Blog Posts by Mary Hiland

Thanksgiving Made Easy for a Single Visually Impaired Hostess

Most Interesting Thanksgiving Memory No smoking and no football. Those were the ground rules I had laid down for my Thanksgiving dinner in 1992. Everybody has a favorite Thanksgiving memory and a worst Thanksgiving memory, but here’s my most interesting one, and well, maybe the most fun. Newly divorced, I decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner for my single friends who had no other plans for the day. There were 11 of us that first year. No two people knew each other because I invited friends from different parts of my life. One was a coworker. One was a bicycling friend. One was my


Grandma’s Glory: Tips for a Successful Visit from Your Grandchildren

Editor's Note: In honor of Grandparent's Day (Sunday, September 10th), Mary Hiland, a VisionAware peer advisor with retinitis pigmentosa, has written a delightful post about a recent visit from her grandchildren. Read and enjoy! Grandma's Glory By Mary Hiland My daughter Kara and her family, husband and three children, were just here for a few days, and we had a wonderful time together. When they arrived, they had been in the car for many hours, so I was expecting


Preventing Falls and Accidents As an Individual with Vision Loss

Editor's Note: As individuals with vision loss, navigating hazards at home can be tricky, dangerous, and take some time getting used to. Because June is National Home Safety Month, the VisionAware peer advisors are sharing stories about their in-home accidents, reasons why accidents happen to individuals living with visual impairment, and how they can be prevented. Heed their advice and utilize VisionAware resources to help you be safer in your home. Preventing Falls and Accidents Would you believe that I’ve been punched in the nose by a refrigerator, a closet door ajar, and even


Surprises I Didn't See Coming

Are the holidays causing unwanted anxiety in your life? Too many trees to decorate, gifts to buy, and people to visit? Take a moment to relax and laugh your stress away with these funny vignettes from peer advisor Mary Hiland. Check out the Laughter Is Often the Best Medicine series to keep the good times rolling. Surprise in the Freezer Whenever I make a real meal for myself, I have lots of leftovers (as most


A Grandma's Thoughts

Editor's note: This post is part of the Blind Parenting series created to provide visually impaired parents and grandparents with first-hand accounts of how you can raise a child safely and independently. In today's post, Mary Hiland shares the importance of teaching children how to interact with individuals who have low vision and how to build positive relationships. A Grandma's Thoughts By Mary Hiland, grandmother


Voting Early, A Great Idea

Yesterday, I voted, and it gave me a kind of high. I did it. I got it done. No more indecision, although there was none for me, where the presidency is concerned. But now I can skip any newspaper articles suggesting to me which way I should vote. I no longer have to sit through televised arguments. I don’t care what they are saying about any of the candidates. It’s a done deal, so leave me alone. Voting Privately The ADA voting


Breastfeeding Baby As a Blind or Visually Impaired Mother

Editor's note: This post is part of the new Blind Parenting series created to provide visually impaired parents with first-hand accounts of how you can raise a child safely and independently. Today's post is the first segment on your options of feeding your baby as a parent with vision loss. Blind Parenting: Breastfeeding Baby By Mary Hiland and her daughter, Kara Fay Soon after I was married, my ophthalmologist told me that as a person with retinitis


A Day at the Races with No Horses

Editor's note: This is part of our ongoing series on Laughter Is Often the Best Medicine. The contributors to this series hope their vignettes provide a chuckle, an aha moment, or dispel myths about visual impairment for all readers. Enjoying Horse Races Since Childhood Whenever I think of the Kentucky Derby, I am reminded of those wonderful summer afternoons when my mother took me to River Downs near Cincinnati. Certainly, I was too young to bet, but my mother and I would each choose a horse, mostly based on their


Summertime Fun: The Arts Festival

The Arts Festival Is for Everyone One of the highlights of summer in Columbus, Ohio, is the annual arts festival, held on the first weekend in June. I went today and had a wonderful time. Hundreds of booths and tents line the two main bridges downtown and the streets that connect them. In this photo, I am leaning over the railing of the bridge, admiring the sparkling Scioto River along with my new "deer" friend. He’s a life-size statue of a deer, and it looks like he’s smiling as he looks over the River. Choose the Right Friend to Take You My friend Eve has been a guide for me when


