Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Life in the Driver’s Seat January 22, 2013

Dreaming While DrivingIf you ask me, making the impossible possible seems a lot more attainable than it used to. Entire libraries have taken to tiny personal devices, televisions keep getting bigger, and computers keep getting smaller. Creative innovation never goes out of style, but its darned trendy right now. Heck, I’m starting to think people may find a way to make pigs fly in my lifetime.

So why not dream big? “Like pioneers on the trail, we will learn to live by our own lights and the stars of heaven, for that is all we need,” Breathnach write. My stars point north toward a whole host of possibilities. The world is my dog park, full of fun and opportunity.

That’s why I think I go into opportunity overload when I stop and think about what skill I would choose to master above all others. Sure, there’s obvious things like winning awards for agility or being the best at catch. Then, there is the other side of the possibility spectrum where I wish like no one’s business I could talk. But recently, I discovered it. My own personal pigs fly kind of dream all the way from my ground-level perspective. I want to become a master driver.

I know how it sounds, but a dedicated group of dog trainers in New Zealand have successfully trained some of my (very lucky) canine comrades to captain cars as a means to strum up adoption rates. Street smarts aren’t just about common sense, you know.

In all seriousness, there is a deeper thought behind my slightly zany (yet attainable) mastery mission. Among many variations of the definition of the word, Merriam-Webster defines drive as the operation and control of a mechanism. To drive is “to operate the mechanism and controls and direct the course,” the definition reads. While I am fascinated by the logical implications of the word, the philosophical meaning behind it has me feeling the most inspired. Most people can live life going through the motions behind the wheel, reacting to the world around them as they encounter it. Not me. I want to actively live life in the driver’s seat so I can direct the course to happiness.

 

Sweet Sixteen: A Day to Remember January 21, 2013

I find inspiration in the oddest things.

Today is frigidly cold in Wisconsin, and I found myself seeking thoughtfulness in my (albeit brief) time outside. Nothing came to me.

Today was Inauguration Day, so I was sure I’d find something to say about politics. Yet I’ve got nothing political to say.

But like the man for whom today was named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

So I find today’s source of inspiration interesting based on my journey with Simple Abundance, which challenges that today, I should “be willing to believe that a companion Sprit is leading (me) every step of the way, and knows the next step.”

Today I challenge myself to be a dreamer, a version of me traveling through time with a companion sixteen-year-old self who ironically knows what is coming.

When you were 16, what did you think your life would look like? Does it look like that? Is that a good thing?

Since one people year is seven dog years, it is not that difficult for me to think back to my “sixteenth” birthday. I’m not a wise 20-something in people years, but I believe I have the right to reflect reasonably upon the beliefs I had on by sweet sixteen.

My adoptive parents have this birthday tradition I enjoy involving a single-scoop vanilla ice cream cone for my special day. Oddly enough, I was lucky enough to get another un-birthday cone about two months following what would have been my fourteenth birthday…my sweet sixteen. I was fortunate to spend the special day with my forever people about a year after being in my forever home. It was a pretty special day for me because I spent it with my favorite people on a boat in what I would presume to be one of their most happy of places.My Sweet Sixteen

Reflecting on that day and every day since then is the best gift I could have ever been afforded. I realize now that life was (and continues to be) everything I could ask for, even if I’m not allowed on the boat anymore. (I’ll take responsibility for that).

Today is the one month anniversary of the beginning of this blog, so I find some value in reflecting on my first steps I took in belief that I could make a difference in the lives of others.

Today I hit a landmark 100 likes on my blog. This would mean enough to me if all I wanted to do was write, but (to me) this is a pretty big deal. It means I am meeting one of my most special goals in life to spread my joy to others, which most definitely brings me more joy than keeping it all to myself.

Today a companion spirit nominated my blog for the Leibster award, which absolutely made my day. I have more research to do on what this means for me, but I honestly can’t believe what an honor it is after a mere 30 days in the blogging world.

Today I became socially network thanks to Facebook and Twitter, which means I (hopefully) have a bigger scope of influence on my readers.

Today I connected. I made a difference in the world in my very own unique kind of way.

Today is a day to remember.

