Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

One Dog’s Life 🦮 💖

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs writing

Second place winner! this essay will be in the December 2022 issue of the National Federation of the Blind’s  Writer’s Division Literary magazine, Slate and Style.

 

One Dog’s Life

 

2011

 

Verona and my daughter play in the lake for an hour. the funniest thing is the way Verona blows water from her mouth after dropping the stick. It makes a loud, spitting sound that can be heard from the patio.

 

When the assorted waterfowl horde realizes she is visiting, it waddles   in masse from grass to the lake weeds beside the dock. Labrador nose dilates, a front paw lifts, instincts override even an offer of a cookie. for just a little while she is the retriever, the soft-mouthed hunting companion, not a guide dog.

 

Each and every year we have together is a blessing, a time for me to feel unfettered. I try to think back on the way life was before training with Verona but my mind veers from those dark moments and I let them go. We are here, being warmed by the late afternoon sun. We are dog and woman, partners for however long time and fate permit.

2013

Four humans and two dogs fill the little red sedan. I sit in front, along with Mom, who is driving. In the back seat, Music’s furry butt crushes my sister, who, until now has suffered in silence.

“Thank God it’s a short ride,” I hear her mumble from somewhere behind us.

 

We reach our destination, extract ourselves from the little red sedan. Verona’s excitement is palpable. Once inside the gate, loose dogs run up to us, but I make her ignore them and sit until I’m ready. With a word she’s off. We claim a bench in the warm California sun. moments later Verona lopes by us, a pack of dogs giving chase. I listen for the pack to turn back and run past us again, Verona in the lead.

 

California 2013

Pebbles and shells litter the meandering path to the beach. The air resonates with surf and sea birds. I release Verona and she lopes off, nose to the ground

 

Music, my sister’s Golden Retriever, chases Verona into the water. As she turns to give chase, a huge wave crashes down and for a moment she is engulfed, Sucked away by green sea and foam. my heart skips a beat in arrested panic; The wave spits her out onto the beach and she runs to me, weaves in-between my legs and soaks my pants. I look like incontinence has gotten the best of me.  Thereafter, Verona avoids the waves and prefers a safer splash in the wet sand and tidal pools instead.

 

It’s important that Verona has the opportunity to be a dog; so much responsibility is put upon her when waring the harness, it seems that this is the best way to let her know.   As she digs a hole in the sand and flops down to dry off, my heart is content because she is doing just what she’s supposed to be doing, living a dog’s life.

close up of Black lab with snow sprinkled on her nose and head. She is looking at the camera with large, brown inquisitive eyes.

close up of Black lab with snow on her face

 

 

 

Annie Shares News Vol. 2 Issue 9

| Filed under blindness blogging novel writing

Annie Shares News Volume 2 Issue 9 September 2022

Tell a friend and help me share writing by subscribing to my low traffic email list. it’s simple. send a blank email to:

Anniesharesnews+subscribe@groups.io

🌑 🌓 🌔 🌕 🌙

Wonderful Things Afoot

 

The creative life is often compared to an ebb and flow, like tidal or moon phases. The last two months were a prime example. I barely wrote anything more than email correspondence due to being removed from our home of thirty years no thanks to asbestos contamination in our old floors. During a vacation in temporary housing via an Airbnb to await the asbestos abatement and installation of new floors, no thanks to hurricane Ida, I managed only one poem. I disconnected and it was probably for the best. I read, I soaked in the blessed silence, basked in the sun, brushed Bailey until my arm was tired, took in the evocative smells of country living and scratched my bug bites with complete complacency.

 

The day prior to our return the stress flared and another two weeks of creative cut-off overtook me, but this time it wasn’t attributed to adjusting to the ambiance of country living and black bears eating the tasty apples from the tree in the yard next to us. It was frustration and disappointment that shut me down. Our home was in chaos. Boxes from floor to ceiling, many of them unmarked. It was beyond dirty, our appliances were unplugged and left to leak all over the kitchen floor.  The list goes on but it is behind us now. It was a helpless feeling, for sure.

