Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Surprise Visitor

| Filed under blindness Fiction Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

Got this from my old writing folder. Enjoy.
Surprise Visitor
© 2007 By Ann Chiappetta

I helped Linda in with the last bag of clothing, placing it beside the others in the small bedroom of her new apartment. I looked around at what we’d brought in; all she had was a bed, a table, a computer, and a few boxes of personal things. I wished I had enough money to start her out the right way but I didn’t and even if I did, she probably wouldn’t want it anyway. Linda was proud and didn’t accept charity, not even from her own brother.
“Well, I got my work out for the day.” I said, wiping the sweat off with the arm of my tee shirt. The apartment was on the second floor of an eight unit brownstone in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, close to her new job. A long way from Katonah, I thought, but it was a nice enough area. Linda made the decision to move from up county because she wanted to be independent. Mom and Dad, however, tried to talk her out of it but she moved anyway, saying,
“How can I live my life when I can’t even get to work on my own?”
The truth was that our parents didn’t know how to let go, to deal with Linda’s disability. She and I talked about our parents facing the truth, that they both struggled with what it meant to have a blind daughter. Despite mom and dad’s difficulty accepting her vision loss, Linda wanted to get out on her own, just like any other college grad. She met her blindness head-on, with courage and perseverance. I wished mom and dad could do it, too, but they weren’t ready.
Linda rummaged through a box marked KITCHEN and found two cups. She rinsed them off, filled them with water,and handed one to me.
“I hear it’s the best water in New York state.” She said. Grinning.
“”Here’s to your new place, Cheers.” I replied, touching her cup with mine toasting the occasion.
“Thanks, Danny.” She said, “I couldn’t have done this all without you.”
“I would be insulted if you didn’t ask, baby sister.” I said, hugging her. “I’m so proud of you.”
I drank another cup of water, watching Linda unpack the rest of the items from the box thinking about how much she had overcome. She started losing her vision in high school, the retinal disease progressing until she was left with only a small portion of her sight. It was a long, hard road for Linda, but she walked it and now stood in her own apartment, sparsely furnished but all her own nonetheless.
I went to the nearest pizza place and brought back dinner, then went home.
I was opening the door to my apartment when my cell rang. It was Linda
“Hello?’
“Danny, you’re not going to believe this but I think there’s a bat in my bedroom.”
“A what?”
I suppressed a laugh but she must’ve heard the little bit that escaped into the phone
“Stop laughing, Danny, it’s not funny. You know how I feel about those disgusting furry things.’
I closed and locked my apartment door and headed back to my car.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, just stay out of the room and call the super.”
An hour later, we stood at the bedroom door listening to the bat flapping around, its leathery wings fluttering against the walls as if desperate to find a way out.
“Okay, Linda, I’m going to turn the light back on and hope it lands somewhere where we can find it.” I cracked the door open reached in and switched on the light.
Linda crossed her arms and shivered,
“Yuck, I will never understand your attraction to all those furry, slimy animals.”
“I got them just to torture you with them.” I teased, “Besides, I don’t see what’s so slimy about hamsters or bats. They have fur, not scales.”
“Danny, just get the darned thing out of here, okay? I’m going to make some coffee.” She went back into the kitchen, shaking her head in disgust.
I searched the room for twenty minutes but all I could find was a small hole near the radiator. It was big enough for a bat or rodent to squeeze through. I stuffed the hole with a couple of steel wool pads held in place by duct tape. The super would have to plaster the hole but my temporary seal would suffice until then. I tried looking for the bat again and finally found it in the back of the closet. I missed it before because it was only about four inches long and its grey fur blended in with the shadows. I got a towel and threw it over the bat, then I put it in an old shoe box Linda gave me earlier. I carefully poked a few holes in it for air and carried it out to the living area.
Linda was on the phone,
“… I said I’m being chased around by a bat. B-A-T. Okay, thanks, good bye.” She put away her cell phone and turned to me, “Is it in the box?”
I nodded, “Did you call someone to come get it?” I asked.
“Yes, they’re sending a patrol car.”
I almost dropped the box when the banging at the door began,
“Police, open the door.” Came a muffled bellow.
Linda froze. I went to the door and looked through the peephole. Sure enough, there was not one but four officers waiting to be let in and they looked like they meant business.
I opened the door and they rushed in, two of them covering me, one of them covering Linda and one checking the other rooms.
, “We got a call there was someone being chased with a bat.” Said the lead officer, eyeing me.
Linda and I burst out laughing. I held up the box.
“The bat’s in here.” I said, then began laughing again. The officer took the box from me and peeked inside, then he handed it back,
“Holy cow, the sergeant isn’t going to believe this.” He put away his baton and nodded to his fellow officers,
“Hay boys, you’d better come look at this.”
Ten minutes later, officer Halaran shook my hand and grinned,
“Danny, we’re going to be telling this story for months. The other three officers were still chuckling as they left.
Linda thanked them and closed the door but there was another knock. She opened it, finding the super standing there, a confused look on his face,
“Did the cops get the guy with the bat?”