 

 

Learning from Larceny January 20, 2013

Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?

I have this theory about time. It goes by, as certain as the sunrise and sunset each day. But every now and then, life affords us unique moments to treasure. I say this because was a clearance puppy. And two years after being a clearance puppy, I became a clearance dog. At a little more than two years old, my fate at the humane society seemed sealed tightly in negativity. Then I had my special day…I had my moment to treasure. I met my forever people.

They were my unexpected field of diamonds, as Breathnach describes in Simple Abundance. “We all have an acre of diamonds waiting to be discovered, cherished, and mined,” she writes. I had a lot of time in my first two years without a home to dream about what life could be, aspiring to discover by own personal acre of diamonds to be cherished. As time went on, I found myself questioning who I was, and wondering why no one wanted me.

So when that first family with three other dogs and two cats adopted me, I found myself wanting to make an impression. I wanted to stand out, to make them love me best so I could make up for all that lost time of feeling neglected. Looking back, I suppose I took it too far, but I rationalized it at the time because I wanted so badly to be loved. I knew which pet was their favorite, and it wasn’t me.

It was Tessa, their three-year-old cat. I could tell immediately upon meeting her that she was as black and white by personality as she was by color. To the people, she was the sweetest, most loving cat they could ask for. But she lorded that over the other animals and I, treating the rest of us like the unwanted skin of the salmon filet she had for dinner. We were the scraps as she saw us. And I hated her. She was the embodiment of larceny, taking from me the love I so desperately craved from my new people. I know now that does not justify what I did next, but I didn’t care at the time.

One night, after we had all finished dinner, I cornered her in the kitchen for everyone to see, grabbed her by the neck and gave her a good shake. Nothing that would have killed her, but just a little something to let her know how I loathed her. And with that, back to the humane society I went. I was the clearance dog again.

But no experience, no blip in time, is meaningless if something is learned. My time with that family (albeit brief) taught me something incredibly valuable. While I might be horrible at breaking rules (and I know don’t do harm to others is a pretty fundamental one), I never stopped dreaming that I would be someone’s Tessa someday.

To me, time as it is meant to be is twofold. First, we dream of things that could be. “For each of us there is a deeply personal dream waiting to be discovered and fulfilled,” Breathnach writes. “When we cherish our dream and then invest love, creative energy, perseverance, and passion in ourselves, we will achieve authentic success.” Then we will have those moments in time of pure happiness.

Only Time

 

Daily Prompt: Apply Yourself Turning Fiasco into Fortune January 19, 2013

“No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy. A motto of the British Special Air Force is: ‘Those who risk, win.’ A single green vine shoot is able to grow through cement. The Pacific Northwestern salmon beats itself bloody on it’s quest to travel hundreds of miles upstream against the current, with a single purpose, sex of course, but also… life.” This philosophical (yet comedic) end to the movie “Elizabethtown” is the foundation for my reflection today.

I don’t know if its the gritty storyline following the passing of the lead character’s father, or the fabulous score that weaves the story together, but the offbeat comedy is one of my favorite people movies. The story begins with epic failure, loss and sense of personal defeat, yet somehow (in spite of it all), the emotional journey of Drew Baylor ends in joy. Life, amidst constant challenge. He re-wrote the ending to his life story.

That’s a pretty powerful concept if you ask me. “What if you learn to stop the dramas and started to trust the flow of life and the goodness of Spirit,” Breathnach challenges in Simple Abundance. “Isn’t it possible that you could write new chapters in your life with happy endings?

I wasn’t always a believer in happy endings. The first two years of my life were filled with challenges to my spirit. It would have been easy to give up. It was much harder to try. To believe. To live. So I did as today’s daily prompt suggests: I applied myself.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/daily-prompt-apply-yourself/

Describe your last attempt to learn something that did not come easily to you.

I made one of the toughest decisions that ended up changing my life forever. I decided to see the best in all things. It wasn’t easy at first. It was especially challenging when I was adopted by a family I immediately loved wholeheartedly, just to be ignored amidst the household of three other dogs, and ultimately returned to the humane society. As an instinctive lover of people, I will admit their rejection sent me into some pretty dark days. But I refused to write myself into a tragedy.