 

The lifeline appeared when I attended a few writing-related zoom meetings. The first was the regular Friday afternoon Writing Works Wonders  Community Call podcast streamed by the ACB Media Network. It helped me reconnect with my creativity by providing a writing prompt and it resulted in a poem which will be in a sweet little online literary pub called the Plum Tree Tavern. Then, the following week, the WWW hosts Kathy and Cheryl provided a second prompt that resulted in yet another poem, posted below, which was well received by other writers and is looking for a publication home.

 

Thanks to a fellow author and editor, Robert Kingett, I signed up for an open mic call and I read five of my more recent poems and was thrilled to receive high praise from the listeners. The facilitator followed up with me resulting in an opportunity to record one of my guide dog poems. It will be added to a poetry project for the  Chicago Public Library.

 

While writing is solitary, the sharing of it is not; the sharing is what pushes me to write, to create and keep a productive mindset.   Being good at something like writing and hearing others say my writing is good gives me a feeling of belonging and purpose. I’d lost those two aspects of self when I became blind and reclaiming them over the years felt like gluing the jagged pieces of my soul back together.

 

Opportunities abound, from online writing prompts given by Writing Works Wonders to focused feedback and email lists to connect like   in the writer’s group, Behind Our Eyes. One never knows where the opportunities and connections will appear but one thing is sure, striving to produce good writing and sharing it with readers is the goal.

I value you all, it is you, the reader, the listener, the literary compatriots, for whom I write. I will keep writing as long as you keep reading and listening.

 

 

Summer’s Book

By Ann Chiappetta ©

 

August is

A perpetual ending

Of wilting haiku blossoms

Of Heat and drought and rain on wind chimes

Of crisp leaflets capturing autumn’s promise and

open fields of earth’s parchment

awaiting to harvest and scribe

richness into Nature’s book with stories of Winter white.

 

2022

 

Dreya sends her fanciful smile your way, what’s better than a book dragon asking her friends to read more books?

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Dreya the red and green book dragon smiles and floats in the air with her best friends, winged books and musical notes.

 

Upstate Adventures 🐻🌲

| Filed under blindness pets and people Relationships writing

 

Hello from Windham and Hunter Mountains, Green and Ulster counties, NY, home of the New York Catskills and summer wildlife. Bear and deer and black flies, oh my!

🐻  🦌  🌄

It took us almost as long to pack for the trip Like we were moving out. In a way we were moving out, at least temporarily.

 

Let me explain.  Remember hurricane Ida in the Fall of 2021? We sustained water damage to our entire apartment. In fact, all the apartments on the ground floor and the lobby area took on six inches or more of flood water.  Our lobby was completely under over four feet of it. me we all had to first wait for the insurance and FEMA funding to come through, then wait for a move out date.  Since we own cats and dogs, this meant finding a location for two weeks that was not going to mean living in one room together like in a hotel. and the most important part of it was also packing up everything to be stored in a pod while the work is being done. Oh, and to add a cherry atop this shit show of bad timing, there is also asbestos abatement along with the replacing the floors from the old glue used on the original flooring being removed.  We didn’t know about that one. Now it is a concern and rightly so. It is also bad timing.

 

A powerful wave of flood water slamming open your front door and engulfing your apartment is traumatic enough but the asbestos thing is just, like, really shitty. It will delay things a bit more for the installation of the new floors and moving back in again when we return.

 

We are fortunate to be able to make the bad timing and all the packing work to our advantage.  we deserve some respite after so much upheaval. The stress exhausted us. If Jerry and April weren’t there helping me, guiding me around all the boxes,  extra workers, and taking charge of the packing prior to the work, I’d never manage it alone. This is our family and I am proud of us.

 

View from bridge spanning Windham nountain looking out into the valley below.

The wildlife is active. The variety of animals eating the apple tree in the adjoining yard included rabbits, a wood chuck, and two black bears, we think a mother and older cub based on size and attitude.

