Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

You can’t put Christmas away: Goals for 2013 December 31, 2012

I overheard an interesting conversation between mom and dad today. Dad was putting some Christmas things away, and mom scolded him. “Are you putting Christmas away!?” she questioned. His response surprised me. “Don’t be silly,” he said. “You can’t put Christmas away.”

Best known for writing the country classic “Happy Trails,” singer-songwriter Dale Evans had a similar commentary on the holiday season. “Christmas, my child, is love in action,” she said. “Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”

Loving enough is certainly not the problem. I love my people (and all of their people) wholeheartedly and unconditionally. It’s how I show it, how I “give” that I think I can improve.  Quality over quantity as they say. Christmas is not meant to be about the number of gifts under the tree, so why would one measure its spirit quantitatively?

1920s singer and comedian Margaret Young had a theory on this. “Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier,” she said. “The way it actually works is  the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do in order to have what you want.”Happy Trails

Who am I? I am a four-year-old terrier with a whole lot of love to offer the world. How will I accomplish this in 2013? I will begin by setting goals instead of resolutions. Webster’s dictionary defines “resolution” in a number of ways, including “the act or process of resolving, the act  of determining, or (my personal favorite) the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones.” What on Earth does that mean? As for me, I would rather set goals, which Webster defines as “the end toward which effort is directed.”

What do I want for 2013? What are the ends toward which my effort will be directed?

1. Remember that you can’t put Christmas away. It sounds simple (and perhaps even cliché), but I don’t care. Call it my effort to analyze a complex notion into a simpler one.

2. Love actively. Every day I will find a way to show my people I how much I love them. Literally speaking, I would like to convince my mom to take me to agility classes. I think it would be good for both of us – physically and mentally – to work together toward a common goal to get fit while spending time together.

3. Live life forward. I know who I am, and I want to share my perspective with the world. I will set aside the time necessary to keep sharing my thoughts on life with the world in hopes that my words might inspire someone else to do the same.

Happy trails in 2013 ya’ll.

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My answer? I sleep smiling December 29, 2012

I saw one of those humane society commercials on the moving picture window today. You know the one…melancholy melodies, forlorn faces, and tear-jerking thoughts illustrating the unfortunate struggles of beaten, abused and neglected animals. If dogs could cry, I would have been bawling like a baby (my mom sure did).

Instead, I did what I always do when animals make an appearance on what my mom calls the television…I whined my most heartfelt of whines and even barked a little bit. (I don’t ever bark, except when animals show up on the television). “I will be the answer at the end of the line. I will be there for you while you take the time,” Sarah McLachlan swoons in the background of the commercial, “…Cast me gently into morning for the night has been unkind. Take me to a place so holy that I can wash this from my mind…”

I’m no stranger to beatings, abuse and neglect. I’ve endured the pain of being kicked to the side and whipped with a leather belt for going outside inside…even though I tried my hardest to hold it for four days without being let out. I’ve felt the misery of being discarded on the side of the road with no place to go, and more importantly no one to love me. I’ve wandered the streets in the freezing cold Wisconsin winters searching for shelter.  I’ve served time behind bars and cages. I know beatings, abuse and neglect. And it breaks my heart to see such a stark reminder that there are so many animals starving, without homes, or worse – in abusive, unloving or neglectful homes.

Its the kind of thing that I occasionally have nightmares about…images of my past haunt me, but thinking about those who live that horror in the present makes me realized how blessed I am. After everything I’ve lived through…the lyrics of the song in that commercial… “the memory of choosing not to fight”… .I sleep smiling because my parents gave me the best gift I could ever have asked for – a loving home. I found my answer. What’s yours?

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures December 28, 2012

Existentialism fascinates me. The philosophical theory that experiences define one’s existence was strongly influenced by German novelist Frank Kafka who said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” Well, that is the story of my year.

Good, bad or indifferent, 2012 was a year of firsts for me. I travelled to exciting new places, I earned the right to sleep in my parent’s room (instead of that blasted crate), and I had brushes with death that made me place a higher value on life. Its tough to pick just one “high” or “low” point, so I have chosen to review my most memorable moments as a means to recognize these existential moments that define my existence.

Memory lane 2012 began with me longing for the snow we saw at the start of 2011.

The great February blizzard of 2011 was very great indeed. I was disappointed by the lack of snow we saw this year, but the extra time exploring the great outdoors later in the year proved worth the wait…

In June, I took my first camping trip to Mirror Lake near Wisconsin Dells. I loved every second of it! All the new smells, sights, sounds….I know mom and dad were worried about me being quiet in the tent with them, but I was so exhausted after all our hiking on the trails that I paid little attention to the sounds of the night. Life lesson: Variety really is the spice of life.

In July, I got a haircut…while not my first, it was one of the shortest cuts I’ve ever had. I felt so free. Life lesson: “Beauty isn’t worth thinking about; what’s important is your mind. You don’t want a fifty-dollar haircut on a fifty-cent head” – Garrison Keillor.

