Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Families of Veterans Writing Workshop

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Relationships Writing Life

This was my first workshop in, like, forever. I decided to take part in it because I felt I needed a creative challenge. I felt my story as the wife of a Navy veteran was, an as yet untapped source of creative material. I was also lucky the group met on a day when my shift at the counseling center ended early. Sure, it was a long day for me and for my guide dog, but we were both ready to meet the task with excited anticipation.

Our instructor, Julia, was the best, knowledgeable, kind and direct. The writing exercises she gave us got me writing and accessing creative content I’d either never thought was worth expanding or too emotional. I loved hearing the writing of the other three women, too; we were all so different, our experiences with veterans, while different, also kept us connected. We wrote our hearts out and I want to thank them all for each contributing to making the group a safe and empathetic place to share our feelings through writing.

Below is one of my pieces included in the anthology.

Stance

The soldier’s stance keeps him in good posture, shoulders straight, ready for action. Confidence and training come through during target practice; his body moves expertly, and he takes aim. He will serve and protect, honor his uniform and endure.

People have remarked he has a “hard stare”, often called “his stink eye,”. It is intimidating. He doesn’t miss much, green eyes scanning surroundings, sizing up others around us. Authority is hard for him to put down, it sticks to him like static-charged cellophane. He chews gum with an air of purpose, as if the goal is to get every bit of chew before discarding it.

Yet, at times, his voice sounds like an adolescent. It’s quiet, New York, and doesn’t carry far. when I hear him talk to a child or to our dogs, the tone takes on a kindness, I hear the smile in it. Strong hands that compel a violent person into handcuffs have also held a hamster, comforting the small animal as it died.

We were married in an inter-faith ceremony which took place in a reception hall. His voice quivered as he said his vows. When we danced the first dance, he whispered,
“I don’t know how to waltz,”

“Don’t worry, I’ll take the lead,” I said.
No one noticed.

Three other pieces of my writing are also in the book, Thoughts on The Storm, a narrative on the first Gulf War; The Joining, a personification essay on the harness used on a guide dog, and a poem, The Cabin, about the cabin of my youth. These pieces, along with writing from the wife of a Vietnam veteran, the sister of a Vietnam veteran, and the daughter of a WWII veteran fill this book with emotional and meaningful stories.
If you want to learn more about the VWW program and purchase copies, go here:
https://fvww.weebly.com/buy-books.html

On the Homefront: Volume 4, published June 2019, contains narratives of homes lost and homes returned to, wars played out on television, wives and mothers anxiously awaiting news about their loved ones, and what it’s like when that loved one doesn’t come home. Told from a vantage most of us never have – loving someone who is literally in the line of fire – these stories are ours; mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, loving their families and holding on. Authors: Barbara Carlson, Ann Chiappetta, Roseli D’Alessandro and Susan Perko.

Veterans Writing Workshop works to establish writing programs for the veterans’ community in Westchester County and the New York Metropolitan area. It was created as an outgrowth of a successful veterans’ writing program hosted by Fordham-Westchester University in Spring of 2010 as part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ the Big Read program. VWW consists of two major components: veterans’ community-based writing workshops held in a public space free of charge to all U.S. veterans and their family members.

Facebook page link
https://www.facebook.com/onthehomefrontfvww/
This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.Homefront Vol. 4 cover

Doing The Dog Thing

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized

Many people just don’t understand the ups and downs of being a guide dog handler. Sure, most folks can appreciate the challenges, like having to be blind or significantly visually impaired to be eligible to work a guide dog, or, the dedication it takes to train with one. Yet, the daily routines and tasks may be a bit esoteric for the non-initiated to appreciate.

Here is a situation my current guide dog and I have been facing; I hope the details aren’t too vague or beleaguered. I would add this situation to the category of occupational hazards for working guide dog teams. Not a deal breaker but something that could become a challenge if not addressed with care and patience.