 

 

a large black bear and a small black bear beside an apple tree in West Kill NY

 

 

Annie Shares News V2 # 7.5 Lotsa Stuf 🛒

| Filed under blindness blogging Fiction writing

Annie Shares News Volume 2 Issue 7.5 July/August 2022

anniesharesnews@groups.io

Subscribe: anniesharesnews+subscribe@groups.io

www.annchiappetta.com

 

Hello Readers and followers, a blessed and belated Independence Day to everyone.  🎆 🎇 🧨

I wanted to get this out before we break for a vacation. I’ll share our adventures upon our return. Even the cats are coming with us, so it should be interesting.

 

The ever-expanding tribe of writers and readers means so much to me and I want to share a bit about them in each newsletter moving forward.

 

I had a great time being a guest blogger for a June Word Crafter blog tour for Hope For the Tarnished. It was a fun five days of getting to know the host bloggers and exposing my novel to new readers. To find out more about Kay Lynne’s newsletter, book blog tours and her excellent blog, Writing To Be Read, go here.

Leon Stevens writes: Looking for my first review for my second poetry collection. Readers can get a review copy through Story Origin or read on KU (Kindle Unlimited).

 

Receive a free review copy through Story Origin here: Review copy link

Read with Kindle Unlimited: Amazon link

 

 

I caught this great review of my novel, Hope for the Tarnished, from mystery writer and author, Trish Hubschman. Check it out:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1134230

m

☕ 🍵

Ms. Liz and I shared some TEA on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/IsfJTH_wDEc

Please like and share it and follow Miss Liz, she’s the best and she is making a difference one cup of spiritually-infused Tea at a time!

 

Since I’ve been sharing audio clips of my writing, I thought I’d share one of my short stories, Trolley Ride from A String of Stories from the Heart to the Future © 2020 and narrated by Lilian Yves.

 

 

May the summer breeze and warm winds propel your imagination and soothe your spirits!

Dreya the book dragon floating amid books and music notes. She is smiling.

Dreya the book dragon

 

Celebrate July with freedom and Free books 🎇

| Filed under blindness Fiction Guide dogs nonfiction Poem

Celebrate July with freedom and Free books

📕  📖  📘  📙  📗

The 14th Annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale has begun, running now through July 31. Visit my author’s page to order your free eBooks from Smashwords during the Summer sale!

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnnChiappetta

 All my titles are free, a gift to readers everywhere.

 

Thousands of titles are discounted or free —  so why not go to Smashwords and go shopping for your summer reading collection? Visit the sale at https://www.smashwords.com/shelves/promos

 

Why Smashwords? Electronic choices, of course. It’s simple and get the book delivered to your inbox.  Transfer it to your favorite book reading app. It’s great, kindle isn’t the only eBook reading app in town. 😉

Words of life book cover

Tranquil photo of stacked stones beside circular pattern in the sand.

 

Listen to  a Tale of Two Species 🐱 🐶 🌌

| Filed under blindness Fiction Writing Life

Those of you who know I am blind might be curious about the assistive technology and software I rely upon to  operate my pc and  mobile devices. This recording will demonstrate what I hear when writing and editing stories and other written correspondence. Since this story  is a mini-space drama  —  I thought why not record it being read by a synthesized voice?  Enjoy!

 

The Print Barrier

| Filed under blindness Relationships

💻  ⌨

The day-in-day-out goings on of electronic correspondence has become part of our lives. It’s a given and expected piece of the daily routine like brewing the morning coffee and checking out the news. We read and reply to email, text messages, manage tasks in calendars, and so on. Some of us still like to immerse themselves in the printed pages. I can still recall the guilty pleasure of pouring over a tabloid while waiting at the grocery store check-out line or writing a letter adding the stamp and dropping it in the mailbox.

 

But this is 2022 not 1982. In the twenty first century we depend on electronic exchanges, it keeps us connected like the newspaper and print magazines used to do.