Get in the Swim for Memorial Day

Editor's note: Just in time for Memorial Day and the opening of swimming pools across America, Mary Hiland writes about the joys of swimming! So read up and enjoy the holiday with a dip in the pool! Discovering the Joy of Sports I have never thought of myself as an athlete. As a little girl, I studied dance and wanted nothing to do with any game involving a ball. then I discovered individual sports, starting with cross country skiing back in 1986. After learning to ski at Ski for Light, I was inspired to try other athletic endeavors, such as bike riding, hiking, ice skating, jogging, and even swimming. Afraid of the Water I


On Being a Blind Mother

Editor's note: This is second in our series for Mother's Day. We hope you will read and comment. Just Like Any Other Parent How do you explain blindness to a two-year-old? You don’t. You don’t need to. As a mother of a son and a daughter and a grandmother of five granddaughters, I have some memories pertaining to my blindness I’d like to share with you. I don’t recall explaining why I couldn’t see to either of my children. Because they grew up with a mother with very limited sight(as a result of retinitis pigmentosa), that was the normal for them. One parent couldn’t see so well,


What You Can Do to Prevent Identity Theft

Editor's note: Continuing with Financial Literacy Month, Mary Hiland offers tips on what she does as a blind person and informed consumer to protect her identity. Preventing Identity Theft, An Impossible Mission? Preventing identity theft seems to be an impossible mission because the thieves, i.e. hackers, are a whole lot smarter than I am. But here are my attempts at protecting my financial identity: Check on Your Accounts Daily Because many websites are not blind-friendly, I use a toll-free number to review my transactions


Be A Bucket List Buddy

Here’s a twist on making a New Year’s Resolution. Oh sure, we can still make those promises to ourselves to lose weight, exercise more, eat more veggies, and engage in any number of self-improvement projects. But what if we added a goal to be accomplished by the end of 2016? It might be something practical like getting a job, but what if we made it more fun, like taking a trip, learning to do the tango, or winning a contest? What’s a Bucket List? In case you didn’t see the movie where the expression "bucket list" was made famous, it’s a list of things you want to do before your life is over. Depending on how long


Finding My Voice: Overcoming My Fears of Singing in a Cantata, as a Blind Person

Editor's note: This past week's posts have covered many aspects of dealing with loneliness and depression during the holidays in a positive way. In this in-between week between Christmas and New Year's, many of us start to think about what "resolutions" we should make. In this post, Mary Hiland discusses what she did to make her holidays brighter and more meaningful to her. But it takes preparation and planning ahead. Find out how she did it and get inspired! And, by the way, next week is Louis Braille's birthday and the start of Braille Literacy Awareness month. (Louis Braille was the creator of the braille code) We will be honoring that event with


A Is for Ability on International Persons with a Disability Day

The United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities is annually held on December 3 to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. At VisionAware, our peer advisors share how having a disability is more about what we can do with a so called ‘disability’ when we focus on all our talents and abilities. Celebrating this special day, we share the Abilities we are most grateful for. Living with ABILITY By Mary Hiland The word "disabled" does a great disservice to those of us who have vision loss. It sounds like we’re broken, like a disabled car. While we may be able


HonorFlight Honors Veterans

"Thank you for your service." It’s a sentiment our veterans are hearing a lot today. But this was not always the greeting they got on returning home. Thanks to a national program called Honor Flight, my friend Bob, age 92, received it all day long one day this past April. These Honor Flights were created by volunteers for World War 2 (WW2) veterans, but veterans from other wars and conflicts are now being honored as well, especially those with terminal illnesses or conditions. They make sure that veterans with hearing loss or visual impairment get


Lessons Learned in the School of Life: Going to School and Leaving Behind the Dinosaurs

Editor's note, as part of our Lessons Learned in the School of Life series, Mary Hiland has written her personal experiences as a sequel to the Going to School with the Dinosaurs post by Lynda Jones. Also check out the other "Lessons Learned in the School of Life" starting with Part One. Deanna Noriega's Swimming up the Mainstream post was published on


