I came. I saw. I conquered.

It was 4:30 in the morning, and I was sound asleep. But suddenly, I was wakened by a sharp succession of tweets. I quickly ran over in my mind which piece of technology could be yelling at me to pay attention to it. My phone? My lap top?? Nothing I own sounded like that. Then I recognized it as a cricket, a very large cricket, and the sound was coming from my bedroom. I was sure of it.

This is the time when you roll over and tap your husband on the shoulder and say, “Wake up Honey. I hear a noise.”

Then he says, “It’s nothing. Go back to sleep.”

Then you say, “but I think it’s a cricket. You’ve got to get up and get it out of here.”

But there is no husband, so I called my guide dog Dora. She does not sleep with me. She sleeps in the guest room, which she thinks is her room.

“Dora,” I called. “Come. Get up here in bed with me.” She did, but when I put my arm around her, I saw that she was trembling. She was afraid too. She would be no help.

“I guess I’ll have to be the man of the house,” I thought, as I gingerly swung my legs over the bed and touched my bare feet to the floor. Tweet tweet came the noise again. I hesitated. Was it closer now? I stomped across the bedroom floor, hoping to scare it into a crack in the floorboards or into the closet. I couldn’t put my shoes on, because maybe it had jumped into one of them. Stomp stomp stomp I went across to the hallway. Tweet Tweet Tweet Tweet the sound was louder now. Was it following me? I stomped into the bathroom, but it didn’t follow me in there. Back into the bedroom I stomped and told Dora we were going outside to pee. She thought that was a grand idea. She did, and then we came back into the house, hoping to hear that it had died or something. But no. Tweet tweet tweet tweet.

As I entered the hallway, I stood still and listened again. The solution to the mystery was slowly taking shape through my foggy brain. Then like the proverbial light bulb coming on, I knew what to do.

I went downstairs and grabbed the little foot stool, brought it upstairs and put it against the wall. Slowly and cautiously, I reached for the smoke detector and grabbed it. I nearly dropped it when it went tweet tweet tweet tweet. I carried it down to the kitchen and set it on the counter. I considered taking a hammer to it, but I remembered how to open the face, and there they were, two little double A batteries, lying side by side so innocently. As I wrestled the first one out of place, the second one gave a weak little tweet. “Yes, your little buddy has left you, and you will soon follow,” I said with just a little menace.” I sighed with relief as I considered how it lay there, like a fallen soldier, its weapons rolling across the counter. Satisfied, I quietly went back to bed, hoping I had indeed done the job. By now, it was 5:00 in the morning. How was I going to get back to sleep after all that commotion, being wakened by the noise, being sure it was a bug in my room, taking Dora out in the dark, discovering the smoke detector, and then killing it? But you know what? I did go back to sleep, because for once in my life, I won.

aac

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Silver Linings

Whether an event is monumental or insignificant, it’s the little snippets of life that come to mind when reminiscing. If I make it through this pandemic, and I read through my journal entries, or if I don’t, and my descendants comb through my internet history, we will smile at the “silver linings” we have encountered through this historic experience. History books will reveal the horrific numbers and other heartbreaking facts, but the conversations we hear and overhear are what pull us through.

I was talking with a customer service rep, when she asked me to “hold on for a sec.” Her cat had just walked across her keyboard. Obviously, her casual manner tipped me off that she was working from home, but the cat made it especially endearing. I am grateful that we have the technology for people to work from home, so I can still get my business done.

The first Monday of the pandemic, as I walked with Dora, the only sounds were my footfalls and a few birdsongs. How peaceful it was not to hear traffic roaring on the highway about a half mile away or even cars on the local streets. It was also rather eerie, as if we were the only beings left on the planet. But when we did meet another human on our route, they would say hello, which was something new, Some even were inclined to chat, since we had all day.

I am not a phone chatter in my normal life, but I’ve found a joy in calling someone I haven’t talked to in years. It helps fill the hours, and it makes people feel cared for and not forgotten, especially if they live alone. One friend who is married wondered why nobody else called her. “It’s because you have a husband to keep you company,” I said with just a little envy. Being alone 24 hours a day can get wearisome, but at least, I don’t have to worry about whether I’m getting on his nerves or if I should be doing something to entertain him or cook what he likes instead of cooking to please myself.

My hair and eyebrows have gone wild, and my nails are a mess, but look at the money I’ve saved for the past 3 months. I’ve not only been able to contribute to my savings but also to donate to those in need.

