Tara Reed Designs
Today my son turns 20 and it’s the 1 year anniversary of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis – WHY did that have to be the same day?
As I sit here writing, on the eve of my son’s 20th birthday, I think back to this day last year. I was having a really hard time (oh great – tears are already starting to flow and I’ve written one sentence!). A LOT had happened – I got married on August 4th and my son headed off to college in Boston on the 28th. My parents were planning a move to Oregon but we weren’t really saying why… I couldn’t stop crying. I was aching and sad to the very core of my being.
Some people thought it was empty-nester syndrome but it wasn’t. I was really excited for Kyle to head off to college – he had worked so hard to do well in high school and was thrilled to be going to Boston University and experience life in a big city. I’d raised him to embrace adventure and change and I knew he was going to be just fine. I was also happy, in a way, that Boston was so far away. I wanted to yell “GO! Save yourself!” as he left – knowing that the coming months, years, who knows, were going to be tough…
The fact is, my dad hasn’t been well. I haven’t shared this in such an open way until today for a variety of reasons. A big one has been to show respect for my dad – who still seems believes there is nothing wrong with him – although he can’t tell day from night and is getting less logical by the day. A close second has been my mom’s wish for me not to.
But today, on the anniversary of his official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s – a result of a spinal tap – I’ve been given the green light to talk about it.
My dad is no longer in a place that he would ever see my blog or know that I’m sharing this part of our lives. My mom has agreed that if it will help me, she won’t ask me to keep it “offline”.
I am hoping that being able to write about what I’m going through will help me through the grief process and perhaps help others who may be going through similar experiences. I’ve seen how much support friends have gotten online as they navigate the “sandwich generation” – where we are parents to our children and dealing with the issues that come from having parents who age. I’ve been inspired and comforted by their stories and their openness and their willingness to be vulnerable and ask for help – even if the only help that can be offered are words of support because there is little that can be done for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
SO much has happened I could write a book. It would make you laugh and make you cry – as most stories like this would. For now, I’ll just get out some of the basics of how we got from who my dad was most of my life to who is is today. I think it will help me to get it out – so even if no one reads past this part, it’s fine. I’m calling it my ‘blog therapy’.
I first asked questions about 5 years ago. My dad didn’t seem himself – he wasn’t engaging in conversations but rather having monologues and telling the same stories over and over again. My mom took him to a doctor who did some basic cognitive tests and he passed with flying colors. But my dad was a college teacher and is really, really smart. Even this past year, when he started getting day and night confused, he was doing well on the same tests because he was somehow able to save the information so he would “pass”. Looking back, we now think things started to change 8-10 years ago…
He started losing words and names here and there, more often turning to my mom to help him with a story. About 2 years ago they went back to the doctor and this time they did an MRI. It was discovered that he had “periventricular white matter” – which looks like white spaces on the brain. My understanding is that it is the brain dying in areas due to lack of blood flow. At that point, they said he didn’t have Alzheimer’s – or “The Big A” as we were calling it.
My parents were living in Reno, Nevada at the time. My sister was in PA and my brother and I were the closest relatives – a 12 hour drive away in Portland, Oregon. I began to suggest they move… My mom resisted because she didn’t want us to be impacted by my dad’s bizarre behavior and my dad didn’t want to… I’m not clear why exactly.
Last summer it was clear that things were getting worse and I talked with my mom more about moving so they could have more support. The writing was on the wall that this was getting worse and we were worried about her dealing with it alone. One day I managed to find a way to “sell” the concept to my dad and he got on board. They put their house on the market in Reno and we began making a wish list for a house and location in Portland.
We also began to look into more specialists to see if there would be something we could do. We got him in to see a neurologist at OHSU in Portland – the day before my wedding. It worked well since the whole family would be here so my mom, my sister, brother and I all went to the appointment. My dad continued to say my mom was the problem and making up things about him… and then going off on tangents that made us scratch our heads.
Later that day they found a house and put in an offer. The acceptance came the morning of my wedding. (As if there wasn’t ENOUGH going on with a wedding – this was all happening too!)
