Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – New Sunday Interview Series – Human In Every Sense of the Word – Starting Sunday June 30th 2019.

Here’s a great opportunity for my writing friends. Sally has a wonderful blog with something for everyone, and this is her latest invitation to fellow writers to write something for her to post. Let me know what you think.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the new series of the Sunday Interview..Human in every sense of the word.

As humans there are five main senses that we rely on to navigate through this world.  And there is one that we all possess but do not necessarily use all the time…

Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste, Smell….Sixth Sense.

For some people however, one or more of those senses do not function and we can only imagine the challenges this results in.

I don’t know about you, but I take my senses for granted, expecting to see my surroundings when I wake up each morning, hear the birds sing, feel the bedclothes as I throw them back, and the carpet beneath my feet. I expect to taste the marmalade on my toast, and smell the coffee I am about to drink. I also rely on my sixth sense, the one that people cannot really define, that…

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#ShareAReviewDay Tuesday – The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill

 

Many thanks to Marcia Meara at the Write Stuff for posting this review of my young adult novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill.

The Write Stuff

Please help me welcome our second guest of the day, Donna W. Hill, who will be sharing a lovely review from her book The Heart of Applebutter Hill. I’m sure this one will speak to many of you, and you’ll be happy to share it on your favorite social media. Thanks!

REVIEW:

The Heart of Applebutter Hill
by Donna W. Hill

 Reviewed by Jacqueline Williams

From the Editor: Jacqueline Williams has taught in New York, in Uganda, and on the San Carlos Indian Reservation in Arizona. After she earned a master’s degree in special education from Northern Arizona University, she served as a special education teacher and administrator in Mesa, Arizona. Now retired, she writes poetry and serves as dance coordinator in the Mesa public schools.

The Heart of Applebutter Hill
 by Donna W. Hill

 Smashwords Press, 2013, 346 pages

 Available in print and as a Kindle ebook, and from…

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Posted in adventure-mystery, Education, fantasy, Guide dogs, novel, Service Dogs, Song Lyrics, songwriting, Supernatural Romance, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, TheHeart of Applebutter Hil, Uncategorized, Visually Impaired, Wrighting, young adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Song & the Songwriter: The 4th Watch of the Night by Donna Weiss

Throughout my life, I occasionally experience a pricking of my ears and an involuntary clunk in my spirit. It’s a language alert, bringing me up short with wonder. I understand that I have just encountered a signpost to some as of yet unknown treasure. The name “Applebutter Hill,” where my maternal grandmother is buried, for instance, lingered in my heart for years before it became part of my novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill.

View of Amish farmer working in Lancaster county  (PA) hay field (45 degrees from back. Farmer in straw hat with suspenders crossing his back and a little of his beard - but not his face - showing. He's driving two mules and riding in a sulky with a tetter attached to the back. The hay has already been mowed & is in straight rows from the first tetting. He's flipping it again to help it dry. In the distance is a corn field and in back left a weathered white barn. Photo by Rich Hill.
Donna’s 2nd Album “Harvest”: Cover shows Amish farmer tetting a hay field – photo by Rich Hill

As a Sunday school student at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Wilson Borough, Pennsylvania, Bible verses captured my imagination in the same way. “the Fourth watch of the Night” was one of them. Little did I know, in the basement of that old church, that someday I would use it in a song.

Where My Head was at the Time

Donna Sitting with her first guide dog Simba (a black Lab) in Great Smokies National Park: photo by Rich Hill

Donna & Simba in Great Smokies National Park.

According to my Braille lyrics, I wrote “The 4th Watch of the Night” on September 30, 1986 – a day before my second guide dog Curly Connor’s fifth birthday. I had recently moved from an apartment in Philadelphia’s Germantown section. I loved Germantown with its old Victorians and tree-lined streets, its proximity to the Wissahickon Valley branch of Fairmount Park, its natural food co-op, the stores of Maplewood Mall and the wonderful people.

Donna & Curly Connor , her second guide dog - a black Lab/Golden Retriever cross, are standing in an Oval Opening at Grey Towers National Historical Site in Milford, Pennsylvania. Photo by Rich Hill.

