CHQ 2019 final post

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This year, when I went to Chautauqua, I took the plunge and enrolled in a special interest course. These courses are not included in the price of your gate pass, so if you want to take one of the many offerings, be prepared to pay an extra $95. When I heard that a 3-day course called “Living Your Best Life through Narrative, I took a deep breath and signed up. Because the title included the words life and narrative, I assumed it would help me with writing memoir pieces. I should have done more research into this course, because that’s way too much money to throw away on an assumption. This course was nothing more than writing short pieces on the spot called prompts. We do this in our TTN writers group for free. In fact, I felt like I was back in Columbus writing prompts. I learned nothing. I was even more depressed about the writings I heard than the money I wasted. This was nothing more than group therapy through writing. I don’t need group therapy. When some of the participants stood to read, they dissolved into tears as they told how they had lost their husbands and didn’t know how they were going to go on. The instructor encouraged these dark and sad writings by giving us prompts such as “What do you fear most and why?” and “When in your life have you said yes when you should have said no.” I believe that he was working through his own problems of dealing with a romantic breakup. He said as much, which was inappropriate. After hearing all these woeful stories, I decided to make mine lighter and even a little humorous. I didn’t read it to the class, but here it is for you.

When I said yes but should have said no:

“Yes please, I’d love a piece of cake. Sure, and ice cream would be great. A sandwich would be much more satisfying than a salad. “Seconds anyone?” Yes please. I used to keep my wedding dress hanging in my guest room closet, and now and then I’d try it on to see if I could still fit into a size 5. When the size 5 became a little too snug, I had it sealed up and stored, for maybe a petite granddaughter. Many years later, when my daughter was married, I searched and searched for the perfect dress, one appropriate for the mother of the bride but not one that looked like a nightgown. I looked stunning in it as I walked proudly down the aisle on the arm of my handsome son. And about once a year for many years, I would slip into that fabulous dress just to make sure I could still zip up the back. The last time I tried, the zipper would not meet, and the dress looked way too tight. Now it too is sealed up and stored for maybe one day I can wear it for my granddaughter’s wedding, but it will take a lot of saying “No thanks.”.”

I’ll close with a caption for the photo summing up my 4th year at CHQ. On the Friday night of the first week, Jeannette, Anna, and I joined our TTN friend Pat for a celebratory drink at the big fancy hotel, the Athenaeum on the porch overlooking the lake. Here’s a photo of us toasting our friendship and CHQ.Here’s to you, CHQ.

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, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

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CHQ Continued

In my last post, I told you that I recently returned from Chautauqua Institution, CHQ, after spending 2 weeks there with a combination of friends. In addition to hearing extremely intelligent and well known speakers on the themes of “The Power of the Spoken word,” and “the Power of Humor,” I discovered even more ways to enjoy this unique and enriching vacation. One afternoon, we sat in on a piano competition with our jaws hanging open at the talent of musically gifted young people. One morning, we were treated to an interview with the smothers Brothers and another with the manager of Robin Williams. We heard how a Quaker preacher does not believe the story of Adam and Eve, and we heard the well-known columnist/preacher/standup comedian, Susan Sparks.

