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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Writing Helps Blind Woman Heal Her Past

An old woman’s simple kindness saved Monique Hoffschneider’s life 33 years ago.

Monique stood on a busy street corner, blind and paralyzed with despair. During the previous three years, she’d lost her eyesight, two sons and her home outside Frankfurt, Germany. She was only 21.

People shoved her on the streets and called her a blind pig.

“There was still a lot of Nazi thinking in Germany then. Cripples were not wanted,” Monique says now, as dispassionate as if she were reading from a book in her Sagle home.

As Monique tells it in her short story, “Rescue Mission,” she stood as an outcast on that street corner until an old woman gently steered her through traffic.

Monique was so starved for kindness that she believed the woman an angel sent to save her young life.

Now 54, Monique finds it therapeutic to write about her horrifying past and acknowledge her turning points. She hopes someday her stories will sell.

“Maybe the story of my life will help someone else over a rough spot,” she says.

She writes of post-World War II Germany where botched surgeries blinded her, of the Nazi stepfather who kicked her into the streets because she was blind, of giving up her children because of her blindness and homelessness.

She writes of her first son who died in a children’s home awaiting adoption, and of her abusive ex-husband who finally led her to the United States in 1964.

Monique’s stories were hers alone until this summer when the Idaho Commission for the Blind bought her the computer equipment she needs to earn a living writing.

The encyclopedia-sized Open Book machine reads aloud everything she types into her computer. It also scans printed pages into a computer then reads them aloud in English and German with a precise British accent.

“It feels good to me to write about my life,” she says, running her fingers over the keyboard. “When I wrote about how my son was killed, the pages were soaked. I needed to cry.”

Go south, young man (or woman)

If your mountain bike has crunched enough rocks in the five northern counties, head south to Moscow Mountain.

The International Mountain Biking Association just gave Moscow’s mountain bike club $500 for signs and tools to maintain a scenic trail on the mountain overlooking the University of Idaho.

Here’s the catch: The trail is on private land. But Moscow is so into the sport that the property owners let the bike club maintain the trail and open it to the public.

Theater treats

Now that Post Falls has an arts commission with the energy of a hydroelectric dam, the city needs a real theater for all the wonderful, visiting performers.

The commission will feature a multicultural dance troupe in September, classical guitarist Robert Bluestone in February and a group that tells Alaskan legends with puppets and masks in April.

Tickets are a great buy - $13 for adults for all three shows or $9 for students, if you buy by the end of September. Call 777-9278.

Happy to help

When I asked Kootenai County DARE officer Don Kline to help with a children’s race earlier this month, he couldn’t have said yes faster. He wanted nothing in return. The race wouldn’t have worked without him.

I hear plenty of complaints about rude public employees, but little about the good guys like Don. Who are they? What public agency surprised you with compassion lately? Sing your praises to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID, 83814; fax them to 765-7149; or call 765-7128.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo