Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

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

Speaking of the Muse for National Poetry Month

| Filed under Poem Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

A bit on the creative process is a good way to keep the brain muscle in shape. Writing is, in itself, a very singular endeavor. One must gather the items for which to write about, and this can mean observing the rhythm of life. It could mean overhearing a conversation, being intrigued by something on the telly, or inspired by another artist. In my world, anything is an opportunity for the Muse.

Just how a poem goes from knocking around in my head and gets the final blessing is a bit harder to explain. But I will give it my best, so here it goes: the idea comes first.
I want to write a poem about a former therapy client who has since died. It’s been something I feel compelled to do, and for months it’s been rolling around, from one hemisphere to the other, and now I am ready to grab hold of it mentally and wrestle it down in the form of a computer file.

I begin with a working title. It keeps me focused on the theme. I often keep this as the final title, but not always. Next, a few lines will appear, I think of the overall message I want to bring about, if I want it to rhyme or not (usually not), and if I need to do more research on the subject matter. In this case, the answer is yes, and I save the file, then begin a google search for stories about Androcles and the lion. The metaphor of the helper removing the thorn from the king of beasts will be used as a symbolic reference and I must read all about it to understand just how it will be used and how it will provoke and interest the reader once the poem is completed.

I often rely on Greek mythology to accentuate poetry; I think of it as bringing the past into the present, I mean, if they could come back to life and read how much we still utilize their society and cultural morays, religion and beliefs, they would be impressed with themselves.
But I digress. Back to the poem. This is where I am right now, forming the narrative, linking the imagery and emotions. It brings me to another observation: I cannot rush the process – the poem can take all the time it needs. I honor the Muse by allowing the finished piece to unfold naturally.

So, if you are still reading, I am hoping the poem will be ready soon, but this could mean a few months or longer. I will keep the updates coming and I hope you all read more poems during National Poetry Month.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 1

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

MEET THE AUTHOR

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized WRiting LIfe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Ann Chiappetta, Author 914-393-6605 [email protected]

Local Author Returns to Childhood Library

March 7, 2017 – Mamaroneck, NY Ann Chiappetta, a Westchester resident who grew up in Mamaroneck, will be available for a book signing at the Mamaroneck Public Library’s community room this coming Saturday, March 11 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Chiappetta, who has written her first poetry collection titled, “Upwelling”, was raised in Mamaroneck.
“I spent a lot of time here,” she says, “the library was my home away from home.”

Chiappetta goes on to say she is excited to be able to return to her roots and share the collection with Westchester residents.
Printed copies of the book will be for sale for $8, cash only. The 60-page soft cover edition expresses a wide range of subjects and include Chiappetta’s experiences of vision loss, counseling trauma victims and many other aspects of the human condition. She also writes of learning how to work alongside and trust a new guide dog. Ms. Chiappetta has been blind since 1993, the loss resulting from a rare eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Two poems in the collection are about her vision loss and coping without the benefit of sight. From the publisher: guide dogs, death, and a disturbing dream. Marriage, memories, and intriguing mysteries. In this collection of 23 of her short, highly accessible poems from several decades, Ann Chiappetta explores an enormous range of emotions and topics. Travel with her as she moves from illness, death, loss, and grief to renewed hope, security, and serenity.

Chiappetta says she was inspired to publish the collection after losing her Mom, Mary Coelho last July.

Ann is available for local signings and readings.

. To Purchase Chiappetta’s collection in e book or printed formats, go to http://www.dvorkin.com/annchiappetta/

To read Chiappetta’s blog, go to: www.thought-wheel.com

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

A Measure of Hope

| Filed under Poem Uncategorized

Yesterday I was speaking with one of my best friends, you know the kind of friend who is counted on one hand, which professes a true bestie. We’ve known each other for over 30 years. He introduced me to my husband of 26 years, etc., etc.

His name is Joe and he was diagnosed with HIV in the early 1990s and we almost lost him. Thankfully, it wasn’t his time to go and he recovered and I am thankful he has been part of my life and I believe he is a living miracle. Our family lost many loved ones from the AIDS virus back then and Joe wasn’t one of them, and the only one I know who survived from that deadly wave of HIV infections.

Shortly after he became hospitalized and was fighting for his life, I wrote a poem titled, “What Remains”. It is a style of poetry called a villanelle, or Italian sonnet. It consists of 19 lines in a fixed form and uses interchangeable rhymes. After writing it, I kept it to myself, since I wasn’t sure if Joe would pull through. Fast forward a few decades and the poem is the only one in my book, Upwelling, http://www.dvorkin.com/annchiappetta/ that is a rhymed poem of iambic pentamer and can be called the best example of a sonnet resulting from two excruciating semesters of verse writing classes.

