Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Faith in the Future January 31, 2013

“Make the most of your regrets,” Henry David Thoreau once said. “Never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

Yesterday, I wrote about five things I would attempt to save if my house was burning down. Reflecting on the contradictory definitions a “spark,” I focused more on the fire than its aftermath. Its so easy to do in the heat of the moment. Why is it that in so many cases we don’t appreciate what we have until its gone?

Today, I realized all of the precious things I left behind. Practical things came to mind like my warm doggie bed and my Packer jersey. But I know those are replaceable. They’re just things.

Far more devastating are the memories lost in the ashes. I’ll never forget the first day my parents brought me home and let me explore my new house. All those hours spent playing fetch with Mrs. Prickles in the hallway. The first day mom let me come up on the bed. Money can’t buy back these memories.

I take a two-fold lesson from this experiment in thought. (See, there is always a silver lining).

1) Savor the small things. There are so many ways to lose sight of the importance of special moments in our lives. But there is a reason money can’t buy memories. Moments are priceless. There are groundbreaking days when major milestones make things easy to remember, but as Sarah Ban Breathnach points out in Simple Abundance “there is a lot of drudgery in most days.” These are the days we need to seek out joy in the small things.

2) Respect the past as preparation for the future. It’s all too easy to take things for granted. If we surrender to life’s simplicities and appreciate what we have on a daily basis, the future will be that much brighter. “I never regret anything,” says actress Drew Barrymore, “because every little detail of your life has what made you into who you are in the end.”

It is with my past in a special place in my heart that I find faith in the future. With faith as my fuel, I know my dreams will always be more exciting than my memories.

Today’s post is dedicated to Mandy Atkielski.

Eighteen-year-old Mandy entered doggie heaven yesterday. She will be missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Mandy

 

Catching Fire: Seeing A Glimmer of Hope Amidst the Flames January 30, 2013

Words never cease to amaze me. Understanding their meanings ignites a fire of passion within me I can’t explain. So today I examine one of many words in the English language that (in my humble opinion) has completely contradictory definitions.

Spark. “Fiery particle: a small piece of burning substance thrown off in combustion or produced in friction,” says Bing. Literally, a spark that catches fire can cause destruction, devastation and heartbreak. Yet in another breath, spark is defined as “something that activates: a device that sets off or acts as a stimulant, inspiration, or catalyst.” Figuratively, a spark catching fire can ignite positive change.

Can this one word really mean both things?

Hope Catching Fire

Literally, I find myself pondering what would happen in the case of a fire in my life. Say my beloved forever home burns to the ground tomorrow. What would I save? Assuming my mom and dad are safely outside, I can think of five things I would have time to rescue before it would be too late.

Peanut butter. I love the stuff. And if the house burned down, I would want to know I had some to get me through the emotional eating that would likely follow the devastating loss of what I thought would be my forever home. I know it probably sounds ridiculous, but “you’re only given one little spark of madness,” as comedian Robin Williams said. “You mustn’t lose it.”

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. This book has been an inspiration to me so far this year. It helps keep me focused, encourages me with creative thoughts for this blog, and reminds me daily how lucky I am to be alive. Similar fundamental values of life inspired French poet and novelist best known for the heart-wrenchingly beautiful Les Miserables, who once said “to learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

Mrs. Prickles.  If I could take all my toys I would, but she is my favorite. From playtime with my mom and dad, to her comforting ability to help me regulate my stress level, I love her and all she embodies. “To cement a new friendship…a spark with which both were secretly charged must fly from person to person and cut across the accidents of place and time,” said American author and actress Cornelia Otis Skinner. A true friend, Mrs. Prickles is my constant reminder that without sorrow there would be no joy.

My blog. I was going to say I would save my laptop since losing everything in a fire would be devastating, and I’m sure I could cope if I knew I could still find joy in something. For me, this blog is joy and I don’t think I’d know what to do with myself if I couldn’t share it anymore. But let’s face it. My positive attitude cannot be burned in a fire, and the blog would go on without the laptop. “Computers are magnificent tools for the realization of our dreams,” as computer guru Louis Gerstner said, “but no machine can replace the human spark of spirit, compassion, love and understanding.”

And so we come to the last and most important source of my own personal spirit, compassion, love and understanding. My adoption papers. Clearance dog or otherwise, these papers are priceless to me. As Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance, they are my very own treasure map to happiness. My ticket to my forever home. My inspiration for living.