Donna & Curly Connor , her second guide dog, are at Grey Towers National Historical Site in Milford, Pennsylvania. Photo by Rich Hill

I was not, however, fond of the criminal element. There were six burglaries. Curly Connor – and Simba before him – and I had had several close calls. Rich wanted me to move to Montgomery county. We weren’t ready for marriage, and no bank would give a blind street singer a mortgage. Rich worked things out as usual. I bought my first home with my savings and a loan from his father.

Glenside welcomed me with open arms. I was still working as a street singer, and two nearby train stations provided access to schools in the five-county area and beyond. I had written a song about the Challenger disaster, “The Challenger’s Challenge,” and received a plaque from the Glenside Chamber of Commerce. Curly Connor and I attended St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, where I met other wonderful people. My faith journey was at an all-time high.

Some Bible Background

According to the Bible Dictionary, the Jewish people divided the night into military watches rather than hours. Initially they had only three, but after the Romans took over, it was increased to four. The 4th watch ran from 3:00am to 6:00am; in other words, really late.

Matthew 14 starts with the murder of John the Baptist. Jesus, went to the wilderness to be alone. The crowds, having heard the news, followed him. He took pity on them and healed them. He fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes, and they gathered up twelve baskets of left-overs. Jesus sent his disciples across the sea, staying to dismiss the crowds and pray. Meanwhile, the ship carrying his disciples was tossed about in the wind.

This is from the King James Version (KJV). Note that Peter, despite freaking out a bit, does walk on the water with Jesus.

Matt. 14:25-33. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

THE 4th WATCH OF THE NIGHT: Lyrics

words and music by Donna Weiss, 1986
Included in Harvest (copyright 1989DonnaWeiss

1.
Here’s to the Lord’s apostles,
I love them one and all,
From Phillip and Bartholomew
To James and John and Paul,

But, of all the brave and hearty lads
that ever I hope to greet,
there’s one man I just can’t wait to meet.

Chorus: (after verses 1-3)
He was there when Jesus healed the sick,
He watched Him raise the dead,
He saw with one small basket
How the multitudes were fed,

When the storms came up and the chips were down
And his heart was filled with fright,
They went walking on the water
in the 4th watch of the night.

2.
He was just another fisherman
From the shores of Galilee,
trying to scratch a living from
the wild and restless sea,

So, how did that rough and tumble man,
ever come to be
the saint that speaks so loud and clear to me?

3.
Jesus called him Peter,
He was solid as a stone,
He recognized the son of God
from something he’d been shown,

But, he didn’t find out from flesh and blood,
so the devil couldn’t steal
the knowledge that the Father had revealed.

4.
Now, the seas of this world toss me round,
It’s winds howl in my mind,
Peaceful quiet harbors
are sometimes hard to find,

But, I never get so lost out there
that I can no longer call
on the one who pledged to love me through it all.

Final Chorus:
I know He still heals the sick,
He raises up the dead,
I know with one small basket
how the multitudes are fed,

When the storms come up and the chips are down
And my heart is filled with fright,
we go walking on the water
in the 4th watch of the night.
(repeat chorus & then repeat last line)

References

Watches of night Definition and Meaning – Bible Dictionary

https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/watches-of-night/

Matthew 14:25 Context

https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Matthew-14-25/

Posted in Bible, Christian, Donna Weiss, Faith, Guide dogs, Harvest, memoir, Pennsylvania, Song Lyrics, songwriting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Head-Slappers from the Endless Mountains & the Homer Simpson Doll Caught in the Act

On Saturday, while listening to NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” I heard the true story of a gentleman who tried to kill a cockroach by throwing a gun at it. Sometimes, things happen in my own life that render me speechless, but they don’t make it to the news. I imagine you have had similar experiences.

Explanations of the Stories & Photos

I have no authority to label these head-slappers as the most bizarre true stories of all time. Nevertheless, I won’t forget them, especially my top four. They happened right here in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains. Don’t start with the prejudice about dumb rural folk. It’s not true, and besides, these examples are primarily from urban transplants. I’m not using their names. The memories have become so precious to me that I don’t want to embarrass them.