I used to watch the evening news while I ate dinner, but it’s so depressing that I read instead. I take time to pay attention to birdsongs and try to identify them. I take more time to play with Dora and to take her for long walks, while we both are able. I notice and cherish the feel of a favorite juice glass in my hand. I am stopped mid thought when a Chopin waltz comes on, and I just sit there and listen to the whole thing.

I miss going to the Y, but my hair has become healthier since it’s not been subjected to chlorine twice a week. I won’t get to ride my tandem bike this summer, because it’s impossible to keep 6 feet away from my captain, but maybe I’ll discover a new way to enjoy the outdoors.

I am thankful that I am well. And I will stay well by obeying the rules and being patient. Patience has never been my strong suit, so maybe I’ll prove to myself that I can develop it.

Maybe you have thoughts to share on finding the silver linings. Please do share. It will do us all good.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Tribute to My Mother

A tribute to my mother appears in the last chapter of my recently published book, Insight Out, One Blind Woman’s View of Her life. Here are some excerpts rom that chapter.

Etta Regina Hagen Oliver Wilson
1916–2014

And now we come to my mother, the most influential woman in my life.…

I’m grateful for the education and lessons in life my mother gave me.

In her role as mother, Regina Wilson led a regimented life as an example to her children and as a model wife of the 1940s, ‘50s, and on until her widowhood and eventual death. She strove to be the perfect housekeeper and the most attentive parent in the universe. …….

I am so grateful to her for doing something that had to be very hard for her.

She allowed me and even encouraged me to be as independent as I wanted. She helped me assemble a wardrobe for college, helped me pack all my records and other essentials for college life, and then helped me move into my dorm at Ohio State, a hundred miles from home. When I think of how hard it must have been to send her visually impaired daughter off to college with a white cane and a little trepidation, I suspect she shed a few tears on the drive home while my dad held his tears back. I applaud their bravery and trust to let me go.

I always wanted to emulate Aunt Lynn, and in some ways, I still do. But the truth is, I am the next generation of my mother. I have a plaque that reads, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all.”

I don’t pretend to have lived up to her standards, to have matched her IQ, or to have the strength and tenacity to endure the kind of hardships she had throughout her life, but I do recognize that I am my mother’s daughter in many ways.

When my brother, Dick, my mother’s son from her first marriage, was killed in a car crash, I was 19. He lived in Sarasota with his wife and her little girl. They were expecting a baby in about a month. I had come to spend the summer with them, but I quickly grew up in one night. When the adults in the room were discussing who was going to call our mother, I immediately spoke up and declared that I should be the one. It was without doubt the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But here again, it was what my mother would have done.

Without thinking about it, I have incorporated the philosophies and the legacies handed down to me from all the women in my life. I hope these legacies will be carried on through the branches of our family tree….

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Changes in my World

/If you’re like me, you’re sick of the news on radio and TV. It’s like picking at a sore. In today’s post, however, I’d like to think about the positive changes we are optimistically expecting.

As I chat with friends on the phone, something I never used to do, I’m finding that we’re all scared but keeping busy with creative ways to cope and to keep in virtual touch. Hardly anyone is bored, including me.

In this technology age, I’m finding that while it’s great to have the ability to meet in groups safely on line, there’s nothing like being in the same room with your friends and colleagues. I didn’t realize how much I miss talking face to face with someone. Somehow, it validates me as a human, not just a video image and a voice coming from a screen. I hope that we’ll all still value our face to face relationships even when this pandemic is behind us.

today, families are looking up from their phones and noticing the people stuck in the house with them. They are taking bike rides together and walks, being careful to stay clear of other people doing the same.

People are cleaning out closets and basements and sprucing up their yards. Because I haven’t been able to have a cleaning person, I’ve tried to keep up with the dirt, dog hair, and germs, like I haven’t done in years. I’m discovering that I like going to bed at night with a sparkling clean sink in the kitchen and in the bathroom every night. I’m also finding that I’m cleaning for my own pleasure, not just at those times when I’m expecting company.

I’ve heard that people are returning to cooking instead of just grabbing a meal from the freezer. Me too. It’s comforting to have real food on the table for a change.

Many people, like writers, are getting tons of work done. Unfortunately, my mental energy has been sapped by trying to learn a new computer and a new speech program at the same time, so my writing anything but this blog and Face Book posts has been on hold. But this has been the right time to study the computer, since, as I said before, I have all day.