Crosswalks to Civil Rights

Editor's note: Continuing with our independence and advocacy themes in celebration of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), VisionAware peer advisors Mary Hiland, and Elizabeth Sammons were co-winners of the ADA25 Celebration Essay Contest in Columbus, Ohio. Below is Mary's essay. Here is a link to Elizabeth's post Independence Walk. Life Before ADA In 1963, Crossing the street was a terrifying event. Unsure if the light had changed, as a blind student, I waited on the curb, drew a deep breath, and took my chances.


My Anti–Aging Exercise Routine

Getting in Shape Editor's note": this is the last of our posts for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. You may want to read the first two: Make Physical Activity and Exercise a Way of Life and Ways You Can Exercise. The soreness in my abdominals this morning told me that I must have done something good yesterday for my body. Let’s see. I got back on my jogging trampoline, and I did a couple of


Wind Chimes: Blessings From My Mom

It was a warm afternoon, so I slid open the patio doors and pulled out a patio chair to enjoy a few minutes of just being. Although it was warm, it was breezy, so the wind chimes hanging in the corner of the screened in patio were dancing and playing a simple but complicated tune. My feelings about those wind chimes were also complicated. The Entrance Last August, during the calling hours for my mother's funeral, our murmuring conversations were abruptly interrupted by the sound of clanging, clanging that was moving into the room. My first reaction was to be indignant. Why would somebody come clanging into this quiet room uninvited, and what on earth was that? Someone else jumped up and


What to Do When Saying Thanks Seems Like Not Enough

Editor's note: Here is our third post related to volunteering and National Volunteer Week. She addresses how people who are blind or visually impaired can thank those who volunteer to help them with everyday life. Finding Creative Ways to Say Thank You Is Challenging Those of us who are a part of the blind and visually impaired community sometimes have to ask for help from others on a regular basis. Finding creative ways to show gratitude and appreciation for the help extended to us can be challenging because just saying thank-you never seems to be enough. But I have found some inventive ways that I would like to share, that go beyond the basic thank-you


Reading My Own Phone Bills Empowers Me as a Person Who Is Blind

Editor's note: This week the 30th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference is underway. We will be hearing much more about it from AFB staff who are attending as they report on the latest and greatest technology coming down the pike. To get us started, Mary Hiland reports on how the invention of a flatbed scanner and optical character recognition in 1975 by Ray Kurzweil has transformed lives and continues to do so, in many different and exciting ways! Being in Control of My Personal Business Who would ever think that being able to read my


How I Keep My Hands on My Money

Editor's note: With tax season upon us, the filing deadline of April 15 is not so far away so the topic of this post takes on even more meaning. Identifying Printed paper Money As a person who is blind, I’m often asked, “How do you know that’s a five-dollar bill?” It’s a good question, because in this country, all our bills feel the same. You can feel the difference between a quarter and a nickle, a dime and a penny, but it is impossible to detect the difference between a one-dollar bill and a one-hundred-dollar bill. There are 180 other countries


Fun For All During the Holidays

Don't let vision loss keep you from enjoying the holidays (or anytime) with your grandchildren! The holidays offer a special and important opportunity to spend time with your grandchildren or other children in your family. You may think that with visual impairment this is no longer possible. But that's not true! Keep on reading. Games and Activities to Try Mancala: It’s a game that you can play with your children or grandchildren that doesn’t require the use of print or braille. It’s a very tactile game with colorful stones and indentations that you use to score a win. No cards to read, no timer, no board to move little pieces on. It is available through


Scrabble: Staying in the Game

This post is part of our Caregiving series. My 98-year-old mother can’t remember what she had for lunch, but she knows the rules of Scrabble, comes up with obscure words that only avid crossword puzzlers know, and grabs those triple word scores with glee. Sometimes, she struggles to make a play, when the tiles in her rack don’t include a consonant, but anybody would. Last night, at one point during our