 

Years ago, when I first begin losing my vision from retinal disease, I learned how to acquire the ability to hear text with artificial speech with a program called JAWS using a computer. I’ve since lost all my vision and have been using devices like a smart phone with voice over and can choose from a dozen accents from US English to South African.  My family tells me I listen to the rapid speech at such a level that it’s hard to understand it. I laugh and think, oh, I take pity on you light-dependent people. I speed-listen like the old   Evelyn Wood speed-reading advertisements on TV.

 

One day last week was an exception. A lapse of reliability, what I think of as “cyber gremlins”, struck and a week later, it still remains a problem. The origin of the barrier isn’t clear but the end result is the same: I cannot access a document Germain to my work. This means I either have to spend up to an hour of troubleshooting or give up and print it so I can scan and read it with another device.  This isn’t the frustrating thing, either – I am fortunate to have a back-up plan. The frustration appeared at the beginning; I could not click on the PDF attachment and read and reply like my peers. Because I am blind, the process of proficiency and fluidity in a task that should only take five minutes, for me, hasn’t even been accomplished.  I experienced this fairly often when I was employed, and it effected my overall productivity.

 

The overheard conversation would go like this: “Well why can’t she read it?”

“something about the document not being sent the way she needs it,”

“Send it again,”

“We did that yesterday, it didn’t help,”

“Maybe she needs more training with her software?”

“She says that’s not the problem, the problem is how the document was formatted,”

“What does she mean by that?”

“I don’t know, something about text and no pictures or something like that,”

“Go back and ask her if we can print it out instead,”

“Okay but you do know she won’t be able to read it,”

“Have someone read it to her, then,”

And so on …

 

Going back to the PDF, I’d like to be the first person to respond and not the last one because I had to undergo assistive technology calisthenics in order to attempt reading it. At times like this, I think I’ve traveled to an alternate reality; having to ask for help and educate the sender of the document is my burden and there isn’t even one glimmer of hope in the vacuum of space.

 

It is a bit unsettling to know the world is set upon a highly visually-driven stage and if you can’t see, it is inevitable one will miss out on what drives the masses.   Sure we have increased the intelligence and proficiency of assistive technology and tools like improvements of computer software and hardware, audio description in the movie theater, streaming services and on major television networks; people with print disabilities have even made a significant contribution in the audio book industry, which is experiencing exponential growth.

, but the reality is it will take many more years, sweat equity and advocacy dollars to mind the accessibility gap for people who are blind and continue closing it. Changing attitudes is slow. People who can see don’t think about people who cannot. It may be, to some, a gross generalization but to someone like me, it’s a reality.

I state all this to sum up the personal experience: I was the only one in a committee who could not respond to a document sent to the group because I could not read it visually. This is why I ranted and now it’s over and I just feel sad, let down and a little guilty I even had to ask for an accommodation in the first place.

I wonder if these folks assume someone like me either couldn’t or worse, wouldn’t be able to manage civic responsibilities and therefore the documents didn’t need to be formatted responsibly?

 

Five years ago I stepped down from a local board of directors because despite asking for accessible documents, I received excuses instead. When I mentioned the ADA and that I felt discriminated against, I was suddenly treated differently and I left because of feeling like the accommodations were somehow a burden to those who had to make them.

I know life isn’t fair, I know we all struggle with issues based upon our lives, health, relationships, and finances or employment status, racial or gender biases, and so on. I would like the accommodation process to be better, to be more fluid, part   of the norm. If you are reding this and would like to build upon your knowledge of accessibility for people with print disabilities, drop a question like, “how do I make a blind-friendly adobe document?” in the search engine of your choice and you will be rewarded with a plethora of resources.  Your efforts won’t cure the world of the ongoing accessibility gaps but it could help someone else be able to access a document and be the first person to respond to a group email and not be left behind.

 

Annie sitting at desk showing laptop and other equipment.

Annie and her office and equipment.

