A Cousin Appears from Cyberspace

Writing a blog has many benefits, such as updating your friends on what’s happening in your life, sounding off about a subject you’re passionate about, or bragging about your grandchildren. OK. I admit it. I use this page for all of these reasons, but today, I want to share a discovery I made, through or because of my blog.

I was surprised to learn the other day that while seeing if my “About Mary” needed updating, people really do read that section and that you can actually make a comment there. I guess I never read that far down the page to see that some people I know had left messages. I’m sorry I never responded to you, if you were one of them. But I did respond to one who had left her comment in June of last year. OMG. I hope she didn’t think I had blown her off. She said that our grandmothers were sisters, naming them and mentioning other memories of having visited when we were very young. . I was absolutely ecstatic. I thought I was the only living person in my generation in my family, as my mother once said, “the last little leaf on that branch.” I have been sad about that, because I thought there was no one left in this world who could reminisce with me, who could share memories, and fill in the missing pieces. I figured out that her mother and mine were first cousins, but I don’t recall my mother’s talking about her or her children. Now here appears my second cousin, which to me is just as important as a first cousin. I won’t mention her name here, except to say that she knows who she is, and although I have responded to her twice and have sent her my email, I am waiting with eager anticipation to hear from her again. Maybe she isn’t as thrilled as I am to find a cousin I didn’t know I had, because it has taken 18 months for me to read her note. . She said in her comment that she had sent my mother some family information when Mother was working on our genealogy but of course, being totally blind, I haven’t seen it. But I intend to try to find her on Facebook or other social media. Her first name is the same as my beloved aunt, and I suspect there was a reason for that. Maybe not, but it might be a connection even she didn’t know we had.

At this time of year when families gather for the holidays, it’s especially meaningful to me to know that this woman exists, so even if we never connect again, it’s a gift to me to have heard from her, if only just this once.

Mary Hiland

Mary.hiland@wowway.com

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com

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What’s a Hen Hike?

As many of you know, I go on a hiking trip each October with a group of women friends, half of whom are blind. We call it the Hen Hike, (HH.) What made this year’s HH extraordinary for me was first, that it was in northeastern Ohio, at Punderson State Park, so I didn’t have to fly, and secondly, that I was able to walk after having spine surgery just six months before. This year’s hike was different from all the 18 previous HH events because two of us brought our dog guides. We knew that the trails would not be as narrow or demanding, such as the ones we’ve hiked in the New England states, where using a guide dog might be a little trickier, considering that we sometimes had to cross streams on a log, hold onto a tree to keep from sliding down a steep hill, or climbing over trees that had fallen over the trail. Ah, those were the good old days, but our sighted guides were always successful in getting us through those challenging spots. Sometimes they had to coach us on where to put our next foot while crossing a creek by stepping from one rock to the next. But this year, while we did have some rocks and roots to negotiate, our biggest challenge was the ankle deep mud we had to slog through, because there was no way to get around that part of the trail. Of course, the dogs loved it. What dog wouldn’t love tromping through muddy water? I guess we had a good time, because each day, we’d come home to the inn, wet, tired, and dirty.

Now I must admit that I only hiked 2 of the 4 days on the muddy trails. My dog Dora had never had this joyous experience before, and she was so excited that she pulled with all her 73 pounds of might, and since we were on trails through the woods, and no sidewalks, I simply could not keep up with her. Furthermore, it was not good for my back to be pulled with such force. I felt pretty beat up those first 2 days, simply by trying to hold onto her and keep her from pulling my arm out of its socket. I tried every command I knew to slow her down, but she was hell-bent on being first, as all guide dogs are, in the line of hikers and one other guide dog, tromping through the woods. The weather was perfect, except for the mud, but that was to be expected, given the heavy rains from the aftermath of Michael.

On the third day, we had my favorite hike of all, 3 miles of walking through a nearby outlet mall. Oh joy of joys, to have ready-made shopping helpers. When we arrived, we set a time and place to meet for lunch, and then 2 by 2, we set off in all directions to hit the stores of our choice. This part of the HH has become a tradition only in recent years. In the beginning, we had some very serious hikers who didn’t even want to stop to buy maple syrup as a souvenir from Vermont, let alone spend an entire day hiking through merchandise. When we met for lunch, we showed each other what bargains we had found, which turned out to be the best marketing strategy there is. We quickly ate our sandwiches and downed our cappuccinos and headed over to get the same treasures for ourselves. that evening, when we showed off our new duds to each other at Happy Hour, we exclaimed that after hiking the next day, we just had to go back one more time for one more chance to buy those jeans, that shirt, those shoes, and even that amazing underwear. On that day, I opted not to hike, as my shins were killing me, so Dora and I relaxed in my room. After a quick lunch in our Happy Hour room, most of us took off again for the shops for that one last deal.

Over the years, the makeup of the HH has changed. We had me, the one who has back issues even now, and then we have Jill, our youngest Hen, who hiked the Grand Canyon with Patty, one of our guides. I suspect that as we age, our hikes will become tamer, but because we are healthy and hardy women, who love to be active in the out-of-doors, we are already planning next year’s hike. . The photos accompanying this post include the sweetest picture of Dora and Delta as they relaxed after a vigorous day of hiking.

