The past two weeks has provoked many powerful and uncomfortable feelings for our Nation, our community, and our families. We are being globally challenged by what some say has been a biblical portent, aka, the “plague”.
Being a skeptical person, I am not yet ready to agree, however, I know the world has changed already, evident by, well, by how we are acting, reacting, responding, and feeling.
I was just sharing playtime with my three dogs, enjoying the calm petting session with my elderly black lab. I watched my other two dogs play, and as they tugged and wrestled, was struck by an intense feeling of relaxation and peace. I thought, that if I must distance myself from other humans to protect myself the hidden gem in this is having more time to spend with my dogs and husband.
On that note, today I received a call from a staff person named Kate from Newsreel Newsreel magazine magazine. She said she was “just checking in with my New Rochelle people,”. Now, that was very kind and equally unexpected. Thanks, Kate!
This time of crisis should bring us together in gratitude and kindness, not isolate us. A phone call or email could bring a bit of relief to a neighbor or relative.
For example, the Next-door app has had folks volunteering to help with shopping for individuals who are quarantined here in New Rochelle. Folks are helping out with dog walking and other tasks.
In the wise words of a writing friend, Carol Farnsworth, Carol Farnsworth wrote on her blog, https://blindontheliteside.com/ ,
We as a nation, are only as strong as our marginal members. We will be judged not by what we have but how we care.
Thanks, Carol. Agreed.
My first blog post on word press was on November 7, 2008. Since that time, I’ve completed 315 posts and attracted almost 500 followers. I hope to keep going and love to blog. Stand by for some older poetry and a new book. Until then, keep reading and writing.
I began writing poetry in earnest after finding out I was going blind, in the early 1990s. Looking back, the poems I wrote during this dark time was a way to cope with the inevitable grief and loss I felt, and would feel, for a long time. Progressive vision loss infiltrates one’s sense of hope and resiliency,
Two emotional Aspects Which Appear in many of the poems written from the 1990s. The poems are also an inventory of sorts, and, as I become reacquainted with them, I am, in turn, becoming acquainted with my feelings and emotions during this time of fear, depression, and anger. I also discovered I’ve grown beyond these feelings and emotions and have learned to accept my disability and embrace the creativity and how much healing I’ve done since then.
Here is a song I found, written for a friend (really).
The Child Inside
By Ann Chiappetta
family devotion died
the day he went away
The child inside
still cries when you sleep
makes you feel incomplete
He’s made a mess of your memories
He can’t come back into your life
And though you deny it
the reality cuts Like a knife
The child inside
still cries when you sleep
makes you feel incomplete
Don’t try to replace him
Sometimes lovers walk away, too;
discover why your heart
desires demons dressed in blue
The child inside
still cries when you sleep
makes you feel incomplete
This is a post written for, in part, the puppy raising and guide dog community. It explains what a real service dog is and how it develops. Indulge me for one more paragraph before we get to the subject line of the post. There is an ongoing issue here in the United States regarding people posing pets as emotional support or service animals to ride in airline cabins. It is called the ACAA, or the Airline Carrier Access Act. I am not going to explain the actual FAA and TSA notices and the rule making discussion, but I will say that a genuine, trained service dog will do it’s best to behave in places of public accommodation. For example, a hearing alert dog will sit quietly on its handler’s lap and not disrupt anyone’s experience. A PTSD service dog will lie quietly between its handler’s feet during a train ride. Any dog brought into the public that barks, lunges, urinates, is unkempt, is not under its handler’s control or is not tethered is not a real service dog and can be asked to leave. It’s all in how the dog and the handler behave and interact. I hope this helps folks understand what is at stake and the real service dog handlers are at risk of being negatively effected by those who break the law.
Okay, back to the original post.
Once a puppy reaches an appropriate age, usually around 18 months, the dog is returned for advanced training. By this time, the puppy raiser has imparted all the socialization, love, obedience, care and discipline to allow the dog to continue the rigorous and challenging harness training and hopefully exhibit the required qualifications to become a guide dog.
