Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

For bob and Pete

| Filed under Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

I hope what the psychics say is true – that somehow, the spirit of our loved ones who have gone over can watch us through the veil of life and death. Both our sets of parents are gone and my husband is now the patriarch of his family tree, being the oldest. It’s hard to wrap our minds around it. We just continue as if it doesn’t really matter. So much time has passed and yet I feel like I’ve been standing still since I turned 21; where has the time gone?

Dad, if you are listening, you already know I miss you; for my father-in-law, Pete, I hope you are tuned in, I am hoping you have been watching your only grandchildren grow into kind and competent adults, too. Missing you both is part of being human, and loving you and your memory keeps me going.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

The Bestest Question

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello readers. I alluded to revealing the number one question asked by a kindergarten student in today’s FB post and now I will tell you all what it was – drum roll, please —
It wasn’t “Does your dog fart?” or “why is he licking his privates?” In fact, it was a very astute and concrete question from an adorable little girl.
The question: “If you can’t see, how do you clean up after the dog goes to the bathroom?”
After I thanked her for the most interesting question, I answered her keeping to age-appropriate euphemisms and language. When one of her classmates also asked for a special post card, I said, not everyone gets a special post card. I know, maybe I should have said something else, but the devil in me blurted it out, after all, this little girl deserved recognition for asking the best and boldest question, and there really can be only one winner, at least that is what I was raised to believe.

Purpose, Impetus, Momentum

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

I am a person living with blindness but it does not define me. I am also a wife, mother, sister, friend, author and professional. I am a human being and, like all humans, I want to know how it feels to proceed through my life with dignity and meaning. I want to matter.

So often, as folks like me progress through daily tasks, we encounter barriers. Every time I log into the network to record my productivity, assistive technology bridges the accessibility barrier. When I cross the street the audible signals help me do so more safely. When I harness my dog to lead me to and from work, I know I am doing it because of others who, in the past, have blazed a path for it to happen.

Web accessibility has improved but it is also still, at times, an impassible wall of impossible heights. Service dog access is another mountain at times, as is the bureaucracy of installing audible signals in much needed locations.

Onward I climb. While I climb, I know there others like me who take on the difficult journey, too. We do make a difference. When one of us is ready to give up, we give her a boost, tell him to keep going, lend a courageous voice so those at the top of the cliff can hear our cry and make the changes.

I am waxing poetic here, folks, but this is what we do. While, many times, it feels like I am alone in my struggle, I am not. I don’t know if this is the intangible effects of faith or fate or the influence of the Big Man Upstairs, but whatever it is, when I overcome a personal barrier, it fuels the possibility for more good results and outcomes for others.

Handler’s Corner

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

The Handler’s Corner
Living and Working with Guide Dogs
By Ann Chiappetta, M.S.
Previously printed in Consumer Vision, April 2018 (c)
Hello readers, it is finally Spring and thanks to daylight savings time, my dogs are confused about what time the kibble feast begins. Thankfully, dogs are experts at adapting and I think another week and all will be well.

Speaking of time, I often wonder how dogs interpret time. Is it set by only feeding times or do dogs possess a highly developed body clock? We humans take our time cues from a highly advanced episodic time framework, which is one of the most unique characteristics of being human. Experts say that dogs have also developed a similar type of episodic time framework. Another cool fact is a dog’s unique circadian rhythm; humans tend to sleep in longer periods and mostly at night. Dogs, on the other paw, tend to sleep in shorter, more frequent periods during the day and at night. How cool is that?
Experts say a dog keeping track of the time is also behaviorally focused, like knowing the kibble feast will begin soon after the sun is up and the birds begin chirping. My dogs know after the 7 a.m. bus passes by, it’s time to eat and they become restless. This is an example of pattern recognition, and the canine is an expert when interpreting patterns and making associations. For instance, we pick up the leash and the dog goes to the door, connecting the object to the result, getting to go for a walk.

Patterning is a very useful tool for any working dog team. Guide dogs learn routes and destinations along the routes. One of the best tasks is being able to target the hotel room door or knowing just where the coffee shop is. I taught my dog a route from the office to the bank, and to the sandwich shop and back to the office. Once a dog learns a route and it is used frequently, one phrase will get you there.

I think animals have a deeper connection to time and we could learn a thing or two about being reliable and punctual, especially when it involves tasty tidbits.
The article I referenced is; https://www.petcentric.com/articles/training-and-behavior/can-dogs-tell-time/

Ann Chiappetta, M.S. is an independent author and consultant. Her books, UPWELLING: POEMS and FOLLOW YOUR DOG A STORY OF LOVE AND TRUST can be purchased in both eBook and Print from www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/. Ann’s personal website is www.annchiappetta.com
Follow ann’s blog: www.thought-wheel.com
Face Book: Annie Chiappetta/Twitter: Anniedungarees/Linkdyn: Ann chiappetta Iona College/Instagram: annie_bird_c

Hold It Up Proudly

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Bailey stood, signaling our para transit bus was pulling to the curb. I praised him with a “good boy!” and he guided me to the door. We stepped up, and as I asked the driver which seat was open, a familiar voice greeted us. Bailey, being the most curious dog ever in the world, decided to try to sniff the passenger’s bag and I corrected him and direct him to back up into the space where he would be safe and away from temptation.

