About Mary Hiland

Need a keynote speaker? Want a workshop that will wow your conference attendees? Been looking for just the right person to present a sensational sensitivity session? Mary Hiland is an “Advanced Communicator” in toastmasters International, a member of World Champion’s Edge, and is an experienced public speaker.

Hen Hike 18


My annual hiking trip with 11 other women has been the subject of a winning Toastmasters speech and many stories I’ve shared with friends and family over the past 18 years. And here it comes again, only with different characters and new experiences. Each year in October, we gather at a B&B in some part of the country or Canada for a jam-packed 5 days of laughing, sharing, encouraging, hiking, eating, drinking, and discovering, and not necessarily in that order. The one activity we shun is camping. You may also be surprised to learn that we do not engage in gossip or discussion of religion or politics, amazing as that may seem.

We began with a nonstop flight to Boston, a 2-hour and 45-minute shuttle ride to Lebanon, NH, and then about a 20-minute drive to Pearse’s Inn, a rambling rustic lodge. Bunk beds, single beds, and double beds were stuffed into multiple rooms on multiple levels, and random steps appeared out of nowhere, so just navigating the place was an adventure in itself.

Each morning, after a hearty breakfast, cooked to the specific tastes of each of 12 of us, we piled into 2 cars and set off for a trail head in the area. Our hikes took us over leaf-covered trails with rocks and roots to negotiate, made even more challenging because 6 of us are blind. The challenge is not just for the blind hikers, but also for the sighted guides whoo skillfully kept us from turning ankles over wobbly rocks or tripping over protruding roots. Aside from keeping us safe, they describe scenery, shapes of leaves, bark on trees, mosses on rocks, and of course, the autumn colors. Other features this year included roaring water falls, a dramatic escarpment, a grassy ski hill, an ancient cemetery, and rushing creeks under wooden bridges. One of my favorite sights was a man with a great sense of humor, who, on seeing a group of 12 chatty women walking toward him said, “Oh boy, there goes my nice peaceful walk in the woods.”

We walk in pairs with each blind woman walking with a sighted partner, holding onto an arm, a loop on a back pack, or one end of a hiking stick while the other holds onto the other end. We switch partners after lunch, so we have a chance to get to know someone else a little better or catch up on what she’s been doing since last year.

This year’s Hen Hike featured a couple of events that we normally don’t do. One rainy afternoon, we toured a Shaker Museum, which was fascinating. That evening, we had a delicious chilli supper at the home of Joan, one of our guides, and her partner Bob, who did the cooking. what a treat. Earlier that day, we stopped at a country store, unique to the New England area for some shopping for unique gifts. The day before, we had finished our hiking early, so we all agreed to see how we could spend some money at the LL Bean store and the EMs, always popular with hikers and skiers. Even with all this shopping and touring, we managed to walk between 5 and 8 miles a day. Well, we only walked 8 miles one day, but doesn’t that sound impressive?

It was especially impressive to me, since I’ve been struggling with back pain and wondered if I was going to make it. But this year, my doctor treated me to a round of Prednisone, which worked like magic. In addition, I took every opportunity I could to stretch, to sit down, to rest in the car while the others walked an extra hour, and used my ice pack every nighgt. You do what you have to do when you want to do something badly enough. Next year, they’re all coming to Ohio! We don’t have mountains, but we have some great hiking, and I can’t wait to show it off.


