Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

New Routines

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Writing Life

New Routines

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.

Maybe a Sign Would Help?

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Writing Life

Today was the monthly meeting for the Westchester Council of the Blind of New York. We hold it at a house of worship, and we are very fortunate to be getting our space for free. While we were setting up and listening for members to come down the steps to our meeting room, a man appeared,
“Are you having a meeting for blind people?” he asked, sounding a little annoyed.
Yes, we said, this is where our meeting is.
“Oh,” he replied, “There are some people coming here, and they don’t seem like they know where to go, maybe you should put up a sign,”

Yup, folks, after he left, my colleague and I broke up laughing, then shook our heads, feeling quite sorry for the ignorant sighted person. We went to find our wayward members and led them to the room.

We could have felt angry, or upset, but this is nothing unusual for us. We did not allow this man and his inadequacies or annoyances to negatively affect us.
Furthermore, I don’t know how I can state this eloquently , but, well, a sign really won’t help the blind folks, only folks like this man, who came in, did not greet us or even introduce himself; by the way he sounded, he felt somehow threatened by the “blind people”, or he would have brought them with him instead of coming to the room to complain.

If you are still reading, this is more or less an average example of what we encounter from day to day. Sometimes we fair better, some days, the ignorance and uncaring attitudes seem to be everywhere. It’s no wonder 70% of employable blind people are not working; that people who lose vision and are over 50 struggle to remain independent; why guide dog users who are blind are denied ride share services 1 of 3 times despite policies adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act laws.

We are a powerful group and yet we are a minority still grabbing and pulling ourselves up the wall of equal access and opportunity. We must help one another so we can be the change-makers, in our communities, Nationally, and worldwide.

Most importantly, don’t be like this man who did not say his name and was so off-putting with an attitude of annoyance; after reading this example, if you encounter someone who is blind, lost or looking for directions, work with them, ask how best to help, and go with it.

Rescuing May the Dog

| Filed under Guide dogs Relationships

Another dog person once told me each time a dog finds a home either via purchase or adoption, it has been rescued. I think about this often, especially when a new dog comes into our lives.

Nikka died in February 2019 at age 16. Losing her was bittersweet, she had healed our hearts after losing two dogs a year apart, from cancer. We had hoped she would live a long time and she didn’t let us down in this respect. She had a sassy beagle-tude and was a clown and a challenge.

By this time, Verona, my retired lab, was old, almost 13 and Bailey, my working dog was 6.

As it happened, April, our daughter, finally asked the question and I said I was ready; prior to the question a few weeks ago, “When are we getting another dog?”, I still had felt Nikka’s loss.

But this time, my heart was ready to accept a new canine family member and we found ourselves at the local animal shelter. It was like the Goldilocks fairy tale, this dog is too old, this one too young, this one too yappy, this one too big. Then the shelter worker brought in May, an 8 month old slender border collie mix about 50 lbs. Bailey and May played until their tongues hung out and we knew she would be going home with us.

It’s been about a month and here is what we know : she was brought up here for adoption from a West Virginia kill shelter, loves to chew and may have already been partially trained when she got lost and ended up in the shelter. Her herding instincts are surfacing, apparent by the instinct to heel, please the handler, and take on new commands quickly and willingly. She already is leash trained but does require supervision inside and with other dogs, mostly due to her propensity to nip during play. We hope she will learn to stop this and model good play with Bailey’s help. She has captured our hearts and even Titan, our cat, is grudgingly accepting this new dog.

April and May are partners, sharing what good partners share, and we are all working together to raise this young and energetic dog. There will be more of May on my blog, just wait and read what will be coming up next.
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Collie mix May posing for the camera.

Performing Poetry and Friends In Art

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Writing Life

In July I had the chance to perform two poems, In Those Dark Moments C 2016 and On The Tip Of A Finger C 2019 at the Friends In Art ACB showcase.

I was inspired to do it after watching Tom Hanks do a piece of performance poetry on Jimmy Kimmel.
I also co-hosted it and had a lot of fun and met many great folks and talented musicians, singers, and performers. To view the poems, go to
www.annchiappetta.com www.annchiappetta.com

New on Audible.com

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

For Immediate Release
Contact Ann Chiappetta, Author [email protected] 914.393.6605

Local Author releases first commercial Audio Book
July 20, 2019 – New Rochelle, N.Y.
Poet and Indy author of three books, Ann Chiappetta releases Upwelling: Poems C 2016 on Audible.com, Amazon’s premier audio book seller. Go to https://tinyurl.com/y5p7e3hz
To purchase or listen to the sample narrated by Lilian Yves.

I am so happy to finally have one of my books available through Audible. As a writer who is blind, I feel it is paramount to offer my books in as many blind-friendly formats as possible,”

Chiappetta’s books are available in print and all online eBook formats including Amazon.
The author’s other books, Follow Your Dog A Story of Love and Trust C 2017 and Words of Life: Poems and Essays C 2019 are being prepared as commercial audio books and will be released later this year.

Chiappetta is currently planning book readings and book signing events. Information on these and other appearances, including past appearances and future radio interviews and podcasts can be found at her website, www.annchiappetta.com.
To learn more about the author, or view her author’s book page, go to www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/

Chiappetta’s blog is www.thought-wheel.com

white daisies on black background bordered in red phot by C. Romanek

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

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.