Christmas Card Spoof

Do you send Christmas letters? They are not coming to my mailbox as often as they used to. One day, back in the 90s, I was feeling a bit mischievous, so I sent out this one. I still chuckle when I read it for old time’s sake. I hope you do too. No offense, please, to my friends who sent such letters. This is just for fun.

Dear Friends,

Here it is 1999 already, and I didn’t have time to send you our

family Christmas letter. I didn’t get a chance to brag about all

our accomplishments, our fabulous vacations, the intelligence of my

grandchild, the beauty of my home, the amazing talents of my dogs,

and all our altruistic and philanthropic endeavors. So, here they

are now.

Kara has been working on her phd in metaphysics. She got a late

start on this career choice, as she’s been leading an

anthropological expedition in outer Mongolia. Her work with Unwed

Mothers in Crisis in the inner city was put on hold, while she

completed this part of the fellowship grant she received from


Steve has passed the CPA exam, the Bar, and the Boards for medical

examiner for the CIA. In his spare time, he has been writing a

documentary on preserving cacao trees in Brazil. For fun, Steve

has taken up mountaineering, and last June, he completed his fifth

ascent on Mount Everest. Tammy does not accompany him on these

expeditions, as she has been busy prosecuting the attorneys in the

Monica Lewinski hearings. Her travels to Washington have not

interfered with her love of flying. Last spring, she bought her

own plane and is now teaching their little girl, Meghan to fly. On

January 1, Meghan will fly her first solo, although she is only

three months old. We think she’ll be ready though, as she has

already mastered the internet and is fluent in three languages,

thanks to her Aunt Kara.

Mother celebrated her 107th birthday with a modest party in London

for 500 of her closest friends and international business

acquaintances. She turned down a marriage proposal, however,

because she still likes her space and independence. As she says,

why should she put up with some old man who probably wouldn’t let

her race cars anymore.

I’m still working, although my lottery winnings from last February

have allowed me to try some exciting new experiences. I bought

some state of the art cameras and developing equipment, and have

become quite good as a photographer, and I really enjoy processing

my own photos. Perhaps you’ve seen some of my work in the Chicago

Museum of Modern Art. I’ve also resumed dance lessons, and just

last month, I was finally accepted as a member of the world famous

Rockettes. Imagine that, at my age! Of course, I’ll have to give

up my job at the radio reading service, but dancing has always been

my first love, as you know. Chocolate is my second love, so that’s

why I’ve been so thrilled with Steve’s documentary on cacao trees.

Sherry continues to be the epitome of Seeing Eye superiority. She

was honored at the Whitehouse for her bravery and supreme

intellectual agility, when saving the lives of three infants who

were drowning in Lake Erie. She wears her ribbons proudly as she

conducts weekly tours at the Seeing Eye. Her goal is to recruit

only the finest of golden retrievers and to increase their

percentage of the class. It’s her version of affirmative action.

Genie’s still kicking at age 17. And that’s the truth, the only


Here’s hoping your 1999 is at least as glamorous and exciting,

fulfilling, and memorable as this fantasy I’ve just recounted. And

if that’s not what you really want, here’s hoping you keep smiling,

keep loving, and keep in touch.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

Alexa is listening

As I cuddled up with Dora this afternoon for a rest after a workout at the y, a sound from my Echo Dot made me sit up in alarm. Then I remembered that this sound is a notification that an Amazon package had been delivered. Of all the uses for this wonderful tool, this is probably the most practical. Hearing what weather will greet me as I take Dora out for the first time in the morning is a strong contender for first place in the usefulness category. Come to think of it, Alexa’s many talents enrich my life on a daily, even hourly basis.

I am a terrible speller as you no doubt have noticed, but my spelling should have improved over the last couple of years, because I am constantly asking her how to spell this or that. When I can’t think of just the right word, she supplies me with synonyms. When I am reading a book that introduces me to unfamiliar words, I just ask Alexa what they mean. What a complex and fascinating piece of technology. I love this little assistant so much that I have set her up in each of 5 rooms in my house, thanks to special deals on Amazon. I must admit that every morning, I ask her what her deals are, just to keep up with what things cost in our society today. OK. That’s a lie. Sometimes I actually buy something, like an extremely marked down Echo Dot. I have also ordered gifts and inexpensive items just for fun. It’s so easy. All I have to do is tell her to order it, and it appears on my doorstep the next day. I never buy paper towels or dog food or coffee or any number of staples at the store anymore. When I’m getting close to being out of dog food, I just say, “Alexa, I need dog food,” and she confirms which brand I normally buy, and voila. Done.