Columbus Dispatch Columnist Joe Blundo Comes Through for Me

Blind author explains how she cared for aging mom Joe Blundo The Columbus Dispatch @joeblundo Mary Hiland is not accustomed to feeling helpless. But when her 98-year-old mother broke a hip and was lying cold, hungry and unattended for hours in an emergency room, she had reached a low point, she said. "I felt more blind than usual. Hiland, in fact, is blind. She lost her sight to a genetic retinal disorder as a young adult. It made helping her fiercely independent mother make the transition to assisted living more challenging, but Hiland persevered and learned a lot in the process. The Gahanna resident tells the story in a self-published book, "The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: A Daughter’s Memoir" (available at amazon.com), that offers advice to people on helping an aging parent at the end of life. Hiland, in an interview, said she was late recognizing the signs of dementia in her mother. Once she understood that she could not argue her mother out of her forgetfulness, confusion and depression, she found it easier to accept the situation. "Be open to the possibility of dementia," advised Hiland, 72. Her mother, Regina Wilson of French Lick, Indiana, was a take-charge woman determined to live on her own. When Wilson’s friends began calling Hiland to alert her of Wilson’s decline, she realized that she had to move her to central Ohio. (Hiland’s only sibling, a brother, had died years earlier.) Her mother insisted on moving many more things than she could possibly use in assisted-living unit: martini glasses, cocktail dresses, gardening tools. "I think it’s part of holding onto the past," Hiland said. "I think owning things gave her a little more feeling of power. The two had always enjoyed a close relationship, Hiland said. Wilson didn’t shelter her daughter, despite her eye condition, which left her legally blind by age 18. "She was very, very supportive of anything I wanted to do," said Hiland, who until her retirement served as executive director of the American Council of the Blind in Ohio. Their close relationship kept Hiland from taking things personally when her mother became combative. Enlisting her adult children and some close friends to help her manage was vital, she said. Her daughter worked persistently on organizing Wilson’s belongings. Her son went to the hospital that desperate night to help his grandmother get dressed. "There we were, my son and me, putting a bra on his 98-year-old grandmother," she writes. She ends the book with a journey back to French Lick, a 12-hour round trip by car, to put flowers on her mother’s grave after her death in 2014. The logistics weren’t easy for a blind person, but she had a good reason for doing it. "I had the gift of a loving mother," Hiland said. "A gift I cherish. Joe Blundo is a Dispatch columnist. jblundo@dispatch.com @joeblundo

Safe Roundabouts, an Oxymoron

Last Friday, my friend Tricia and I met a colleague of hers at a roundabout in gahanna. Tricia, an advocate for visually impaired pedestrians, had been to a conference on pedestrian safety that day, and she wanted to demonstrate to the presenter how roundabouts can be deadly for blind pedestrians. I agreed to participate in this exercise only if she could promise to not let me get mown down by motorists.

This particular roundabout had been designed for a T intersection. As we approached the intersection on foot, I immediately determined the first obstacle for a blind pedestrian using a dog guide, who is trained to avoid obstacles like poles. The solution would be to mount a locator sound on the pole, which Tricia and I were most happy to suggest.

Once we located the pole and pushed the button, we listened for a break in the flow of traffic and set out on the crosswalk to reach the island in the middle of this busy road. We had almost reached the island when an irritated driver blasted his or her horn, for what reason I am still trying to discern. But it scared the bejeebers out of me. The next 2 crossings were not as harrowing, but another problem was abundantly clear. Even though lights are flashing, it doesn’t mean that the cars will stop. It only signals to them that a pedestrian is waiting to cross, so please would they mind not running over those pedestrians? The most significant problem is that listening for a break in the flow of traffic is becoming more and more impractical as cars are getting quieter and quieter. Having an audible signal to go with the yellow flashing lights would be of no help, because the cars are not required to stop. that’s the whole idea of a roundabout, to keep the traffic flowing and to avoid t-bone crashes at intersections. But what about running over pedestrians that didn’t hear them coming? I was told that some crosswalks are raised, about the height of a serious speed bump, which could help the visually impaired pedestrian to keep from veering off the crosswalk path, and it might remind drivers that they are indeed crosswalks.

It also helps that the crosswalks are set on the side streets away from the roundabout itself, so that cars coming off the roundabout have a short distance to slow down or even stop for a pedestrian. but then will there be rear-end crashes because of a car stopping just beyond the roundabout? Unfortunately, Tricia and I did not have answers to these important concerns.

It seems to me that the engineers need to put their heads together and come up with a safer way for visually impaired pedestrians to get from one side of the street to the other safely. Come on guys. You are very smart people. You can do this. Lucky for me, I don’t have to deal with roundabouts in my own neighborhood, but the day is coming. Yikes.

