Create an ‘Aprons4Alzheimers’ Movement in Your Community
1. Gather friends and sew aprons.
2. Sell the aprons at a farmer’s market, bazaar, or through a local merchant.
3. Donate proceeds to a local organization that provides Alzheimer’s respite care.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kansas Quilters

     I am not sorry that sewing aprons has become a full time job. Acting as my own book agent, coupled with many hours of sewing, keeps my cup overflowing on a charitable endeavor. My husband, Lon, the official recreation officer in our marriage, pulls on my reins and forces me to walk away from my endless projects so we can play tourist and have fun. He reminds me it’s the reason we saved so we could retire early, the reason we sold our house and chose a life of travel.

     Therefore, it came to be on a sunny day in July; we descended 235 steps to the Gunnison River and boarded a boat managed by the National Park Service. Forty-two fellow passengers were with us for a two-hour ride through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison where walls of ancient rock, waterfalls, birds, vistas, and smashing stories told by the Park Ranger kept us entertained.

     I can’t tell you why we chose the date and time for the boat ride. We could have chosen the noon boat instead of the 10 a.m. ride. We could have chosen the day before or the day after. I didn’t sit next to Lon; instead, I sat across the aisle from him and next to a group of women from Kansas. They were a high spirited lot and since I can’t carry my friends with me, I’m always on the look out for friendly females to chat with. This clutch of Kansas ladies was a welcome site and when one of them mentioned they were quilters, well… Katy bar the door! Mention fabric, quilts, or thread and I’m off and running.
     “Do you quilt?” they asked.
     “Well I used too, and I love to quilt, but now I’m busy sewing aprons.” I didn’t even have to look at Lon to know his eyes were rolling and he was feeling sorry for the women who were now going to hear about my book and apron project. It’s a story he’s heard so many times he can tell it better than I can. However, he doesn’t. He lets me babble on and waits to see the reaction.

     Bless their hearts for listening to my tale. This I know. It’s hard to find someone not touched by Alzheimer’s. I’m grateful to those who listen but I’m filled with sorrow in the same breath because I know it’s because they understand and have seen the destruction it brings to a family.

     During the last hour of our boat trip, Janie, Vicki, and I shared stories and experiences about quilting, Alzheimer’s, and care giving. We slowly made our way up those unmerciful 235 steps and every step brought us closer together as we visited and exchanged life stories.

     When we made it to the parking lot, they generously purchased six of my books and promised they would keep in touch with me through email. I really, truly, wanted to hear back from them, but sometimes people say they will write and I never hear from them again. I liked these ladies but I didn’t want to act too needy.
     I need not have feared. Let me share with you a wonderful email I received from Janie just a few days later.
Good morning Gwen,
I am Janie one of the gals you met on the boat ride Monday am. (I am the Home Health/Hospice RN who had to stop every few feet going back up to the parking lot!)

We traveled home yesterday - left Montrose at 7:30 am and I got home to Iola, KS this am at about 1:30. My friend, Vicki, read from your book aloud and then I read and Vicki read again until her throat got sore…we thoroughly enjoyed your story. Bless your heart, it isn't easy being a caregiver. In our vehicle there were 4 gals and 1 guy, he drove and told us the story was depressing him. His wife, Jo, told him to be quiet and just drive. He complied.

3 of us gals in the vehicle are quilters, Vicki isn't but loves us anyway and she is going to have an apron making weekend at her home and we will get some other quilters and she will cook and press and we will sew and all visit and just enjoy each others company.

It was such a pleasure to meet you and get to visit with you and I will be watching for the Threads magazine and The Country Register articles and one of these days will contact you and ask where to send the aprons.

God Bless You,

     You have a cold, cold heart if you are not struck by the generosity and kindness of these Kansas ladies. I have made over 140 aprons so I wept at this news. Lon smiled and breathed a sign of relief. He knows how much the aprons are a part of my book but he also knows I can write even better than I can sew and he’s been urging me to write about the wonderful people we meet. If others volunteer to sew, I get more time to write.

     So here I am, telling the tale of the Kansas quilters. The story would be sweet enough if I ended it now with Janie’s email. But…there is more to tell.

     I promised Janie I would have my sister, Katie, send her a few apron patterns. Barbara Brunson of Vanilla House Design generously donated several patterns to our cause (Read: Apron Wings). When Janie received the patterns, she wrote to tell me they had arrived and invited me to come to Iola, Kansas to give a reading and conduct an apron class. I was visiting my husband’s family at the time I received the email. They have traveled extensively so I walked into the living room and asked, “Do you happen to know where Iola is located in Kansas.”

     Lon’s mom, Dorothy, immediately replied, “Well, we sure do. Lon’s uncle Bill Hinde lives there, he’s lived there for years. He used to be a baker but his daughter, Regina, runs the bakery now.”

     I quickly shot a email back to Janie asking if there was a chance she might know Lon’s family. The next morning while having coffee and breakfast, Lon arrived at the kitchen table with his iPad and said, “Listen to this!” and proceeded to read an email from Janie:

Dear Gwen,
It sure is a small world! Regina was in my sister's class in school and she is also a quilter. I took care of her father in law and would look at a pretty quilt hanging on the wall every time I listened to his heart and lungs…Regina made it. She and her husband do run the bakery and they have the best cookies and cakes in the world I think. I also took care of Mr. Hinde last year after he had some illness. Yes I think you need to make a visit to Iola KS sometime and meet and greet. Our library is usually open to Book signings and we do have a quilt shop 10 miles south of here and 30 miles north and many others within 50-100 miles-we could keep you very busy and of course we would love your visit to include a 4th Monday of the month and you could go to quilt guild! My but I ramble on.
Talk to you later and have a great weekend.

     I have been accused of embellishing stories. I’ve been known to say, “Oh my gosh, that is the greatest story and it is going to be so much better when I re-tell it!” I promise I did not make this up. Janie is a real person, Iola exists, and someday I’m going to make my way to her quilt guild, read from my book, and maybe even have a cookie or two from the bakery.

     Janie, keep your needles sharp and your thread waxed, you never know when I’ll come a knock ’n!


  1. Hi Gwen, what a beautiful story! It does put your faith back in humanity to read things like this.

    My name is Leeanne Chames, and I'm an Administrator at Memory People, an Alzheimer's and memory impairment support group on Facebook, and one of our members posted just this morning that she was going to be seeing you on Friday and wanted to share the link to our support group. I'd like to invite you to join us, we have patients, caregivers, and advocates, all walking this road together in love and support. We are over 1,100 strong now, but we are a family. This is the link to our group, hope to see you there, and I just know you will continue to bring Awareness and be a blessing to all those around you. :)

  2. I was so happy to stumble across your blog--I will never look at an apron in the same way. :) As a hospice chaplain, much of what I do is spend time with folks with a form of dementia. Thank you for your compassion, insight, and love. I will be ordering a book soon. May God bless you on your journeys...

  3. Gwen,
    I know that story wasn't supposed to crack me up at all...but darnit, you're exclamations just crack me up! Always a pleasure to read what you've written~
    We haven't spoken in ages, sounds like all is well!!
    Love ya,