Mary Hiland

Mary.hiland@wowway.com

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com

My Book is Now on Talking Books

This post is primarily for my friends who are blind, but my sighted friends are also welcome to read on.

For almost a year, I’ve been trying to make my book available on talking book, a service of the National Library for the Blind. And today, I am thrilled to announce that it has finally made it to the list of from which books you can choose. The DB number on BARD is 91261.

Here’s the back story. I should have called a friend who works there in the first place, but when I called the NLS, they told me I had to first have it recorded by the Ohio Library for the Blind. Will Reed, who runs that program said they wouldn’t do it, and he named several reasons, all of which I turned around and told him they were the very reasons it should be recorded. He didn’t budge, but in this process, I learned to argue and stick up for what I thought was right. It was important to me to have my book available on talking book, so my friends who are blind could borrow it, just like my sighted friends who can borrow it from their local library. Of course there is only one copy available in the whole Columbus system, and that’s the one I donated, but again, it was more important to me to have people read it than to make a couple of dollars.

Next, I forwarded Reed’s letter and my response to my contact at NLS, and she made sure a copy got into the right hands for decision-making. It’s been a long struggle, but I feel like celebrating, because it’s now accessible to everyone. Thanks for spreading the word. And if you need more information about the talking book program, write to me off line, and I’ll be glad to tell you all about it.

Mary Hiland

Mary.hiland@wowway.com

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com or

Dldbooks.com/maryhiland

Good Citizen Meets Jerk Neighbor

In all my years of walking my Seeing Eye ® dogs around my neighborhood, I have never had any trouble with a neighbor until yesterday. Oh, I’ve had to scold a couple for letting there dogs run free when they would race up to my dog with barking, growling, or just wanting to play, but usually, they either would make no reply or would apologize.

but yesterday, this woman, who lives on Deerwood, a couple of streets away was downright rude. We were walking along, when suddenly, Dora felt a need to urinate. She pulled over near the street and squatted. No harm. Urine from a dog cannot be detected, smelled, or seen once it seeps into the ground. I knew that she had only urinated and not defecated, because I had been taught by the Seeing Eye instructors how to tell which form of elimination is happening. It’s a little secret that not many people know about, unless you’re a guide dog handler. I put my hand on her back, and if she’s defecating, her back will be humped. If she is merely urinating, her back will be straight, like a ski slope.

On this particular walk, she chose to squat very near a driveway, where the owner of this driveway was just pulling in at that very moment. She stopped the car, jumped out and screamed, “You’re going to pick that up, aren’t you.” I replied, “I’d be glad to pick it up, but it’s only pee.”

“Oh no it isn’t,” she argued. “I saw her do something else.” Again, I said, “I’d be glad to pick it up, but you’ll have to show me where it is.” I was confident there was nothing to pick up, but I waited. I waited while she took some packages into the house, returned for more packages, went back into the house, and then closed the garage door. I waited some more, expecting her to come charging out, but after several minutes, I realized that she was not coming out. My guess is that she looked again, saw nothing to pick up, and chose to let me stand there waiting for her. She did not have the you know what to say to me, “You’re right.” I wanted to give her all the time she needed to do so, but no acknowledgement, let alone an apology was forthcoming. Finally, I moved on. I always pick up after my dog, and I proudly carry that little plastic bag down the street as a badge of good citizenship. Not all dog guide users are so considerate, just like not all sighted people are jerks, so I encourage anyone reading this blog to give us the benefit of the doubt. If you see a blind person waiting for her dog to finish her elimination, wait before you scream at her. It might take a few seconds to get the bag out of her pocket and unfold it, but give her a chance to be the good neighbor and citizen that she most probably is.

Mary Hiland

Mary.hiland@wowway.com

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com

Be Smart. Get a Mammogram

Because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am inspired to write my own opinions and experiences on the subject. It’s not very dramatic, so you can skip this one if you want, but I celebrate the fact that it’s not dramatic at all.

Years ago, I received a kit that demonstrated exactly how a woman should examine her breasts. It included a cassette tape with instructions and a lifelike model of a female breast. What made it different from mine was that it contained 3 or 4 lumps that were firmer than the rest of the breast, so I could detect them and identify them as cancerous lumps. Often, when you’re doing a self-examination, you’re not sure what you’re looking for, so I found this to be very helpful.

Some controversy has been brought forth over the efficacy of this annual procedure, especially in older women, but I prefer to go with whatever is available to me. Not doing so could result in breast cancer. Because my insurance makes it free, and it only takes a few minutes, it’s foolish not to take advantage of this simple test that might save my life.

Yes, it is uncomfortable, but only for a few seconds, and I’ve had blood pressure readings that hurt more than this. Yes, it’s a little uncomfortable to stand in front of another woman with your full breast exposed, but we must remember that in this setting, it’s only tissue, something that needs a thorough look with the help of a machine that has no sexual feelings.

I sat on a panel a few years ago with some other women with disabilities, and our audience was a group of mammogram technicians, although they had a fancier title than that. They asked what they could do to make our exams more comfortable. Other than telling them not to squish our breasts, we had some practical advice that varied with each disability. Here was mine.