So, what does this have to do with Joe and my poetry collection? I haven’t shared that the poem is in the book. He hasn’t purchased it yet, so he is blissfully unaware it is there. I did give him a copy of the poem years ago, and I honestly don’t think he will recall receiving it. Even if he does, I am a little nervous he might be uncomfortable knowing it’s in the collection

I know I am being silly; there are 22 other poems in this book, most about a person I love or for whom I feel a strong affection. I did let some of them know a poem written about them was included, but not all of them. My Mom and Dad are already gone and I lost touch with most of the others. I am confident; however, the poems honor the person’s character and don’t disparage anyone. Yet, I do experience an occasional twinge of anxiety thinking about the person’s reaction if he or she reads the piece. It’s called writer’s regret and while I would love to say I would never allow my creativity to be compromised by censorship, even if not doing so means risking another person’s feelings or values, it would be a hard decision to make. Therein lies the risk; he could react in a way that I wouldn’t expect or anticipate. He could say he hates it and he never wants to read it again. He could say it makes him feel horrible, or depressed or ashamed. Okay, maybe not as extreme as that, but, you get the picture. Taking risks with words is risky. As my statistics professor once said, it boils down to a fifty-fifty chance no matter what.

I want Joe to read the poem again, I want him to ask questions, and I want, above all else, for him to understand it was written at a time in our lives that was rife with uncertainty and expected loss.

As for you, the reader, perhaps this essay and poem will provide both the gravity of what it is like to witness the suffering of a loved one but also hang on to hope and keep hoping even when others say there isn’t any sense in hoping anymore. I think Joe would be satisfied with knowing his experience gives me hope.

FYI: March 6 is Joe’s 51st birthday. Happy Day my friend.

WHAT REMAINS – A VILLANELLE

Time elapses in your veins
By maniacs bred in cells
Robbing your health, grain by grain.

The option of long life is detained
And upon the shortened time we dwell,
As time elapses in your veins.

Hippocratic oaths can’t explain
Why your blood bears killer cells
Robbing your health, grain by grain.

I listen to the melodic refrain
Of your breath, fearing the funeral bell,
As time elapses in your veins.

The fangs of regret cause the most pain
Anger and sadness are familiar clientele,
Robbing your health, grain by grain.

Your spirit wavers on this plane,
A present but listless parcel
I greedily covet what remains,
As time elapses in your veins
Robbing your health, grain by grain.

copyright 1995- 2016 Ann Chiappetta

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Welcoming 2017

| Filed under Fiction Poem Uncategorized

It’s New Year’s Day and I am being purposefully productive. 2016 wrapped up with a mixed bag and I am planning for a successful year in terms of the goals I continue to chip away on personally.

I have one announcement to make before I go on to blab about other milestones. The poem, “Diving” which is in my poetry collection UPWELLING, was also included in an anthology called BREATH and SHADOW http://www.abilitymain.org/breath and the book is available in eBook and print formats from all major online booksellers.
About the book:
Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow

Breath and Shadow is a literary journal of disability culture, written and edited exclusively by people with disabilities. In this collection, we present the best writing from the magazine’s first twelve years.
These essays, poems and short stories shine a light on the many gifts, ideas, and voices of writers who are disabled, and removes many of the hurdles faced in mainstream publications. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology will go back into Breath and Shadow, helping us to reach a wider and more diverse audience, as well as increasing our writer’s compensation. The book is available in paperback and all electronic formats.
www.amazon.com/dp/1541266404/ref=sr_1_2
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/691408
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dozen-chris-kuell/1125383853?ean=97815412664

Contributors:
Sandra Gail Lambert, Sarah Rizzuto, Susan M. Silver, Rachael Ikins, T Hamboyan Harrison, Janet I. Buck, Dan Foley, Abigail Astor, Dina Stander, Aaron Trumm , David Bolt, Judith Krum, Amy Krout-Horn, Ann Chiappetta, Lizz Schumer, Leandra Vane, Madeleine Parish, Deborah Sheldon, Akua Lezli Hope, Tricia Owsley, Raud Kennedy, Amit Parmessur , Tobias Seamon, Suzie Siegel, Erika Jahneke, Rick Blum, Alison Leavens, Carla Rene’ , Brock Marie Moore, Denise Noe, Diane Hoover Bechtler, Kathleen Grieger, Christopher Jon Heuer , Sergio Ortiz, Kari Pope, Kim Keith, Chris Kuell, Gary Bloom, Larry Schreiber, Esté Yarmosh, Joanne M. Marinelli, Mel C. Thompson, Laban Hill , Jae Beal, A. K. Duvall, Cindy Lamb , Sharon Wachsler Compiled and edited by Chris Kuell

So, friends and readers, help support writers with disabilities by honoring their literary efforts and get the book.