My daughter calls me every night to check on my health, both physical and emotional, and that’s a plus. In normal times, she calls once a week, but would it be greedy of me to hope this will be the new normal? My son calls me now and then, which is also an improvement. Mother’s Day is coming up, and he always takes me out for a meal for the occasion, so I’ll be looking forward to how creative he can get this year. Creativity in problem-solving has emerged, and I like it.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Who is That Masked Woman?

IMG_1393

It’s the latest trend in fashion! Hurry. Find a friend who will make one for you. This one came from Nonie, a friend in my Sunday School class. She was wearing her own mask when she delivered mine to me today. It goes so well with my long overdue haircut and the ubiquitous sweats.

My granddaughter, who’s 6, has masks for all her teddy bears. When she plays Barbies, she has them all keep their social distance from one another. When she was playing restaurant, she announced, “Sorry. We only have take-out, because of the Coronavirus. And when her older sister agreed to play dolls with her, she told her sister that one of the dolls was dubbed the “mean” doll.

“And why is she mean?” the teenaged sister asked.

“Because the mean one has the Coronavirus and didn’t tell anybody, and now all her friends are sick.”

Of course we can’t condone calling a victim of Covid 19 “mean,” but that little girl is certainly aware of a unique time in our history.

I’m very proud of the way my kids and grandkids are following the rules and obeying the smarter people in our government who urge us to shelter in place.

I have been in my house 23 hours a day since March 14. The one hour is spent taking Dora for a walk around the neighborhood. I have my groceries delivered, and I’ve ordered a few things from Amazon. I’ve attended meetings via Zoom and conference calls. I have called friends on the phone just to chat, and I don’t worry that I’m keeping them from something more pressing. They have all day, just as I do.

I shall wear my new mask and alternate it with another one that my daughter ordered for me. As people in other states, whose governors have lifted restrictions to the dangerous point, return to Ohio for the summer, they’ll be bringing the virus with them, even though they may only be carriers. They are not mean. But I am going to keep my distance, even from my friends and wear my mask, knowing I’m doing

everything possible to be safe. Are you with me?

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Hunker Down and Wait

We are at war. I never dreamed that in my lifetime, I would be saying that from a personal perspective. Like the Jewish people under Hitler’s regime, we are hunkered down and hiding, except for brief daily airings. Those with cars are making quick stops at grocery stores, but they are not showing their faces. Those of us who can’t drive are taking walks in the neighborhood or tossing a ball in the back yard to our confused but happy dogs. They wonder why we are home all day and why they are getting all this extra attention, interrupting their routine of sleeping most of the day. Guide dogs are wondering why we are not doing anything but walking around the neighborhood. They can’t know that the enemy is out there, and the best way we can protect ourselves is to hide in our houses.

Just a few days ago, I read a story about a grown man who told his story of being on his own at age 11, when both his parents were murdered by the Nazis. He finally found a woman who was willing to hide him in her attic. She brought him food once a day and ordered him to not make a sound. He endured this solitude and cruelty for months.

So when I even consider feeling lonely, I stop myself and think of all the ways I have nothing to complain about. Aside from radio, TV, Alexa, the internet, the telephone, texting, books to read and books to write, , and waving to my neighbors as I stroll past their houses, I can actually attend church, meetings, and social gatherings through Zoom. I think it’s the best thing invented since the internet. It was a bit of a challenge learning to use it, but I can be in communication with other people any day of the week.

I have food in my pantry and fridge, thanks to services that deliver right to my door. Right now, I have to be a little patient, because they are swamped, but with planning and not overeating, it’s working out fine. I don’t have to wait for someone to sneak me food once a day. And I certainly am not on the front lines, fighting losing battles day after heart-breaking day.

Don’t get me wrong. I long to get back to church, to the Y, to lunches out with friends, and having company at my house. But making this one little sacrifice is notthat bad at all. I urge any of you who read this blog to do the same. Call me any time you feel the need to hear a live human voice. I will be glad to talk. I have all day.

Church Has Left the Building

Like many churches across America, mine is holding services via technology. Our pastors and some of the musicians and vocalists record their parts, separately and not in the same room, and then anybody can view the services over YouTube or via the website,Stonybrook.church.org

and never know that it was all done in accordance with social distancing. It looks and sounds like it was one complete service. It’s the next best thing to being there. What we really miss is shaking hands and giving hugs to our friends whom we only see at church and are happy to greet each Sunday morning.

After the service, we have several Sunday School classes, but the one I attend is called Coffee and Conversation. Of all the gatherings of people that have had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, this is the one I miss the most. The purpose is to discuss the sermon and how it relates to our lives, but we often dive even more deeply into our concerns and the mysteries of what God has in mind for us.