 

Homer Simpson doll is standing in lower dresser drawer wearing winter hat, knitted in Lynda Lambert's pattern by Donna W. Hill using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn: Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.

homer doll stands in dresser drawer wearing donnas hat: photo by rich hill

The photos, accept for the one showing the deer tick and the ones of Hunter and Mo, are an amusing diversion for you, since there aren’t any of the actual events. My friend Mary’s Homer Simpson doll snuck out of her garage and got into trouble in our bedroom with some of my knitting. Luckily for us all, Rich caught him, and Homer Doll is now delighted to be part of the digital world.

In 4th Place (honorable Mention): Ticks, Lyme Disease & Gravity

This deer tick, shown with straight pin, dime and ballpoint Pen, is huge compared to some we've found: photo by Rich Hill

When we moved to Susquehanna county in 1997, ticks weren’t in evidence. In fact, we didn’t have much in the way of bugs – likely due to the abundance of birds. Swallows and bats gobbled up mosquitos, while hawks and owls kept the rodent population under control. We often sat in the tall grass on lawn chairs or directly on the ground. We rarely found anything crawling up our legs or buzzing around our heads.

Hunter, a male black Lab and Donna’s fourth guide dog relaxes in the fall leaves: photo by Rich Hill

At some point, however, the deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, showed up. Almost every family on our rural road has at least one story to tell about a family member, dog or horse contracting Lyme disease. My fourth guide dog, Hunter had it, and my husband Rich had it more than once, leading to massive amounts of permanent nerve damage.

We were all frantic for information about how to protect ourselves and our pets from this scourge. The vaccine for humans was taken off the market not long after my third guide dog’s trainer had a life-altering reaction to it and spent a year in a wheelchair before regaining some strength and the ability to walk with crutches.

Donna W. Hill & her new yellow Lab guide dog Mo standing by Hill's pond: photo by Rich Hill.

The best preventative we’ve found is the relatively new Soresto collar, which doesn’t smell and isn’t greasy like commercial topical remedies. My new guide dog, Mo, hasn’t had a single tick since we put one on him in 2016. Nonetheless, some people still stick to their own beliefs about what works, even if there is no anecdotal let alone scientific proof to support them.

One of our neighbors has a truly unique perspective to add to the conversation. We found out about it one day while talking to him on the road. He was picking ticks off of his two hounds, both of whom had been treated for Lyme disease. I asked him if he wanted a plastic bag to put them in, till he could deal with them properly.

“Not necessary,” he replied, “I just flick them on the ground.”

“What?” I interrupted before catching myself.

“Oh yes,” he continued, “Ticks like to fall onto an animal from the high grasses.”

We were dumbstruck. He was convinced that after millions of years of surviving almost every known environment, a tick who found herself flung to the ground would just shrug her little arachnean shoulders and give up, rather than attempt the monumental task of crawling up somebody’s leg.

And, in Third Place: The Bear & the Slim Jims

Homer Simpson doll is reclining in the dresser drawer wearing a hat, knitted in Lynda Lambert’s pattern by Donna W. Hill, using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn; women’s  undies visible : Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.

Here in the Endless Mountains, we have a healthy population of black bears. They sneak around during the wee hours of the morning and raid bird feeders, blueberry patches and, of course, gardens. They rarely bother with humans or pets, unless one gets between a mother and her cubs.

When Rich has seen them on our property, they spot him and gradually put more distance between themselves and him. Some people won’t walk as far as their mailboxes without a gun, while most of us don’t worry about them much, except for trying to bear-proof our bird feeders and trash.

One middle-aged man, however, was afraid of bears. He thought they were already coming too close to the house, so what does he do? Well, of course he buys a case of Slim Jims. Then, he walks around the house dropping one every ten feet.

We know this because he told us, exhibiting the conviction of a man who is positive that no self-respecting bear would eat a Slim Jim. We were flabbergasted. What was the logic behind this? Bears will brave an active bee hive for some honey, will ignore the thorns when raspberries are ripe, but the spice in a Slim Jim keeps them away from a serving of meat?

