Apologies Accepted, Lessons Learned

Some of my loyal readers have asked for the end of the story of my confiscated and abused items at the security check in the Columbus and Syracuse airports.

I did report to tsa.gov that at the Syracuse airport, , my lap top computer apparently was taken apart and then slapped together, just enough to appear that it was intact. When I got home and lifted it out of my back pack, it fell apart in my hands. I also reported that in the Columbus airport, when I was asked to remove all electronic equipment, I had forgotten to take my Braille and Speak out of my back pack, and when the TSA worker apparently took it out to examine it, he or she did not return it to my pack. Even though the website said that this site was not actively maintained, I was delighted to receive an apology from both TSA supervisors. The one in Syracuse said she would pursue this matter and take action. The one in Columbus invited me to call him to discuss it further. So I did. He couldn’t have been nicer or more apologetic. He took the time to watch the video of my going through security, and he described exactly what he saw. The worker did indeed take the Braille and Speak out of my pack, examined it, and placed it in a bin and sent it on its way. His mistake was that he did not return it to my pack or say a word to me about it, so I was unaware that it had been placed in a separate bin. I did not look for it, because I thought I had forgotten to take it out, which I had, so I assumed that it was still in my pack. The supervisor claimed full responsibility and promised that he would make sure more training was done. Clearly, the wrong-doing here was that the TSA agent did not communicate with me about the object in question. However, I made a few mistakes along the way myself.

From now on, I will have identification on every item that I think might be questioned, including my purse, my phone, my shoes, and all other special equipment that I carry, such as lap top, Braille and Speak, and Victor Trek. Having possessions taken out of my control can lead to disaster, so it’s up to me to never assume. Then, when I retrieve my belongings out of the bins, I will handle each item myself and make sure they are all there. My extreme anxiety about the loss of my lifelines to the world could have been avoided if I had taken the time to check each item. If it slows down the line behind me, too bad. They can go around me. I’m not going through that again. Thanks for asking, but my world is now back in place.

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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Flying No Fun and Getting Worse

We all know that flying isn’t fun anymore. Maybe you remember the days when we got dressed up to fly, but these days, I wear the most comfortable clothes I own, because I know that’s about all the comfort I’m going to get.

Sometimes I get a “pre-check” boarding pass, which means I don’t have to take off my shoes or jacket. But sometimes not. I never know until I am handed my ticket. And who makes these decisions anyway? When I flew to Syracuse a week ago, I had to take off my shoes and remove even my chips and cookies from my backpack. I have to carry some sort of food, because there is none offered, not even a cup of coffee on short hops. But on the way home, I kept on my shoes. Go figure. I thought the metal in my back would set off alarms, but nothing happened, and nobody swabbed my palms to check for residue of explosives. I guess that fad is over. It seemed that I was sailing through security, but when I got back to my house, all hell broke loose.

My Braille and Speak, a small device I use constantly for keeping phone numbers, my calendar, appointment dates and times, notes for speeches and to-do lists, in other words, my whole life, was missing. I had discovered its absence when I got to my daughter’s in Syracuse, but I blamed myself for possibly forgetting to put it in my backpack. But when I got home, it was nowhere in my house, which indicated that a TSA worker must have either forgotten to put it back in my pack when he was done examining it, or he purposely put it aside for rejection. Either way, it wound up in “lost and found.” But I did not know that until the next morning. Overnight, I agonized over the loss of all my important data and I prayed to God and to whoever it is that is in charge of lost items. I’m not Catholic, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to pray to him.

Meanwhile, as I was unpacking my backpack, and I lifted out my lap top, I was outraged to see that it was in pieces. Fortunately, my friend Dan, who had brought me home from the airport, was able to see that apparently, the TSA people in Syracuse had opened up the battery case and had only closed it just enough to keep it from falling apart, that is, until I picked it up. So I was screwed at both ends of the TSA line. When I tried to lodge a complaint, I was told to go to www.tsa.gov. But when I went there, it said that due to lack of funding, this site would not be actively maintained. Now who do you think made that decision?

On the other hand, I only had to deal with 1 ideot sky cap who wanted to force me into a wheelchair and push me up the ramp in Detroit. When I told her I didn’t need a wheelchair, she suggested that she just push me up the ramp and then let me walk. What a ridiculous notion. I’m afraid I got a little loud and a little firm with her. I thought those days of forcing wheelchairs on blind passengers were over. Not so.