While it’s kind of fun to go to church virtually without having to wear more than a sweatshirt over our pajama bottoms, it’s been a challenge for many of us seniors to learn to use the Zoom platform for Sunday School. I had to have a tech guy from Microsoft install it for me, because the instructions looked like they required a college degree in Zoom installation, and then my daughter generously practiced it with me, so I could join in without stress and frustration. My friend Deborah prefers to use her iphone for Zoom, and she graciously tried to teach me, but for me, the lap top seemed a little more consistent in what it was asking me to do with each step. Anyway, I had to smile as the first half of our Sunday School class was spent coaching each other on how to get connected. I suspect that we’ll all get quite good at this over the coming weeks and possibly months.

Other changes in our lifestyles will occur, and some of them are for the good.

For instance, calling a friend or acquaintance occasionally just to see how they are doing or if they need anything, especially if they live alone could do much to improve the mental health of many people who are lonely and feel isolated. Offering to run errands for folks who are elderly or have a disability who can’t drive anymore or pick up medicine or groceries, when the delivery services are swamped, reach the hearts and heal the souls just as much as sitting in a church with others who might be praying for the sick and the lonely, not that there is anything wrong with that. These acts of kindness and love demonstrate what one of our pastors said in a message to us in a daily email devotional. Church has left the building.

The Best Way to Help

It’s day 15 of my isolation. On Friday, March 13, my friend Vicki took me to a doctor’s appointment, and by noon, I had begun my part in fighting the Coronavirus. It sounds strange to use an active verb to describe doing nothing, but I heard an interview with a doctor who said that the doctors a other medical personnel work tirelessly for us, and what we can do for them in return is to stay home.

Immediately, I was reminded of what my dad would say to me when I, as a little girl, would ask him if I could help with whatever project he was working on. “The best thing you can do is stay out of the way,” he’d say. I didn’t like that answer, but now I understand its wisdom.

For most people who were used to having their freedom of movement, who could jump in their cars and run up to the store, go to a movie, visit friends, take in a ball game, or attend a concert whenever they

felt like it, staying home is going to be a hardship, especially if they live alone. But for those of us who have a disability and can’t enjoy those freedoms, it’s not much different from our everyday lives. We need to have someone else to drive us or accompany us to places that we can’t get to on our own, so even if we did try to ignore the orders to keep our distance from others by at least 6 feet and not to join even small gatherings of people who could possibly be carriers of the disease, we can’t.

So far, being alone with only my dog to keep me company has not been such a hardship. Fortunately, she is mature enough now not to have to be playing with me all day, so I can get some work done, and fortunately for her, I am still active enough to take her for long walks every single day, even in the rain. It’s important for her health as well as mine.

My mental health is just as important, so I am busy much of the day with writing, reading, listening to the news, scrubbing surfaces, corresponding with friends via email, and talking with friends on the phone. Normally, I am not a phone-chatter, but during this time of isolation, I am making it a point to call someone every day just to talk and check on their health. Other people have been calling me too, especially my kids, so the day is filled with communication. Yesterday, my next-door neighbor came over to the fence to say hello, since we hadn’t spoken since last fall. We were still 6 feet apart, but it was the first time I had spoken to someone face to face in 2 weeks, and I have to say, it was refreshing.

When you hear the horrific numbers of people who are hospitalized and dying, you know that most of those cases could have been avoided if only the people who are not sick would stay home. As possible carriers, they are running around spreading the disease and not knowing it. It’s a small price to pay to just stay out of the way of this terrible virus and let it fly away. If we all avoid contact with a person or a thing that could be a resting place for it, those of us who aren’t sick yet can live and enjoy having our loved ones live too.

We even can attend meetings and church services and enjoy free virtual tours of museums and watch millions of hours of cute puppies on YouTube,

90,000 troops were supposed to be deployed, but now they have to be quarantined for another 2 months. Surely a few weeks of quarantine in our comfortable homes with all these diversions is not that great a sacrifice.

Mary Hiland

Author of Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available on Amazon or at

Dldbooks.com/maryhiland

Haunting Your Old Office

Have you ever gone back to a former place of work, just to hang out with your fellow workers or office-mates at the water cooler or the break room? Were you disappointed, because the staff had changed and your favorite cronies had all left?