The neurologist said that even though he has the white matter, it didn’t mean he didn’t also have Alzheimer’s and that Alzheimer’s doesn’t show up on an MRI. The only way to diagnose it is in an autopsy or through a spinal tap. Dad agreed to a spinal tap which was done about a week later. We waited with baited breath, praying that it came back negative and that he wasn’t dealing with a double-whammy of dementia.
Sadly, our prayers were not answered. The diagnosis came back as both blood flow related dementia and Alzheimer’s.
It’s been a year since the diagnosis and it is amazing how much we have been through. From tears and disbelief to denial to acceptance to fear that we will get it too and back around again. One doctor told us that when you’ve met a person with Alzheimer’s, you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s. Every case is different. Our journey is proving to be different from any other we have heard about and my dad is different from any case the wonderful adult day care facility every dealt with or now the home he is in has dealt with.
He went from pretty functional last year – where people who didn’t know him didn’t really notice anything to very obviously not well. I do my best to live in the moment and enjoy every visit I have with him that he knows who I am. I know that his recognition could be gone overnight or slowly fade away…
My parents moved to Oregon in September and everyone said how wonderful it must be for them to be near their kids and grandkids – what a celebration. In my head I thought – yes but… if you only knew the real reason why…
In December we found an adult daycare where he could go to get more social interaction (he was going nuts at home and desperately looking for a new job teaching college). They agreed to tell him he was a volunteer and it was good fit for a while.
By spring things were getting worse. He insisted he was fine and was very frustrated and lashing out. We began to really worry that he would wander away and my mom wasn’t getting any sleep because he was up at all hours of the night. It was like he had the sleep patterns of an infant but in an adult body with the will of a 5 year old – “don’t tell me what to do!” It was visibly wearing on my mom and I was feeling like a firefighter – I never knew when I would be called in to help with a crisis.
We put him in a home in May when it was clear that things had to change for the health and safety of everyone. The actual move in date happened while I was at the SURTEX trade show in New York. Thank you to all the artists who helped me through that tough morning – I thought I’d be ok but ended up on the floor behind my table in my booth in tears until I could get someone to cover while I went to the bathroom to pull myself together.
There have been 2 times that he hasn’t recognized me at first – both times I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. To have your dad look at you with a confused expression on his face and say, “You look like someone I know…” is just beyond words. You wonder “Is this it?? He won’t know me now??” I simply smiled and said, “Because you do know me! How are you today dad?” I then saw the recognition in his eyes and the rest of the visit was fine.
Watching a parent slowly slip away is a heartbreaking experience.
To stay focused on the present and find the bits of joy and humor in each visit is the best way to go – but not always easy. Having a good support system is essential. You learn what you are made of as a person and as a family. Life feels shorter and you begin to really evaluate how you are living your own life and what is and isn’t important.
I have so much gratitude in my heart for all of the love and support I have received from the people who have known about what is happening. As I type I am crying but also feeling a great sense of relief to be able to just throw this very BIG truth that has been hiding out into the world.
Hug your loved ones. Say what you feel and do the things that are important to you. One thing that gives us all comfort is that my parents didn’t wait to travel and do the things they were passionate about until they retired – they had a wonderful adventure of a life for their 50 years of marriage which they just celebrated in June. Whatever time is left will look very different but our goal is to make it as happy as possible and find the silver lining where we can.
If you got this far – I applaud you and must say I’m surprised. I know it’s a bit of a random ramble but when I sat down I decided I would just type what came to me and know that that is what needed to come out for now.
Happy Birthday to my wonderful son and I love you dad!
– Tara Reed
I LOVE what I do! I feel so fortunate to be able to make a living with my art and creativity and “visit” my products in stores. I’m been practically stalking my local Home Goods in search of these mugs and today they were finally there!
The reactive glaze and fleur de lis designs came out great with rich colors for fall. The peacock feathers are also fun – apparently someone liked them a lot because they only had two of the four colors left.
SO… if you like these and have Home Goods near you, go see if they have them. They never bring in many of any one design so you truly do have to grab things you like when you see them! (I’ve learned this lesson many times!)
– Tara Reed
A few weeks ago I was out at garage sales with my mom and some friends. We ran across some dominoes… my mom looked at them and said, “This is a great price but I don’t think I need any more…”
I replied, “Let’s get them! I’ve seen people doing cool things with dominoes lately!”
