Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Driving Blind

| Filed under blindness Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

I had a horrible encounter a few nights ago while traveling to a meeting. It was humiliating and left me feeling as if a piece of the hard-won confidence I have acquired over the years was chipped away by ignorance. I don’t want to revisit the entire debacle but the vestiges of the damage are still in my mind and heart. My post-script has been handled with the cab company and apologies were made, yet I cannot let it go.

When I cannot leave something like this alone, I write to purge and invite the catharsis of the written word and this experience is no exception.

The theme here is a merging of what it means to be blind and how an interaction can leave one feeling successful or unprepared and undervalued in society. I am not speaking of being overlooked in the deli line; I am not referring to avoiding being spirited across the street by well-meaning but clueless pedestrians. While these are all part and parcel of our daily interactions with the sighted world in a general way, we do have some control and influence in these examples. We can speak up and state our needs and folks can listen or pass us by. We have control of where we go and what we do and how we want it to happen

I think what I am trying to describe is a form of passive victimization. I was held hostage in a car by a person (the cab driver) who refused to consider me. At one point I thought to myself, if he doesn’t stop and I can’t get out, I will have to call 911.

Let me also say at no time was I harmed or put in danger, at least not physically; I was ignored, we were lost, the suggestions I made were ignored; the suggestions by the GPS and two friends over the phone were also lost to this man and when I began to cry from fear and frustration, these were also ignored. Perhaps the driver was also panicking, unprepared for me and the services my disability required; perhaps he was afraid of my dog — but at the time I was not able to reach beyond my own fear. In hindsight, I believe he probably deserved to be part of this experience and I sure hope he learned something positive from it. On a harsher note, it is my opinion he shouldn’t be driving a cab and even I could tell couldn’t read the street signs.

For those reading this, becoming a confident traveler who is blind builds up over time, perhaps even years. I am not alone when I say there is a hint of unease each time someone like me takes up the harness handle or white cane and steps beyond the safety zone. It’s like learning how to drive the first timeand reliving it to a certain extent, depending on who you are and how well equipped you are mentally and physically. Sure, training and good orientation help but there will be times when all your skills have no influence on the outcome, when you have lost control and you have no idea how to respond. This is how it was the other night and it felt like I was in a bad accident without receiving any whiplash.

I hope I don’t have a repeat of this experience , and, if I do, I will be better prepared. Feeling helpless is amplified for a person with a disability and the way I reacted is not outside of the norm, yet part of me feels ashamed of how I reacted and I still feel embarrassed and angry. So, I am left with coping with words of comfort: this too shall pass.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 1

The Writing Village

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello all. The past months have been especially full of technological challenges for me. I am a burgeoning author who just happens to be blind and there are just too many things for me to manage in the short time between a full-time job and busy life caring for three dogs, two of which are seniors, along with my hubby. One aspect of it is self-promotion, learning how to apply it and not allow it to take over every spare moment. Let’s say I am still working on how to juggle it all. I am a good student and learn quickly, so I am hoping by the end of the summer I will know how to tweak the various selling applications, websites, and other online tools so I can concentrate on finishing up my second poetry collection and get it published.

Here is a brief explanation of the book writing village for those who are curious: I badgered my daughter until she created an INSTAGRAM account. I manage the Face Book and Twitter accounts myself. I routinely ask my sister to assist with formatting challenges I cannot complete and ask for her help with other tasks requiring vision like ordering items from VISTA PRINT. My editors assist me with other aspects of book promotions, too. My husband often mails books, attends book signings, being driver, money-changer and heavy lifter (books are heavy!), and other tasks as we travel the path of the Indy author experience. I am so grateful for the help and attention and care from my book writing village. When I am rich and famous, I am hosting a party for y’all.
What have I learned from all of this? The act of Writing is singular, but the profession is full of caring human interaction.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 1

Poem: A Dog’s Breath

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

A dog’s Breath
© 2018 By Ann Chiappetta

A hectic day
aRetreat into four walls of sanctuary
The effort of presentation
of professionalism, of being evaluated
And On the lowest rung
Burned like a premeditative strike.

Was I so horribly misunderstood?

hopes dissipated
Deflated balloons, once bright and buoyant now
Burst, flatulent and dispersed

There I sat
Fingertips on the keyboard, confidence compromised
In the office falsetto
I breathed

And Caught the sound with closed eyes
In-out, in-out, in-out
A partner in rhythm
Lying by my side.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 1

Three Years Together

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Bailey and I met in March 2015. The first day he held my wrist in his mouth as if to say, I am so excited I just need to hold onto you. I would gently stroke him on the head and he would let go, opting for a butt rub instead. The next day, as I bent to put the harness over his head, he got in some face licks, too. I was instantly attracted to his energy, his work ethic and the fact that he did not snore. My retired dog snores like a human, so thank goodness for small blessings.

Bailey keeps me grounded when I am faced with a burst of vertigo, a symptom brought on since the final decline into blindness. His goofiness makes me smile, like when he brings me two dog toys in his mouth at the same time. He challenges me, like when he decides not to listen to any commands when a new dog greets him. Not even a dog treat distracts him when he wants to say hello if he isn’t working. Yet, when he is guiding me, my hand on the harness, he somehow pulls it off and we move on past the dog distraction.

He is a licker. Instead of a harness sign saying, “Do Not Pet Me, I Am Working” I want one that declares, Warning: licking Zone,”. I’m not sure it will keep away the unsuspecting victims, though.

He doesn’t become intimidated when faced with an 18-wheeler pausing at a street crossing to let us cross. He doesn’t notice the developmentally disabled man pacing us, trying to pet him. He doesn’t even twitch a paw on the paratransit bus when another passenger calls his name and stays on the floor, ignoring them.

He’s almost five years old and has matured into a beautiful and noble creature, standing straight and tall, weighing in at 73 lbs.; cream colored fur, a little darker around the eyes, on the ears and the tip of his tail. I think the best part of being a guide dog handler is how well we get to know our dogs and the benefit of allowing them to bond with us.

Thanks to his puppy raiser, Pat, he loves to have his face touched, his ears rubbed, and loves his kennel. This part could go on forever, as a raiser does so much when the pup is growing up.

Here’s to our third year together, Bubba, thanks for being by my side, for accepting me despite all my faults and helping me understand the meaning of canine

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Annie and Bailey the yellow lab guide dog

unconditional regard.

Meet The Author

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Meet the Author Ann Chiappetta
Author of Follow Your Dog A Story of Love and Trust © 2017 www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/
Date: March 15th Time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Place: Westchester Disabled on the Move 984 North Broadway, suite LL10, Yonkers, NY 10701. Directions: 914-968-4717 or www.wdom.org/
Signed books are $10 each, cash only.
What, exactly, does it mean to share one’s life with a guide dog? The person and guide dog are interdependent, and the bond of mutual trust is what makes the partnership successful and fulfilling for both. Ask yourself how many people you would trust with your life, and after answering, ask yourself if you would trust an animal with your life. Unless you are bonded to and live with a working dog, you might hesitate in answering the second question.
To be sure, guide dogs have performed many heroic tasks and have saved handlers from innumerable dangers. However, there are smaller and subtler things that can mean so very much: the feel of your dog’s head on a foot while riding the bus, the whimpers and doggie dreaming, the way you and the dog move in sync when walking down the street, and countless other tokens of trust and affection.
With this book, I hope to take the reader on a journey of understanding: learning what it’s like to overcome the darker side of disability by walking the path of independence with a canine partner.

Love in Seventeen syllables

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello readers, an interesting thing happened the other day after posting a humorous haiku about poo to the email list belonging to my guide dog school training program. The outpouring of love and respect for our canine partners overflowed into dozens of haiku. The edited collection is below. It is one of the best things about the creative experience: passion drives creativity and our incomparable companions keep us passionate, for sure.

Thanks to all who contributed; while there were over 8 pages of poems, the pieces here are only a small sample representing the love and respect I think we could agree is a reflection of how we feel about our dogs.

Haiku
Poetry Collection
A Profession of partnership
Guiding Eyes for the Blind Graduates

What does your dog do
Alight upon the sun beams?
Yes, each day we fly

Mac has love so blind
My faults hidden from his view
So simple, so real

Rub Prince’s tummy
Safely Guide Judy day/night
Gifts of Love for each

The squirrel runs fast
Legs are twitching as he runs
In the Guide Dog dreams

People, subs, shadows
Julia’s loves in six years
Julia the first

Yankee Doodle guide
Buses, sidewalks, and streets
Guiding quick and true

Blind, alone, afraid
Geb guide no longer alone now
Guide is my best friend

Amos, my sweet boy
Soaring through crowds to targets
Lying on my feet

Henley is so sweet
Sugar and candy can’t match
German shepherd love

The Concrete Jungle
Where Kit and I stroll daily
Freedom beyond dreams

Small, fast, and agile
Like supercar and driver
Dog and I are one

Dixon, first in line
He wanted to lead the pack
When not on my lap

Jada is my wings
Watch us fly across the sky
We don’t see the ground.

Adler went too fast
He taught me trust and patience
How to replace him?

You are my best bud
My loud and lively Lawson
Thanks for all the joy!

JJ son of “Wildman”
Playful when out of harness
All focus in harness

Squire, dark as night.
smart, strong, and ever so sweet.
Ever and always.

Observant guide dog,
Counters sadness with face licks
Makes me laugh and smile.

Pip, out of harness,
my social butterfly girl
Has more friends than me.

Irish cream doggie-woo
Giant heart spirit of two
Taken hold of me

Hadley is two dogs
At play: run and slide! Bounce! Fly!
Harness on: a king.

Quincy was my first Guide,
That Golden boy stole my heart,
Always in my Heart

The trees and sky breathe
My golden girl goes forward
Our hearts together

Curled asleep at feet
Waves of love from guide Ryan
Smiling a tear falls

My vision’s as wide
As a dog can see, hear, smell.
Guiding Eyes radar.

Liza is so quick!
Gave that candy a big lick.
The clerk put it back!

Walking by my side
You safely show me the way
Teamwork everyday

Flying through our world,
Brilliant mind and stellar step . . .
Marli’s guiding eyes.

My dog is Cici,
She is my guiding Eyes girl,
Without her I fall

Two Years together
Yankee and Mom a great team
Working and playing

I walk in snowshoes
Dog is in four black Mukluks
Home, now there are three

Guides. Finds, loves to play
Always willing willing to retrieve
Muzzle stuck in shoe

Hadley loves to love.
He’s all cuddles, no kisses.
Mouth’s reserved for toys.

Naughty puppy face
Harness on, working face on!
What to do without?

With sudden blindness
Clare became my light and sight
My guide and friend

Our talks as we walk
Open volumes clearly spoken
Unheard by strangers

Night comes, harness off
Naughty puppy face once more
We dream together.

Akron, gentleman
Needed a much slower pace
Sleep contortionist

Tessi bouncy girl
Met no one she didn’t like
Glad at work or play

Find eighty-eight keys
That is where you will find Mac
Snoring underneath

Sweet but sneaky Pip,
will commando crawl for food
Dog foodaholic.

The one that started it:
Brown nuggets drop from
Dog to snow, hidden in white
Lost until spring thaw.

Love in Seventeen syllables

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

News and Notes

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello Readers,
It’s February, the month dedicated to love and inklings of spring. Here in New York, we have been experiencing yo-yo weather and I am ready for the warmer weather. Bailey and Verona, my Labradors, would love it to snow a few more times just for fun, though. Silly dogs!

I have a few announcements this time around – first is the ACB Radio Mainstream podcast on February 21 at 10:30 p.m. eastern. I talk to the host, Brian McCallen about being a writer and coping with blindness. You can subscribe to the podcast for other interviews and informational segments.
Here is the listing: Ann Chiappetta – Wednesday February 21st 10:30PM Eastern/7:30PM Pacific (and replays every two hours throughout the next day)

To listen to “Speaking Out for the Blind,” go to: http://acbradio.org/mainstream, and choose one of the links under the headings “Listen to ACB Radio Mainstream” and “Now Playing;” or call 712-775-4808, and when prompted, press “1” for ACB Radio Mainstream. You may also listen to the program live on the ACB Link mobile app.
For more info related to the show, go to: https://speakingoutfortheblind.weebly.com/list-of- episodes-and-show-news/for-more-information-episode-160-ann-chiappetta

For all you local folks, I am hosting a book signing on March 15, 2018 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Westchester Disabled on The Move in Yonkers, New York. Printed, signed copies of FOLLOW YOUR DOG A STORY OF LOVE AND TRUST are $10 each, and UPWELLING: POEMS are $8, cash only. Call 914-393-6605 if you have any questions. Directions are on WDOMI’s website,
www.wdom.org

I’d love to give a multi-book discount to organizations, programs, and schools, so email me at [email protected] to find out more.

Thanks for reading, here is a little haiku for you:
What does your dog do?
Alight upon the sun beams?
Yes, each day we fly

Be well,
Annie, Bailey, and Verona

Reaching Out

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

I recently sold 37 copies of my new book, Follow Your Dog a Story of Love and Trust www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta in January. I am proud of this accomplishment because although the number is modest, I am an Indy writer managing my writing career without a publicist or agent to push sales on my behalf. My colleagues, friends, family and social media contacts have helped me, too – something I thought would be impossible just a few years ago.