In August, I met Diesel…one of my mom’s pals’ new puppy. I relished our moments together when I was bigger than him. He’s a chow/lab mix, so I knew he’d be bigger than me almost instantly. But I look forward to having him as a lifelong mate. Life lesson: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down,” – Oprah Winfrey.

September was an especially exciting month. I went to my first race at Elkhart Lake. While I’m not sure I understand the point of the cars going around and around the track, it was my kind of day. I got to be somewhere new with my people in the gorgeous outdoors. The Friday night football game about a week later held a similar appeal – one of the little people in the family was playing in the game, so it was even more exciting to be there to root him on. Life lesson: I like race days and football. Simple as that.

In October, I travelled with my family way up north and impersonated president Lincoln on the World’s Largest Penny. It was also around this time that my mom finally convinced my dad to let me sleep in their bedroom with them instead of having me sleep in a crate in a room down the hall. It might seem silly, but that is a big deal to me. Life lesson: Appreciate the small things-they may not be as tiny as they seem.

Remember that though by Kafka about the bites and stings? November quite literally brought a few of those for me. It was uncharacteristically warm in Wisconsin, so I had a few teeny tiny little unwelcome visitors take shelter in my fur. Not one, not two, but three deer ticks I had to contend with this fall. Fortunately for me, my mom and dad pet me on such a regular basis that they found them all and removed them before it became a bigger problem.

Mid-month brought my biggest struggle. It was one of the first frigid days of the winter season, but I was still so excited to go to one of my most favorite places in this whole world: the dog park. Mom kept talking about how it was the last time of the year, so I prepared myself for some fun. It was disappointing to get there and have there only be two other dogs to play with, but I didn’t care. I ran right up on the picnic table to greet a breed I know to be called a pit bull and was unpleasantly surprised with the result. It’s hard for me to tell what happened next, because I kind of blacked out, but I’ve overheard my mom tell the story enough times to know it wasn’t pleasant. From what she’s said, that pit bull had me dangling four feet in the air by its teeth, while still atop that picnic table for a good minute before I fell to the ground with my tail between my legs. The next thing I can remember is my eye hurting and that nice lady at the vet telling me how lucky I was that the scratch in my eye wasn’t worse…I could have lost my sight. Life lesson: Seeing is believing.

But November also brought a high for me in all the extra time I got to spend with mom while she’s been on what I have now heard her call a leave of absence for recovery on her leg surgery. Life lesson: If you look for it, joy actually is all around.

Such became the stepping stone for my blog, which I would call December’s most memorable moment. And so it is…here we are at the end of December reflecting on the year. At its most basic application, existentialism claims one is defined by his or her experiences. And with that, I would agree that 2012 experiences have contributed to who I am – good, bad, or indifferent.

 

More People Have Gone to Hell on Their Buts… December 27, 2012

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I… I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” These very famous words penned by Robert Frost in the 1920s’ “The Road Not Taken” took me on a trip down memory lane today. It started during my afternoon nap…a memory of a warm summer day a few months ago when mom took me on a special walk. I remember I was so excited because we went for a car ride too. Oh, how I love exploring the world! I do my best thinking while I’m out in the great outdoors with the wind in my fur and the world at my paws.IMG_20110504_154627

Padding along that trail, I found myself thinking of Frost and his decision to take the road less travelled. Granted, I do not make many decisions in life (thank goodness I have my parents for that), but I see the value in making the right ones. But therein lies the question…how do you know if a choice is the “right” one?

It seems to me that taking the occasional risk in life would be exciting (albeit challenging). I bear witness to my parents discussing things on such a regular basis, and I’ve got to say – there are a lot of buts in their lives. “I would do that, but…” or “Let’s go there someday, but…”

If I could, I would remind them of a funny thing I heard mom’s grandma say when she was over one time: “more people go to hell on their buts.” All right, I’ll admit it – as the occasional sniffer of canine butts, I found some humor in her commentary. But that kind of ironically philosophical wisdom is hard for me to pass up. What I take from those silly (yet brilliant) words is that it is a waste of life not to take chances, not to take the occasional left turn instead of going the same old “right” way.

It reminds me a bit of the paradox involving a very wise cat. Devised by Erwin Schrodinger in 1935 (not so long after Frost commented on the value of novelty in life), the thought experiment known by physicists as “Schrodinger’s cat” presented a feline who was placed in a box with a vile of poison. In theory the cat could be considered both dead and alive and only through opening the box could one would discover the cat’s fate. Like Frost’s challenge to take the road less travelled, Schrodinger’s experiment challenged scientific thoughts of the time. By implying that the cat is simultaneously dead and alive, the experiment brought into question that the cat cannot actually be both at the same time. Ahead of their time, Frost and Schrodinger alike offered reflections on the value in taking chances.

So let us take that road less travelled. Let us open that box to find out what’s inside. Let us not go to hell on our buts.