Yesterday while I was looking through Pinterest and getting over inspired as usual, someone in my home feed was on a roll pinning domino art, how tos and more.
I decided to create a board – Things to do with Dominoes - to share with my mom and with you.
I think I am going to have to go raid my mom’s garage sale stash and play with dominoes! Next time you are out you just might find some creative canvas’ in the form of dominoes too!
– Tara Reed
A few months ago I found myself brainstorming a new idea with my husband Craig. I love licensing my art but I also want to be able to offer personalized products, or designs that might be a little too ‘niche’ to make it in mainstream retail but that I thought people might still want.
We played the “what do you want your life to look like in 5 years” game and I saw a future where he worked fewer hours and we had more flexibility to travel. LIGHT BULB! These two conversations just might merge into something cool… and that is how LetsPersonalizeIt.com was born!
We are only getting started but have 30 cutting board designs, 16 iPhone cases (for 4/4S or 5) and a few canvas shoulder bags ready to be personalized and sent your way.
Wow! Setting up a website that sells things is very different than what I usually do… for 10 years I have focused on creating art and let the manufacturers focus on selling the products. Let’s Personalize It! is bringing in a new layer of “Stuff” to do – but it’s exciting!
We are also really excited that we have decided to donate a percentage of each sale to charity – and the people who buy get to decide what type of charity their purchase will help. You can learn more about that on the website.
As we have been working on getting this started, I’ve been designing, we’ve ordered some samples, I photograph them… but we need some help. We need more pictures and feedback about the products!
We decided to do a special “grand opening sale” and a contest to entice you to send us some great pics of your personalized products that we can use on the website.
Grand Opening Discount:
Use code: photos to receive 30% off your order. (You will enter the code after you submit the order and enter your address – a little weird I know but I can’t control that part of the system.) This discount code will work for a week – from August 2nd through Friday, August 9th, 2013.
Enter to get your order for free by sending us photos:
We really need more photos of actual products in cool settings to put on the site so they don’t all look like digital mock ups. Anyone that buys a product and sends us some photos we can use online by September 15th will be entered in a drawing. On the 15th we will pick one person who will get a refund of their purchase price – so one person will get a what they bought for free!
Simply take some photos (pretend you are Austin Powers and have fun with the photo shoot!) and email them to LetsPersonalizeit@gmail.com We will add you to the site and to the contest. On the 16th, we will post the winner.
SO… do you need a personalized iPhone case? A canvas shoulder bag? a personalized cutting board? The holidays are coming too – you could get a jump on your shopping and save some cash by planning ahead…
Enough reading this post – take advantage of the discount and remember, shipping is always free in the continental US! Head to LetsPersonalizeIt.com and see what we have to offer!
Thanks for helping us spread the word by telling your freinds too…
– Tara Reed & Craig Harris
As many of my blog readers know, I have been licensing my art since 2004 - which means that manufacturers put my art on “stuff” – stuff you buy in stores. It is very rewarding, but there has always been a piece missing for me – the ability to offer personalized products or art that is more niche-oriented.
Let’s Personalize It! was born from my desire to offer my art on personalized products.
But I have to introduce you to the other exciting piece of this – my husband Craig. I know, I know, lots of people say “don’t work with a spouse!” And we have been of that mind for years. He always supports anything I decide to try, but until now nothing has been a fit for us to do together.
As I talked about my vision for this site, I quickly realized it was going to be very hard to do alone and keep up with the rest of my business. We realized that his organization and customer service skills would be a great fit and decided to give it a shot! Heck, we have survived a major home remodel so why can’t we handle this? (When I say major, I mean MAJOR - every surface was touched, a garage was added – it was BIG!)
So in the summer of 2013 we launched Let’s Personalize It! from our studio in Portland, Oregon.
So far we have lots of glass cutting boards, iPhone cases and some super cool canvas shoulder bags. Lots more is in the works!
Our Vision for Let’s Personalize It!
- Our goal is offer high-quality products with unique art that can be personalized to your specifications.
- We don’t want to be like every other personalized product company out there – we want you to think of us because of the quality and selection of designs you can choose from.
