I ordered a swim cap to protect my hair, which has suffered damage from the chlorine in the pool at the Y. I hate having to wear one, but I laughed at the description in the listing on amazon. It said “retro.” Well, that’s OK with me, because at my age, I’m retro too.

In fact, lots of my belongings are retro. While my friends who are blind use fancy-dancy high-tech gadgets to take notes, create documents, and post notes on Facebook, I use one of the earliest pieces of technology there is. It’s so old you can’t buy a new one anymore. It’s called Braille ‘n Speak. No braille display comes with this little wonder, but you have to know braille to use it. A keyboard that resembles that of a Perkins Braille-Writer is used to store data, which is retrieved by listening to synthesized speech. Various key commands allow the user to read line by line, sentence by sentence, or the whole document at once. Other features include backspace, delete, insert, speak faster or slower, louder and softer, and even more. I use the calculator function and sometimes the stopwatch function when I’m practicing a speech. As I said earlier, they don’t make these valuable gems anymore, so I pray mine never dies. Blind friends smerk at my use of such a dinosaur, but I can find a phone number or jot down a note faster than they can boot up their high-tech, multi-thousand-dollar gadgets.

Those of us who use the Braille ‘n Speak can’t play games, send email or texts, or make phone calls, but for storing information and taking notes, I’ll be a loyal fan of this retro piece of equipment.

Every time I go through security at the airport, I fear that their scanning equipment will wipe out my whole life that is stored in my BNS, but since they have no idea what it is, it usually passes through without a second glance.

I’m sure there are other retro belongings lerking in my house, like articles of clothing. My daughter took my granddaughter to LL Bean to shop for a top for me. “See anything that looks like Grandma?”

My grandaugher looked around and said, “This whole store looks like Grandma.”

So what’s that supposed to mean? Retro? Flannel shirts? Lined jeans? No nonsense boots? Yet, that’s me all right. Retro.

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

Book Club Choice

Like many of you who enjoy reading, I belong to a book club which meets monthly. And like most book-lovers, I choose books in the genre most interesting to me, but when you’re in a book club, you might be required to read something you wouldn’t choose for yourself.

Today, the leader of our group announced that my book is now available on amazon, and she also announced that next month, we’ll be discussing my book, “Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life.” Now some of the women might not choose a memoir type book, but they all bought a paperback edition of my book from me and will be prepared with questions and comments next month. I can hardly wait.

This book is not just the story of my life but a narrative of what it’s like to be a blind person in a sighted world. I think it’s a fascinating topic, if I do say so myself. Just kidding. But I do believe that these women will say to themselves, “Hmm. I never thought of that.” In fact, I hope that all readers of this book will say that. The women in this book club all know that I have children and grandchildren, but have they ever thought of how I kept track of them when they first started walking? Or how I babysat my grandchildren? They all presume I graduated college, but have they considered how I got my assignments done, took notes in lectures, or typed my papers without being able to see them? They all know that I’m an active person, but have they ever heard the stories of my adventures in Norway as a cross-country skier? Who cares where I was born or where I went to school? But someone might care about how I survived dodgeball as a kid or how I rode a bike with limited vision. And I suspect that they don’t know how I became a pretty good ballroom dancer after missing my performing days.

I hope that while discussing this book, the women in this group will share their own experiences that might be just as surprising as my own.

And here’s a shameless plug. If you belong to a book club, I hope you will consider choosing this book to discuss. If you belong to a group that needs a speaker, please consider asking me to present. I have years of experience as a Toastmaster, and I love talking about my books. Think about it, and contact me at


And thanks.

You can order my book from Amazon or at

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

A Peek Into My New Book

“Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life” is now available on Amazon or through

Today I’d like to offer you a peek into the book by giving you the Forward. Here it is.

Tipping the aspirin into my hand, I accidentally let one fall into the sink. I tried to retrieve it, but it had already slipped down the drain.

Oh well, I thought. I have this huge bottle. There are plenty more.

But when that bottle is nearly empty, I won’t be so casual about the loss of a pill here or there.

It’s the same with anything we value. If we know we have plenty more where that came from, who cares if we lose some? Take money, for instance. It’s easy to be generous when your wallet is full. It’s tempting to spend freely when you have plenty of money.

But what about opportunities that have slipped down the drain, like making someone smile, doing someone a favor, showing affection, forgiving a transgression, asking for forgiveness, or sharing a story about your childhood with your grandchildren?

Indeed, what about our days in this life? Each time I let one slip down the drain, wasting it, I can’t be sure there are plenty more. It’s good to think of that when I make decisions about what to do or not do with each day as it comes and goes.

Now that all the people in my family who were older than I are gone, I find myself wishing I’d had the forethought to ask more questions about their lives before I came along. The world did not begin with me. I missed a whole lot of it. Not that I needed to know everything about everyone, but even though I heard stories from time to time, I still wonder why and how and when and where some important pieces of the story of my family turned out the way they did.

My descendants may not be at all interested in my history, but just in case they are, I’m not letting my story slip down the drain.

Mary Hiland

/Author of

“Insight Out: One Blind woman’s View of Her Life”


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

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

My New Book, Just Launched

WraparoundCover.jpgFor many years, good friends have urged me to write a book about my life. As I approach a mile-stone birthday, this seems like a good time to launch my second book, “Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life.” Here is the synopsis, which you will see on the back cover. I hope you will be inspired to buy a copy through

Have you ever had questions about how a blind person survives in a sighted world? Have you ever wanted to know more about guide dogs or service animals? If so, did you think that asking such questions would be rude or inappropriate? Have you ever avoided a conversation with a blind person because you didn’t know what to say? Or have you made assumptions that you found out too late really didn’t apply?

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life gives you a peek inside the life of a real live person who is totally blind. While she’s never climbed Mount Everest or sailed across the ocean alone, she reveals her strategies for pursuing a life full of experiences, achievements, and realized goals.

This memoir is constructed not in chronological order, not as a medical history, but as a realistic description of many aspects of the author’s life. While each chapter reveals a new facet of how she meets the demands of living without sight, this is no Pollyanna–like picture. Ms. Hiland tells it like it is. She is always honest. Her observations are authentic, and her story is inspiring.

Her personality is on full display. You’ll feel her frustrations, celebrate her victories, and share in her sense of humor. You’ll gain new understanding of how blind people are different and how they are not. Myths and misperceptions are explored through thoughtful, sensitive, and personal stories—some of which may even give you a new perspective on your own life.

This book is for you if you know someone who is blind and would like to understand that person better. It’s for those who are experiencing vision loss and need a positive perspective to deal with this traumatic time in their lives. It’s for sighted people who are simply curious, who want to learn more about people who are not like them. And it’s for people who are blind, so they can say with the author, “Yes. This is how it is.”

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