The Grammar Snob in Me

When someone would ask me , “Who was the teacher who influenced you the most,” I would always say Mrs. Gilpin who taught eighth grade English. I especially loved diagramming sentences. You probably hated it. Most kids did, but I really bought into it. It made so much sense to me to draw those horizontal and vertical lines to make each word of the sentence fit into its own rightful place with its own label. and then there were those diagonal lines for modifiers, such as adverbs, and then those complicated lines with prepositional phrases that were connected to other prepositional phrases. Are you going “Arg.” Well, to each his own, but those lines and names for words such as subject and object have served me well. They have also turned me into a grammar snob. And I’m not talking about the old example of “Winstons taste good like a cigarette should.” “As a cigarette should” just doesn’t appeal to people who smoke. No, I’m talking about the grammatical errors not only in everyday speech, but in books I’ve read and on TV advertisements. Here are some examples in order of disgust.

I once made a whole speech in Toastmasters called “It’s all about me.” People seem to be afraid to use the word “me,” so they use “I” or “myself” incorrectly, all the time, and it gets on my last nerve. Example: If you have any questions, just ask Mark or I.” No. It’s “just ask Mark or me.” I is always the subject and never the object of a sentence. Another example: She gave a beautiful plant to Alan and I.” “I” should never be the object of a preposition, such as “to” in that sentence. In other words, try taking the other person out of the picture, and see how it sounds. “She gave a beautiful plant to I” I don’t think so. ? One more example: “It’s exciting for people like myself.” “Myself” is a reflexive pronoun. Only use it when you are saying something like “I embarrassed myself.” OK. Enough of that.

Next, even a Toastmaster friend of mine has trouble with the difference between “lay” and “lie.” “Lay” takes an object, such as “I am going to lay this book on the table.” Remember how chickens “lay eggs.” They don’t “lie” eggs.” On the other hand, it’s correct to say, “I’m going to lie down,” not “lay down.” If you “lay,” you must have an object, such as a book, or if you insis on saying “lay,” say “I’m going to lay my body down.” Sound a little stilted? Just say “I’m going to lie down.” I even try not to tell my dog to “Lay down.” It’s not that I’m teaching her good grammar, but to keep in practice myself. See? There’s the right use of “myself.”

Here’s a funny one. People don’t like to say the words “dragged” or “hanged.” Examples: I have to drag out the garbage to the curb, and I have dragged out old carpets too, not drug. And “I hung the pictures on the wall,” but “he was hanged for his crime, not hung.” Isn’t this fun? People think that drunk only describes one who has had too much to drink, but it is actually the past participle of drink, as in “I have drunk all my water,” not “drank all my water.” And how about this one? Ever heard somebody say I have ran all day.” Oh please. Spare me. Maybe you can think of some that set your teeth on edge too.

When I was in Toastmasters, I was often the Grammarian, a real role in the meeting’s agenda. When it was announced that I would be the Grammarian that night, everyone would groan. Now you know why.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at


Victory in the world of Talking books, almost

At last, someone at the National Library Service for the Blind has seen the light and has started the process of recording my book. Finally, my friends who are blind and any blind person wanting to read this book, “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir” will be able to borrow it in talking book form. It has also been sent to a service called BookShare, but I haven’t been able to find out yet if it’s available for consumers. Naturally, I’d like to sell more copies, but at this point, I’m more interested in making it accessible for everyone to read.

My book will be read by Jill Ferris, a talking book narrator who has recorded hundreds of books, and the order number will be 91261. It’s not there yet, but I keep checking, so I can shout it to the world when I find it.