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 1

Just When I was Feeling Down …

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

Hello folks, just when I thought I’d never manage to step out of the pity party pot, someone offered me a hand and helped me get past the worst of it. Actually, it was more than one person, so read on to find out more.

A month ago I injured my right ankle. I was turning a corner with the left knee ACL strain and the left foot fracture from 2015 had healed. I still feel pain but for the most part the rawness is gone. Anyway, I somehow managed to hurt the right foot and ankle. The pain is horrible, the lack of mobility is worse. It was all getting to me and I began feeling unmotivated and blech. I am limping and back to the support cane. The mornings are the worst, too. The injury stiffens and it takes an hour and pain meds to even take the edge off the pain. At these times I am the bitch mother and I cannot even talk without fire pouring from my mouth.

One can just imagine how unpleasant it is to be around me, and my family has been forgiving and tolerant. 🙂

Now that I’ve established how miserable I was, and still am, to some extent, two things happened: a visit to an assisted living facility with the dogs and the husband and an absolutely stellar review of Upwelling by a person for whom I hold in very high regard. The first part with visiting the ALF pushed me past my pain, forced me to put my own suffering aside. Thanks to Jerry and the dogs, we brought smiles to seniors. Jerry knows how much it means to me to help others and let Verona take on her role as a therapy dog. I think Jerry is beginning to like it, too.

The visit renewed my resolved to work past this injury, to be patient and do my best to heal.

The second gift was reading a beautifully written review of my first poetry collection by the editor of Dialogue Magazine www.blindskills.com/ . It brought me to tears, the thankful kind, very different from the tears of pain and frustration I’d been crying beforehand. I am so thankful to be reminded that I do matter, that others respect and like my work and that just when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to push past the struggle, I received two beautiful and meaningful reminders.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 1

Lost

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Uncategorized

Lost in the Parking Lot
(c) 2017 Annie C.
The realization that I am completely and utterly lost rushes through me like a hot flash. The rain changes everything, what was familiar is washed away in moments. Damaged retinas cannot make sense of the rings of light reflecting off the black asphalt. The downpour muffles the sounds I use to orient in the parking lot. I could very well be only ten feet from the door but at times like this, it is terrifying.

My dog is huddled beside me, I stopped asking her to help me 5 minutes ago, when it was clear she wasn’t able to lead me inside. Her docility was one of the reasons why she made a good guide dog but now the very same part of her temperament caused her to avoid making decisions, especially in the rain without her harness.

I remove the hood from my head to listen for a door opening, footsteps, traffic on the parallel street, or the rush of a train so I can figure out where we are. My white cane trails the parked cars and I turn into the empty space in-between two cars, hoping this is the walkway leading to the back door of the apartment complex. The cane tip touches the asphalt and like a divining rod, I hope to find the familiar. It hits a curb and I know it is not the right place; I go back to the row of cars and stand there, frustrated. My dog shakes off the rain.