“The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born,”  French sculptor Auguste Rodin once said. “The artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.”

I see joy in the contradiction of a spark, and it consumes me because I see a glimmer of hope amidst the flames.Hope Catching Fire

 

Home is Where the Heart Is January 28, 2013

I’ve lived a lot of different places in my relatively short life.

When I was a little pup, my birth mom and my two brothers moved around a lot, finding shelter under garbage cans, in alley ways, and in cardboard boxes (if we were lucky). Times were pretty tough and food was scarce, but one thing brought me comfort like nothing else: cuddling with my mom. I would scrunch myself as small as I could, inhale her motherly smell, and listen for her heartbeat. It was warm, and with each beat of her heart, I could somehow feel her loving me just a little bit more. More than anything, I miss that about her. She was home to me.

Later when I was fending for myself, it brought me the most powerful sense of relief to picture myself back there snuggling myself into serenity. I could be shivering cold in the icy cold rain, and the memory of being in my mom’s arms brought me warmth.

As time went on, her smell became more a distant memory and her image became the slightest bit blurry, but her warmth somehow remained a source of solace in my heart.

People at the humane society (fondly?) referred to me as needy, and perhaps that’s what I am. I never passed up the opportunity to nudge myself into the hands or arms of the workers and especially of visitors who asked to see me outside of my room. I know that’s why I struggled in the first adoptive home with all of those other cats and dogs. There was simply not enough cuddle time to go around in that house.

That has never been a problem in my forever home. My mom and dad (and various people visitors) seem to enjoy my cuddly nature (for the most part).

The other day, it was bedtime in the Schmidt household and (as has become customary), I snuggled myself in between mom and dad on the bed. I closed my eyes, let out a deep grunting sigh and realized something. While my birth mother’s warmth is irreplaceable, I have found not just one but two new hearts to lull me to sleep with their love. And with that, I realized I am truly blessed.

If its true that home is where the heart is, my heart has found its forever home.

Smiles for Cuddles

 

January 27, 2013

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 3:31 pm

2013-01-27 15.24.012013-01-27 15.21.37It’s snowing in 2013-01-27 15.18.462013-01-27 15.20.00Wisconsin again!!!!

Wiley's Wisdom

Playing in the snowEnglish novelist Terry Pratchet once wrote that “joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle…It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”

I never knew joy that special until a balmy summer afternoon about two and a half years ago when I met the people who would bring me into my forever home. Other dogs I know think the whole love at first sight thing is ridiculous, but when I saw them smile as they approached my designated area at that place called the humane society, I just knew…they would be my people. Since then, I have been privileged enough to experience moments of overwhelming joy on such a regular basis. I have come to learn that joy like I have in my heart holds its greatest value to me when I share it with others.

And so begins my quest to experience life…

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Little Guy, Big Thoughts

Fortune cookies make me feel rich. Not just because they are yummy (and my mom accidentally drops them on the floor for me every now and then), but because of the wisdom they contain:

Seize from every moment its uniqueness.

Trust others but still keep your mind open.

A sound mind and healthy body bring many happy events to you and your family.

And my own personal favorite: You will bring sunshine into someone’s life.

These are a sample of some of the fortunes of wisdom I’ve stumbled upon in the Schmidt kitchen lately. No bigger than a people finger, those little fortunes pack a powerful philosophical punch. Little and insignificant as they may seem, I place a high value on the insights, advice, and inspiration they provide.

I know what its like to not be taken seriously because of my size. A lot of people have underestimated me in my life because I’m little. And at only a foot and a half tall and 22 pounds, I will admit I’m on the smaller side (canine or otherwise). Little guy is even one of my nicknames. But (like so many things in life) you can’t judge a book by its cover. This little guy is full of big thoughts.

Like Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests in Simple Abundance, I find joy in my daily dialogue that is this blog. It might just be the best thing since sliced bread (with peanut butter, of course).

Little Guy, Big Thoughts

“I will write myself into well-being,” author Nancy Mairs said.

I have definitely been happier since I started this blog. It gives me a medium to express myself (little as the world may perceive me) and bring sunshine to the lives of others. I love words, so seeing my own come together so cohesively on a daily basis brings me joy.

But this isn’t about me. This is about something much bigger than me. This is about me aspiring to be even the littlest ray of sunshine for people. German philologist Max Muller said it best when he said “a flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love.”