Our office has a rear entrance with a vestibule. The first door opens out and, on the right, the outer door opens out and to the left. One must open the first door, slip past it, let it close, and then go through the second door. Sounds simple, right? Not so with a guide dog. There is barely enough space for one person to get around the inner door when exiting; when entering, one must let the outer door close, then open the inner door slowly or risk injuring the dog. On the way in, the dog must be given the opportunity to come around on the right of the person, then be ready to step back with the person as the door is pulled open. It is confusing and takes practice to navigate it safely for the handler and dog.

We managed to avoid an issue for five years, but then our luck wore out.
Bailey got bonked with the door one day last week and yelped in pain and surprise. He wasn’t paying attention and got hit in the head while we entered, then the following day, as we were walking past the stairway door in my building, he and I were almost hit as it was swung into our path by our neighbor. Neither of us was hurt, but the next day bailey stopped in the hallway and I had to pressure him forward to walk past the door. I imagined his thoughts as we passed, “Is that door going to surprise us again?”

Being door shy is a problem but totally workable to overcome. We worked on the office door issue first, with treats and praise. First session went well, and I think he will be fine. I also used praise to urge him past the stairway doors in my building, which he seems to have relaxed about when passing.

It is these occurrences that remind me he isn’t quite human and will behave in ways I might not be sympathetic about at first. I must remind myself to think like a dog, and go back to guide dog training 101: how can I help my dog feel confident again? When I apply it, I find the solution to a hurdle like door shyness. The most satisfying part of overcoming something like this is that I helped my dog with the issue, we found a way to solve the problem together. I used the skills taught to me by a group of expert instructors who love what they do. I listened to my dog, applied the tools, and made it easier for my dog to adjust and get past the negative experience. The bond of mutual trust is the cornerstone of a great team — and when trust is present, something like door shyness can be overcome with it, using reliable training tools and care.

PD Yellow lab Bailey lying next to water, blue sky above and his image reflected in the water beside him.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 2

First Book Revamped

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Yes, readers, my first book, Upwelling: Poems C 2016, www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/ , a slim volume totaling 60 pages, is being recorded and prepared for Audible.com. This is an opportunity that transpired because of who I knew, aka, networking.

I hope this format will help me get my work to more readers. I hope it will help generate income, too; what I am hoping for the most is for an agent or publisher to become interested in my work.

Each step taken is one step closer to being represented.
It is hard to keep going, though, and sometimes it feels like all the effort, the self-promoting, and the book signings and readings are sucked into
a black hole.

What keeps me going is working with other creative professionals, like Lilly, who has done a fantastic job, capturing the nuances and emotions of poetry.

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Upwelling ebook cover white flowers against black background framed in red border

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 2

S Is For Success, Sort of

| Filed under blindness Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Yes, readers, the new wickedly light and sexy infinity edge Dell laptop is good to go, thanks to much patience and help from my friend, mike. The first model was returned and I even made the first payment. Last Saturday I visited Mike and he helped me configure it. Now I will be using Windows 10, JAWS screen reader version 2018 and adding a few programs I use for writing and blogging. I even purchased an external DVD drive, and found it quick and easy to use.

What I did not allude to in the blog post, “D Is For Dilemma’, was that I’d also upgraded to an iPhone XR from an iPhone 6S. I think this transition was harder due to the change from buttons to haptics, removal of the home button, and new gesturing commands as compared to the older phone.
Here is a little poem about it.
On the Tip of a Finger
By Ann Chiappetta

Tap.
Flick up.
Flick down.
tap tap.
use a digit
drag it around.

press side button;
“Hello Siri” — why doesn’t she talk?
Slide and lift
Thumbs are best to text.
Swipe up with index finger
Tap tap to select.
Tippity-tap tap
Doink doink doink
Try middle finger gesture instead.

Spell Onomatopoeia
 NOT ammonia —

Swish, swoosh blunk

Dexterity demands flanges
To execute a pinch or scrub.

“Hi Siri,”

I didn’t say that

Slide and lift
Thumbs are best to text.
Swipe up with index finger
Tap tap to select.