Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

What Should I call It?

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized

Yes, readers, I admit it, as a newly published writer and poet, I have taken the sandwich board strategy off the sidewalk and onto the internet. Well, let me clarify that remark by adding that while I have not opted to wear the paint and ply board method, I do stuff my bag with a few copies of the book and promotional postcards. In fact, I left two cards at the nail salon, gave one to a bus driver, and passed the book around at a networking luncheon. I’ve even given much thought to getting a button made that states, “Ask me about my book,”. Not sure about that one, could be just a tad tacky, hmm.

The first book signing is going to be November 17 and will be posted on my author’s page, as well as on Facebook to be sure. What I am lacking in promotional savvy I am making up in determination. I do think there are times when not to talk about the book, like, say while scuba diving. I have become one of the pushy people I dislike. It doesn’t matter because it’s my book.

Tacky or not, the feedback has been great. The support from others has been even better. A few people want to read my poems aloud and I am thinking of doing something like this at the book signing. This could develop into a good idea to get folks to come. I am also going to broadcast live on Facebook, which will hopefully get even more exposure from the community.

Stay tuned …

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Chicken Burritos

| Filed under Guide dogs Uncategorized

I ordered a chicken burrito for lunch today and it brought back memories of training with my second guide dog, Bailey. No, he didn’t eat it, for those of you who know my dog. It made me think of how far we have come since last year and I can say I am past the second dog symdrome so many handlers fall into when making the transition from dog one to dog two.

In April last year the instructor, whom I call Jo, and I walked to the Spanish deli and got the chicken burritos and I worked Bailey back to the training lounge a few blocks away. We ate, talked, and then back tracked to my office, about 5 blocks away. I still wasn’t 100%, having a nasty respiratory infection and my stamina was quite depleted.
We entered the office and finished up the training walk for the day, setting up the next home visit to complete the training. I was still getting used to Bailey, he had made a few errors since I’d gotten him back after I had recovered from the worst of the RSV infection.

We also planned the dredded night walk, which I wanted to complete to gain some added confidence while working Bailey past dog and scent distractions.

Today, as I ate the yummy repast, I reflected on how far we have come and how much we have bonded. Bailey is an independent thinker, extremely interested in his environment, has the drive to work hard and not slow down, and has a personality matching his big, beautiful face and head. In fact, all of him is big, paw to toenail. The best part is his big, doggie heart and spirit.
This is how independent he is: Jerry and I went shopping to Gander Mountain. As we entered the stor, I said to bailey, let’s find the toys. Well, he looked around a bit, followed Jerry as we shopped, then, as we moved farther into the store, he began pulling harder, wanting to look into each aisle, and I could feel him sniffing the air, too. I thought, Holy Cow, he’s looking for the toys. As we turned into an isle, he pulled me around the corner, wagging his tail, and Jerry said he was putting his nose on a toy. It was a bright orange rubber Frisbee. I laughed, petting him. So, folks, dogs do have purposeful memories and can make decisions about which toys they prefer.

I will end this by saying I welcome these memories, especially when the memory is connected to my dogs and good food.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 1

Pinch me, I’m Dreaming

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized

Since announcing the release of my first book of poems, UPWELLING,, the feedback has been wonderful. Dozens of folks have pledged to purchase either the e book or printed book, much to my amazed mind. Yes, I am still adjusting to the attention. It’s a practical way on how to practice being gracious, which is also a good thing.

My publisher/editor team, Lenore and David Dworkin,, have been great, too. Other writers have agreed to help promote my book with ads in newsletters. The best was the first sale which took place yesterday.

And so, the newest thread in my own life loom begins. I’ve been giving this experience a great deal of brain energy; questions pop into my head and get me thinking them over. Questions like, why didn’t I do this before? I know it’s a bit silly but I can’t help it. Maybe it is as others have stated, that it is a little bit of luck and lots of patience. I am reminded of a Buddhist message, do nothing and all will be done. I have made a great effort to forego the worry and embrace the joy in this adventure. I do have this little voice cautioning me not to get too carried away, to stay grounded and limit the ego-boosting and remain humble.