I think it’s silly and time consuming to have to go into a little room, take off my top and bra and stow it in a locker along with my purse, lock the door, put on a gown that opens in the front and return to another waiting room. When I go into the room where they do the exam, I have to take the gown off just one shoulder, so it exposes only one breast. All this rigmarole is unnecessary and time consuming, so when I get to the little room for the disrobing, I always say, “Just let me take off my top in the exam room. It’s a lot simpler.” I have never had a technician argue with me, because it makes so much sense. when I’m done, my clothes are right there on the chair, and so is my purse.

When I did this last week, I asked if I should still be getting a mammogram every year at my age. She recommended continuing until I was 80 or so. Looks like I have a few more years to take about 20 minutes out of my day to do something smart that could save my life.

Mary Hiland

Mary.hiland@wowway.com

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com

Can dogs read a smile?

One of the first questions I’m asked about my Seeing Eye ® dog Dora is “Where does she sleep?” I guess they expect me to say that she sleeps with me, or that she sleeps at the foot of my bed. Nope. She doesn’t like to sleep with me. What’s more is that I don’t even know where she spends the night, but I think she has chosen the guest room as her own, but not on the bed.

Recently, when the weather cooled off, I took off the cotton quilt and put the downy white comforter on my bed, thinking to myself, “Now is the time she’ll decide to get on my bed of course. All summer long,, I have this cotton quilt that I can easily throw in the wash, and now that I have this down-filled white comforter that I don’t know how to wash, now is when she’ll decide to sleep with me”

Sure enough, the other night, as I sat on the end of my bed to put on my slippers, I felt something soft and warm at my back. I reached back, and there she was, looking guilty as could be. She lay stock still, waiting to see my reaction. I leaned back, so I was face to face with her and said in a very calm and non threatening voice, “What are you doing on my bed? Do you think this is your bed now?” I let a couple of seconds go by, and I could tell she didn’t know if she should jump off and pretend this never happened or if I was going to be cool with her being up there. After I let her sweat for a couple of seconds, I smiled at her without saying a word. and if you’ve ever doubted that a dog can’t read a smile, you should have seen this. Sshe gave me the tiniest of licks on the face and lay back with a sigh of relief. Then she reached her front paw out and clumsily touched my cheek.

“Whh,” she said. “That was a close one.”

Mary Hiland

Mary.hiland@wowway.com

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com

More of Mary’s Grammar Gripes

School is finally in session for everybody, so I’ve been inspired to inflict upon you another one of my grammar teacher wannabe lessons. These pointers come not from formal education as a teacher,, but from observations I’ve made while listening to conversations and ads and reports on TV. It’s getting to the point where if I hear the correct use of the pronoun “me,” I want to write in and say “good job. You paid attention in eighth grade English class.”

Here are some phrases that have set my teeth on edge over the past month.

“I remember him saying….” In this phrase, the object of the verb is “him,” but it should be “his saying,” with “saying” being the object, and “his” being the modifier.” This mistake often shows up with “I appreciate you participating.” It should be “your participating,” because it’s not that I appreciate you, but I appreciate that you participated. So again, the object of that sentence is “participating,” and”your” is the modifier. It’s just as easy to say “your” as “you,” so even saving time is a poor excuse for incorrect grammar here.

This next one is a personal peeve, and I might even be completely wrong about it, but it bothers me, and this is my blog, so here it is. Shouldn’t the past tense of “text “be “texted?” So many people say “text” as if that were the past tense of “text,” which of course is wrong. I just checked with Alexa, and she agrees with me. *****

Here’s one that we often addressed in Toastmasters. A book is not “entitled.” It might sound more sophisticated to you, but it’s wrong. You are “entitled” to your own opinion, or you have ownership, but a book is “titled.” that is, it has a “title.”

I had a sort of argument about this one with a friend, only because he thinks that rule has changed. It’s about “fewer” and “less.” If a quantity can be counted, it’s “fewer than,” not “less than.” e.g. “If we have fewer than 5 people present, we can’t take a vote.” Please don’t say “If we have less than 5 people present….” If the quantity can be measured but not counted, you can say, “If you have less sugar in the batter than the recipe calls for….”

Here’s the last one I’ll pester you with today. It has to do with subject verb agreement. Say “Neither of us has a college degree,” not “Neither of us have a college degree.” Remember that “us” is not the subject. (Us can never be the subject.) So it does not require a verb that agrees with a plural subject. The subject in that sentence is “neither,” which is a singular subject. Thus the bare bones of that sentence looks like this. “Neither has degree” —subject, verb, object. On the other hand, if you are saying something about both of us, you should say “Both of us have a college degree,” because both is a plural noun, and “have” goes with the plural noun.

When I put this page through spell check, it practically went crazy. I hope it didn’t make corrections where I didn’t want it to.

Oh darn. I’m almost to the end of the page, so it’s time for me to quit for today, and I was having so much fun. But never fear. I always have an ear out for grammar goofs. Do you have one you’d like to share? Bring it on.

Mary Hiland

Mary.hiland@wowway.com

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com