Love for life brings sunshine amidst the cloudiest of days if you ask little ole me.

http://wp.me/p23sd-3xB

 

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching January 26, 2013

I may not know the waltz, the fox trot or the samba, but I sure can dance. My mom and I have this (semi-secret) routine that (almost never) involves anyone but us.

“Up, Wiley,” is my signal the dance is about to start. And the next thing I know, I’m up in my mom’s arms and we are swaying together to anything from Norah Jones to Bob Dylan. We truly are dancing like no one’s watching. And I love it. For those three or four minutes, all is well in the world. My mom is happy, I’m happy, and (as a believer in the contagion that is happiness) I could not ask for anything better than that.

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Up, down, or sideways, music moves me. Lyrics lull me into happier places, mourn with me in darker places, and inspire me to be better, write better, and live better. From Bette Midler to Phillip Phillips, words find their prophetically poetic home amidst the strum of guitar chords and harmonious tinkling of piano keys.

I find moments of solace in these things. My journey within begins here.

“I fall into a sacred rage to escape
the hells of the world made of puppets and fake
death wont be too far now the seeds in my heart start to awake
so all I can do is be the man that the Lord brought me to today
hold on to your life by love…”

Thank you Phillip Phillips for again bringing to lyrical life the ideas of Sarah Ban Breathnach, who speaks of the basic tools of holding on to life’s authenticity in Simple Abundance: “You need enough breathing space to allow your heart to ponder what is precious,” she writes. “Or perhaps you can let your imagination soar into the twilight where dreams first dwell.”

That is what music does for me, literally and figuratively. It offers me those precious moments with my mom dancing like a ninny with me all over the kitchen. And it offers me hope in harmony best illustrated in LeAnn Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”

“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake
But it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Reconsider
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance.”

She took the words right out of my little doggie mouth.

 

Wiley Schmidt: A Fortunate Accident? January 25, 2013

Tomorrow is such a powerful word. It is a promise of a fresh start on a new day. It is another chance to get caught up with that to-do list or start that project you always wanted to start when you could never find the time. It is a chance to make a difference in the lives of others, or finally put that dream to action. But ultimately, tomorrow is the devil’s playground for procrastination. What if there is no tomorrow?

Hillary Cooper once said “life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” I’ve been fortunate to have my fair share of breathtaking moments. The day I met my forever mom and dad, the day they took me home, and the day I realized how much they loved me all come to mind.

So today I embrace life by contemplating death. It might sound morbid, but I see the value in contemplating how one will be remembered when they are no longer among the living. How would I want to be remembered? The ancient Greeks asked one thing after a man died: did he have passion?

The Eulogy of Wiley Schmidt: A Fortunate Accident?

Wiley (Coyote) Schmidt was a pretty special dog. He was dearly loved by his adoptive mom and dad, as well as extended family and friends too plentiful to list. For this, he considered himself the luckiest dog in the world.

It wasn’t always that way for him. Separated from his birth mother too young, Wiley struggled to find acceptance and love from various foster homes. He lived on the streets, fought for food and shelter, and knew life without a loving home. He was resilient amidst life’s hurdles, and slowly learned to embrace the challenges as they became part of what made him unique.

His positive outlook on life started paying him dividends at the age of two, when his parents adopted him from the humane society. Life was a series of fortunate accidents for him after that.

After two years in his forever home, he started a little blog he hoped could touch some lives. Another year later, the scope of his aspiration to share his joy with the world spread beyond his wildest dreams. His mom helped him piece together a year of blog entries into his groundbreaking book. It was called Joy: From the Ground Up, and it became an instant hit with dog lovers all over the world.

He always dreamed big, but his dreams were never selfish. The ancient Greeks asked one thing after a man died: did he have passion? Wiley had passion for the greatest gift of all: life. He was the embodiment of joy, and shared it with whomever would accept it.

People say hindsight is 20/20. Wiley didn’t believe in that. Wiley said if we live life as it is supposed to be lived, there shouldn’t be hindsight. We should be looking forward. Our dreams should always be more exciting than our memories. He would want us all to remember that.

Rest in peace, Wiley. You (and your forever joy) will be missed.

 

Go Go Gadget Gratitude January 24, 2013

I don’t understand much about the adventures of Inspector Gadget, but I’ve got to hand it to the guy for his go-go-gadget attitude. Even amidst the most challenging situation, he seemed to remain calm and positive because he had some pretty positive things up his sleeve. I found myself pondering that today and I couldn’t help but wonder how different our lives would be if we too had our own personal arsenal of positivity up our sleeve. Like an omnipresent reminder of all the blessings its so easy to forget amidst the monotonous chaos of a day.