I would love to sign it should you wish and I encourage all of you who read this blog to become an online subscriber, too.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Mum from Mom

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized

Last night I was a guest on a phone conference broadcast to talk about my new published poetry collection, UPWELLING www.dvorkin.com/annchiappetta/ . Thanks to Bob Branco for inviting me on his show, Branco Broadcast, recorded and then distributed by Bob to a wide listening audience. If you cannot make the live call, you can listen to it later on Bob’s UTUBE channel. Very unique and accessible to all audiences. I’ll post the link when I receive it later on this week.

I read three poems and received much needed feedback, all of it positive. One caller asked me to talk about being a child of divorce and if it had any influence upon my writing, and I said yes. I then read a poem I’d chosen called BEFORE YOU GO, which was about my relationship with my father, which was never the same after he remarried. Another caller asked me who my mentors were; he was also a teacher and was curious to know about my mentors in school. I said that my seventh grade English teacher, Ms. O’Brian was the first to actually mentor me with my writing talent. In elementary school, my English teacher for fifth and sixth grade, Mr. Ankowitz also was my mentor in terms of grammar and spelling. He also was a leftie and would tell me that it wasn’t how my handwriting looked that was important; it was the quality of the actual words, sentences and paragraphs that mattered most. In college, it was many professors and a neighbor who was an editor who made my term papers shine. Needless to say I had more than my share of mentors and this allows me to pay it all forward when I get a chance.

Prior to this event, my first book signing was another success. Many of my family, friends, former co-workers and colleagues came to congratulate me, purchase copies, and chat. I was so touched by the outpouring of support. Verona came with us, too, and she was the greeter as folks walked into the room. Some folks hadn’t seen her since her retirement in 2014 and complimented as to how good she looked. Bailey tried his best to behave and he did pretty well considering all the people he recognized.

I have said that there are stories within stories, so here is one I am sharing because I think it is very special and serendipitous.
I was talking to the receptionist, carole and while we were setting up the conference room, she handed me a beautiful yellow chrysanthemum in a vase. I realized this was a sign that all I had done and will continue to do is being witnessed by our Mom’s spirit. Why, one may ask, how can a yellow mum make me get so emotional? For months I struggled to find just the right flower to be part of a tattoo dedicated to Mom. After searching around, I made the mum my choice. Now, Carole could have overheard me talk about it, but I wasn’t going around flaunting that I was going to get a mum for Mom tattooed on my bum, er, I mean, shoulder. 

When she presented me with the flower, I shed a few tears and hugged her, telling her that what she did meant more than she could have ever known. I did not see a butterfly, cardinal, or other signs of the afterlife trying to communicate with me; instead, Mom came to me through another person, in a one-to-one moment and her simple gift of a single golden token of congratulations. Mom’s grace has been apparent in every step of this book and while I don’t necessarily believe that every flower means it is Mom saying hello, I do pay attention at times when it is important to pay attention to a greeting from the veil. Thank you, Mom, for showing up and being there in spirit. I love you and miss you every day.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

First Real Interview!

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized

Hello all, I am sending off this quick post so you can listen to my first official interview with Fredreic Bye, a podcaster. You can find the interview here: I am on #Creative #Magic #Unchained today! Listen here! http://www.fredericbye.com/ann-chiappetta/

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

The First Twenty Bucks

| Filed under Poem Uncategorized

Yes, folks, I received my first royalty check for $20.79 and I was thrilled. I sell a few books here, a few books there, and I’ve given a few away, hoping it attracts more book sales. The thing is I don’t expect to make a huge profit, and, in fact, I just want to break even at this point. Sure, I want to be recognized by n agent and sign with a printing house with all the bells and whistles. That is the big dream for any writer. For me, though, it’s more about sticking to a goal and following it to completion. Whether it is completing a poem, a book, or a triathlon, reaching one’s goal is a profession of character and inner strength.

Knowing my poems are being read and, yes, criticized and commented upon, is exciting. I want the words and images affecting others like they affected me when I wrote them down. Some of the poems I still cannot read without becoming emotional and a few I can’t read aloud due to becoming verklempt. I wonder if anyone else has had this kind of reaction. One person said many of the poems were sad but so far, the comments have been brief albeit positive. I am waiting for a more in-depth review and have a few folks who have agreed to write one, which is exciting, too. These reviews will assist me in pushing the book even more. 2017 will be the year I will be sending the book to some contests and other prize winning poetry contests. From there, who knows?

I hope that by writing this update every month or so, someone who is thinking of publishing something will take the chance and do it. Think about it: someone inspired me in each step along the way to the goal of selling my book and now I can gift this to someone else. I sure hope that one day I hear someone say that my words were inspiring or helped them complete the journey. That is the cool thing about inspiration, it is contagious.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0
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