Reflections on Veterans Day Visiting an Assisted Living Facility

Remembering Family That Served We were supposed to be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, but I was so choked up that I could only mouth the words. We had just stood for the presentation of the American Flag by the Color Guard of the American Legion in our town. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, as we heard the haunting melody of “Taps.” Even though it was only a recording, I allowed myself to forget that it wasn’t a real live serviceman, performing the last rights of every American soldier. I grieved for my father, who served in the Army twice, for my brother, who served in the SAC division of the Air Force, and


Being a Caregiver and Advocate When You Are Blind

This post is part of our Caregiving Series in honor of National Family Caregivers Month. Mother in Emergency Room There are times when I feel more blind than usual, and when my 98-year old mother was sent to the emergency room (ER), this was one of them. First, when I got the call from the assisted living home, I had to recruit someone to take me to meet Mom at the hospital. It was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Fortunately,


Using a White Cane Gives Me Confidence and Safety

Editor's note: This is our second post this week in our series celebrating White Cane Day and what it means. Be sure to go back and read How I Accepted the White Cane. The Diagnosis "You are legally blind,” the doctor said to me, after making the diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, RP. "Your sight will never get better and probably will get worse." I was 18 at the time. Being a blind person was not in my life plan, but over the next


To Help or Not to Help

Editor's Note: As we approach White Cane Safety Day next week and honor National Disability Employment Month, this post is a an excellent reminder us all about asking for help. It was originally published on Mary's blog Seeing It My Way The Art of Offering and Declining Help Have you ever offered help to a child, only to have your hands virtually slapped away? “I can do it myself!” Have you ever offered help to a person with a disability, only to have the same thing happen? Have you ever thought about offering help and then thought better of it, because you didn’t want to get your head bitten off? There’s an art to offering help, just as there is an art to declining it. Needing Help Twice, in the last


Things to Do When You Retire and Have Vision Loss

Enjoy this post for September's theme of Healthy Aging. Keeping Up with the Days of Week “What is today, Wednesday? Or is it Thursday?” This is what I find myself thinking as I wake up in the morning. Since my retirement two and a half years ago, I’ve marked the days of the week in my mind with activities other than work-related events. Almost every day in my calendar has something written in it, to set it apart from the other days and to give it a central purpose. When I was working, the purpose of each day was already filled in for me. Now, I have choices, and therein lies the difference. Redefinition of Retirement Retirement can be like a full time vacation, or it can be the “R” word, something to be dreaded or feared, or it can be a time to


Ski for Light, A Thrilling Experience

Editor's note: You may wonder why this post is going up in August. After all, you may be sweltering! But just thinking about the cool air on your face may help those summer doldrums. At any rate, you need to get in line now if you are going to be able to enjoy the experience of skiing that Mary describes in this post. Skiing slots go fast! Are You a Winter-Lover Are you a winter-lover? I used to hate winter, until I learned to cross-country ski. And when I learned, at age 37, I was totally blind. I had been physically active all my life, so when I heard about a program called Ski for Light, where skiers who are blind or visually impaired ski along side sighted guides, I was intrigued.


Cruising with My Family

Imagine how thrilled I was when my daughter and her husband invited me to go on a 10-day cruise with them. And it wasn’t to baby-sit their two kids. They invited me, because they knew I wanted to try a relaxing cruise. I would be able to sit on the deck and listen to books or soak in the hot tub, I could swim in the pool, enjoy the live music and shows, dine like a queen three times a day, or have an ice cream cone whenever I felt like it. I could even attend the educational lectures, get a massage, and in general, pamper myself for 10 days, with the convenience and security of having my family nearby. I am not part of a couple or a group of single friends my age, so going with my family was


My Favorite 4th of July

Editor's note: This story was written by Mary Hiland, a new peer advisor for VisionAware My Story Do you have a story about your favorite 4th of July? Let me tell you mine. Training for My First Dog Guide It was 1982, and I was in training for my first dog guide at the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. I was in my late 30’s and had two young children. It was the first time I had been away from home on a holiday. I would be missing the Little League tournament game, the annual parade in my home town, the traditional cook-out, and the fireworks to follow. I could have been sad for missing


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