Yup, folks, it is canine college and the dog will graduate with an advanced degree in intelligent disobedience. What this means is a dog will disobey a command given by the blind handler if it is unsafe. Think of a car coming out of a driveway as the team is walking toward it. The dog will see the car pulling out and stop, then continue when it has judged it to be safe. If the handler tries to give the command to proceed before the dog judges it safe, the dog will ignore the command.
This is, of course, after months of formal harness training with a qualified GDMI – during which time the dog learns how to guide and learn other commands, like directions (left, right, forward) and targeting (to the door, steps, bus, elevator,) among others.
One time Bailey even stopped to show me a fiber optic wire hanging from the ceiling in the hallway leading to our office. Avoiding an overhead obstacle is the most difficult to teach a dog, I was impressed, for sure.
But, for the second time in this post, I digress.
Today we made the hour-long bus ride to visit Guiding Eyes For the Blind’s main campus and visit Bailey’s first Mom, Pat Bailey Webber. He just about lost his mind, spinning and doing some excited barking. He carried on, yodeling, rubbing, and licking Pat for at least ten minutes. This is the person who he bonded with, who saw him through all stages of puppyhood, some of it pretty gross and annoying, if I must say so. 😊
Witnessing the bond with Pat is just so special, so rewarding, I believe it makes my bond with Bailey even stronger. While he loves Pat and would go with her, he also willingly comes to me and does his job. He switches his attention, applies his training, and has the adaptability to get it done.
I have written before about the Spirit of Dog, what it means contextually; this is an example. The Spirit of Dog is loyal, adaptable, and talented. How could a person not admire these qualities in an animal? How could I deny Bailey the pleasure of visiting with his first family? I am honored and humbled after these visits. I am a recipient of a very special gift; it is the spirit of dog that brings people together.
I am often asked about the process of writing when being interviewed. Folks are curious about the manifestation of creativity and how it influences writing poetry. While I am certainly not an expert on the subject for anyone else but myself, I strongly suspect the Muse bestows the inspiration upon each of us in a unique manner. We do have gross similarities, like the tools we use, i.e., laptops or hand-written pages, etc., but we also diverge once the synapses fire and begin the journey of creation in each of our minds.
For example, I often dream my writing ideas. I’ve been awakened by lines of text, images, and what I call mental films playing along in my head. This is a curious thing, because I’ve been blind for over thirty years yet I continue to dream as if I’d never lost it. Full technicolor, for sure.
Recently I awoke from a musing and it resulted in a poem, the first poem written in 2020. I also somehow created a fantasy story with a swashbuckling immortal character named Von and a humanoid species called Felini, cat-like creatures with names like Tika, Shona, and Flame. Where the story will take me, only the muse knows but I like where I’m going. I wish I could share the poem, but, now that potential publishers and literary magazines consider posting on a blog “previously published” and will reject an author’s work because of this, I must hold such things aside until published. May the Muse be with you.
Poem from the poetry collection, Upwelling; Poems C 2016 availible on Amazon and Audible
© 2016 by Ann Chiappetta
Sleep-film portrays lurching scenes of Disney World
damp pavement trod on by millions of feet.
You stand on the recently dried cobblestones
of Main Street U.S.A.
A somber overcoat hangs on you like a dish rag.
emancipating your regrets.
Tears and mumbled blessings
mix as our faces touch.
Your cheek is cold and cancerous.
Scrambling through the Florida downpour
A Barker lures us inside.
My florid yellow jacket drips
Your loose, somber coat is as dry as a shroud.
Inside, double doors lead to a great hall.
Black tie patrons rotate on the dance floor like dolls.
Your arm sweeps in the gala affair,
“A gift for us to remember me.” you say.
I’m aggrieved by your vanity
Flash point warnings ignite around us
like confetti stars
the dolls applaud as they fall.
Fear not, here is something written and previously published.
Well, folks, it has been 4 months since I separated with the VA and the path has been bumpy. Knowing all about adjustment and how to support others along the journey is not the same as trying to support oneself along the rocky road to success.
It can be very lonely.
This post is one of intention, meaning, I want to state the positive steps taken, accept and move on past the negative experiences and feelings so I can focus and find the best employment opportunity.