The passenger, whom I will call Sonya, announced she was going to my guide dog school to observe a graduation. She has been thinking about a guide dog for the past year since her vision has deteriorated. Whenever we meet on the bus, she spends the time asking me questions. I answer them. This time she asked the most familiar questions, the ones I asked all those years ago, when I first began the exploration of applying for a guide dog.
Questions like, was she blind enough for a dog? What if, on some days she walked a few miles and other days she just cleaned the house? Would a dog be able to be part of her life? She was also trying to describe a new harness my school used for running guides that resembles a Y with an adjustable handle. All these questions and she was finally going to a graduation to see for herself just how much a dog can enhance someone’s life and get a person back to being more independent. I was so happy she was taking a chance and evaluating her choices. Part of her reluctance was, how would a dog fit into her life and her family? How would she be able to show the dog what she wanted? Would the dog be able to be part of her extended family and be good with her grandchildren? Our conversation took on a very serious connotation, as if she was ready to make the commitment and apply or stick with the cane.

After she got off the bus, I thought about how, like Sonya, I got to a point of extreme frustration with a white cane, being exhausted from the mental vigilance and finding it a laborious tool, that, while helpful, also had its limits and had let me down. I think folks like us, who have lived with vision and then gradually lost it, are just unequipped to make a complete and successful transition to exclusively using a cane because our brains have aged and aren’t as flexible. I also hit my learning ceiling with braille in a similar fashion. I studied braille for six months with an instructor; After a 20-minute session of reading braille, I was mentally exhausted and could not move past the phenomenon. My fingers would get numb and my head felt like it was going to explode from concentrating so hard. For me, and many other folks who lose vision later in life, the adjustment to progressing from simple tactile reading to reading a novel is just too much for the brain to handle. Moreover, folks like me have already learned how to read and write visually; later on, as we lost more vision, thanks to computers and assistive technology we were able to transition to listening the way we had been taught to with sight. Folks like me just want to be able to manage vision loss and not be overwhelmed by it. But I digress.

Back to the dog or the cane discussion. Why is, one might ask, using a dog less stressful? A dog takes the adjustment to a different level, allows a person to share the mobility experience and be less vigilant. The handler relies less on constant tapping, stopping and realigning a path; with another sentient being, walking down a street goes from a singular effort a team effort. The partnership takes the stress off the person, and the experience of being out and about in public becomes more pleasurable and less isolating. The dog is the teams’ eyes, does the shore-lining, the obstacle avoidance, the targeting. The handler follows, directs, and keeps track of the team’s location.
I smile and think — how many times have I found myself talking to my dog? How many times have I thanked the Powers that I was a guide dog user after being redirected from a dangerous situation? How many times has my dog kept us from being hurt or worse? How many times did my dog find our way from a situation where I got lost? How many times has my dog comforted me, my clients, and provided unconditional regard to whomever needed it?
The answer is simple: I trust my dog and we are a team and no matter what we face, we will work through it together.

As for Sonya, whatever she chooses to do to manage living her life with vision loss, I hope that she stays active and engaged. Adjusting to losing sight takes time and I think Sonya is a brave and focused person for exploring all her options.

Whiskey Boy, Where Are You?

| Filed under blindness Relationships Uncategorized

I love games, especially card games and dice games. When I began losing my vision, I transitioned to large print playing cards, then braille cards. I learned to play some games on my computer, though in the early 1990s there wasn’t much to play except solitaire and a few others. When mobile technology finally leveled the playing field, I tested out dozens of games on my iPhone. The one I enjoy the most is Dice World.www.diceworldgame.com It was the first game I played with other players in virtual time and I am a loyal “dicer”. Geek squad here I come,

It’s been about 8 years now and I have been playing with another dicer whose handle is Whiskey Boy from New Zealand. We play Yahtzee. We play one or two games simultaneously and we even tied which is like winning the lottery in terms of dicing games. I really wanted to chat our unique status when it happened but I didn’t; I am trying to figure out why I didn’t in this post. Historically I don’t use the chat option. I want to play and not get caught up in wasting time dictating messages. I think I only chatted with my sister and only did so a few times in as many years. Maybe I don’t want to take the chance at being rejected or disappointed and probably shouldn’t be making any huge assumptions. Yet, there is part of me that wants to know more about this person from down under with a really cool handle and who has tied me, which has only happened once in over 500 games. Maybe I’ll just send him the link to this blog and let him decide.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 1

Please Don’t Use That Word

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized

To what word am I referring? HANDICAPPED. What has triggered this reaction, one might ask? First let me say that I usually don’t walk around calling folks to task over their choice of language, even if I find it offensive. If it is not directed to me or those I am with at the time, I do not engage; in today’s world of hyper-triggering altercations and random acts of violence, I keep my own council. More importantly, I respect our rights to free speech.

The other day was an exception. A few friends and I, who all happen to be blind, were at a meeting along with others who were not visually impaired. The word was used, referring to us. Once the word was out, I found myself cutting the other person off, saying, “Please don’t use that word,”. Then the second person in the conversation used it and I said it again. I hope these two folks learn to eliminate it from their brains and speech references, I hope the H word is struck from our colloquialisms, like society has done with the N word. Furthermore, I do not identify with the H word, nor do most people with disabilities. While it is my opinion written in this blog, I realize folks might not realize just how insulting it is to be labeled by a word that means one is so impaired that one cannot take care of oneself or presents as having a disadvantage. That is not me nor is it the majority of the people living with disabilities. Am I splitting hairs? After reading the word origin, thanks to dictionary.com, I am even more confident the H word should remain as a betting reference

To be fair, I don’t hear it as much as I used to, like back in the 1990s, but there are still examples of eliminating the H word, like, “handicapped” parking signs.

In a perfect world, people with disabilities would not need to be singled out or pitied, but, since we live in a world of imperfections, why can’t we all dispense with the negative, stereotypic labels and adopt more respectful terminology for folks? Thanks for reading.
A rant from a person with a disability.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 2

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 : | 7

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 : | 3