The most difficult barrier is time. I work full-time, so whatever promotions I engage in must be squeezed in judiciously; weekends are crammed with secretarial duties like stuffing envelopes, ordering promotional materials, scheduling guest appearances and podcasts or radio interview’s, , and catching up on email. Phew! Often, the household duties fall to the wayside or are completed between these other tasks. ‘Tis the life I choose to live.

If an interviewer asked what is the most difficult part of being an Indy author who is promoting her books, I’d reply it’s about asking others to help me do it. What I mean is, being bold enough to make a cold call to a book seller, artist’s guild or friend and ask for help with a recommendation or book review. The risk of being rejected or told no, sorry, I can’t help you is the one fear I work through while selling my book.

If the interviewer asked what is the most fulfilling part of being an Indy author, I would say the people’s responses, of course. It is about touching a reader, connecting the emotions and resonating with them through the written word that keeps me going and fills me with joy.

Thank you, readers, for keeping me going.

Thank You Verona

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

I got on the bus last week and took out my cell to pass the time. I opened Face Book and fingered through my status and read that it has been 9 years since I met Verona. I shared the milestone like a good little FB user but the nostalgia stayed with me all day. I wasn’t able to reach out and pet her to say thanks for a wonderful first guide dog experience. It was like not saying “I love you,” to my human family upon leaving for a day’s work.

There are so many reasons for writing this post, from appreciating the people involved in bringing Verona and I together to those who helped me make the decision to retire her and supporting our family so we could keep her and let her live out her retirement with regal dignity.

It’s a little overkill, perhaps, to keep writing about this dog, but, hey, I write about relationships and the most meaningful ones have been with dogs, so, you know, write what you know, right?

Verona continues to provide unconditional love dressed in ebony, a constantly wagging tail, and a gentle nature. She is the only dog in our lives that has generated a fan club and a long list of possible retirement homes when folks heard she was hanging up the harness. All the paratransit bus drivers talked about her, how intelligent she looked, that she “has smart eyes,”. We are featured in the para transit taxi program brochure; when she retired, the local newspaper wrote an article about how much the veterans would miss her. She saw her trainer the other day and actually jumped up to lick her face, prancing around like she was two years old. It is in these moments for which I feel grateful. I am appreciative of the dedication and expert attention to her training and breeding. Our family has benefitted from such a phenomenal dog, she is a true Labrador retriever and the kind of guide dog who became an ambassador because of her character. This is why I write about her so much, have written a book, two poems and dozens of articles about her. She is exceptional. It is this piece of canine personality which grabs our attention and stays with us. It is this type, this definition that sticks to our hearts like Velcro and owns a part of our hearts making us grieve when the animal passes.

People talk about soul mates, and a great guide dog match is similar. Some folks refer to it as a spirit dog, or a heart dog. I felt her unique energy the first time we met and don’t ever want to forget it. The energy still keeps me grounded, gives me confidence.

Here’s to you, Verona, sweet girl, whose ability to trust me and to have been able to take us places and lead us into adventures is the most powerful partnerships I’ve known. Happy ninth anniversary. I love you.

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.

The Authenticity Gnome

| Filed under Relationships Uncategorized

I picked out another fossilized pine needle from my sock; it was so dry I thought it was a tooth pick. How did it get in my shoe, then poke through my sock and the my tender tootsie? I believe it is the curse of the authenticity gnome. Yes, the bug-eyed eccentric mini-man is related to the elusive cousin, the elf on the shelf and looks similar to its country cousin, the garden gnome. It takes the needles from the old Christmas trees and sprinkles them into the radiator, the closet, and the bowl of water left for the dogs. This nefarious little creature also infuses the needles with a special energy that pushes them out from under the vacuum and broom.

You see, it does these things to keep us from deciding to opt for a fake tree, what is now called a fiber optic tree. It works like this: when a human is picking the old pine needles from the clogged vacuum, the human thinks, I should really buy a fake tree so I don’t have to do this anymore. Then the human looks off into the distance, recalling the many holidays, the smell of fresh balsam and gifts given that brought smiles and thanks and as the human sets down the unclogged vacuum, the thought of the facsimile tree is wiped from the human’s frontal lobe by a magical flick of a stubby authenticity gnome finger. Classic reverse psychology and it works. I wonder if they get kick backs from the tree farms.

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