Then, behind me and to the left, I hear the back-door open and the relief floods through me. By the sound, I am about 8 or so spaces away. I walk toward the spot and then a flicker of dim light flashes in the little window of my vision and I recognize it. My dog pulls me in the same direction and I sweep my cane forward ahead of us. The tip of the cane touches the metal drain and then, thankfully, the door. I fish out my keys, and then we are inside and my dog shakes off the water. As we walk to our apartment door, the frustration subsides. All it cost was five minutes of paying attention and a wet dog.

To Touch the Sun, Well, Almost

| Filed under blindness Uncategorized

A solar eclipse is almost upon us and the northern hemisphere will have the best view, according to experts. I love astronomical phenomena, and I am so excited to be able to feel and hear it, thanks to the eclipse soundscapes project. To learn more about the project, go here http://eclipsesoundscapes.org/

Thanks to some astute engineers and tech-savvy folks, visually impaired mobile phone users will be able to feel, in real time, the movement of the heavenly bodies as they converge and then pass one another. This is done by the vibrations in the phone, using pixels and other arcane things I don’t quite understand. It is 21st Century magic and that’s all I can say. My fingers and phone are ready. After the eclipse, us VI folks will most assuredly report on our experiences, me included, so stay tuned and maybe turn on some tunes like The Police, David Bowie or the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack to set the mood.

Support Indy Authors on Independence Day

| Filed under blindness Fiction Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

Yes, readers, thanks to www.smashwords.com Upwelling is now half price, that’s right, just $1.50 in the downloadable file of your choice. Just put my name in the search field and follow the link to purchase Upwelling at a 50% discount. For the month of July, you can find thousands of eBooks, some for free. I hope you take a look at the sale on www.smashwords.com and load up your eBook reader or tablet and support independent authors everywhere on Independence Day by purchasing a few titles.
Have a meaningful and fun Fourth of July and stay safe and strong.

A Weekend To Remember

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

A Weekend to Remember
By Ann Chiappetta M.S. (c)

April 21 – 23, 2017
Tribute to the First Annual Guiding Eyes Continuing Education Seminar

Like many ideas, It began years ago
abstracts based upon the past
concepts blossoming from a common passion.

It was a new idea, unique and untried;
For some, the Challenge instilled apprehension
Perhaps a reason for hesitation
Or for decisions being delayed

For a time, hope came second
As it happened,
Voices united, attitudes changed
Wishes became goals, then actions

The desire to gather together
was no longer waylaid

Human hearts made it happen
To honor Inter-species relationships
The most powerful relationship of all

The spirit of canine propelled us
To the meeting place.

To 3 days of inspiration
36 hours of memories
And laughs to last a lifetime.

exuberant Labradors
Stoic and steady German Shepard’s
80 teams
30 instructors and staff
40 puppy raisers and volunteers

And really good food
Cumulated in achieving
cooperation totaling 150%
And Energy that could not be measured

A coming together
as vibrant as Woodstock but
Not as muddy.

There were dog tangles
Reunions and tears,
Obedience practice, play time
And Challenges including
A hotel that seemed to be built like a corkscrew.

Faces split in smiles lasting hours
Full hearts sharing meals
Imagine a ballroom lined with
Classroom-style tables
A person sits in each chair facing the podium
Beneath each place lies a dog, quiet
Or silent, asleep or awake
Snoring or dreaming
Licking a paw
And these canines
Our eyes
Our joy
Our inspiration
Our independence
Our family

Our reason for being who we are
And the reason why we were all there
Elicits an inner glow, a sense of pride
Or accomplishment, or purpose
We know intimately how well
These dogs gave us the ability to soar
not for only 3 days or 36 hours
but continually.

Our dogs connect us, bonding Hearts and minds
Later, after the reunion
In the afterglow
We will draw upon the link
Recall the shared experience
And, with humble words, thank our dogs.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Thanks XFB

| Filed under blindness Poem Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

Long ago, when I was first losing my vision, I subscribed to the Zavier Society for the Blind’s lending library and large print missal supplements http://www.xaviersocietyfortheblind.org/. It assisted me in keeping up with the readings in church. One may think this is just a small part of living the blind life, but, back then, when my world was collapsing due to limited vision, it saved me from the harsher consequences of social isolation. In short, keeping in touch with my house of worship gave me the strength and determination to accept my disability and tap into the support and inspiration I sorely needed.