 

 

Annie on Dream Young Arts & Media 🎥🎤

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs writing

Want to check out what I’ve been up to ? Thanks to Dream Young Arts and Media co-founders Nicky and Otis, I shared parts of my life, struggles and successes before and after blindness.

After watching it on YouTube, why not like and share it?

https://youtu.be/ftQOT-6Yc-I

 

More about DYAM:

Dream Young Arts & Media (DYAM) focuses on helping people with disabilities to develop social and fundamental skills. DYAM will support our member’s goals and help them co-exist in their communities through the use of educational and social skills, music, and media creation with our Podcast (@dreamyoungmedia on YouTube).

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Photo of Ann at Harbor Island Park, Mamaroneck, NY West Basin. She is with her  first guide dog, Verona and is smiling.

Photo of Ann at Harbor Island Park, Mamaroneck, NY West Basin. She is with her guide dog, Verona and is smiling.

Benefit Concert for Blind Ukrainians

| Filed under blindness

Hello all-

I am taking part in this fundraising event — supporting a benefit concert for blind Ukrainians during this unstable time in their country. The event is legitimate and  I am asking each of you to share it with your tribe.

My local blindness advocacy group, WCBNY did not even hesitate to agree to donate dollars. If blind folks don’t help other blind folks, what’s the point?

We all shared the same thought: what if this was our Country and we needed help? Every bit counts towards supporting the people who will need it.

 

Please direct your questions to the persons mentioned in the message below, not back to me.

From: https://mushroomfm.com/withyou

 

We’re With U. Blind performing artists’ Virtual Benefit Concert for blind Ukrainians on 16 April

Welcome

On 24 February, Russian forces invaded Ukraine. The death toll is mounting. Families have been torn apart as some seek refuge in other countries, while others stay to fight for their country’s freedom.

One of the consequences of war is that it results in life-changing impairments, including blindness. Another is that war leaves those who are already blind vulnerable and at risk.

The situation has made many of us feel helpless and heartsick. But there are things we can do, ways we can help.

On Saturday 16 April at 2 PM Eastern time in North America, 7 PM in the UK, that’s Sunday morning at 4 AM in Eastern Australia, 6 AM in New Zealand, the global online blind community is joining together for We’re With U, a benefit concert to help blind people who have been affected by the atrocities in Ukraine.

If you’re a blind performing artist, you know that music has power. This is your chance to perform to a worldwide audience while lending a helping hand to those who desperately need your help. If you appreciate great music in a range of styles, this is your chance to listen to some of the best the blind community has to offer, while also donating to support blind Ukrainians.

Every cent raised will reach organisations assisting blind Ukrainians, thanks to our partnership with the World Blind Union’s Unity Fund. World Blind Union is the global organisation representing the estimated 253 million persons who are blind or partially sighted worldwide. They are working actively with organizations in the area who are providing support to Ukraine. With their support, you can be sure that the generous donation you make will go to a project that makes a difference.

We also thank the National Federation of the Blind for their considerable moral, infrastructural and communications support for this project.

The below sections of this page have further information and is being updated regularly.

How can I listen

In the spirit of working together that has been the hallmark of this event, many Internet radio stations and channels in the blind community will broadcast the We’re With U concert. Chances are that if you listen to an Internet radio service of and for the blind community, you will hear the event there. Please check with your favourite station, and encourage them to carry We’re With U if they are not yet signed up to do so.

You can of course hear We’re With U right here on Mushroom FM. Mushroom FM has an accessible online player on this website. It is available in all radio directories including Apple Music. It has its own Alexa skill and Google Home action. You can also tell Siri to Play Mushroom FM.

How long is We’re With U set to run for?

We don’t yet know. Artists have until 8 April at 11:59 PM North American Eastern time to send in a contribution, but what we can say is that it is shaping up to be a showcase of talent that will last for some hours. So, be prepared to settle back with your best speakers, a beverage or two, and a keyboard to type in your credit card number to donate to Ukraine. Consider your kind donation the price of your virtual ticket to this event.

