Church Has Left the Building

Like many churches across America, mine is holding services via technology. Our pastors and some of the musicians and vocalists record their parts, separately and not in the same room, and then anybody can view the services over YouTube or via the website,

and never know that it was all done in accordance with social distancing. It looks and sounds like it was one complete service. It’s the next best thing to being there. What we really miss is shaking hands and giving hugs to our friends whom we only see at church and are happy to greet each Sunday morning.

After the service, we have several Sunday School classes, but the one I attend is called Coffee and Conversation. Of all the gatherings of people that have had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, this is the one I miss the most. The purpose is to discuss the sermon and how it relates to our lives, but we often dive even more deeply into our concerns and the mysteries of what God has in mind for us.

While it’s kind of fun to go to church virtually without having to wear more than a sweatshirt over our pajama bottoms, it’s been a challenge for many of us seniors to learn to use the Zoom platform for Sunday School. I had to have a tech guy from Microsoft install it for me, because the instructions looked like they required a college degree in Zoom installation, and then my daughter generously practiced it with me, so I could join in without stress and frustration. My friend Deborah prefers to use her iphone for Zoom, and she graciously tried to teach me, but for me, the lap top seemed a little more consistent in what it was asking me to do with each step. Anyway, I had to smile as the first half of our Sunday School class was spent coaching each other on how to get connected. I suspect that we’ll all get quite good at this over the coming weeks and possibly months.

Other changes in our lifestyles will occur, and some of them are for the good.

For instance, calling a friend or acquaintance occasionally just to see how they are doing or if they need anything, especially if they live alone could do much to improve the mental health of many people who are lonely and feel isolated. Offering to run errands for folks who are elderly or have a disability who can’t drive anymore or pick up medicine or groceries, when the delivery services are swamped, reach the hearts and heal the souls just as much as sitting in a church with others who might be praying for the sick and the lonely, not that there is anything wrong with that. These acts of kindness and love demonstrate what one of our pastors said in a message to us in a daily email devotional. Church has left the building.

The Best Way to Help

It’s day 15 of my isolation. On Friday, March 13, my friend Vicki took me to a doctor’s appointment, and by noon, I had begun my part in fighting the Coronavirus. It sounds strange to use an active verb to describe doing nothing, but I heard an interview with a doctor who said that the doctors a other medical personnel work tirelessly for us, and what we can do for them in return is to stay home.

Immediately, I was reminded of what my dad would say to me when I, as a little girl, would ask him if I could help with whatever project he was working on. “The best thing you can do is stay out of the way,” he’d say. I didn’t like that answer, but now I understand its wisdom.

For most people who were used to having their freedom of movement, who could jump in their cars and run up to the store, go to a movie, visit friends, take in a ball game, or attend a concert whenever they

felt like it, staying home is going to be a hardship, especially if they live alone. But for those of us who have a disability and can’t enjoy those freedoms, it’s not much different from our everyday lives. We need to have someone else to drive us or accompany us to places that we can’t get to on our own, so even if we did try to ignore the orders to keep our distance from others by at least 6 feet and not to join even small gatherings of people who could possibly be carriers of the disease, we can’t.

So far, being alone with only my dog to keep me company has not been such a hardship. Fortunately, she is mature enough now not to have to be playing with me all day, so I can get some work done, and fortunately for her, I am still active enough to take her for long walks every single day, even in the rain. It’s important for her health as well as mine.

My mental health is just as important, so I am busy much of the day with writing, reading, listening to the news, scrubbing surfaces, corresponding with friends via email, and talking with friends on the phone. Normally, I am not a phone-chatter, but during this time of isolation, I am making it a point to call someone every day just to talk and check on their health. Other people have been calling me too, especially my kids, so the day is filled with communication. Yesterday, my next-door neighbor came over to the fence to say hello, since we hadn’t spoken since last fall. We were still 6 feet apart, but it was the first time I had spoken to someone face to face in 2 weeks, and I have to say, it was refreshing.

When you hear the horrific numbers of people who are hospitalized and dying, you know that most of those cases could have been avoided if only the people who are not sick would stay home. As possible carriers, they are running around spreading the disease and not knowing it. It’s a small price to pay to just stay out of the way of this terrible virus and let it fly away. If we all avoid contact with a person or a thing that could be a resting place for it, those of us who aren’t sick yet can live and enjoy having our loved ones live too.