Fast forward, I no longer subscribe to the large print missals, but I recommend folks who are losing vision to reach out to their own house of worship and stay connected to avoid the isolating effects of sensory loss of any kind.

Many years later, after my own kids completed confirmations, I once again found solace in my church and I am glad I stayed in touch with my parish as well as my fellow clergy members I met during graduate degree studies at Iona College.

Another connection was meeting Father John Sheehan, then Director of the Zavier Society for the Blind on the train coming back from an American Council of the Blind of New York www.acbny.info convention. The following year, I met Christine Moore, another Zavier staff member and we worked together during the convention that was held in Westchester. Through these working relationships, I was able to keep my faith and accept the changes in my life.

When Christine learned of the publication of my first poetry collection, Upwelling, www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/ she emailed me and asked if I would like it to be brailed and added to their international lending library. I was grateful and, of course, said yes. Since that time, more than one person has stopped me, and telling me they are reading it in braille. How cool is that?
“Upwelling” can be requested once the person becomes a Xavier Society for the Blind, or XFB client. id number for it is B1543.
Thank you, Zavier, and thanks to your caring and compassionate staff. Below is the information in case you or someone you know would like more information on the Zavier lending library for the Blind, contact Christine Moore: [email protected]

Tel (212) 473-7800
Mailing address: 2 Penn Plaza, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10121

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

On Being a Good Dog

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

Our Good Dog Story
By Ann Chiappetta M.S. Verona and Bailey
This story began at the time I met Verona, a black Labrador retriever bred and trained at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. I was matched with her in 2009 and we worked together for six years. When she started to tell me it was time to hang up her harness as my guide dog, it was heart breaking. She had become such a loving and intuitive dog, helping so many people during our work together. I am a family therapist and also visit schools and other facilities and institutions, and Verona was unfailing with her ability to bring a smile and ease the stress of someone who was suffering in some way. She was a dog whose job wasn’t done just because her guide dog harness was no longer being used; I did the best I could to honor her doggie work ethic. A year after she retired as my guide dog, she was evaluated to become a therapy dog.

“She is a natural,” the evaluator said, “this is just a formality.”

Verona did possess an advanced doggie degree, having worked as a guide dog, after all, right?

A year later, we were in the advanced class with eight other teams. Once we passed, we would graduate as one of the official pet assisted therapy teams for the Good Dog Foundation http://thegooddogfoundation.org/ .

This part of the story will explain the most unique piece in our journey together. Being blind and wanting to work with not just Verona but also my current guide dog, Bailey, and making it work for all three of us was the real challenge. I was anxious and a tad fearful that this trio of blind person, guide dog and therapy dog would not be accepted by the instructors or the general public. When I got up the nerve to verbalize my worries, the instructor said as long as I want to make it work, there is a way to make it work. Our class instructor was not going to allow me to quit. She made it clear at the very beginning that being blind and having another dog with me wasn’t going to be a reason to walk out with an incomplete or be turned away.

We made it work by preparing and practicing with both dogs and asking for help when I was required to focus on training with Verona. We went to most of the classes with a third person who sat apart from Verona and I. The helper, which involved either my sister or husband, held Bailey, who stayed in harness. The first two classes were the most disruptive to him, but he earned food rewards for settling and not whining when he saw me give Verona a reward. Bailey was still young, very attached to me, even after an entire year of being my guide dog. I think his tolerance was challenged when he was asked to settle and let me work with Verona. By class three, however, he wasn’t even whining. He settled down and even napped during the last half of the class. Class four was a test for all of us, I was handling both dogs and it was a little more frustrating due to the logistics. For instance, the three of us had to work out how to walk together, when to allow Bailey to perform the guide work, and train Verona to heel on the right. I felt that both dogs, having been living together for two years and having already accepted their respective roles, were up for it. We practiced for two months, taking practice walks and the preparation paid off.