Coming in at #2: The Swede on the Roof

One autumn day, a 60-something Swede trudged out to his barn and unearthed his tallest ladder from the haphazardly organized collection of tools and machinery that left no room for a car. He carried it to the house, extending it and leaned it on the roof. One last trip to the house for his double-barrelled shotgun, and he was ready to go. He climbed the ladder one-handed, the shotgun lazily gripped in his other hand.

When he reached the top, he stepped onto the roof and climbed to the peak next to the chimney. It wasn’t the highest vantage point on his property, but it did give the best view of the main road. Because of this, no one could be blamed for assuming that he was engaged in a militia exercise, the intent of which was to surveil the area for fire, a contingent from the FBI or other dangers.

The Homer Simpson doll has climbed up the dresser. He’s admiring himself in the mirror, wearing a winter hat. The matching scarf – knitted in Lynda’s one-row pattern by Donna W. Hill, using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn - is over his right shoulder, and he’s pulling it from the drawer : Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.

But, no one suspected anything of the sort. His neighbors and half the county knew exactly what he was doing.

Lots of us out here in the sticks use wood stoves to heat our homes. For some, it is their only source of heat, for others, it supplements oil, electric or geothermal. With the build-up of creosote in the chimneys, chimney fires are a major risk. Cleaning out the chimney, before the heating season, is a must. You can hire someone to do it or do it yourself.

A car turned in from the road and rolled up the gravel driveway. The Swede paused to watch as his wife came to a stop. After collecting her shopping, she headed to the house, spotted him on the roof and waved.

“Hi Honey,” he called, waving the gun, “Stay out of the living room.”

Bracing himself with one foot on each side of the peak, he removed the chimney cap, put the barrel of the gun in the chimney and fired. End of creosote.

Drum-Role … and in 1st Place: Dog Training Method 983

Donna W. Hill with her new yellow Lab guide dog, Mo, and rescued strawberry-blonde tabby Goofus: photo by Rich Hill.

As a guide dog handler, I get some attention from dog owners who must think I have a corner on the market regarding all things ‘dog. Most of their questions relate to puppies. The fact that my guide dogs are adults when I get them has yet to dissuade them from ploughing forward with their problems.

I enjoy this almost as much as when people get lost in our rural area. Since I am usually the only one out for a walk and they are hopelessly lost, they end up asking the blind lady for directions. After determining where they would like to end up, I give them my best effort and off they go. This just never gets old.

But back to the advice-seekers. Occasionally, I can offer some assistance. I extoll the virtues of consistency and praise. I explain that a dog that won’t come to you in the house is not ready to be off the leash outside, that it’s folly to repeat a command over and over and other canine truisms that are lost on many dog owners.

We knew a forty-something chemist, who retired to the country to start a business. I called her one morning to check on an order. She decided that, while she had me on the line, she would pick my brain about training dogs. She had a German shepherd and some chickens. The problem was that the dog enjoyed killing the chickens. This was not going over well.

I asked what she had tried. She explained her technique in a manner that suggested no awareness of how it might sound to dog or chicken lovers.

Upon finding a dead chicken, she picked it up and put it in a barrel. She then put the dog in the barrel with the dead chicken. After affixing the lid, she rolled the barrel – containing the culprit and his victim – down their long rural driveway. To her credit, she did admit that this method wasn’t working.

Anything to Add?

If you would like to share any head-slappers of your own, have at it. And, thanks for stopping by.

Photo Descriptions

  1. Homer Simpson doll is standing in lower dresser drawer wearing winter hat, knitted in Lynda
    Lambert’s pattern by Donna W. Hill using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn: Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.
  2. This deer tick, shown with straight pin, dime and ballpoint Pen, is huge compared to some we’ve found: photo by Rich Hill.
  3. Hunter, a male black Lab and Donna’s fourth guide dog relaxes in the fall leaves: photo by Rich Hill.
  4. Donna W. Hill & her new yellow Lab guide dog Mo standing by Hill’s pond: photo by Rich Hill.
  5. Homer Simpson doll is reclining in the dresser drawer wearing a hat, knitted in Lynda Lambert’s pattern by Donna W. Hill, using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn; women’s undies visible : Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.
  6. The Homer Simpson doll has climbed up the dresser. He’s admiring himself in the mirror, wearing a winter hat. The matching scarf – knitted in Lynda Lambert’s one-row pattern by Donna W. Hill, using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn – is over his right shoulder, and he’s pulling it from the drawer : Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.
  7. Donna W. Hill with her new yellow Lab guide dog, Mo, and rescued strawberry-blonde tabby Goofus: photo by Rich Hill.
Posted in Blindness, Dogs, Guide dogs, Head-Slappers, Homer Simpson Doll, humor, Knitting, Pennsylvania, Rural Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blindness & Faith Healing: an Old Street Performer’s Musings