All I need to do is go from my office into the kitchen and attack the mountain of dishes or start putting laundry away. Humble tasks for times when I need it most.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Here it is, Folks!

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized

Upwelling: Poetry
C 2016 by Ann Chiappetta
Guide dogs, death, and a disturbing dream. Marriage, memories, and intriguing mysteries. Eroticism, abortion, and a wonderfully poetic essay. In this collection of 23 of her short, highly accessible poems from several decades, Ann Chiappetta explores an enormous range of emotions and topics. Travel with her as she moves from illness, death, loss, and grief to renewed hope, security, and serenity.
For sale in e-book ($2.99) and print ($7.95) from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online sellers.
Full details and buying links:

Ann Chiappetta’s poems, articles, and short fiction have been published in both print and online circulations, most notably Dialogue magazine, Matilda Ziegler online magazine, and other small press reviews. Her poetry has been featured in Lucidity, Midwest Poetry Review, Magnets and Ladders, and Breath & Shadow. She is also a contributing editor of the last-named publication.
Ann holds a Master of Science degree in marriage and family therapy and currently practices as a readjustment counseling therapist for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
She lives in New Rochelle, New York with her husband, daughter, and assortment of pets.
To read more of her writing, go to
Follow Ann on Twitter: AnnieDungareesHere It Is Folks!

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

How Cool Is This?

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized

This is an update on the book project. I am happy to announce that my first book of poems, titled, Upwelling: poems by Ann Chiappetta will be available soon in both eBook and printed versions. It is 61 pages. The photo of the orchid in black and white for the front cover and the black and white photo of Verona, my first guide dog as well as the author pic were taken by my talented sister, Cheryll Romanek. I wish I could share them here bbut I have to save them for the book. The book is dedicated to our Mom, Mary, who died last July from lymphoma.

How did I get this far? I used the three P’s: practice, patience and perseverance. First, I wrote, re-wrote and wrote even more. I recall a televised interview with Michael Crighton which has stayed with me. When asked by a fan how to become a great writer, he said, “you have to write,”. I spent years offering up my work to other writers in critique groups and revised again. I read many poems, took verse writing classes, and concentrated on perfecting the art form. I performed each poem until I was satisfied with how it sounded read aloud as well as how it appeared on the page. This took many years.

Next, I spent a year researching possible self-publishing options, prices, and used the consumer-driven power within to call and email questions, and rejected all but one publisher. Let me tell you, folks, it doesn’t matter whether you are a Rhodes scholar or Mr. Salt of the Earth, if you can pay, you can print and sell a book.

In my inexperienced mind, I was put off by this shadow world of the vanity press at first; one didn’t need talent, only enough words to fill at least 50 pages and the credit card to foot the bill. I was turned off, to be blunt. How would my work, which I thought had merit and meaning and most of all, potential, compare and stand out against some of these other authors who had the money to pay big bookmakers?

I was disillusioned. I didn’t have that kind of money. Before that, I tried doing my own desktop publishing, but depending upon friends to “get back” to me was just unrealistic and a burden on the friendship. I could not access the software myself and had to rely on a third person to create the correct format, etc. One printer even refused to handle the black and white prints, which was frustrating to both me and my sister. Another printing company sent me a 75-page instruction book that was more like a programming guide – the techno-speak and desktop tasks were like a foreign language.
I eventually put my big girl boots on and scraped up enough money to pay for editing services and moved on. I did not want my project to interfere with our friendship, so I left well enough alone, so to speak.

I made sure the words were just how I wanted them, then I began the search for the right editor. I also did another thing that ended up being the most helpful: reading books by other authors like me who are good writers and who have already published by looking up the publishers and/or the printing companies. This was the most rewarding step and the last researching piece of the book publishing puzzle falling into place. I am a writer who is blind, I cannot appreciate the visual aesthetics of desktop publishing. I can, however, find the right kind of help to accomplish the task.

What I can say about the process is once you connect with the right people, it will all quickly fall together, so be ready. It may even seem surreal, after plowing for what may have seemed like eons searching for the right people, to be led down a path of dead ends, to expect yet another disappointment, and then be swept up and carried away is quite a pleasant shock.
Yes, it is that exciting, at least for me, but I am a thrill seeker anyway. Wheeee!