Meanwhile, I’ve started my second book. It’s another memoir called “Insight Out, How a Blind Woman Sees her Life.” My thanks to my friends Ashlee and Anna who came up with the second half of the title. Each chapter describes a different facet of my life, all the activities and pursuits that have given me a rich and fulfilling life in spite of blindness. But don’t expect all sweetness and light. It hasn’t all been a picnic, but on the other hand, be assured that I don’t describe in detail the parts that aren’t so happy. While my first book was mostly about my mother’s journey to assisted living and her adjustment there, along with my frustrations and what I learned along the way, this next book is all about me. Well not exactly just about me, but how I have fit into this sighted world. I’ve finished several chapters, and I’ve invited friends to be my alpha readers before I send it to my editor, Leonore Dvorken of dldbooks. You can order my book from

or if you want a Kindle version or a print copy without shipping costs, you can find it on Amazon. Stay tuned.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at

The Uphill Struggle to get my Book Recorded for People Who Are Blind

Making a book accessible for people who are blind is not as easy as you might think. Just call your State Library for the Blind and ask them to record it. Were it that easy, my book, The Bumpy road to Assisted Living a Daughter’s Memoir” would have been available on talking books months ago when I started my campaign for the talking book library to accept it. The director of the Ohio branch enumerated some reasons why they rejected it, and each one was actually a good reason why they should record it and add it to their collection. Rather than write both the objections and my responses, I’ll just summarize my comments, which should reflect the objections. I said in my response, “Yes, my book has been published. Yes, it is self-published, but there are many books on the talking book list that are self-published. Print copies are available through Amazon, and I would be happy to send you one for review. However, the book is available in the Columbus public library system. Several very complimentary reviews have been published for this book, and I even received an email letter from a woman who said my book has changed her life. My book has relevance to over 73 million baby-boomers, in this country alone, who are dealing with elderly parents, experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. While there are several books available on a similar subject, none is exactly like mine. It is obviously written by a blind person, and I know that the Library for the Blind favors books written by people who are blind. It is important to learn how other blind people handle situations such as the ones I describe in my book.

Please note that having it recorded for the talking book library results in absolutely no profit for me. My well-meaning editor has remarked several times that I will make no money from making it available in the library system. I am well aware of that, but it is important to me that my blind friends and indeed blind people everywhere have an equal chance to read what I have been told is a very insightful, touching, humorous, and informative book.

Since the answer still seems to be no, a friend suggested that I try to find funding to have it recorded by Audible. The price for doing so is prohibitive for me, but perhaps enough people will understand the importance of having this kind of information available to everyone, sighted or blind, and would be willing to support a “gofundme” appeal on line.. I’d like to know your opinion before I proceed with researching the price and the process. If your response is a positive one, I’ll get busy and learn what the cost will be and how gofundme works. Thanks in advance for your comments.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at

Sneak Peek

“You should write a book,” many of my friends have said. I did. It was published a year ago, and I called it “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living a Daughter’s Memoir,” (shameless plug) available on But ever since then, I’ve been itching to write a second book. Today, I’m sending you the first draft of the first chapter of “Insight Out, a Memoir.” Let me know what you think.

You may have heard some version of this quote, but I think this is a good place to put it in this book. Blindness “is only part of who I am, not the definition of my life.” Wow. How true this is for me.

I should use it as part of my signature on my email messages. I should get a T-shirt with those words written in puff paint. Blindness is only part of who I am, not the definition of my life. Now, if only the rest of the world would forget the stereotypical image of blindness and view those of us who have a vision impairment as people first. . As you might guess, I’m really big on “people first” language. You will never hear me refer to a group of people who are blind as “the blind,” just as I refuse to say “the elderly,” or “the homeless.” We are people who have personalities, regrets, knowledge, sorrows, happiness, jobs, families, problems, joys, disabilities, and a host of other attributes unique to each of us.

Some of what you read in this book may surprise you, especially if you have never met a person who is blind. Somehow, I seem to always be the first blind person most sighted people have ever met “up close and personal.” Am I the first for you? Well, welcome to my world. In this book, I will talk about many aspects of my life that have relevance to my blindness, but sometimes, what I have to share has nothing to do with being blind, just to illustrate that blindness is not the definition of my life.

This book is also for a person who is experiencing vision loss or who is close to someone who is. You can read all sorts of books about accepting blindness and the stages we go through as we lose vision, but in this book, you will peek inside the life of a person who has experienced the whole journey, from poor vision to total blindness. I will share with you the struggles of recognizing my limitations and the joys of overcoming them and everything in-between. I am 73 as I begin to write this book, but the story begins when I was in the second grade. Even a beginner in math skills can tell that I have had plenty of time to adjust to blindness and make my life as close as possible to what I want it to be.