 

Meet Mrs. Prickles December 26, 2012

Some thought of Kahil Gibran as a prophet, a poet ahead of his time. While I would not completely disagree, it is my opinion that some of Gibran’s theories are simply elementary. He once wrote of joy and sorrow as a tango of emotional experience, symmetrical and reliant on each other for survival in one’s emotional journey. “Joy and sorrow are inseparable,” he wrote, “together they come and when one sits alone with you…remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

2012-12-21 09.45.28Meet Mrs. Prickles. Sorrow and joy in one fabulously plush little package. She is my go-to stress reliever…a source of playful fun with my people and a source of relaxation after a long day.

My adoptive parents have seen to it that she’s not the first of her kind…there has also been a Mr. Prickles, and most recently Flea, but I think Mrs. Prickles might be my favorite so far. She is not the only toy in my toy basket, but she is the first one I reach for to entice dad into a game of fetch and the last one I play with each day.

For that reason, she is also the toy I choose to unconsciously suck on for hours at a time…my mom hypothesizes that I associate Mrs. Prickles with fun time with my people, so I calm myself by “nursing” on her plush little body. I know this sounds crazy, so its a good thing she has a master’s degree in psychology. Sure, its not doggie psychology (is that a thing?), but I know she understands me like no other human does – through both loving eyes and a thoughtful mind.

In fact, I vividly remember her reaction the first time I started nursing on Mr. Prickles…it was a blustery winter day a couple months after I had settled into my new home. I started sucking on Mr. Prickles, mom pet me, I moaned, and she seemed so worried. She immediately pulled out a much smaller version of the moving picture window in the living room (I believe she calls it a laptop…) and started typing furiously. The most common result of her search was that I was most likely weaned away from my birth mother too early or I had been abused. I’d rather not relive either of those memories, but I wish there was a way I could tell my mom she is right that both are part of my past.

I was about two years old when I met my adoptive parents for the first time, and there are a lot of things that happened in those first two years I would rather not remember…I have my reasons for scavenging for any and every food scrap that falls to the floor during a meal, and its no secret that I have a noticeable aversion to leather belts, power tools, and vacuum cleaners. But those painful memories of the past serve as a constant reminder to cherish the present….and so it is. Prophetic or otherwise, Gilbran was on to something simply complex…there would be no true joy without sorrow.

 

Reflections on Christmas: All dogs go to heaven, right? December 25, 2012

2012-12-24 23.04.57I woke up this morning on the wrong side of the bed. All that tossing and turning mom did in her sleep last night kept me awake. I woke up feeling tired, crabby, and unmotivated. I could tell mom felt the same way because she was snippy with dad over what they should have for lunch of all things.

Then they left for a while to go to a place called church and they came back completely different people. Happy and jovial even. They turned on songs like “Joy to the World” and “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” and started dancing and singing along. I wanted nothing to do with it.

I overheard their conversation about this place called church and the message they heard about peace on Earth….and this got me to thinking…what peace? Where is it? I’ve heard a good deal of stories on the moving picture window lately of shootings at schools with small children, terrifying storms that force people from their homes, and people in third world countries who probably don’t eat as well as I do. Where in the world is this peace? Perhaps I was blinded by my lack of sleep, but I just don’t see it. How is it that mom and dad do? How is it that they believe?

That’s when the reflective conversation mom and dad were having hit a chord with me. Mom told dad a story of something called confirmation she experienced when she was younger. She said the passage the pastor referenced in church today was her confirmation verse.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” reads John 14:27. “I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, its so easy to lose sight of peace at the time we need it most, mom said.

That’s when it hit me…this peace they found at church is some pretty powerful stuff. Its a different kind of peace – not of this world, not something bought or borrowed, or something packaged up into an extravagantly wrapped box. Its the peace of hearts that have been reminded that each day is a gift. Its the peace behind this day called Christmas Eve. This place called church sparked Christmas spirit that has caught fire in my heart.

If that’s not a reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

 

‘Tis the season to be a Packer fan December 23, 2012

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 7:16 pm
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I have a confession to make. I am in love with Aaron Rodgers. He is my hero. Shhh, don’t tell my dad.

Not only does Rodgers throw one heck of a ball on that moving picture window in the living room, but more times than not he makes my parents so happy. Sundays are fun days in the Schmidt household…usually involving visitors and yummy smells in the kitchen that result from the ridiculous amount of food mom makes in preparation for game day.

165710_515270537807_4039697_nWe all dress up in our favorite Packer fan garb and cheer on the team as best we know how. For me, this means I get a lot of extra practice giving high fives to whomever requests them, usually after they finish screaming and jumping up and down. That was one of the first tricks I learned when my parents took me in, so I have a lot of happy memories of my mom and dad (and their various pals) teaching me to “shake,” and “give paw.” Its all the same to me (especially when there are treats involved), but high fives on game day are definitely my favorite. Go Pack Go!!!

Now if only I could figure out how to catch those balls Rodgers is throwing…