We even can attend meetings and church services and enjoy free virtual tours of museums and watch millions of hours of cute puppies on YouTube,

90,000 troops were supposed to be deployed, but now they have to be quarantined for another 2 months. Surely a few weeks of quarantine in our comfortable homes with all these diversions is not that great a sacrifice.

Mary Hiland

Author of Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available on Amazon or at

Haunting Your Old Office

Have you ever gone back to a former place of work, just to hang out with your fellow workers or office-mates at the water cooler or the break room? Were you disappointed, because the staff had changed and your favorite cronies had all left?

My experience last Monday had a touch of disappointment, because the secretary had been replaced by a volunteer, whom I didn’t know. But once I opened the control room door, it was as if I had never left 15 years ago. Chuck was still behind the controls, and volunteers were stopping in to get their studio assignment or to tell Chuck they were done with the magazine or newspaper they had been recording. None of them knew me. I was just a visitor to them, and indeed, that was what I was. But instead of melancholy, I felt joy in being there to talk about my new status as published author. I knew that when the hour was over, and I had talked about my book, Insight Out, One Blind Woman’s View of her Life, I could go to the break room and have lunch with Chuck, catch up on what’s been happening in his life, and wait for Mainstream to appear to pick me up and take me back home. The ride home on that Mainstream van was just as horrific as I remembered it, bumpy and noisy and an hour long. I felt like I’d been beaten up by the time I got home. What a relief to be back in my house with a nap as the next item on my agenda. I wondered how I did that trip 5 days a week. But then, I was 15 years younger.

I recall the first time I ever sat behind a mike as a guest on that show. It seems odd to remember that I was very nervous. I was a homemaker at the time, and I had agreed to come and share recipes and housekeeping tips. That volunteer gig lead to speaking engagements to recruit volunteers and bring in donations. Then when the position of volunteer coordinator suddenly became available, I was right there the next morning with resume in hand. It was the perfect example of how a volunteer could turn her avocation into a full-time career, a career that would last 22 years.

I have to say that being a writer, with my office being my recliner in my living room, is so much easier, albeit certainly not as lucrative.

Being a guest on a show whenever I’ve written a book is a dream volunteer job. I’d like to do more of that, just in case you’re a talk show host in need of a charming, talented, and talkative guest.

Lost Coffee Spilled Tea

I didn’t realize how important a cup of coffee could be until last week, when I accidentally threw away my reusable K Cup for my Keurig. It occurred to me one day recently that I was among the millions of people who thoughtlessly toss those little plastic cups into the trash which will take eons to disintegrate. They will outlast the earth itself. I can just picture those billions of plastic straws and K cups floating around forever, that is if they haven’t strangled some unsuspecting innocent animal.

I’ve been refusing plastic straws for months now and reusing plastic bags that have been forced upon me, recycling every piece of junk mail, cereal box, and every other carton or covering of all the products I use around the house. I had been feeling quite virtuous until I pulled myself up short and said, “What about all those little cups you’ve been blithely tossing in the trash?” And my recycling company does not list them as acceptable recyclables.

So I bought a very fancy gismo that is to take the place of those little villains. All went well until one day, when I scooped up a pile of paper bags, flyers, cartons, and envelopes that I had stacked up on the counter by the back door and carried them out to the recycling bin in the garage. The next morning, it appeared that my little plastic gismo was nowhere to be found, and I distinctly remembered rinsing it out and placing it on top of the coffee container, (another reusable plastic box) to dry. I searched all over the counter and concluded I must have accidentally picked it up with that pile of junk paper. There was nothing to do but go and dive into the recycle bin. Luckily, it had just been emptied that morning, so it wasn’t hard to search through. But since it is the size of a refrigerator, I tipped it over on its side and crawled in. No plastic gismo.

It took a few days to order another one from Amazon and get it delivered to my door, so I was reduced to drinking only tea and an old disposable K cup of decaff coffee, which I now know is pretty nasty, even with a healthy dollop of flavored creamer, and it does nothing to open my sleepy eyes after another night of insomnia.

So this morning, when I once again measured out that glorious real coffee into my special little gismo, I felt I had been given a gift. Since I had wakened early enough to do so, I even had a second cup. Oh, it’s the little pleasures in life that make you thankful, and they also make you more careful about keeping them in a safer place.