As a blind woman who worked as a street performer for eleven years, I have experienced many wonderful moments with the public. I’ve also experienced some awkward, painful and infuriating ones. The ministrations of faith healers were particularly aggravating. Before writing this piece, I sought comments from other blind people. Their opinions are as diverse as blind people themselves. No one wanted to be named. Here are pictures from a life that I view as worthy of celebration, not healing.

Donna with her new yellow Lab guide dog, Mo, and rescued strawberry-blonde tabby Goofus: photo by Rich Hill.

Disclaimer

Donnna W. Hill  - with Hunter, a black Lab & her 4th guide dog - donates The Heart of Applebutter Hill to Dir. Jesse Johnson of the Towanda Public Library: photo by Rich Hill.

I was born legally but not totally blind in the ‘50s, when being blind was less acceptable than it is today. I was raised in a working-class, Christian family, where the undercurrents of belief suggested two seemingly contradictory perspectives. First, I got the impression that my parents viewed my blindness as a punishment. Second, there was some element of the healing power of Jesus.

Neither of these perspectives was spelled out. I just picked them up the way children get their ideas about where they fit into the worlds of family, neighborhood and church. My spiritual life has undergone many twists and turns since then.

Evolution of a Perspective

My school days were filled with bullying. Some teachers thought I shouldn’t be in public school, while others were sure I was faking my vision loss. My dreams of doing something with music, fostered by an early spiritual experience, were evaporating in the light of irrefutable evidence that I wasn’t qualified.

My voice was good enough for the second grade chorus, but I couldn’t get the hang of the risers in less than thirty seconds and was dismissed. At eleven, I suspected that I had a mental deficiency causing me to block my own vision. And, not for the last time, I considered suicide.

By twelve, my piano sheet music was too complicated to memorize using a bright light and my deteriorating vision. Had God changed His mind? Or, perhaps, I needed to do something else first — get normal sight. It was obviously impossible to be successful without it.

Years before hearing televangelists, I somehow knew I had to believe it would happen. Every morning for months, before I opened my eyes, I thanked God for restoring my sight, imagining the bright and detailed world that awaited me. My eyes, however, opened to dimness and confusion.

Progress and Compromise

At fourteen, I was devastated without music in my life. I asked for and received a guitar. Though I was too shy to share them, I started writing songs, beginning the inexorable link in my life between music and language.

In Junior High and High School, the bullying became more physical. The increase in work coupled with declining central vision necessitated a prioritizing of my work — literature and science were in; history and math out.

What About Braille?

Braille and recorded books were never discussed. I was legally blind in a world where it was more important to read and navigate with your eyes, regardless of how many mistakes you made, how much time it took, how sick you got or how many other things fell by the wayside, than to learn nonvisual skills.

The overt bullying stopped when I entered college. Nevertheless, I had lost the reading vision in my better eye that summer and was ill-equipped to take full advantage of the college experience. For the first time, however, I used recorded books and readers.

What Provoked This Dredging Up of Childhood Misfortunes?

I use LinkedIn to promote my novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, as well as vision loss issues. I have over 5,000 connections and a rather inclusive approach to invitations. If someone invites me to connect, I usually accept. My profile makes it clear that I am blind, and I assume they’ve read it. Though they may be sighted, their family and friends might include someone who is dealing with vision loss.

One of my connections wrote the following message to me.

Hi Donna, as you read this message instantly receive your sites in Jesus name. Amen.

