedums at the base of this perennial are another favorite of mine.  They look like little rosebuds.  I selected this Montana boulder for the flat top, allowing me to add a little pot to this space.  I like to mix pots into my gardening landscape, but they're tricky on slopes unless you can create a shelf--this boulder was perfect.


Another formerly potted English lavender, sisters with the one in the other photo.  They have lived in containers side by side for many years, and now they will get to grow together on this slope, still right next to each other.  I would never separate the lavender sisters!

Salvias and sedums paired with an Indian Creek boulder.  I often add wood to the landscape, as I love wood, and feel it lends yet another natural element to the garden.  With straight edges, it can help define lines, and I often use wood to edge paths for a natural look.

What a lovely morning after experience!  I walked from window to window with coffee in hand to catch different glimpses from the house.  No regrets, and only sheer bliss when I look at what we created yesterday.  Knowing there will be more beautification to come week by week makes me feel even more excited.  I can't wait to get through the weekend of work shifts so I can get back to furthering our dry bed project!  

How to Beautify a Drainage Ditch (Soon To Be Dry Well) Phase One: Creating the First Few Feet

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
A few weeks ago, I posted How to Beautify a Drainage Ditch: Planning Stages and now I am excited to announce that we are in Phase One of the project!  I gave this a lot of thought, and eventually decided to create a dry well with this space.  The topography had already been altered over the summer, leaving a blank slate for gardening design.  Here is the before photo of our blank slate of a drainage ditch, ready for beautification:

As you can see, there is an ugly arborvitae patch to the left that will eventually be removed.  They are nasty things (to me), and their root system is comromising our sewage lines, not to mention, they have been untended for decades, leaving them sickly.  We want to open up this space, but this won't happen until this summer.  For now, imagine those gone.

First thing I did was to remove the lingering sod around the ditch.  There will be NO grass in my dry well.  To ensure this, we will be laying down weed barrier fabric beneath the Montana cobble.  I will keep the slopes densely gardened and pull weeds/grass from there by hand.

We selected the lightest shades from the pallets of Montana cobble from Smith Rock, Inc (a rock yard up the street from my house is AMAZING), and purchased enough to create a few feet as an example of how it will look.  We will need to remove these and lay the lawn cloth next week when it arrives.  At that time, we'll probably buy another three feet of rocks.  It takes time, because we hand-select each one.  We also bought Montana rainbow boulders, as well as Indian Creek boulders, to accent in a natural way the sides of the dry bed.  Around these boulders and between them will be many varieties of native and non-native plants, including sedums, groundcovers, salvia, lavendar, and lambs ears (to name a few).

In sum, I couldn't be more pleased with how this is looking so far, and am so excited to see it mature over time.  I have many, many ideas for this space, and have a site visit scheduled with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program, which will give me access to more local resources for native plants, as well as an opportunity to discuss my goals for the property and identify areas for wildlife habitat elements.  I'm excited to get our certification plan outlined!  Look for a blog post about this process towards the end of January.

Stay tuned for more posts on our dry well progress!

January is Summer in Australia

Monday, January 15, 2018

I realized today that in Australia, my birthday is in SUMMER.  I've always wanted a summer birthday.  You know how people say, "somewhere in the world it's wine o' clock"?  Well, somewhere in the world my birthday is a summer birthday, and that made me happy today.  x o , Karli

I Sure Miss Him

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I remember that couch and those sharks on the glass coffee table well.  And, of course, there's my Dad (Bob Gilliam), in the late 70s, with his firstborn daughter: me.  I miss him so much.  I wish he had lived to know Amelia, to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day with Adam, to watch me become a nurse, and to buy this beautiful house together with my husband.

I will share something I wrote six years ago at the one-year anniversary of his passing:

When we celebrated my Dad's 65th birthday last year, I didn't know it would be his last. Thinking about my Dad today and the good memories I have . . . like on his 40th birthday when his friends parachuted onto our property for the party . . . when we were kids taking naps on Sunday afternoons and we'd wake up to the sound of him flying his airplane over our house at close range . . . and the night he showed up after work with a real pony named Snip he'd bought for me--what little girl doesn't want her own pony? My Dad ran the friendliest store in town long before New Seasons made that their slogan. He knew how to run a successful grocery store.  My Dad didn't make it to 66, but he packed more into his life than most people, and I sure miss him.

Garden Design Plans: Download or Create from Scratch?

Tuesday, January 09, 2018
I keep thinking about that darn ditch and how best to beautify it.  I joke with the kids that the ditch will one day be so beautiful that it will be featured in Better Homes and Gardens.  And then I went to Better Homes and Gardens to take a look at their garden design plans you can download for free.  I never know what to think of these.  It seems a lot like color-by-number, which might take away the creative elements that emerge otherwise.  There is usefulness in these design plans, however, as they can be used to teach you the basics of garden design.  Useful tip: skip the biennials and/or annuals they include in their plans if you don't want to replace gaps from plants that last only one or two seasons.  They surely give a pop of color to your garden, but are not the most economical of choices.  There are plenty of perennials in Zone 8b, where we live, that are native, bright, and beautiful--no annuals or biennials needed.  Plus, planting native plants conserve water.

And so the mulling over this drainage ditch continues.  It's going to look so nice when I'm finished!  It will be a work-in-progress throughout 2018, and I will share the progress here on Beetles and Bees.