First Stop on my Book-Signing Tour

24C01651-5D40-4585-8BC1-6F802BB23D84Writing your book is the easy part; Editing your book takes time and patience; But marketing your book means putting yourself out there and not being bashful about your achievement. When you self-publish a book, one of the advantages, or disadvantages, is that you must do all your own marketing. The advantage is that you get to make your own choices in everything from the design of the cover to where you market the book. As you might be able to see in the photo accompanying this post, I recently spoke to a group of women in the Centerville, Ohio, Red Hat society about “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living, a Daughter’s Memoir.”. Lynda, my life-long friend, sweetened the deal, as she put forth the invitation, came and got me and brought me home the next day, and hosted me at her house. Not only that, but she also assisted me in the presentation by reading 2 selections from the book in my place. This was my first book-reading-and-signing event. Even though I had practiced for days, I was nervous right up until the moment we stood up to take our places. Then the old Toastmasters spirit, for me, and the English teacher mode, for Lynda, kicked in, and away we went. Lynda read with the perfect inflection and cadence, and I felt my delivery was smooth and animated. I guess we did all right, because 10 copies of my book were sold that day. I wish I could sell 10 books every day, but I’m glad I didn’t put myself on a whirlwind book tour. I have 5 over the next month, and that’s enough for me. But if you need a speaker for your club or organization, I will speak to my agent, i.e. me, and we’ll see what we can do.

Three Friends and Two Books

Today, I had my first experience as an author at a book festival. My net gain from this experience was a 3-hour conversation with my friend Dan and an appreciation for real friends. Dan was so kind in picking me up, hauling my 20 books to the book store, and sitting with me the entire time. I might have been able to do it myself, but it would have been really awkward for me. My friends Anna and Jeannette bought the only 2 books I sold today, and I am so grateful for their loyalty.

A few other people stopped at my table, and I tried to engage them in conversation about their experiences with their parents and assisted living, but in time, they each moved on without making a purchase. But Anna and Jeannette were there to show their support and to buy my book. One man, I can only describe as a character, stopped to say hello to each of us authors, and by the time he left, he had given each of us a donation, for some reason that only he understood, so I gave him one of my books. That made 3 books sold today in 3 hours. But as I said, what I gained most was experience. If I should ever attempt to do this sort of thing again, it will only be at a convention or other event where people are there specifically to learn about dementia and assisted living. So if you know of such an event, I would be happy to come and display my book or even talk about it if you like. After all, my Toastmasters experience should be put to good use.

Luckily, the weather was gorgeous, and the company was congenial, so it was a pleasant way to spend a mid summer’s day. Financially speaking, it wasn’t exactly successful, but I met some very nice people, spent some time with friends, and learned a thing or 2 about friendship.

Tooting My Own Horn

Marketing my book, “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living, a Daughter’s Memoir” is taking me down my own bumpy road. It’s rather uncomfortable telling people they should read my book, just because I say it’s really good. Of course, several people wrote glowing advance reviews, so I’m convinced it’s worth reading. The challenge is to get total strangers to buy the book and think it’s worth buying. I have a long list of marketing plans, and I’ve begun the journey by checking off many of the items.

Last Monday, I did my second talk show on closed circuit radio, one of which was VOICEcorps, where I used to work. Besides being a guest with me on the talk show, one of their best readers will be recording my book for on the air. I left a stack of “promo” cards for volunteers who remember me to notice and to pick up. I even gave one of those promo cards to a para transit driver, because she was telling me about having to move her mother into assisted living. Just think of it. I didn’t even bring up the subject. She did. Good thing I have a few cards stashed in my purse for just such rises in that bumpy road. I have 4 speaking engagements lined up, 2 church groups my TTN chapter, and a Red Hat Society. My book club is discussing my book next month. that should be interesting. I’ve given the book to the owner of my beauty shop and asked her to hand it too anyone sitting under the dryer or waiting for color to process. then there are the letters I’ve written to editors of newsletters and newspapers.

You can’t afford to be modest orr self-effacing, when you are trying to sell a product. I don’t intend to get rich, but I would like to cover my expenses. Self-publishing is not cheap, but I like the control it lends me. Even if I had a traditional publisher, I’d still have to do a lot of self-promotion.

The most exciting next step is to participate in a book festival at Grammercy Books at 2424 E. Main St. in Bexley, OH 43209. When I was working for 2 different non profit organizations, I often had to staff a booth, which was extremely uncomfortable for me. This festival is next Sunday, the 27th from 10:00—1:00, so if you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and talk to me.

Yesterday, my granddaughter Meghan was my videographer for my first youtube production. It was fun to work on this project together. I’m thinking about writing my next book. But who has time to write, when there’s already a book waiting to be discovered? I will need to do a lot more horn-tooting before all is said and done. I’ll need to travel over many more miles on that bumpy road of promoting the book, but so far, I’m enjoying the journey.