Reawakening the Dream

Donna Sitting with her first guide dog Simba (a black Lab) in Great Smokies National Park in '81: photo by Rich Hill.

After graduating from college, I tried to make up the deficit. I trained with my first guide dog and learned Braille. I would pursue my dream of being a self-supporting musician — initially, as a street performer.

lackawanna trail high library (Factoryville, PA): Donna W. Hill on sofa w librarian kelly hopkins; 4 students (l-r: Taylor Selwood,Jordan Flynn, Ally Decker and Annika Kongvold ) stand behind. Jordan holds Donna's novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill & Donna's black Lab guide dog, Hunter, watches from the floor: photo by rich hill.

I had my own apartment, kept an organic garden complete with a compost pile, baked whole grain bread and made everything from soup and spaghetti sauce to hummus, pesto and spanakopita. I started performing at schools, churches and other venues. I wanted my audiences to have a comfortable experience with a blind person and learn a bit about how we do things. I released the first two of my three albums — Rainbow Colors and Harvest.

“If I had healed you back then,” said the voice I thought of as God, “You would have never known that blindness didn’t have to limit you.”

A Street Performer’s Experience

Between ’78 and ’90, I worked regularly as a street performer in Philadelphia’s Suburban Station, a center city train station serving commuters from the five-county area. I also had a permit to perform at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. I sang mostly original material and met people from all walks of life who shared their joys and sorrows with me. It was a transformative experience.

Of course there were unpleasantries along the way. I was robbed twice. A classical guitarist, who believed I was in his spot, threatened to break my fingers. And, a deranged soul tried to spray me with Lysol … to disinfect me from AIDS. Well, you get the idea.

Some people stopped to tell me about the healing power of Jesus. I tried politeness, but the rage and humiliation boiling inside me occasionally burst through with comments like, “What makes you think I want to be healed?.” Why couldn’t they accept me the way I am? Did they really think that blindness was the worst part of my life?

When I performed at local folk clubs, however, the story I told most often, which always got a laugh, involved a group of non-Christian zealots. They explained that all I needed to do to get my sight restored was to eat nothing but raw foods for the rest of my life. I patiently listened and then said dryly, “I don’t think it would be worth it.”

Back to My Overzealous LinkedIn Connection

His message made me astonishingly angry. I wanted to explode. But, it would have been counterproductive. I considered ignoring the comment, but the intervening decades since early adulthood had left me at the point where I could say this.

I hope you will not be offended by this response. I long ago stopped asking Jesus to restore my sight. It seems rather selfish to have my sight restored when so many others remain blind, and others still, who currently have sight, will lose their sight without knowing that life without sight can — with some adaptive equipment and skills — be happy, productive and fulfilling. My purpose on earth is to spread this information, not to run from the challenges and opportunities that blindness brings.

Other Opinions & Issues

Pre-Flight Instruction at National Soaring Museum in NY: Donna sits in front seat of High-Performance Glider; pilot standing by plane on runway - photo by Rich Hill.

Somehow, I still feel badly about this response. Was I being too prideful? One blind gentleman said, “What if it works?” Several said they thought it was their responsibility to encourage others in their faith. Some confessed that these encounters made them feel horrible or angry.

Butterfly on Bergamott in Pennsylvania's Endless Mountains: photo by Rich Hill.

One woman, an urban dweller, expressed the idea that it boiled down to “others wishing that you, basically, not be you.”

I’ve had perhaps a dozen experiences in my lifetime with faith healing zealots (all young women) approaching me, all of whom asked if they could pray over me. Depending on my mood, I either allowed it, with a mindset of “Oh, this will make them feel better,” or, “No, thank you, but I appreciate your offer.” Only in one case did the zealot attach my blindness to sin, and it didn’t mean anything to me.

A Sign from a Fellow Blind Author

With so many of my blind brothers and sisters being so uncomfortable with this topic, I had misgivings about going forward with this piece. I’ve been reading Outside Myself, a young adult novel by Kristen Witucki. The story is told by two blind people, who meet through a library for the blind. In some ways, they couldn’t be more different. Imagine my surprise when I came across a scene where the twelve-year-old blind protagonist had an experience with faith healing.