And now we are here, getting ready to announce a slim volume of poems written after I began losing my vision. The subjects are varied, just like life. Love, loss, hope, hurt, joy, faith, lust, rejection, trust, trauma, reflections of the human condition. Each poem contributes to the upwelling of emotion and feeling I have touched upon while writing the prose.
I hope you will buy the book, of course, but most of all, I want this book to help heal or change something for the person reading it. I want to hear about the transformative value this book may have upon another person.
Thanks to Lenore for her expert editing,
to David
for his technical expertise and services, and to Patty Fletcher
for indirectly leading me to the Dworkins from her book, Campbell’s Rambles.

Stay tuned for other updates and the official release of Upwelling.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Not Lost in Translation

| Filed under Guide dogs Uncategorized

Today Bailey and I went out to run some errends. On our walk we encountered construction blocking the sidewalk. The first blockde was fairly easy – Bailey took us to it, I figured out what it was, directed him to find the way around it. He took me to the curb, then went into the street during the lull in traffic, and back onto the side walk where it was clear. A dozen steps further, however, we got stuck. Not only was there another barrier, but a huge truck was parked at the curb, so we were unable to navigate like we did the first time. As I stood at the curb, deciding on back tracking and crossing one block down and to come back up on the other side of the street, a man approached me. He spoke no English but offered his elbow. Talk about a true gift. I nodded my thanks, and he expertly guided me to the curb on the opposite side of the street. Once safely across, he babbled something as if to say, it was safe now and I smiled, patted his arm and thanked him. Thank you, whoever you are, you just made my day.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

The Fluidity of Guide Dogs For Those Who Don’t Know

| Filed under Guide dogs Uncategorized

Just the other day I was asked by a friend what was the difference between walking with a white cane versus a guide dog. I thought about it for a long time, eventually giving them a standard and uncomplicated answer: a cane detects things, a guide dog avoids them.

Later on in the week I thought about the question again, and knowing I needed to write another post for my blog, I decided to expand upon the question.
I asked myself, what are the most difficult challenges while finding my way around the environment and how does a dog help more than a cane? I will also state here that I am still a cane user. I, doo in fact use my cane at least once every day or at night to keep in practice. I do not condone giving up cane skills for guiding skills. As a person with a visual disability, I need all the tools I can acquire to be as independent as possible and having both a dog and being able to pick up a cane and use it confidently keeps in line with this personal philosophy.

Okay, now that the “I don’t Hate White Canes” disclaimer has been stated, we can now move onto the main idea of the post: what I find more natural and why.
While first learning to use a cane, I learned how much navigating I could tolerate and I was disappointed to discover I could not mentally tolerate more than an hour of independent walking and way finding with just myself and the cane. Sure, I could tap around a hotel, store, or familiar place without a serious drain on my brain power. The drain came when I was out on the street going from point A to point B and the attention it required. I would call it hyper awareness that took absolute control at all times or I would risk tripping, falling, or getting lost. I will also tell you, constant reader, that I suffer from a mild traumatic brain injury and since the injury, I do have some trouble with coordination and multi tasking. Using a cane just hurt my head.

Working a dog requires awareness, better than average way finding skills and complete trust in the dog’s ability to guide. Some of the same tools, yet also a different feeling altogether. Yes, it is different physically, but it is also freeing, once you get the hang of it. The dance is graceful, like a waltz, rather than the herky jerk of the jitterbug. The team is more than one person and an unfeeling object; the dog listens to you, you listen to the dog and together way finding becomes more accurate, relaxed and even fun. I don’t know about you, but I never confided in my cane that I had fun finding my way around that parking lot safely or thanking my cane for getting us past that broken up sidewalk without a scratch or twisted ankle. Plus, unlike a cane, working with the dog didn’t hurt my head.

Below are some examples I no longer find unsafe or anxiety provoking thanks to my canine companion that, if I used a cane, would be more difficult and even a bit of a hazard.