How do I donate?

Throughout the We’re With U concert and a little ahead of the event, we will give you a URL where you can donate securely with all major credit cards. Everything you give goes to blind Ukrainians who need our help.

Is there a social media hashtag?

You bet! It is #BlindWithU. Note that the U is an uppercase U, and not the world Y O U. Since we can’t bring everyone together in a stadium for this event, we encourage you to use the hashtag #BlindWithU during the event, and right now if you want, to discuss the concert.

I really want to donate to this, but I have trouble with credit card forms. Is there some other way?

We are working on the possibility of taking donations via phone and hope to have more to say ahead of the concert.

I want to perform. How do I register my interest?

That’s fantastic! The more the merrier. The event is being produced by Jaffar Sidek Ahmad, who came up with the brilliant idea of the We’re With U event and has seen it expand into the international concert it has become.

You will need to provide Jaffar with a high quality recording of your performance by 11:59 PM North American Eastern time on 8 April. We also ask that you preface your performance with a brief message that introduces yourself and tells us about why supporting blind Ukrainians is important to you.

If you have heard well-remembered past events in this genre, such as Live Aid, you know that happy music is OK, as are cover versions. Our aim is to raise as much money as we can by giving people excellent entertainment, so your contribution neither has to be original nor does it have to have a war theme. The key thing is that we entertain people, encourage them to stick around, and give what they can. So, whether you’ve written an original composition or you’re singing to a backing track, you are welcome to share your talent with the world for this important cause.

Please discuss what you’d like to do, by sending an email to jaffar.

I am part of an Internet radio station/YouTube channel/Other platform that can stream. Can we rebroadcast the event?

We welcome approaches from any partner who would like to carry We’re With U. The event is audio-only, and you will need to be able to relay a stream in MP3 format.

For more information or to express your interest, please contact Jonathan Mosen, who will be the MC for We’re With U, jonathan@MushroomFM.com  . This will also ensure you get important updates relevant to those who are carrying We’re With U.

Copyright © Mushroom FM 2022.

 

Reactions like this are Real

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships

We walked into the holiday party. I was already anticipating a good time with friends after the imposed bouts of social isolation as a result of Covid.

 

We were greeted and directed to our table by a pleasant staff person. Bailey, my guide dog, was excited to see our good friends and greeted one of them. I pulled out my chair, settled my coat and bag and asked Bailey to lay down under the table when the two women to my right became hysterical upon noticing him.

“I can’t stay here, the dog will eat all my food,” and “That dog is going to bite me,” and “I can’t relax with that dog so close,”.

My heart sunk and I put on the blank face.  The face that tries to hide the disappointment and frustration brought on by ignorance and fear of my guide dog by others.

 

My friend tells them the dog won’t do that, it’s trained. Still they go on and I feel the anxiety build. Will I have to leave? I do my best to ignore them, but one person continued to go on about “that dog, will bite me,” “I can’t stay here with that dog,”, etc.

I grope for my water glass and wait it out.

I don’t want to be here, don’t want to eat, I feel like these people just stole it all from me.  I almost got up to leave, was close to tears but I refused to let them see me cry. I had a right to be there, too, and because I am blind, my guide dog did, too.

 

a person sitting on the other side of our table spoke to the person who was now almost yelling about “that dog,” — and quieted them.   It took me some time to refocus on my meal and my friends. My guide dog curled up for a nap under the table.

The rest of the afternoon was fun thanks to a stranger who knew how to handle another stranger’s fear of dogs.

 

The thing is even though I stayed quiet, I was angry. Being subjected to reactions like this, while infrequent, still happen and still affect me in a powerful way. I felt confused and hurt by their reactions.    I hope they will remember how “that woman with the dog,” kept her cool and shared a meal. I hope they will one day understand how much it cost me personally to shelf the feelings and get past their outburst.

Annie with pink mask and Bailey close up

Ann and Bailey on bench: Both looking straight on