Then there are the seats that look like they were made for children. I am not a big person, but I only had about an inch on each side of my hips, and the guy next to me not only hogged the arm rest between us but let his coat fall over into my lap. And when I needed to get into my backpack, which was under the seat in front of me, I literally had to stand on my head. I mean my behind actually had to come off the seat in order for me to reach down to retrieve something I had dropped.

And my last annoyance to share with you is that I left my guide dog at home, because there was no way she would fit at my feet, even in the bulkhead row, which they laughably call “comfort seating.” Dora has a long body and long legs, so she not only would be taking up the foot space of my seatmate, never a popular situation, but also her feet would be sticking out in the aisle. When you have nowhere to put your feet when you have a guide dog down there, you have no choice but to put your legs in the overhead. That was meant as a joke, but flying these days is no joking matter. If anybody knows someone who would like to make some money driving me to Syracuse, we’re willing to pay the equivalent of airfare. And that’s no joke.

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

Thanksgiving Musings

“Cold, still, quiet morning” were my thoughts as I stood in the back yard, waiting for Dora to pick just the right spot. The duty done, I turned and went back into the house. My kitchen is clean—no potatoes peeled or cranberries in the pan, no turkey resting in a roaster, waiting to be rubbed down with butter and salt and pepper, no giblets floating in a pan of water that in a few hours would be gravy. No, just a cup of coffee waited for me in its insulated cup. I could have taken it back outside to reflect on thanksgiving pasts, but it’s more comfortable here in my recliner.

The first one I can remember was at my grandma’s far away in the country. Her tiny cabin was almost bursting at the seams with relatives, and her even tinier kitchen was filled with the women working elbow to elbow to prepare the feast. the men stood around with whiskey and soda in glasses that were refilled as they waited. At age 4 or so, I had my first experience with an outhouse. It was cold and smelly, and worst of all, I had accidentally dropped the candy I had been clutching in my hand down the hole, and that was tragic indeed.

Fast forward several years, and the next memorable Thanksgiving featured a drive with my grandmother, mother and brother to another relative’s home in Indiana. We had a flat tire, and my brother, on leave from the Air Force, fixed it with no fuss. The relative was a “little person,” so her countertops and sink in the bathroom were low enough for me as a tiny girl, and I was fascinated. their home was filled with beautiful antiques, as they were antique dealers. My mother worried that I would knock over their thousand-dollar lamp, so she watched me like a hawk.

When I had a family of my own, we hosted my husband’s family (He was the oldest of 12.) at tables set up in our family room. today, I cannot imagine how we fit everybody in. the next year, we rented a room at a church, but there was so much room that it felt cold and strange, with 3 feet between each seated guest.

One of my favorites brought 11 single friends together at my house. I had invited those who had no family nearby and would otherwise be spending the day alone. I told the smokers in the group that there would be no smoking and no football on this thanksgiving. One of the smokers admitted to me later that he couldn’t imagine a Thanksgiving without football, but later, he sent me the sweetest thank-you note saying it was the best thanksgiving he had ever had.

The most fun one of all came many years later, when my daughter was living with me while she earned her masters’ at OSU. We drove to another town to have dinner at an elegant restaurant. The food was good, but the fun part came afterward. We changed into jeans and sneakers in the car and began walking out of town on the bike trail there. When we reached the outskirts of town, I released my Seeing Eye ® dog and let her run and sniff to her heart’s content. Her nose was like a little shovel and she tracked some animal through the leaves. “This just made her little doggy day,” Kara observed. Mine too.

The funniest happened the Thursday after Kara and Scott’s wedding. Kara insisted that because Scott loved mashed potatoes, we should make 20 pounds’ worth. Of course, we had oodles left over, but it’s hard to convince a woman in love that she might be overdoing it. I loved that thanksgiving, because we’d eat the first course, then open some wedding gifts, have the main part of the meal, with mounds of mashed potatoes, and then go open some more gifts. By eating gradually, we could savor the food that had been prepared with love, and not rush through it. Dessert ended a long and luxurious afternoon.

I hope you all make lovely memories today.

