Another cool and cloudy Friday, and we’re out and about shopping for my daughter’s birthday present. We’ve done a bit of research and are jazzed about finding a piece of jewelry, something with a garnet (birthstone for January), something sweet and simple (meaning, “not too expensive”), and head over to JC Penney’s. But what do you know—even though the door cooperates, the security guard informs us that the store does not open for another hour! So we shift modes, and venture over to Fred Meyer’s for groceries, figuring we’ll also see what we can find there for a gift.
And voila! A lovely ring, discounted 10%.
But as we’re driving home, “Look out!!” my husband suddenly yells out the car window.
We are nearly witnesses to a fatal accident as a car stops to let a blind man with a white cane cross busy Commercial Street. With no light or other crossing demarcations, fellow drivers have no clue why the car is stopping, and thus no reason to stop themselves.
Miraculously, the second vehicle spots the man in time, stops, and we continue home, hearts beating a mile a minute.
“I need a cup of tea,” I sigh to myself as the last of the groceries is put away, and my husband slips into his den to regroup.
After a few minutes, the tea kettle whistles,, Ari’s tags jingle, and the doorbell announces the arrival of my guest, author, Mary Hiland.
Me: Oh, Mary, what a welcome treat you are! How nice of you to drop by!
Mary: Thanks for inviting me. I’ve heard that these interviews are really fun.
Me: Aww, that’s so good to hear. Would you like a cup of tea while we chat? Or coffee perhaps?
Mary: I’d love a cup of tea.
Me: And how about a cookie, or maybe a piece of fruit?
Mary: No thanks, I’m trying to cut down on sweets and snacks.
Me: Shall we stay here at the kitchen table? Or would you like a comfy chair in the livingroom?
Mary: If you don’t mind, I really need a comfy chair. I had spine surgery in April, and my spine gets fussy if I sit on a hard chair.
Me: No problem. The sofa is probably the best place for us then. Ah, now that we’re settled, with our lemon-ginger tea, tell me a little about yourself, Mary. What part of the country do you live in?
Mary: I was born, reared, and have lived most of my life in Ohio. I’m originally from Cincinnati and graduated high school there. Then I moved to Columbus to attend the Ohio State University. I lived part time in Charleston, S.C. while my husband was stationed there in the Submarine Service. I’d live down there when he was stateside, and then when he’d go to sea, I’d come back and do another quarter at OSU. This went on until he was done with the Navy.
Me: My, that must have been very challenging. What do you like best and least about living in Ohio?
Mary: Ohio is not a very exciting place to visit, but it’s a wonderful place to live. Our weather is moderate, although we get up to the upper 90’s in the summer, with humidity, which is what I dislike the most, and then we get down into single digits with winds and ice, which I also don’t like, but I’m a winter-lover, so I just bundle up and go on with my day.
Me: You are a hearty soul! Is your writing influenced in any way by where you live?
Mary: So far, my writing has been influenced by the events in my own life.
Me: About your writing process, do you
have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?
Mary: My day starts with listening to the newspaper via the phone and drinking tea. After breakfast, I sit in my little recliner with my lap top and deal with all the new emails, answering most and saving some for later. If I have time, I switch over to “My Documents,” and continue writing or editing whatever I’m working on. Then I usually have other things to do and places to go. In the afternoon, I make a cup of decaff tea and write for a couple hours from about 4:00 to 6:00 or so. Then I make myself put away my work, so I can wind down for the evening. I do have an office, but I prefer sitting in my recliner, because my back likes it better.
Me: What got you started writing?
Mary: My beloved aunt wrote paperback fiction for a living, and having seen some of my writing from school, she encouraged me to submit an article for Red Book Magazine. That was back in 1974, when my children were little, and my aunt thought my story would be perfect for the section in that magazine called “A Young Mother’s Story.” Apparently, the editors thought so too, because there it is, in the December issue. And by the way, the publication of that story was the catalyst for my reunion with my best friend from college. She was flipping through the magazine, suddenly sat up, woke up her husband who was napping beside her, and exclaimed, “there’s Mary!.” It was one of the happiest results of being published in a national magazine, right along with the money of course. LOL.
Me: Interesting. And I wonder, why do you write?