Speaking of keeping things in a safer place, the lost K cup was not the only disaster I caused last week. Somehow, (Well I know how, but it’s too complicated to explain here) my dumped a whole cup of tea into my lap top. Yep. Big mistake. At first, the speech went silent, especially when I rubbed the keyboard with a towel, trying to get as much liquid out as quickly as possible. Big mistake. But I let it dry out for a day, and after it quit pouting, it decided to talk again. I got down on my knees and thanked God. But God said, “Not so fast there, you careless tea-drinker.” The screen was completely toast. I’m told that there are now odd designs and shapes on display, but no intelligible words. So off to the computer store I was whisked. You might not hear from me for a while, since I don’t even know how to turn the thing on, let alone know where any of the keys are that I use. I think in the next few weeks, I’ll be switching from coffee and tea to something stronger.

Mary Hiland

Author of Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life and The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

Adventure Summit last Saturday

20200215_154429If I ever get an opportunity to attend another Adventure summit, I’m signing up. What an impressive line-up of presenters and speakers there were. If you’ve ever considered hiking the Appalachian Trail or any other over-the-top athletic experience, it’s a must-do conference-like weekend. Or if you are like me and just love hearing stories of adventures you wish you could have, you should go.

While Tricia and I did a respectable presentation based on my book, insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life, it did not offer the excitement of a walk through Spain or Ireland or camping for weeks on end on the A.T. Yes, I talked about tandem cycling as a blind stoker, forming the Hen Hike group and how Ski for Light changed my life, but at the end of the day, I felt like I was a bit in over my head. Although that despicable word, “amazing” was thrown around in my direction, I guess I was among outdoorsy people who aren’t used to seeing a blind woman in their midst. I must say though that hearing their stories gave me the itch to get back into shape and try some of those adventures.

Mary Hiland

Author of Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life and The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261


I love the month of February, mostly because it’s not March. It’s still winter in February, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But March doesn’t know what it is, just mostly miserable. February is when Ski for Light usually happens, and while I can’t go this year, I wish all my SFL friends a joyful time on the snow in Casper Wyoming. Wherever it is next year, I hope to be there. Meanwhile, I am spending my winter learning new things on the computer, a hateful task, and promoting my new book, a challenging task, Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life. You knew I had to get a plug in somewhere here, didn’t you?

Anyway, the reason I decided to write about February in the first place was that I wonder why so many people do not recognize the r in the middle of it. They say Febuary. Or maybe realizing they needed an r, they say Februrary. All the other months are so easy to pronounce, so there’s only one to work on kids. Try real hard now. Say Feb-ru-ary.

The good news is that it’s a short month, and March is much easier to say.

Mary Hiland

Author of Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life and The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

What to Remember When Writing Fiction

How I wish I could write fiction. My parents told me when I was a little girl that I had a great imagination. Somehow over the years, when the real-life dramas took over, I seem to have lost the talent for telling made-up stories.

My aunt Lynn, who inspired me to write non fiction, starting with a Red Book article that was printed in the December 1974 issue, used to play a game with me called “Who can tell the biggest lie.” It was meant to entertain me when we were waiting for a bus or for the bread man to arrive in his truck full of goodies. But sadly, there is no bread man anymore, and even more sadly is that there is no Aunt Lynn anymore.

But I do read a lot of fiction, always paying attention to the opening sentence, the dialog, and the plot development, just in case I could think of a story of my own.

But here is the start of a list of tips I’ve jotted down, when the spirit moves me. Whenever you want to show someone affection, “smooth a lock of hair behind her ear.” How many times have you read that phrase? How many times has someone ever smoothed a lock of hair behind your ear? Did you wake up when your mother did that to you? Did you forgive your lover for saying those things when he did that to you?

I think this phrase falls into the category of hackneyed. Even my favorite authors use it at least once in every book. Have I been neglected by never having a lock of my hair smoothed behind my ear? Oh wait. My hair is too short for that. I guess if someone wants to show affection to a woman with short hair, they’ll have to come up with something more clever than smoothing a lock of hair behind her ear. .

How about you, dear Reader. What phrase makes you want to say, “Really? that again?”

Mary Hiland

Author of Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life and The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261