I’ll have more to say about this excellent book in the months to come, when I’ve had an opportunity to truly digest it. But, for now, I will leave you with a couple of links and my assurance that Witucki tackles the issue of acceptance with an abundance of depth, bredth and sensitivity.

Outside Myself by Kristen Witucki

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Outside-Myself-Kristen-Witucki/dp/1942545991

Accessible Versions

Outside Myself is also available in accessible formats for readers with print disabilities through Bookshare and NLS (the National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped).

Posted in authors, Blindness, Braille, bullying, Cats & Dogs, faith healing, Guide dogs, memoir, nature, novel, Pennsylvania, Rural Life, songwriting, Uncategorized, Visually Impaired, young adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Read an eBook Week: The Heart of Applebutter Hill is Free Through March 9, 2019 

Goofus, a strawberry blonde tabby gets cozy with a copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill by his Mom, Donna W. Hill.

Kitty says, “Always heard it’s nice to snuggle up with a good book.”

Here are some shots my hubby, Rich Hill, took of my fantasy-adventure, educator-recommended novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy them enough to grant me a small favor. This week (March 3 through 9) is “Read an eBook Week” on Smashwords. My novel is free. There’s a discount code on this page, which you enter at check-out to receive your favorite eBook version free (.epub, .rtf, .mobi, .pdf and so on. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/313071?ref=DonnaWHill

Blooming Amarilis with a print copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill, a fantasy adventure featuring some awesome flowers: photo by Rich Hill.

Obviously, I’d love it if you read and reviewed my book on Amazon, etc. But, even if you already have a copy, it would help me get some traction and exposure, if you would “buy” it for free anyway.

Links to reviews and publicity

Ice penguins investigate a print copy of Donna W. Hill's The Heart of Applebutter Hill: photo by Rich Hill.

Feel free to share this and to contact me with any questions or comments you may have. I’d love to hear from you.

Word Gathering Magazine issue 38

“Book Review: The Heart of Applebutter Hill (Donna Hill)”
Reviewed by Kristen Witucki http://www.wordgathering.com/issue38/reviews/hill.html 

Future Reflections: Volume 35 Number 1 Winter 2016

Book cover for The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill shows a cave scene - stalactites reflected in an underground lake, while a hand holds the Heartstone of Arden-Goth: photos, Rich Hill;, design, Lizza Studios.

Book cover for The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill shows a cave scene – stalactites reflected in an underground lake, while a hand holds the blue Heartstone of Arden-Goth: photos, Rich Hill;, design, Lizza Studios.

“The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill Reviewed by Jacqueline Williams” https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr35/1/fr350116.htm

WNEPTV 16 News with Julie Sidoni

lackawanna trail high library (Factoryville, PA): Donna W. Hill on sofa w librarian kelly hopkins; 4 students (l-r: Taylor Selwood,Jordan Flynn, Ally Decker and Annika Kongvold ) stand behind. Jordan holds Donna's novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill & Donna's black Lab guide dog, Hunter, watches from the floor: photo by rich hill.

Donna at lackawanna trail high library (Factoryville, PA) on sofa w librarian kelly hopkins & 4 students (l-r: Taylor Selwood,Jordan Flynn, Ally Decker and Annika Kongvold ) stand behind. Jordan holds Donna’s novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill & Donna’s black Lab guide dog, Hunter, watches from the floor: photo by rich hill.

“Blind Author Inspires Others with Her Vision” http://wnep.com/2016/02/26/blind-author-inspires-others-with-her-vision/

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Getting Ducks to the Duck House: Implications for an Indie Author

Years ago, my husband Rich, my guide dog Hunter and I went on a bit of a lark. Friends of ours from the Folk Lore Society of Northeast Pennsylvania, who go by the name of the Young Geezers, were performing at a nature center about sixty miles away. I got to do a guest set, and it was all very pleasant. Years later, it led to a bit of a revelation about self-promotion.

The Duck House

Dove Nnest with Eggs in Pond Shelter by Rich Hill.

No need for a dove house; they prefer a corner in our shelter.