Hallways and corridors. Those hospital or nursing home halls sometimes cluttered with beds, wheelchairs, and food/medication carts don’t matter, we just step around it all with quiet ease. No tapping, clanging on objects or other patients’ ankles. Have you ever knocked over a blood pressure station, you know, the ones that roll around and rattle when moved? I don’t worry about doing that again thanks to my dog.

Hotel corridors strewn with those pesky cleaning carts, armed with protruding spray bottles and broom handles, vacuum cords, and room service trays. No issues here, except maybe a leave it command not to sniff the leftover food trays on the floor.

Motels are also a challenge unless your dog can find the door to the room so you don’t have to trail the wall and risk hitting someone while passing their door. Yes, folks, I was trailing the wall while in a motel and as I passed my hand across a door, it opened, and I accidentally groped a woman’s booby shelf. “nuff said. A dog will target your door and take you to it so you don’t need to trail a wall to find it.

Routes without sidewalks, while taking more practice, are much more easily traversed when the dog does the shore lining. For those who don’t know, shore lining is a phrase describing how to follow the path by finding the natural grass line or shoulder boarding a road. Cane users must keep in constant touch with it or risk veering out into traffic or other hazards. A dog will keep to the line of travel and when prompted, will also bring the team to it and remain there while traffic passes, then resume the line of travel upon command.

I have taught my dogs to find people by name, like “Daddy” and by the names of other dogs. That is handy when in a crowded room or finding one’s way back from the restroom.

Finding the checkout counter in a store is another cool thing, along with finding the steps, elevator, door, chair, bathroom and other locations that make a huge difference in the mutability of life while passing through it.

If the explanations above don’t convince you, that in most circumstances, a dog is safer than a cane, maybe these will:
Have you ever had your cane tip snapped off by a car turning right on red? I have, I’ve also had it snatched from my hand and broken by a turning car and a speeding bicycle. My dog, like many other dogs before him, have pushed, pulled, or shoved their handlers away from danger. Each time this happens, I am reminded of the first time my dog pulled me from being hit by a car and it still makes me get emotional.

A white cane can’t be thanked or petted. Or make choices that keep you safe. Or let your mind feel relaxed while walking through a quiet street. Or feel less anxious when traveling through a crowd. Or help you traverse a train platform or airport terminal filled with people, bags and strollers.

After traveling for extended periods with my cane, I’d be mentally exhausted, as if I just been through a 400 question math exam. The level of concentration, for me, was tremendous and I would often suffer from headaches and fatigue when traveling at night, too.

My dog helped mitigate all of it. The only part I work on is night travel and this is only because I now suffer from vertigo, which is worse at night.

Yes, using a cane or a dog is a skill set that takes time to learn and a good amount of practice. Either will keep one safe but in my opinion, a white cane has a more frequent user failure. What I mean is even if I think it is safe, my dog will evaluate my decision and, if necessary, divert us from a potentially harmful result. A white cane does not have this fail safe and cannot use intelligent disobedience. Who coined the phrase two heads are better than one? Simple and totally apropos for team work.

I hope you’ve learned a little bit more about what it means to live with and work with a dog. I also hope you’ve appreciated the effort and time it takes to learn to travel without the benefit of sight. Thanks for reading.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

The Little Things in Life

| Filed under Guide dogs Uncategorized

The little Things in Life

This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I was feeling sorry for myself. I was frustrated about not being able to control what menopause is doing to my body, what the asthma meds are doing to my metabolism and so on. I just felt ugly and fat.
Even my husband said he wasn’t going to comfort me because I was feeling sorry for myself.

I moped around until it was time to go to physical therapy. After PT, I sat in the waiting area with my guide dog at my feet. I’d already fended off another patient who wanted to pet him saying, oh, he’s the spitting image of my dog, Ollie, etc., and was eating a granola bar while waiting for my ride to work.

A little girl about 3 years old was being watched by staff as her Mom was getting treatment. She wandered over to me and asked me the best questions a youngling could have asked. I must say, I was impressed.

She asked why the dog was there, to which I replied, he is my eyes, I am blind and can’t see. She asked what the thing was around his neck and back and I told her about the harness and how it helped me. She asked why she can’t pet him and I said he has to be able to help me and not get distracted. She took all of it in and after she finished checking us out she returned to her mom.