I hardly think it is a coincidence that a mere two weeks later I met my mom and dad and a week after that they took me to my forever home.

I’ve lived fiasco, but that was not the end to my story. Joy is my victory and my fortune.

 

Love Play Live: Lighting Up Darkness January 18, 2013

Have you ever tried to piece a puzzle together without the box? I’ve been trying that lately with Simple Abundance. I was worried that I was going to start sounding repetitive with the whole gratitude in simplicity storyline and folks would get disinterested. But I did not disregard my daily commitment to reading Simple Abundance, whether or not I made it a main focus of my blogger thoughts this week. I do wonder if that hasn’t had a negative influence on my weeklong reflections…I hope not, but I welcome any and all feedback on the matter.

What I know is that today’s Simple Abundance challenge struck a special chord with me. Living in Wisconsin, a state that gets cold and snowy and the hours of sunlight are at an extreme shortage this time of year, the concept of light amidst the darkness speaks to me.

“Outside, winter’s darkness closes in,” Breathnach writes. “Inside, you have found your own light.” We find light in the little things that may seem otherwise insignificant throughout the day, like that special treat mom gives me before she goes back to work after lunch, or that bowl of peas dad gives me after he and mom share a yummy Friday night steak dinner.Light Amidst Darkness

So again I enjoy today’s daily prompt in coordination with my daily journey toward comfort and joy:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/daily-prompt-free-association/

Write down the first words that comes to mind when we say . . .

. . . home.

. . . soil.

. . . rain.

Use those words in the title of your post.

Love play live. When I think of home, soil, and rain, those are the first three words that come to mind for me.

…home = love: Mom, this one’s for you. We both love Phillip Phillips, but when I hear his lyrics to “Home,” I think of what you and dad did for me when you brought me home from the humane society. I picture these words coming from you, which fills my heart with so much love there really are no words to explain my thankfulness. Except for those set to beautiful chords by Mr. Phillips himself:

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They  fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down love
If you get lost,  you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going  to make this place your home.”

…soil = play: Dad, this one’s for you. All those times you we play around in the backyard when you don’t think mom is looking…those are some of my most favorite moments. I know sometimes I make a mess of the yard, and then I track dirt into the house, but you love me nonetheless. And I know you didn’t consider yourself a “dog person” before we met, so our quiet moments together without anyone else mean that much more to me. I love you, dad.

…rain = life: This one’s for my family. I know what its like to seek shelter in the rain without a warm, loving home. I would prefer not to sleep under a stinky green garbage unit ever again. Yet somehow rain is a reminder that I probably will never have to.  Because I have home and soil, I am thankful for rain. I greet the reminder of my blessings in life.

Inside, I have found my light.

 

Isn’t it ironic? A Pause Amidst Life’s Symphony January 17, 2013

Irony is one of those words that can often be considered most influential in the eye of the beholder. Definitions vary, but from what I can tell perspective weighs heavily upon one’s perception of what Merriam-Webster refers to as “the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning.” Sounds pretty confusing to me. My simplified perspective includes the people in my life through the lenses of my appreciation for literature, music and artistic expression.

From the ground up, I couldn’t help but see irony in life’s little messages of today. It was the kind of day one wishes could be lived in reverse. French poet Anatole France knew a thing or two about this. “Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom,” he said. Alas, hindsight is 20/20, so instead of dreaming the impossible, I will reflect on the messages.

It was a pretty normal day for me…mom and dad headed off to their respective workplaces, followed closely by my morning nap, mom’s lunchtime visit, my afternoon nap, and then mom and dad came home. Mom had another one of “those” days at work. Over dinner, I listened intently as she explained the stress of the day to dad. I don’t understand much of what she does at this work place, but whatever it is sounds fast-paced and challenging.

“Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right,” Alanis Morissette croons in her 90s hit “Ironic.” “And life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face.”

Thank you, Alanis, for putting my words to music all those years ago. Today’s Simple Abundance reading encourages us to pause to find harmony within our day, understanding that the integration of simplicity, order and gratitude in our lives will create a magical symphony of comfort and joy. “With harmony as your guide, trust that your every day moments will soon begin to resonate in a rhapsody of fulfillment,” Breathnach writes.