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

A Cousin Appears from Cyberspace

Writing a blog has many benefits, such as updating your friends on what’s happening in your life, sounding off about a subject you’re passionate about, or bragging about your grandchildren. OK. I admit it. I use this page for all of these reasons, but today, I want to share a discovery I made, through or because of my blog.

I was surprised to learn the other day that while seeing if my “About Mary” needed updating, people really do read that section and that you can actually make a comment there. I guess I never read that far down the page to see that some people I know had left messages. I’m sorry I never responded to you, if you were one of them. But I did respond to one who had left her comment in June of last year. OMG. I hope she didn’t think I had blown her off. She said that our grandmothers were sisters, naming them and mentioning other memories of having visited when we were very young. . I was absolutely ecstatic. I thought I was the only living person in my generation in my family, as my mother once said, “the last little leaf on that branch.” I have been sad about that, because I thought there was no one left in this world who could reminisce with me, who could share memories, and fill in the missing pieces. I figured out that her mother and mine were first cousins, but I don’t recall my mother’s talking about her or her children. Now here appears my second cousin, which to me is just as important as a first cousin. I won’t mention her name here, except to say that she knows who she is, and although I have responded to her twice and have sent her my email, I am waiting with eager anticipation to hear from her again. Maybe she isn’t as thrilled as I am to find a cousin I didn’t know I had, because it has taken 18 months for me to read her note. . She said in her comment that she had sent my mother some family information when Mother was working on our genealogy but of course, being totally blind, I haven’t seen it. But I intend to try to find her on Facebook or other social media. Her first name is the same as my beloved aunt, and I suspect there was a reason for that. Maybe not, but it might be a connection even she didn’t know we had.

At this time of year when families gather for the holidays, it’s especially meaningful to me to know that this woman exists, so even if we never connect again, it’s a gift to me to have heard from her, if only just this once.

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

What’s a Hen Hike?

As many of you know, I go on a hiking trip each October with a group of women friends, half of whom are blind. We call it the Hen Hike, (HH.) What made this year’s HH extraordinary for me was first, that it was in northeastern Ohio, at Punderson State Park, so I didn’t have to fly, and secondly, that I was able to walk after having spine surgery just six months before. This year’s hike was different from all the 18 previous HH events because two of us brought our dog guides. We knew that the trails would not be as narrow or demanding, such as the ones we’ve hiked in the New England states, where using a guide dog might be a little trickier, considering that we sometimes had to cross streams on a log, hold onto a tree to keep from sliding down a steep hill, or climbing over trees that had fallen over the trail. Ah, those were the good old days, but our sighted guides were always successful in getting us through those challenging spots. Sometimes they had to coach us on where to put our next foot while crossing a creek by stepping from one rock to the next. But this year, while we did have some rocks and roots to negotiate, our biggest challenge was the ankle deep mud we had to slog through, because there was no way to get around that part of the trail. Of course, the dogs loved it. What dog wouldn’t love tromping through muddy water? I guess we had a good time, because each day, we’d come home to the inn, wet, tired, and dirty.

Now I must admit that I only hiked 2 of the 4 days on the muddy trails. My dog Dora had never had this joyous experience before, and she was so excited that she pulled with all her 73 pounds of might, and since we were on trails through the woods, and no sidewalks, I simply could not keep up with her. Furthermore, it was not good for my back to be pulled with such force. I felt pretty beat up those first 2 days, simply by trying to hold onto her and keep her from pulling my arm out of its socket. I tried every command I knew to slow her down, but she was hell-bent on being first, as all guide dogs are, in the line of hikers and one other guide dog, tromping through the woods. The weather was perfect, except for the mud, but that was to be expected, given the heavy rains from the aftermath of Michael.

On the third day, we had my favorite hike of all, 3 miles of walking through a nearby outlet mall. Oh joy of joys, to have ready-made shopping helpers. When we arrived, we set a time and place to meet for lunch, and then 2 by 2, we set off in all directions to hit the stores of our choice. This part of the HH has become a tradition only in recent years. In the beginning, we had some very serious hikers who didn’t even want to stop to buy maple syrup as a souvenir from Vermont, let alone spend an entire day hiking through merchandise. When we met for lunch, we showed each other what bargains we had found, which turned out to be the best marketing strategy there is. We quickly ate our sandwiches and downed our cappuccinos and headed over to get the same treasures for ourselves. that evening, when we showed off our new duds to each other at Happy Hour, we exclaimed that after hiking the next day, we just had to go back one more time for one more chance to buy those jeans, that shirt, those shoes, and even that amazing underwear. On that day, I opted not to hike, as my shins were killing me, so Dora and I relaxed in my room. After a quick lunch in our Happy Hour room, most of us took off again for the shops for that one last deal.