One of my beautiful hens from the 2012 flock
By the way, have you ever read Drinking With Chickens?  Beautiful blog that includes some of the things I love the most: cocktails, chickens, and gardening.  Her pictures are amazing.  Now, how does she get those chickens to mind their manners so well around those stellar concoctions?

Birthday cocktails at Le Bistro Montage
Hmm, well, that's it!  I plan to establish my own cocktail herb garden one day, and now I have Kate over at DWC for inspiration!  Plus, my husband is one of the best cocktail mixer I know, and often seeks out herbs when he's making something special.  I highly recommend checking out the DWC blog.  Her cranberry + rosehip cognac flip recipe looks heavenly!  You can follow DWC on Instagram here.


My Dear Friend Gay

Monday, January 08, 2018
My dear friend Gay, her husband David, and Adam and I raising a toast for my 41st birthday, January, 2018
I first experienced loss early in my twenties, when the feeling of invincibility was still running strong through my veins.  My friends and I felt we could do anything, that the sky was the limit, and that we would live forever.  Then Josh was killed in a fiery car crash, and our lives were forever changed.

Josh, Summer of 1995
Fast forward another decade and I lost my Dad to complications from pancreatic cancer.  Five years prior, one of my best friends, Tim, lost his father to the same disease.  We never got over those losses, starting with our beloved Josh.  We just moved on with a greater sense of the fleeting nature of life.  We said things like, "life is short, so let's make the most of it", all the while knowing that we could never make life as good as it had been when our loved ones were still living.

My Dad and I, 1998
This post is about a woman who has been like a mother to me, and her name is Gay.  I love Gay dearly, and she has been in my life for nearly twenty years.  Her mother's handmade Christmas ornaments hang on our tree each year, and one of her many paintings hangs on a wall in our house.  Gay has lived a rich life, and has always been curious with a wide array of hobbies and interests.  She has traveled the world, worked on the pipeline in Alaska when she was a young woman, and has a masters degree in social work.  She was a musician, gardener, painter, and a true free spirit. 

Gay, on our wedding day, January 4, 2016
A few years ago, Gay was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive and terminal lung disease.  As it turns out, one of her hobbies was the involvement with a local canary club.  She kept many of them, as well as an African parrot.  Unfortunately, over time, her lungs developed an allergic reaction to the avian proteins, and she ended up with only 1/3 of her lung capacity, which has continued to deteriorate over time.  This is also known as bird fancier's lung (BFL).  All of her birds had to go, but the disease hasn't gone anywhere--only worsened with time.

Raising a Toast on our Wedding day, January, 2016
If this was not enough, Gay is now in cognitive decline with dementia.  This evening I pushed back the tears as I helped her order dinner, reminding her countless times that she had already picked out green curry when she didn't remember ever looking at the menu in the first place.  I realized in one heartbreaking moment during conversation with her husband that she is no longer able to watch movies or TV shows, read books, or engage in our book club discussions, as her memory will no longer allow it. It was a relief when the waitress finally took her order, but then when the green curry was served, Gay did not remember ever ordering it.  She said with frustration, "This is not what I ordered."

Gay's Deck Party, Summer of 2010

After Gay left tonight, I couldn't hold the tears back anymore, as I was overwhelmed with the realization that parts of Gay are no longer with us.  I have not experienced the slow, progressive memory loss with a close friend or family member, though I observe first-hand the pain it causes my patients and their families.  It is harder than I could have imagined.

Gay with Samuel, Summer of 2005
It is painful to watch the slow unraveling of the memories of a life.  I remember the stories she has told me about her life, and I won't let those memories die.  I often tell the stories to my kids, and they have their own memories of times spent at her house, with her dogs, her garden . . . and always her laughter. 

Gay with Floradora, Summer of 2001 (Floradora is now 17 years old and still lives with Gay)
 As I prepare myself for the inevitable loss of Gay, I look for moments of lucidity.   She does better when she can tell me about something she remembers, as conversation is difficult when she cannot remember details of a topic brought up by another.  Her short-term memory is almost completely gone.  She remembers more from the long-term.  She still knows who we are, but even a dinner from two months ago are not moments she is able to retain.

Book-Club Christmas Party, 2017
I will always love Gay.  It feels so sad to miss her so much when she is still with us.  I miss her even when she is sitting right next to me.  I know our time with Gay is short, and shorter than I would have dreamed possible given how healthy and active she was even five years ago.  Even with her memory loss and lung disease, however, she still shines through every once in awhile.  Those are the moments I treasure the most, like this one: 

In Gay's classic style, with something as simple as a rum label, she elicits connection with Amelia.  She has always seen the extraordinary in the ordinary.  She is a true lover of garden spiders, for example, and taught me to love backyard birds.  There are moments where Gay is able to emerge from the fog, the Gay we have all grown to love dearly.  Then there are all the other moments, where she appears lost, confused, and simply cannot engage.  She shakes her head in those moments, looking down with sadness. 

Gay and David, on my 36th birthday 5 years ago, January, 2013, prior to her diagnosis
Loss is what makes life difficult, and I don't want to lose my dear friend.  I will continue to love Gay through the end of her days, standing right by her side.  Though we are slowly losing Gay, the wonderful memories we have shared will live on for eternity.  It will be those memories that give me strength in the years to come.   

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