For the first time, I participated in a talk-back session open to any Chautauquans interested in expressing concerns about anything they think needs improvement at CHQ. The IDEA was not about education, as you might think by the acronym, IDEA, but inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility. Of course I was thrilled to have the opportunity to express my extreme disappointment in the lack of accessibility for people who are blind or have low vision. The gathering was small, about 12 of us, and I was the first to raise my hand to speak. I was darned if I was going to sit through this session, only to have them say, “So sorry we’re out of time.” I began by telling them that 4 years ago, when I first signed up to come to CHQ, I was told that there were no braille daily schedules of activities and no plans to provide them. they said that I was the first person in 140 years to ask for braille. then I asked about audio description for a play that would be presented that year, and I was connected to the drama department. They had never heard of audio description. I let it go until this year, when during the first morning announcements, they proudly told us that there were headsets for enhanced listening, and now there was an app we could download that provided closed captioning. Well isn’t that terrific? I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but what had they done for people who are blind? A big fat nothing is the answer. And that’s why I went to that meeting. Others present had other issues. One elderly woman who used a walker complained that it’s extremely difficult to navigate on the rough walkways that even have pot holes in them. While the famous Red Brick Road runs through the center of town and is meant only for walkers, it is treacherous in spots, but to do away with it would take away the charm of the place. Still, I believe that it wouldn’t hurt to create a narrow paved walkway for the use of walkers and wheelchairs. It could even be helpful for dog guides to use to keep them on track instead of having to zigzag through the river of pedestrians streaming to a lecture at one end or the other of the Red Brick Road. One man pointed out that the leadership roles of CHQ are all held by people who are white. The highly educated and talented African American speakers looked out too an almost 99% lily white audience. There was also discussion about making CHQ more affordable for families. It’s true that the restaurants are all overpriced, and so is housing, except for the denominational houses such as the Baptist House, which is the best deal of all. It’s only $200 for a week, and it’s right on the Red Brick Road centrally located to both the amphitheater and the Hall of Philosophy, where the big lectures are held. Then one day last week, a friend told me he was going to Las Vegas and his hotel will be $300 for a week. Now there’s an idea for CHQ. A modern modest hotel might not have the charm, but I’d trade the “charm” of a shared bathroom with an air conditioned hotel. On the other hand, I’d hate to see it so family-friendly that we’d see zip lines across the lake and video arcades in the Athenaeum Hotel.

I have one more story to tell you about CHQ, but “So sorry, we’re out of time.” Stay tuned.

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, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

Chautauqua Number 4

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Recently, I attended my 4th experience at the Chautauqua Institution in NY. If you’ve read any of my 3 previous descriptions in past years of this unique and charming village, built on learning and the arts, you know that it’s become an annual mecca for feeding my love of classical music and broadening my knowledge of our culture with its problems, its qualities, and its possibilities. Located about an hour’s drive east of Erie, PA, Chautauqua, CHQ, offers opportunities to absorb as much beauty of a historic town, the history of the area, and extraordinary visual and musical arts as you wish.

This year, I made a dream come true of staying for 2 weeks instead of just 1. I rode over with 2 of my friends from The Transition Network, Anna and Jeannette, and then they left at the end of the first week.On the Saturday that marked the midpoint of my stay, my friend from church, Janet drove over to join me, and we came home together at the end of my second week. On that Saturday, when I would be alone for a few hours, I had planned to take a walk around Lake CHQ using a new technology , AIRA, where in a person called an agent could see through my glasses what I could see, via a specially designed phone app. I pictured myself sitting on a park bench and listening to the relaxing sounds of boats puttering by and waves caressing the shore. However, as I sat on the front porch of the Baptist House where we stayed, in the quiet of a place where most people had vanished for a few hours, I decided that my body needed to rest and reboot. You might have guessed that if you could see the photo of me getting my first ever foot massage at the spa, that I never knew was there until this year. Whenever you go to the same place repeatedly, but with different people, you find different treasures. During that first week, Anna said she wanted to go inside the clock tower, one of the iconic structures on the edge of the lake. We chatted with the woman who played the carillon at certain times during the day, every day throughout the 9-week season. “This is the best job in the world,” she cheerfully told us, as she continued playing a keyboard withonly an octave and a half at the same time she carried on a conversation with us.

She even took requests.

The first year I went, everything was new and wondrous, from staying in a rooming house-like situation to crowding into a huge shelter house for afternoon interfaith speeches to soaking in opera music in the enormous amphitheater. The second year, when I went with my friend Dan, we walked about a mile every morning to the aquatic center, swam for a half hour and walked back, all before breakfast and still made it in time for the morning lecture. The third year, when I went with friends from Ski for light, we went to the worship service every morning throughout the week, and we rented a whole house with a large porch, where we had adult beverages each night before dinner.

During my first week this year, I took a course that cost extra, a whole lot extra, and I was deeply disappointed, my first negative experience in this wonderful place. I had misunderstood the course description. I will probably tell you more about that in another post. During the second week, with Janet, I took part in a comment session, something I had never done before. We were asked to talk about how CHQ could improve its inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility. I jumped at the chance to express my outrage with the lack of regard for people who are blind or visually impaired. I went into that meeting loaded for bear. I’m out of space for today, but stay tuned. There’s more, much much more.

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, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261