Author Gwen O’Leary will be giving a reading from her book, When Life Hands You Alzheimer’s, Make Aprons! at the Wilkinson Library in Telluride on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 6 p.m. Net proceeds from book sales are donated to Alzheimer’s respite care.
Caregiver’s Solutions of Montrose, operated by Barbara Bennigsdorf, will be the recipient of net book sale proceeds on the Western Slope. Caregiver Solutions provides respite care in the counties of Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel counties.
When Life Hands You Alzheimer’s chronicles O'Leary's care-giving experience with her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but could still accomplish some sewing tasks. During her last few months, mother and daughter sewed aprons together.
“Sewing calmed my mother’s anxiety. We both found a calm, peaceful place as we self- medicated with fabric,” said O'Leary.
After her parents died within two weeks of each other, O'Leary and her husband, Lon, who live full-time on the road in a 22-foot trailer, traveled to New Mexico, seekingn the remote, pristine country. Urged by her sister to write about her experience, O'Leary completed her manuscript and published her work in four months.
In between spurts of writing, she sewed aprons, using power supplied by the solar panels Lon installed on their trailer.
“We often live off ‘the grid’ and I needed aprons for the cover photo. My husband is a photographer, so he scoped out an area that would provide a pleasant, blue-sky background. We carried camera equipment, clothesline and aprons across a rattlesnake-infested, prickly pear-dotted meadow and waited for the wind to die down to get the perfect shot.”
The problem of finding a copy editor while living on the road was serendipitously solved when they visited their son in Telluride.
“While walking the streets in Telluride, I noticed a poster advertising a writer’s workshop” with author Craig Childs, seven years previous. “Craig is a great writing coach,” she said, “and during the workshop I was able to complete the last and most difficult chapter of my book. I met a young woman in the workshop who agreed to be my copy editor.”
During a reading at a library in upstate New York, a woman came to O'Leary and suggested she sell her book at fabric stores. Fabric stores, and women who understand the magic of fabric and sewing therapy, have been her greatest supporters. With permission from Barbra Brunson, the copyright owner of the apron pattern, O'Leary continued to sew aprons and give apron-making classes as she traveled to promote her cause to support Alzheimer’s respite care. Net proceeds from apron sales are also donated to respite care.
In July, on a boat ride up the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, O'Leary met avid quilters from Kansas who embraced her story and agreed to buy her book. The women read it aloud in the car as they journeyed home and then emailed O'Leary with the news that they had decided to hold an apron-making party and send O'Leary the aprons to help her cause.
Since its publication in August 2010, O'Leary’s book has been endorsed by several health-care professionals – and she has donated over $4,000 to Alzheimer’s respite care.
Her book and the apron pattern are available at LadyBugz Quilt, Co., 302 W. Main St., Montrose; the book is available at Between the Covers Book Shop, and Needle Rock FiberArts, Telluride; Buckskin Booksellers, Ouray; and Cimarron Books, in Ridgway. Visit O'Leary at http://alzheimerhumor.blogspot.com.