Published in Toastmasters International Alumni newsletter

In response to a request from Toastmasters back in August, I wrote a 250 word story about how my Toastmasters experience has helped me after I decided not to renew my membership, but to move on to other endeavors. I dashed off the story and then promptly forgot about it. then I received a message last week saying they were going to use my story. “What story? For What magazine?” I was having a real senior moment. The senior copywriter sent me the story I had sent in, and oh yes, then I remembered writing it. I didn’t realize it was going to be a separate newsletter, devoted to stories from alumni of Toastmasters International. Instead of just taking my story as I had written it, they wrote one about me, with lots of quotes from what I had written. It’s still mostly mine, and I wanted to share it with you. the name of the publication is “Toastmasters Alumni, Learn the Latest.” You can probably find it at

Portrait of Success

Book-Signing Smarts

How do you extinguish monotony at your book reading? If you’re Mary Hiland, an author and blogger who happens to be blind, you call upon lessons previously learned at Toastmasters, including that of vocal and visual variety.

“A book-signing can be as boring as a literature lecture, but as a former Toastmaster, I first took vocal variety to the highest level, by asking my friends to read sections of the book for me,” she says. “I couldn’t read it myself, because I’m blind, but I introduced each person before they read.”

Hiland also incorporated visual variety by having each of her readers stand when they spoke. “I stood whenever I spoke, but when my readers would stand to read, I would sit down,” she recalls.

Hiland brought plenty of copies of her book, “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: A Daughter’s Memoir,” to the book signing and held it up for people to see. She encouraged questions and comments; she incorporated humor and seemingly made eye contact, “as I am pretty good at faking it,” she relays.

She knew her audience—one of the “cardinal rules of Toastmasters,” she states. In this case, it was a group of seniors who either had just gone through the process of moving a parent into assisted living or knew it was coming soon.

Hiland made sure she practiced her opening monologue, the segues into each reading and her ending, just as she would when delivering a speech at her former Toastmasters club.

The one mistake she made? “Not bringing enough books to sign—a sign of success!” Hiland exclaims. She credits Toastmasters for her book-signing smarts.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261


Free Piano

20190123_142603I want to give the gift of music to a child or adult who is ready to receive it. Yes, I said “give,” as in free. All you have to do is come and get it. Apparently, it’s very hard to find a new home for an old piano, and believe me, I have given a lot of thought to having my piano go out the door. But I refuse to put it on the curb and wait for someone to haul it off to put in a flea market or chop it up for fire wood. This piano has brought joy to my family for years, and now it’s time to let it do the same for another lover of piano music. Please contact me via email at


with “free piano” in the subject line.

If you read my book, “The Bumpy road to Assisted Living a Daughter’s Memoir,” you will see how important the piano has been to my mother and to me. Many fond memories will go out the door with this spinet-size Gulbransen maker of beautiful music.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

Careful Listening Creates a Critic

If you hated English class in high school, you might want to skip this post, but then again, maybe you shouldn’t. It’s time for another of Mary’s observations in how the English language has changed and how it’s been abused over the years.

Top on my list today is the mispronunciation of a word with a vowel in it, followed by a single consonant. Here’s a very easy example. My name is Hiland, as in Highland, not Hilland. Notice that my name has only one consonant after the i. that means the I should have a long sound, as in eye. I use this example, not to promote my name, but to point out that it’s mispronounced most of the time, and I always, I mean ALWAYS, have to spell it for counter workers at doctors’ offices and anyone else who needs to look up my name. It’s actually my former husband’s name, which I kept for my children, but I also like the sound of it—if it’s pronounced correctly.

Speaking of pronunciation, I must comment on another subject I know a great deal about – how people read aloud. I use talking books and am distracted when the narrator puts the question in her voice at the end of the sentence, instead of at the end of the question. When I was director of volunteers at the radio reading service and routinely administered auditions, this was a common correction I had to make. Example. “Do you want sugar in your tea?” she asked. Note that the ? mark is inside the quotation marks. It does not read like this. “Do you want sugar in your tea, she asked? In other words, the reader’s voice should not continue the upward inflection after the question mark in the text. Another correction I often had to make is the pronunciation of “nuclear.” There is not a second u in this word. Preventive is only an adjective, according to Alexa, while “preventative” can be both a noun and an adjective. And we all know that Alexa is the ultimate authority.

I am also an avid listener to a radio show called “The Moth,” in which people tell stories. Invariably, the story-teller begins with the word, “So.” People, this is the beginning of your story, not the conclusion. If I were still in Toastmasters, you can bet as the grammarian, I would be emphasizing this bad habit constantly.. Or maybe, I could be all wrong about this. Maybe this is the new acceptable way to start a story.

And here’s another change in English usage I might be wrong about. We used to say “You’re welcome,” or “my pleasure,” when doing something or a service for another person. But most of the time, when you say thank you to a server in a restaurant or thank someone for giving you change, the response is “No problem.” And when did “Invite” become a noun? what happened to “invitation?” Here’s one that you hear all the time in ads. “Free gift!” Aren’t all gifts free? It’s like when you ask for a substitution of fruit for the fattening fries, the server says “Yes, for an upcharge of $2.” An upcharge is not a substitution.

Now on to a couple grammar reminders. Say “Not all men are handsome.. “ Do not say “All men are not handsome.” Be careful where you put the word “not,” because it changes the whole meaning of the sentence.

I’m going to repeat this next one, because it is so prevalent. “It took my wife and I 3 weeks to choose a paint color.” If you leave “my wife” out, see how silly the sentence sounds. Now put her back in and use “me” instead of “I.” If you think always using “I” or “myself” instead of “me” makes you sound more educated, please think again.

And one final humorous comment. Each time I wrote “pronunciation,” my spell check changed it to pronounciation. My spell checker must have flunked English.

Mary Hiland

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

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

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 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

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

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

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 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

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

Available at, 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

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

Available at, 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

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

Available at