- We want to help others while we build our own version of the American dream… to do that, we are Giving Back to causes, helping groups do fundraisers and more. (Get more details on our GIVING BACK page – we are pretty excited about it!)
We are really excited and will be telling you more about it in the near future. For now, we hope you check it out at www.LetsPersonalizeIt.com
– Tara Reed & Craig Harris
I have had a long-term love affair with pretty checks… I was always willing to spend a little more to get checks that had art on them that made me smile rather than going with the free boring -blue checks my bank offered me. And while I don’t write as many checks these days I still want them to be fun!
I’m really excited to announce my latest licensee – Check Advantage.
I’m given carte-blanche (pending their approval of course) to decide what designs I think will speak to consumers. I’ve created seven collections to start and am eager to see which ones rise to the top. I did a variety of some basic patterns (Sassy Chevron and Modern dots) to classic icons (Sunflower Delight and French Influence.) Throw in some fun boots in the Cowgirl Happy collection. The ever-popular animal prints are present in both Wild About Lime and Inspiration Garden.
The next time you need new checks, I hope you think of me!
I would also love to know what themes, styles and colors you wish you could find for checks but can’t… who knows what I’ll decide to create next!
– Tara Reed
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there! I hope that you get to do whatever YOU want to do today – be surrounded by people or left alone with a good book…
I’m excited that my son will be coming home from his first year of college today! What a crazy year it has been… he’s loving Boston University and I’m loving that he avoided all the weather and violent drama that unfolded there since he left in August. Hurricane Sandy, a Blizzard and bombings… oh my!
It’s also pretty cool that for the first time in 20 years, I live in driving distance to my own mother! We have a barbeque planned if the weather holds out but chose food that can just as easily be prepared in the kitchen. This is day 2 of the celebration since my brother will be working… we had part one last night.
I’ll also be doing some work as my big trade show starts next week in New York. It’s crunch time and my brain has a hard time shutting down…
That’s how I’ll be spending my Mother’s Day and I’m thrilled about each and every piece of it. If you are a mom – I hope you get to do just what you want to do too.
– Tara Reed
I’m excited to announce that WineEnthusiasts.com has a second set of my designs for sale!
Here are the product details… Melamine Plates. Designed with the warmth and beauty of hand-painted ceramics, these colorful plates are shatterproof so fabulous for cocktail parties and outdoor dining alike. In a versatile size, they’re perfectly proportioned for cheese, crackers, desserts, a luncheon salad, a little bite. The coordinating plates, rendered with a sense of whimsy, feature one each Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling. Dishwasher safe. 8” sq. Set of 4
And a great review from Barb in Kentucky! (No – I don’t know her. ) I use these plates for my book club meetings. with all the wine drinking we do, they are perfect and fun.
SO… what will you use YOURS for?
– Tara Reed
One of my guilty pleasures – much to my dad’s dismay – is reality tv. Guess what? I KNOW that it isn’t 100% reality – that people behave a little differently in front of a camera, that situations might be manipulated a bit behind the scenes… but regardless, I find it entertaining to watch while I sketch or sometimes to veg out or escape my own slice of reality.
Every once in a while I get a tid-bit of wisdom from these shows that sticks with me – I thought I’d share the most recent one from an episode of LA Shrinks. Dr. V mentioned that her dad always told her you need 3 things in life to be happy.
The three things you need to be happy:
1. Something to do.
2. Someone to love.
3. Something to look forward to.
Dr. V went on to say that she usually finds, both in her life and for her patients, that when one of those three is missing, that is when life gets difficult. For whatever reason, this little bit on conversation really resonated with me and has gone through my head on several occasions.
The next time you are feeling a little sideways – ask yourself if you have these three things… and if not, see what you can do to remedy it!
Thanks Dr. V!
– Tara Reed
PS – this image and many others are available as rubber stamps – click here to see what Janlynn offers
St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching – are you getting together with the girls for a fun round of Bunco? Why not add to the festive mood with the “Leapin’ Leprechaun” Print-Your-Own Bunco Party Kit? Complete with 4 different Bunco score sheets, decorative images and border papers that you print at home and use as you see fit. One year a woman even decoupaged a design onto wood for her centerpiece – make it as easy or crafty as you’d like!
Here’s to a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day!
– Tara Reed