So today I shall take ten minutes to “bless my circumstances” as Sarah Ban Breathnach puts it in Simple Abundance.

Ready, set, go….

1) Unbirthdays. Every day I wake up is a blessing.

2) Peanut butter.

3) Family. My mom, dad and all the other people in my life who love me. You know who you are.

4) Friends. Buddy, Indy, Diesel, Atlas, Lupy, Gus….this could take a while, so I’m going to move along with my list…

5) Wordsmiths of all backgrounds, genres, and mediums. Poets, authors, musicians, artists, and word geeks alike. You are all an inspiration.

6) Peanut butter.

7) Toys. Flea, Mrs. Prickles, Mr. Prickles, Miss Piggy, and Kermit.

8) Peas. Dad (almost) always gives me his leftover peas after mom and dad have dinner. (Don’t tell him I told you that – it is one of our little secrets).

9) Snow

10) The dog park

11) Playtime with mom and dad

12) Peanut butter

13) Popsicles. Mom (almost) always gives me the last few licks of these frozen bits of deliciousness. (Don’t tell her I told you that – it is one of our little secrets).

14) Simple Abundance and all its teaching me

15) This blog

16) Everyone who reads and supports this blogFeeling Thankful Today

17) Peanut butter

18) Car rides

19) My mom’s blue blankie. It smells like her, and its my most favorite thing to cuddle up in on a cold winter’s day

20) My groomer Mary at Paws ‘R Us

21) My forever home

22) Food in my bowl every morning and night

23) Treats

24) Water in my bowl at all times

25) Bedtime with mom and dad

26) Basically any time with mom and dad

27) Basically any time with people

28) Peanut butter

29) Bacon. I don’t get it often but when I do, it’s life changing.

30) Ice cream

31) Did I mention peanut butter yet?

32) Love, wherever I can get it

33) Joy, wherever I can give it

And that’s time. Phew, ten minutes sure flies by when you’re using it to fill up your arsenal of positivity. Go go gadget gratitude!

 

A Moment’s Paws January 23, 2013

Sometimes life hands us lemons. Truth slaps us in the face. Reality checks in to say hello. And the result isn’t always pretty.Paws for Happy Thoughts

Momma said there would be days like this. Days when pressing pause on a remote with a jammed fast-forward button seems impossible. And yet, these are days when perhaps a moment’s paws (all right, we all know I really mean pause) could be the secret ingredient we need to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.

“Before we can change anything in our life we have to recognize that this is the way it’s meant to be right now,” Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. Accepting the present is one of the most important steps toward enjoying our future.

“Life is getting shorter, not longer, so we should live our bliss,” actress Drew Barrymore commented on today’s episode of The Chew. (Yes, I watch The Chew, and all the other food shows my mom and dad enjoy. What’s not to love about watching all kinds of human food goodness flashing before me?)

Drew’s thought got me to thinking about the role the present plays in our lives. I don’t think its a coincidence that present (as in the current time) is literally spelled the same as present (as in a gift). To me, the present is a gift, and I don’t intend to waste it.

I was reminded of this during my bi-monthly trip to Paws ‘R Us today. My groomer, Mary, (as well as her resident shop crew of canine pals) were all as happy to see me as always. After I was all cleaned up, I was enjoying some of my usual post-grooming play time with my Beagle mix pal Gus when BAM! It was like someone hit the pause button and my life flashed before my eyes.

Peter, a pit bull/lab mix, nipped at me and had a thing or two to growl to Mary when she interceded. In that instant, I relived my dark date with destiny at the dog park a few months ago. My vet’s words to my mom about “how lucky” I was to survive that pit bull attack seemed to echo off the walls.

The moment passed, and order was restored (no humans or animals were hurt during the inspiration for this blog), but I got to thinking about the role reality plays in our lives. I’ve said before that I’m a believer that life’s experiences shape who we are. Soren Kierkegaard, who is thought of as one of the founders of this existential outlook, once said “life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”

Today was not a problem. Today was actually a pretty great day. I got to spend time with my pals at the groomer, I got a pretty nice looking haircut (if I do say so myself), and I enjoyed a longer than usual amount of playtime with mom, dad, and Mrs. Prickles tonight.

The Haircut (What do you think?)

What was it that pulled me from the past back into acceptance of reality? Sometimes a moment’s paws is in itself the answer to life’s little reality checks.