In empathy for Bailey and his situation, imagine the person that you have bonded with and guided is suddenly going back to interact with another dog; I could feel Bailey’s confusion. I have since given him some slack but also provided directions and a way for him to perform even when he is not guiding and required to “turn it off”. He is rewarded with treats and praise for being quiet and not engaging. He still wants to greet the children, licking hands and wagging his tail, but he will settle when asked.

November 6, 2016 was graduation day and since then we have been visiting local libraries. We are now working on making smiles happen. Verona is giving back and helping by being the one to give the gift of positive energy. Bailey has matured measurably in the last 8 months, too. I am so proud of his ability to make the transition and step into his harness when I give him the forward command. I am a very lucky lady. I have learned so much about both my dogs and their personalities. It’s given me the confidence to go out and help others. It helps me because I am able to give back, and being a person with a disability, I am often the recipient of kindness and it means so much more for me when I can return it.

I don’t know where our path will lead or what the future holds for our trio but I do know one thing: we will continue to do it together for as long as we can — When I clip on my I.D. tag and tie on Verona’s scarf, it feels like we can conduct miracles with a smile and wagging tail.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Binge Watching

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Uncategorized

I’ve taken on a new social behavior. I suppose being who I am, having been raised in the 1970s in the crib of the boob tube, it was inevitable.

Friday and Saturday nights, after the laptop is closed, I escape into the bedroom. I open the iPad, tap on Netflix and settle in for some entertainment.

As I plump my pillows and wait for the dogs to follow me into bed, I think of those late nights in my childhood, bathed in the eerie luminosity spilling out from the black and white TV. I recall sneaking down to the Livingroom and turning it on, the volume barely above a whisper. I would sit close to hear it — because of being extremely myopic, getting close meant I could see the details and not be dragged away by a concerned family member who feared I would ruin my already ruined eyes. I would place my fingers on the channel selector, gently turning it to dampen the clicking sound and surf the late-night movies until the stations signed off after midnight.

Now, with a finger flick I peruse the choices from anime to westerns. The most amazing part of this is the audio description track offered for blind folks like me. I can watch an entire season in two nights and afterwards, after shutting down at about 2 a.m., I can sleep late and take the time to decide on the next binge.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 2

What Have You Been MIssing?

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

Well, constant reader, life has been full, overflowing, in fact. Just because winter has influenced just how much I miss benign outdoors and feeling the sun on my face, it doesn’t mean I’ve been curling up by the proverbial fire and tucking in to read a good book and wishing the world away. I’ve been a busy little pea hen, pecking away at the responsibilities of life and such.

When the solstice passed and it began to stay light longer, I did feel a sense of relief from the winter doldrums. There is still so much to do, to get ready for the exploits of spring and summer, which I am longing for in a way I haven’t felt before. Is it aging? Maybe. All I know is I am happy to be busy and productive.

Speaking of being productive, our pet assisted therapy visits, made possible by The Good Dog Foundation, are going well; Verona enjoys them and Bailey is learning to accept it when I handle Verona and he has to “turn it off”. He still has to work on this but is doing well for a young and energetic dog. I am enjoying working with them both by myself. Sometimes it’s just easier when we go without another person. Strange but true.

I am gearing up for the editing process for my next book, a memoir written about my experience of going blind and working with a guide dog. Teasers to follow after the summer. Cheryll will be helping me with the cover photo and I cannot wait to have it ready for the holiday season. I’ve got a few bylines in local and small press magazines, too; this helps keep the writing muscle in shape and helps me reach other audiences.

Disability awareness presentations are ongoing, too. I have gotten very positive feedback from the organizations and schools where we’ve been invited to talk and this is the best ego-boost in terms of knowing that our efforts on behalf of people with disabilities is making a difference.
I hope to blog more frequently as I know it’s important for all of my followers. Thanks for reading and following this blog.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0
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