The woman mentioned earlier who kept asking me if she could pet Bailey bent to pet him and the girl said, “You can’t pet him he’s working,”
I almost burst out laughing. I wish I could have seen that woman’s face. Lol

I thanked the girl and said that not petting the dog while he’s working was the right thing to do. If I was her Mom, I’d be proud. It lifted my spirits, for sure.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Where Have I Been?

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized

I haven’t blogged in a while, so here’s a long awaited update. First, I want to tell you all I am in the process of printing my first poetry book. After months of researching publishing options, pricing, and technical limitations, I decided to self-publish. I cannot afford a robust publishing contract, so I turned to printing companies who specialize in copy printing and on demand distribution instead. This was much less stressful on the wallet but I am doing a lot of the set up with the help of friends who have experience in desk top printing. I have chosen the title, cover, poems, and am now waiting for the copy and formatting to come along.

The result will be a simple 6 x 9 fold over and stapled booklet, probably about 40 pages. I will be registering it for an ISBN # and it will be for sale on Amazon and other online booksellers once it is released. I will be writing the press release and selling it, another cost I just didn’t have money to pay someone else to do for me. Best of all, I will be dedicating it to Mom, who was always my biggest fan and a wonderful writer as well. Thanks to the years working on the PR committee for American Council of the Blind and other organizations, I have experience with promoting and using social media to help me.

I’m actually excited to be doing this, can’t wait to take part in a reading and meet folks.

Will people be surprised I am blind? Hopefully they will look at the back cover and see the photo of Bailey and I and not make too much out of it. I also thought of just how much I wish to use my disability as a selling point. I don’t. I want folks to want to read it based on my talent, not because I am a talented blind person. I am a poet and writer who is blind, not a blind poet and writer. Semantics? Perhaps but important to me and to the blindness community as a whole.

Okay, enough for now, I will post more when I get to the next step in the process. Until then, celebrate our Independence and have a great summer.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

what is it about change?

| Filed under Uncategorized

I’m not sure what I want to convey in this thread – maybe a lot to do about nothing – but something’s niggling at me and I have to work it out the writing way. I’m going to back up a little bit and preface this entry by admitting that while I am good at leading folks, I often find myself doing it because nobody else will step up. That in itself presents a troubling situation, as the project that nobody wants is also usually difficult. There is also an added element that the leader wants the change to happen and possesses the tolerance, passion and fortitude to push through the resistance. As for specifics and how all of this involves me, I think this is about the roles people play when change occurs. Finding it within myself personally to accept that no matter how responsibly one acts, there will be those who disagree is my main challenge. Tolerating these negative reactions can be uncomfortable and ugly. When disturbing the system, one must be ready for intense resistance. Being ready for it, what does this mean? In one situation it meant being able to take insults spoken about me in public with my friends and colleagues listening. In another, it meant asking for help from a strong advocate to assist me during disagreements wherein I had lost a key element of perspective. In yet another, it resulted in more insults and lies being shared in anobvious snub. How do these people sleep at night? More to the point, it took a considerable amount of self talk to not take being insulted personally and throw in the towel on the entire project.
I did persevere, though I didn’t walk away with what I thought was an acceptable compromise. There was one positive part, though, I and others also pushing for the change in the situation were rewarded with validation that the goals were worth the effort by individuals whom I respect and value. Do I want to pay back the individuals who have insulted me? I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit it, and I am hoping that one day those lies will one day fade in time and in intensity and folks will know the lies were meant to be a distraction from the lack of effort and due diligence of the accuser. What have I learned from the recent situation? Let’s see, now …when others refuse to accept change, it’s usually because they fear it. It is the fear, not the actual result which makes people resist it. It is taking the risk, not knowing the outcome, and pushing ahead anyway that is the reward. Change makers are risk takers. I hope one day the individuals who spoke against the changes I mention here will eventually grasp the concept and goals necessitating change. It is the change that is helping people; this is the goal, to begin a series of actions which will result in even bigger and more positive actions.

I didn’t ever consider myself a risk-taker. I’m still not sure if it’s a comfortable fit, but I’m willing to try it on now and then to find out if the shoe still fits.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

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