Dove baby in Hill's Pond Shelter: photo by Rich Hill

Having an insatiable fascination with birds, we explored the many bird houses available for sale in the nature center’s store. Ultimately, we purchased a duck house. It is huge and was specifically designed for wood ducks.

4 Turtles on Floating Log in Hill's Pond: photo by Rich Hill.

We have a pond with frogs, toads, fish and turtles. Occasionally, mallards and wood ducks stop by for a swim, but none ever stays. According to what we learned, they like a house on a pole near the water. We had the water and the pole. And now, we thought, we had just the house.

Vowing to put it up the following spring, Rich stored it in the barn. Later that fall, he noticed something peculiar. An enterprising squirrel had packed it with black walnuts. It made a rather nice storage unit.

Come spring, we hung it on the pole and waited. Again ducks came to the pond. Three wood ducks stayed for several days, but eventually moved on. Then , starlings took up residence. The house was much too deep for the starlings who had to find far more straw than they would have needed in any of our other bird houses.

Owls & Squirrels

A Screech Owl Looks Out from  a House Built for Wood-Ducks. Photo by Rich Hill.

The following spring, the duck house, having been dutifully cleaned out by my husband, was returned to the pole. A screech owl moved in for a while. We love owls and were excited about the prospect of help with controlling the mice. For some reason, however, the owl left. Perhaps, he didn’t like his picture being taken?

Baby squirrels peering out of duck house high above Hill's pond: photo by Rich Hill.

“No, you go first,” says one of the baby squirrels.

Then one day in late spring, Rich came home all excited having just seen several very un-bird-like paws and noses sticking out of the duck house. He took this picture, though we never confirmed whether they were red or gray squirrels.

Hill's Pond Shelter, Reflected in Pond: photo by Rich Hill.

The house is empty again, and Heaven knows if we’ll ever get an actual duck, but it will be cleaned and returned to the pole after whatever comes our way.

A Street Performer’s History with Publicity

I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a publicity nut. It started as the unobtainable dream of a shy, legally blind songwriter, poet and short story author. The real stuff came along when my hometown paper, the Easton Express, did a piece about me receiving a guide dog from the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, NY. That was followed up by coverage of my first presentation to the Easton Lions Club.

I did my own publicity for my music career — my work as a street performer in Philadelphia’s Suburban Station and Penn’s Landing. That led to doing school assemblies, presentations for local churches and libraries and an occasional gig at local folk clubs. Over the years, I self-produced three albums of original songs, and managed a bunch of local TV and radio appearances including Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air” and Gene Shay’s Sunday night folk music program.

Goofus, a strawberry blonde tabby gets cozy with a copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill by his Mom, Donna W. Hill: photo by Rich Hill.

Kitty says, “Always heard it’s nice to snuggle up with a good book.” Photo by Rich Hill.

When my novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill came out, I had already been doing PR for various divisions and affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). I had been writing “print-worthy” press releases since my days as a street singer, was writing regularly for online magazines and had established a presence on social media.

Publicity Brings Unanticipated Joys

Over the years, many nice things have happened to me as a result of my little publicity-generating machine. After moving to the Endless Mountains, another article in the Easton Express prompted my first childhood friend to get in touch. The woman (a twelve-year-old at the time) who talked me into doing my first school assembly back in the ’80s, recently found me through Facebook, and another friend from my Philadelphia days touched bases near the same time.

While in the Philadelphia area, I did a joint school assembly for a high school that housed the St. Lucy’s Day School for Blind Children. One of the students, now a teacher herself, got in touch with me decades later and actually remembered the words to “No Stone Left Unturned,” the song I sang to the whole school that day.

Self-Promotion: the Lesson from the Duck House

Donna & her new yellow Lab guide dog Mo standing by Hill's pond: photo by Rich Hill

In PR, we do our best to create the right platform to support the products and services we are trying to promote. Ever mindful of the clientele we wish to attract, we develop and fine-tune our community and online presence, and work tirelessly to create the perfect image of ourselves or our company. Sometimes, we get the clientele we were hoping for, and sometimes we get something else entirely. That’s not always a bad thing.

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