Mary: In a word, it’s “therapy.” I have always written letters and kept a diary or a journal. I can express myself better on paper than talking, although I am a former Toastmaster and love to give speeches. I enjoy the challenge of finding just the right word to express a thought, and I love the positive feedback I get from people who read my work.
Me: And now a few more “creative” questions, if you don’t mind, so I can get a better glimpse of you as a person. What kind of fruit or vegetable would you say best expresses your personality?
Mary: I am a clementine. I’m small and sweet but firm. I have a relatively thin skin, and I have many sections.
Me: What do you like to do on a rainy day?
Mary: A rainy day is perfect for reading and writing.
Me: What’s your favorite part of going grocery shopping? What do you think that says about you?
Mary: I like to discover new products. I get bored eating the same old things day after day, week after week. I’m not an adventurous eater, but I like to try new ways of preparing the foods I do like. I am not a foody by any means, but I like to try new recipes or new surprises from the freezer section. I make a list, but I also enjoy impulse buying. It makes me feel not so regimented.
Me: Would you rather vacation at the beach or in the mountains? Why?
Mary: Oh, this is an easy one. I love hiking. In fact, I formed a group of 10 women, half of whom are blind, 19 years ago, and every year since then, we’ve met in October for four days of hiking. But we do not camp. We stay in bed and breakfasts, but we eat our sack lunches sitting on a log in the woods. I love the quiet, the physical exercise, and especially the camaraderie among us. We call it The Hen Hike, and I’m the Mother Hen. LOL
Me: What is your favorite punctuation mark?
Mary: I guess it’s the quotation mark, because I love to insert dialog whenever I can, and when I read, I want there to be lots of dialog to make the writing sparkle.
Me: What role have children played in your life? How about in your writing?
Mary: I have two children, ages 49 and 46. Oh God, did I really admit that? My son has two daughters, and my daughter has three. I’ve mentioned my son and daughter quite a bit in my first book, but they will have a whole chapter in the memoir I’m currently working on. My daughter stars in the story that was published in “Chicken Soup for the Parent’s Soul,” which is about the time we ran in the “Race for the Cure” together. She lives two states away, so I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like. We are very close. My son lives only about ten minutes away, but we mostly get together only for special occasions. I do make a point of inviting each of his girls to lunch, one at a time, so we can have some one on one conversation. My daughter, being the nurturer, has been with me for the three major surgeries I’ve had in the last five years, for which I am eternally grateful. Everyone needs an advocate when they are in the hospital. Sorry, I got off topic for a minute. where were we?
Me: Do you have a favorite fairy tale or children’s story?
Mary: I absolutely love Hans Christian Anderson. To be honest, I can’t think of the stories I read, back when I could see to read, but there was a movie that I saw maybe three times based on his stories and his life. My favorite song is “Inch Worm,” because it talks about not just worrying about “measuring the Marigold,” but appreciating the beauty of the flower.
Me: Oh, it’s gotten so late. I know you need to get back to your busy life, but before you
leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?
Mary: To start with, I have a website called
on which I have a blog. I talk about events in my life, subjects that I’m passionate about or that educate the general public about blindness and people who are blind. I have a wonderful Seeing Eye ® dog, Dora, so she is featured a lot, because she is just so darned smart and cute. I also use it occasionally to promote my book, “The Bumpy road to Assisted Living a Daughter’s Memoir.”
It can be purchased on Amazon either in print or electronically. It can also be found on my book website,
And for those who are blind or visually impaired, it is available on the NLS talking book program, BARD with the DB number of 91261. It’s narrated by Jill Ferris, and I must say she does a great job of capturing the way I would read it myself if I could.
And if you like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books, I’m in the one called “Chicken Soup for the Parent’s Soul.”
Me: Well Mary, this has been most interesting. Thank you so much for visiting with me today. I hope you’ll come visit me again very soon.
Mary: Thank you. It would be an honor and a pleasure. And thanks for the tea.
I hug my guest good-bye and close the door,my hand automatically reaching for the candlelighter on the mantle. I flick the switch, and the wick quickly catches the flame.
Sighing, I draw the Shabbot light toward and around me, wave it outward and away, all the while consciously holding my loved ones, friends and the world in prayer as I whisper:
Blessed are You Beloved One, who enables us to kindle the lamp of Shabbot, the light of friendship,the flame of peace.
And let us all say, Amen.