When people meet me at first, especially those who have never met a blind person before, and they learn about my accomplishments, which are only everyday activities that most people, at least in the U.S. enjoy without a thought, they are impressed beyond belief. the first comment they make is, “You are so amazing,” or “awesome” or “inspirational.” Later in this book, you will learn why I think these reactions are ridiculous and unwarranted. Naturally, if I had become totally blind overnight and then proceeded with life as I have, I might have agreed, but as I said, my blindness sneaked up on me and gradually changed the path of my life. It didn’t ruin my life, just altered it to make me work a little harder to live it the way I wanted to.

I have been told that my sight has been replaced with insight. I’m not sure that’s true, but let’s go with it and see if it fits the title of this book.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at

Technology, My New Best Friend

The biggest and brightest star in the technology world for people who are blind or visually impaired are the “smart glasses,” brought to the accessibility scene by a company called AIRA. If you’re blind and you’ve ever wished you could have a sighted guide to crawl into a pair of glasses and lead you through unfamiliar territory, help you shop independently, read a menu, or a handwritten birthday card, AIRA has a solution for you.

Having just purchased my first month’s membership, I’m still learning which buttons to push and which tabs on my phone to tap for best results, but so far, it’s the most independent I’ve felt since getting my first dog guide.

Oh please don’t ask me to explain how it works, because it’s absolute magic to me. But I can tell you what I do on my end to make it work. 3 pieces of technology need to be fully charged before I step out the door. One is about the size of a bar of soap that provides the wifi as you travel outside your home. The glasses, which look pretty much like a pair of sun glasses with a tiny camera on one ear piece, need to be charged as well. When you press a button on the glasses, it calls an AIRA agent, who answers almost immediately on my iphone. No appointments needed. He or she describes what they see through the glasses as if I were looking through them myself.

As users of the service, we are called “explorers.” For my first exploration, I asked my agent to go along with me as I walked along my street, which was in the process of being completely removed and replaced. Monster trucks with nerve wracking backup beepers and deafening noises made taking a walk in my neighborhood a scary venture. At the end of the block, they had totally ripped out the corner, so now the sidewalk was a challenge as well. Although I have the best dog guide in the world, I wanted to have someone along, just to affirm that she was taking me the right way around this dangerous obstacle. She did it like a champ, without a single word from me, and it was extra gratifying to hear my agent confirm that we were back on the right track. And here’s my second venture with AIRA. In recent years, I’ve become lazy about labling my clothes, noting colors, patterns, or messages on shirts. One night last week, I put on my AIRA glasses, pushed the little call button, and in a minute or so, my agent and I set to work, sorting my summer clothes. We’ve had a very long winter here in Ohio, so I hadn’t seen some of my dresses and tops for many months and couldn’t even remember buying some of them. That’s because the minute I got them home from the store last summer, winter set in. As I held up each garment, and my female agent described it, I’d put it in a pile of other clothes of a similar color. But I have so many summer clothes that soon, I ran out of spots on the bed for more piles. and then there was the challenge of some items that had several colors that went with several other items. when we ended the session, I realized that my room looked like a cyclone had hit, and I was more confused than ever. Was this a solid blue or a blue background with white flowers? the problem was that I simply had too many clothes.

Then old Technology Came to the Rescue, the facetime feature on my iphone. I called my daughter, who lives in another state, and problem solved. I could have contacted an AIRA agent again, but there’s nothing like a daughter’s honesty and keen eye for my particular style and color. At one point, I said, “Hold on a minute. I’m going to put this outfit in the other closet.” “What happened?” she asked in alarm. “It went black.” “Don’t worry,” I said. “I just put you in my pocket for a minute.” Only a daughter could find that funny. While the AIRA agents and the Be My Eyes volunteers are talented and efficient, it’s more fun to joke around with a daughter. But when a daughter is not around, the next best person is an AIRA agent, whether navigating a construction area or your summer clothes closet.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at