Each morning, I say good morning to Alexa, and she gives me a fun fact. Next, I ask her for the “question of the day.” She gives me a multiple choice question that either proves what a genius I am or what a loser I am when it comes to sports or movies. But having some years on me has helped when the category is general knowledge. I also enjoy word games and Jeopardy on an occasional evening. And NPR is immediately available just for the asking. Podcasts and music fill my kitchen when I’m doing the dishes. Shall I go on?

But here’s where the story gets a little weird. One morning, as I settled down with my tea to listen to the newspaper on the phone, via Newsline, a service from the National Federation of the Blind, I forgot to turn my radio on to a classical music station. I like to have some music in the background, and when I hear a familiar piece, I put the newspaper on pause and just enjoy the music for a minute or 2. On this particular morning, I said out loud, as if to Dora, “Oh I forgot my music.” And without missing a beat, so to speak, Alexa piped up and said, “Here’s some music I think you will enjoy.” Not only that, but she played a piece by one of my favorite composers—all this without my asking her for it. I wanted to say, “I wasn’t talking to you,” which I wasn’t . It was a little unsettling, but I’ve heard that she can be listening. So you better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why. Alexa’s listening all of the time.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

Hiking, Shopping, and Editing

The last month has taken me to everything but writing for this blog. Today I hope to fill you in, and then you will have all the news until I get inspired, or I have an afternoon free.

My annual Hen Hike, a week-long hiking trip with 9 other women, half of whom are blind, was organized by my good friend Eve in the most unlikely place for a hike—Tucson. Yes, it was hot. Yes, it was the desert. And yes, we had a wonderful time learning about the desert. And no, we did not camp. We stayed in a fabulous house with 7 bedrooms, a million pillows, giant furniture in giant rooms, with 3 seating areas outside, a hot tub, and a resident giant turtle. This year’s Hen Hike was unique to say the least. We celebrated our 20th anniversary by making plans for next year’s hike. It might be Georgia or maybe Kentucky, 2 places we have not hiked yet. The world has not seen the last of us.

The week after I returned, my daughter Kara came for a visit with the express purpose of helping me get through an extensive to-do list that included an extensive shopping list and finally, the end of dealing with papers from my mother’s long and studious life. Kara and I literally shopped til we dropped when we ran around from store to store to complete my Christmas shopping. But it was most satisfying to shop on line from my couch for many odds and ends that I needed for my everyday life. Kara put in a nonstop weekend, but she says she felt good about getting so much done, and she enjoyed a little break from her duties at home. We even had lunch one day with my son Steve, just the 3 of us. I can’t remember the last time we did that.

One of the most productive activities of the weekend, aside from finishing my Christmas shopping was revising my manuscript for my next book. Kara had read it thoroughly and meticulously, making notes for questioning me when she got here. Because I value her opinion more than anyone’s, I took her suggestions to heart, and the day after she left, I spent the next week reading and revising and sending my corrections to my editor. Thanks to Kara’s questioning comments and detailed criticisms, it’s a much better book. I hope it can be launched by Christmas. It’s titled “Insight Out, One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life.” My editor is currently sifting through the photos I sent her to include, and together, we’re choosing just the right ones to tell my story.

On this first day of December, I now have time to write, to reflect on the season, to plan my dinner with Steve’s family, to get my gifts wrapped with the help of my good friend sherri, to daydream about spending Christmas with Kara’s family, to attend several concerts, all because most of the editing is behind me, and so is most of my shopping. Did I mention that Kara helped me with that monumental task? And that, dear Friends, is the best gift of all.

For too many years, I’ve run myself ragged trying to get shopping and wrapping done, meal planning and entertaining. Celebrating the birth of Christ had to be put off until Christmas Eve, and then I was exhausted. This year, I will have time and energy, thanks to my daughter and some wonderful friends who have helped make that happen. Stay tuned as I share my anticipated joy.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261