Over the years, the makeup of the HH has changed. We had me, the one who has back issues even now, and then we have Jill, our youngest Hen, who hiked the Grand Canyon with Patty, one of our guides. I suspect that as we age, our hikes will become tamer, but because we are healthy and hardy women, who love to be active in the out-of-doors, we are already planning next year’s hike. . The photos accompanying this post include the sweetest picture of Dora and Delta as they relaxed after a vigorous day of hiking.

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

My Book is Now on Talking Books

This post is primarily for my friends who are blind, but my sighted friends are also welcome to read on.

For almost a year, I’ve been trying to make my book available on talking book, a service of the National Library for the Blind. And today, I am thrilled to announce that it has finally made it to the list of from which books you can choose. The DB number on BARD is 91261.

Here’s the back story. I should have called a friend who works there in the first place, but when I called the NLS, they told me I had to first have it recorded by the Ohio Library for the Blind. Will Reed, who runs that program said they wouldn’t do it, and he named several reasons, all of which I turned around and told him they were the very reasons it should be recorded. He didn’t budge, but in this process, I learned to argue and stick up for what I thought was right. It was important to me to have my book available on talking book, so my friends who are blind could borrow it, just like my sighted friends who can borrow it from their local library. Of course there is only one copy available in the whole Columbus system, and that’s the one I donated, but again, it was more important to me to have people read it than to make a couple of dollars.

Next, I forwarded Reed’s letter and my response to my contact at NLS, and she made sure a copy got into the right hands for decision-making. It’s been a long struggle, but I feel like celebrating, because it’s now accessible to everyone. Thanks for spreading the word. And if you need more information about the talking book program, write to me off line, and I’ll be glad to tell you all about it.

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 or

Dldbooks.com/maryhiland

Good Citizen Meets Jerk Neighbor

In all my years of walking my Seeing Eye ® dogs around my neighborhood, I have never had any trouble with a neighbor until yesterday. Oh, I’ve had to scold a couple for letting there dogs run free when they would race up to my dog with barking, growling, or just wanting to play, but usually, they either would make no reply or would apologize.

but yesterday, this woman, who lives on Deerwood, a couple of streets away was downright rude. We were walking along, when suddenly, Dora felt a need to urinate. She pulled over near the street and squatted. No harm. Urine from a dog cannot be detected, smelled, or seen once it seeps into the ground. I knew that she had only urinated and not defecated, because I had been taught by the Seeing Eye instructors how to tell which form of elimination is happening. It’s a little secret that not many people know about, unless you’re a guide dog handler. I put my hand on her back, and if she’s defecating, her back will be humped. If she is merely urinating, her back will be straight, like a ski slope.

On this particular walk, she chose to squat very near a driveway, where the owner of this driveway was just pulling in at that very moment. She stopped the car, jumped out and screamed, “You’re going to pick that up, aren’t you.” I replied, “I’d be glad to pick it up, but it’s only pee.”

“Oh no it isn’t,” she argued. “I saw her do something else.” Again, I said, “I’d be glad to pick it up, but you’ll have to show me where it is.” I was confident there was nothing to pick up, but I waited. I waited while she took some packages into the house, returned for more packages, went back into the house, and then closed the garage door. I waited some more, expecting her to come charging out, but after several minutes, I realized that she was not coming out. My guess is that she looked again, saw nothing to pick up, and chose to let me stand there waiting for her. She did not have the you know what to say to me, “You’re right.” I wanted to give her all the time she needed to do so, but no acknowledgement, let alone an apology was forthcoming. Finally, I moved on. I always pick up after my dog, and I proudly carry that little plastic bag down the street as a badge of good citizenship. Not all dog guide users are so considerate, just like not all sighted people are jerks, so I encourage anyone reading this blog to give us the benefit of the doubt. If you see a blind person waiting for her dog to finish her elimination, wait before you scream at her. It might take a few seconds to get the bag out of her pocket and unfold it, but give her a chance to be the good neighbor and citizen that she most probably is.

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