I found it effective to visit the local job center, or One Stop located in the Department of Labor and received an objective and valuable assessment of my skills and possible employment avenues. This, along with input from colleagues who are employment specialists, assisted in boosting my confidence and sense of hope. Until then, I was feeling as if I was back in 1997, feeling lost and unable to identify just who I was professionally and how I could earn a living.
Thank goodness the One Stop and wonderfully supportive colleagues grounded me and helped me work on a few employment goals and now I don’t feel so trapped or hopeless.
This is doing something to reach my goals. I am reviewing how to handle tricky interview questions, what to prepare for during the interview, and such things that I haven’t had to consider for over ten years. It is intimidating but not impossible.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been hard at work; attending a few interviews I knew were only conducted to test my long untried skills, among other tasks. I have gained the confidence to handle the interview nerves, but still want those good intentions to float my way for next week. Feel free to send them my way.
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Take advantage of the Smashwords book sale from December 25 to January 1. All three of my titles are discounted at checkout, no hunting for discount codes. Here’s the link to find out more: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnnChiappetta
Working with a guide dog brings along perks, like being offered the aisle seat at events, being given the extra leg room seats on trains, and pre-boarding when flying. These, of course, are the obvious advantages.
I would most likely be presented with most of these as a white cane user when traveling without a guide dog, although, perhaps the extra leg room seats would not be part of it. Traveling with a disability can be challenging enough, thank-you.
My dog guides me safely while also assisting in softening the stressors of traveling. A dog also helps with engaging in social events.
A few of the little-known perks are humorous, along with being practical. For instance, my dog, like many other guide dogs, is an expert at finding friends and family during parties and in crowds. Both my current dog and my retired dog have found my husband or other guide dog users countless times. They are creatures of habit and will most likely show the handler familiar locations and individuals. I think of it as, “Hey, is this the door you want? Or Hey, we know this person, maybe you want to talk to them again so I can say hi to their dog?
The most recent time I recall being surprising as well as useful was during a convention. Upon exiting the elevator, Bailey began pulling harder and I knew he was on a mission. He brought me up to my friend and her new dog. The same friend who trained beside us for two weeks when I first got Bailey. It was very smart, for a dog. 😊 I didn’t even think he would remember her, but he did. We also had this sneaking suspicion Bailey and her new dog, (not the one who trained with us) and Bailey knew one another from the kennel, acting like old friends.
Some folks say being a guide dog user is too-time consuming, that it’s all about the dog, and the extra attention is difficult to manage. Personally speaking, I prefer the social and travel advantages my dog provides. It far outweighs the annoyances.
It’s been 3 months since I’ve stopped working. The first month was the hardest, trying to make sense of things, second guessing myself and clinging to what was left of my self-confidence.
Month two was filled with phone calls, meetings and interviews, followed by the realization that at my age and because of my disability, I might not ever work again. I began to tell people I am semi-retired and it is still what I am sticking with as I write this blog post.
Month three is starting to be the new routine: stay up late, sleep late, write, and mix in job trolling, meetings, and motivate myself to do the mundane household tasks. Sigh.
The most interesting pieces of being home, other than the nagging holes of time, is how our animals have adjusted. They appear to like it, especially my 13-year-old lab, Verona, and the cat, Titan. For instance, Verona expects a walk around 2 p.m. It doesn’t matter if she went out at 10 a.m., when 2 p.m. comes around, she’s panting and poking at me.
We have also gotten into what I will call treat-time. Titan and Verona appear at my desk chair. I get poked by the dog and the cat jumps up on the desk. This means the human must dispense treats. A Few Kittie crunchies for the cat and a few low-calorie treats for the dogs. Yes, Bailey is there as soon as he hears the cat treat bag open. Piggy boy. Our third dog, May, is usually with our daughter, so she loses out until later.
At 3-ish, we go for walkies and May and Bailey play after May is walked. The human is bothered again by piggy boy Bailey for dinner at after play time. If the animals weren’t here to keep me busy, it would be much harder to stay focused.
I find it ironic that the day has conformed to what I refer to as Zoo time. Maybe I can find employment at a kennel instead.