My experience last Monday had a touch of disappointment, because the secretary had been replaced by a volunteer, whom I didn’t know. But once I opened the control room door, it was as if I had never left 15 years ago. Chuck was still behind the controls, and volunteers were stopping in to get their studio assignment or to tell Chuck they were done with the magazine or newspaper they had been recording. None of them knew me. I was just a visitor to them, and indeed, that was what I was. But instead of melancholy, I felt joy in being there to talk about my new status as published author. I knew that when the hour was over, and I had talked about my book, Insight Out, One Blind Woman’s View of her Life, I could go to the break room and have lunch with Chuck, catch up on what’s been happening in his life, and wait for Mainstream to appear to pick me up and take me back home. The ride home on that Mainstream van was just as horrific as I remembered it, bumpy and noisy and an hour long. I felt like I’d been beaten up by the time I got home. What a relief to be back in my house with a nap as the next item on my agenda. I wondered how I did that trip 5 days a week. But then, I was 15 years younger.

I recall the first time I ever sat behind a mike as a guest on that show. It seems odd to remember that I was very nervous. I was a homemaker at the time, and I had agreed to come and share recipes and housekeeping tips. That volunteer gig lead to speaking engagements to recruit volunteers and bring in donations. Then when the position of volunteer coordinator suddenly became available, I was right there the next morning with resume in hand. It was the perfect example of how a volunteer could turn her avocation into a full-time career, a career that would last 22 years.

I have to say that being a writer, with my office being my recliner in my living room, is so much easier, albeit certainly not as lucrative.

Being a guest on a show whenever I’ve written a book is a dream volunteer job. I’d like to do more of that, just in case you’re a talk show host in need of a charming, talented, and talkative guest.

Lost Coffee Spilled Tea

I didn’t realize how important a cup of coffee could be until last week, when I accidentally threw away my reusable K Cup for my Keurig. It occurred to me one day recently that I was among the millions of people who thoughtlessly toss those little plastic cups into the trash which will take eons to disintegrate. They will outlast the earth itself. I can just picture those billions of plastic straws and K cups floating around forever, that is if they haven’t strangled some unsuspecting innocent animal.

I’ve been refusing plastic straws for months now and reusing plastic bags that have been forced upon me, recycling every piece of junk mail, cereal box, and every other carton or covering of all the products I use around the house. I had been feeling quite virtuous until I pulled myself up short and said, “What about all those little cups you’ve been blithely tossing in the trash?” And my recycling company does not list them as acceptable recyclables.

So I bought a very fancy gismo that is to take the place of those little villains. All went well until one day, when I scooped up a pile of paper bags, flyers, cartons, and envelopes that I had stacked up on the counter by the back door and carried them out to the recycling bin in the garage. The next morning, it appeared that my little plastic gismo was nowhere to be found, and I distinctly remembered rinsing it out and placing it on top of the coffee container, (another reusable plastic box) to dry. I searched all over the counter and concluded I must have accidentally picked it up with that pile of junk paper. There was nothing to do but go and dive into the recycle bin. Luckily, it had just been emptied that morning, so it wasn’t hard to search through. But since it is the size of a refrigerator, I tipped it over on its side and crawled in. No plastic gismo.

It took a few days to order another one from Amazon and get it delivered to my door, so I was reduced to drinking only tea and an old disposable K cup of decaff coffee, which I now know is pretty nasty, even with a healthy dollop of flavored creamer, and it does nothing to open my sleepy eyes after another night of insomnia.

So this morning, when I once again measured out that glorious real coffee into my special little gismo, I felt I had been given a gift. Since I had wakened early enough to do so, I even had a second cup. Oh, it’s the little pleasures in life that make you thankful, and they also make you more careful about keeping them in a safer place.

Speaking of keeping things in a safer place, the lost K cup was not the only disaster I caused last week. Somehow, (Well I know how, but it’s too complicated to explain here) my dumped a whole cup of tea into my lap top. Yep. Big mistake. At first, the speech went silent, especially when I rubbed the keyboard with a towel, trying to get as much liquid out as quickly as possible. Big mistake. But I let it dry out for a day, and after it quit pouting, it decided to talk again. I got down on my knees and thanked God. But God said, “Not so fast there, you careless tea-drinker.” The screen was completely toast. I’m told that there are now odd designs and shapes on display, but no intelligible words. So off to the computer store I was whisked. You might not hear from me for a while, since I don’t even know how to turn the thing on, let alone know where any of the keys are that I use. I think in the next few weeks, I’ll be switching from coffee and tea to something stronger.

Mary Hiland

Mary.hiland@wowway.com

www.seeingitmyway.com

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 Amazon.com, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261