Book Review

It was Thursday night and almost time for our favorite TV show, MASH. Kids had to be put to bed, dinner dishes washed, and laundry done and folded. Then the theme song played, and we settled down for the most entertaining hour of the week. I loved all the characters, but it was Hawkeye who completely stole my heart. I loved his playful, sometimes biting, sarcasm mixed with compassion for his patients. No wonder the nurses swooned whenever he walked across the compound. But did they know that Alan Alda, the man who played that iconic character, was not only a talented actor but also an author, playwright,, director, and philosopher? I certainly didn’t, that is, until I read “Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.” Throughout this fascinating autobiographical work, I learned how Alan Alda became who he is. His stories of growing up in show business, essays about life’s lessons, and speeches he has delivered to high school and college graduates are a treat to read, especially for those of us who use talking books or Commercial Audio, because the narrator was none other than Alda himself. His sincere delivery and witty commentary made me wish that I could be in his circle of friends. Laughter is vitally important too him, so I’m guessing he’s fun to be around. In one of the chapters about his experience with MASH, he reminisces about the hours his cast members spent waiting for their turn for the cameras. Instead of sitting in their dressing rooms alone, studying their scripts, they sat on chairs in a circle, not just rehearsing, but telling jokes and laughing at each other’s stories. Their sense of family was carried right along with them as they stepped into their parts in the scene. Also important to him is love, as he talks a lot about his devotion to his wife Arlene, who is a well-known author as well.

I had the privilege of being in the audience when they both were on the Chautauqua stage, two years ago, when the theme for that week was writing. I chose that week to attend The Chautauqua Institution in New York, because at that time, I had been working on my own book, a memoir about moving my reluctant mother into assisted living. I wanted to learn from the experts. . Imagine my delight when I knew I was in the presence of this prolific artist. He sat in a rocking chair on stage, along with his wife, and their host Roger Rosenblatt, and we, the audience, had the pure delight of eves-dropping on their witty and pithy conversation. At the time, I knew Alan Alda only as Hawkeye, but since I’ve read three of his books, I know now that he is so much more.

The other two books I thoroughly enjoyed were “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed” and “If I Understood what You Said, Would I Have This Confused Look On My Face?” The titles alone make you think of Hawkeye, don’t they? “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is not narrated by Alda, but it’s well worth reading anyway. The other two give you the bonus of hearing the voice of Hawkeye. Even if you are too young to have seen Alda in action on stage, in movies, or on a TV screen, you will find all his works entertaining and inspiring.

If you are a talking book subscriber, you can find all three of these books on BARD. Here is the complete title and DB number of my favorite.

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself DB 64972

And BTW, I did finish my book, “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living a Daughter’s Memoir, and you can find it on Amazon or


New Family Member

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was the day we decorated the graves of soldiers and loved ones, followed by picnics, a day at the beach, or the first dip in the pool. While the decoration part has been forgotten by most of us, I’m glad to hear about certain groups who plant thousands of flags in a field to commemorate the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces. If you haven’t seen one of these fields, you’ve missed a moving experience. So why did I not show a photo of one of these memorial fields of flags? Mostly, because I don’t have one.

But I do have a photo that commemorates another aspect of this holiday to be celebrated. Families gather to share food and fun, and my family celebrated a new member, and her name is Marley. My granddaughters, Meghan and McKenzie adopted a sweet Golden Retriever puppy, and she met my Dora today.

When she first arrived this morning, I took Dora out in the front to meet and greet, and we all know how dogs get to know each other. After the preliminary inspections, we all trooped out to the back yard for lots of “ahs” and “Oh how cute” and “See how nice they are playing.” Of course Dora was much more interested in having Steve toss the ball for her, but at least she didn’t run over her little guest as she ran back to have it thrown again. She’d stop and wait until Marley got out of the way before she’d run back to Steve. After running from one fence to another to say hello to neighboring dogs, who were just as interested to see the new kid on the block, Marley seemed content to lie in the grass while we humans had our picnic inside the screened in patio. Dora came in with us, not to beg, but to bounce the ball now and then to remind us that she was still waiting for someone, anyone, to notice that the ball was not being thrown.

We don’t know how big Marley will get to be, but I’ll keep you posted with more adorable pictures.