So I find a bit of irony in today’s daily prompt, which challenges me to “honestly evaluate the way you respond to crisis situations. Are you happy with the way you react?” http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/daily-prompt-in-a-crisis/

Is anyone? Speaking for myself, it certainly isn’t easy for me to pause and soak in the warm rays of the sun instead of running after that squirrel in the backyard. When faced with too many stimuli, I have a tough time concentrating on life’s simplest blessings. Chaos is not my friend, and I don’t think it’s any good for my mom either. I know I can’t relive today, but I can at least take France’s advice and find some wisdom in the irony.

Isn’t it ironic that sometimes exactly what is best for us is sometimes the most challenging task of all?

 

Today I’m a Trombone Player January 16, 2013

Like many of us, Henry David Thoreau wore many hats. Writer. Poet. Historian. Naturalist. Philosopher. Most people can (and do) juggle that many titles all the time. So what made him great? Why is he one of the most respected and influential historical philosophers? Regardless of the role he played, his foundational belief system made up his spirit. His spirit enabled him with the resources to produce quality over quantity.

“All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours’ toil,” Thoreau observed. “The fight to the finish spirit is the one… characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.”

I overheard mom and dad talking tonight about what makes me unique. After a moment’s pause, dad said it’s my spirit he loves most. I see that as a very high compliment.

Merriam-Webster defines “spirit” as “an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms.” While I would argue that I wear more than one unique personality hat, dad’s comment made my day. What a blessing it is that my spirit literally gives life to me every day, but more importantly, because it gives figurative life to those around me. My spirit is contagious. I say this with confidence because I smile with my tail most of the time, and find that smiling can be incredibly contagious. I get so excited to see visitors that I often jump up to greet them. I know its naughty, but its a way I share my joy, and (nine times out of ten), the visitor catches the joy bug.

Smile! You know you want to!

That got me to thinking about Thoreau, a philosopher whose simple belief in the inherent good in nature and people I wholeheartedly share. I find peace through a transcendental state of mind, and when I’m at peace I can most effectively share joy with the world. Oddly enough, I find that sometimes I spend so much time focusing on exterior locus’ of affection, love, and joy that I struggle to see it in myself. It’s so much easier to be self deprecating than to pause and toot your own horn every once in a while. So, just for today, call me a trombone player.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/daily-prompt-favorite-thing/

 

My Favorite Kind of Chance January 15, 2013

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 8:59 pm

We all make mistakes. The world would be such a better place if we could do it all backwards. That’s why second is my favorite kind of chance. I think it might have something to do with my daily choice to see the good in things, even if it occasionally gets me in trouble. It’s worth it to me if I am doing the right thing, making a person’s day better, or learning an important life lesson.

I’ve noticed my mom has been spending a lot of time on a stationary bicycle lately. Something about being on the bicycle for long periods of time seems to empower her somehow. Its a second chance for her knee. It makes her smile, which makes my day.

Since I’m in the business of thankfulness these days, I feel the need to weigh in on the most influential cyclist of all time. Lance Armstrong, who overcame cancer and empowered people all over the world to do the same. The man who founded Livestrong, which provides an average of $30 million a year to helping people with cancer and their families. A man who inspired people with cancer to believe in second chances.

“Pain is temporary,” he said. “Quitting lasts forever.”

Inspiring words from someone whose long-term doping scheme has caused an epic fall from grace. There is a lot to the story I don’t understand, but my perspective is fundamental. He made a series of unbelievably irresponsible decisions. In the end, he lived a lie, and lying is wrong. In my eyes, he is paying the ultimate price in the integrity and respect he has lost amongst millions of people he used to inspire. He doesn’t really deserve a second chance.

But what about all of those families whose loved ones are still living because of the changes that Livestrong made in their lives? What about the people who made the commitment to live after reading his book “Its Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.” You can take their respect away, but they are alive to tell the tale. This is not to say that Armstrong or anyone at Livestrong single-handedly saved the lives of millions of people. But the mind is a powerful thing, and believing in something like the Armstrong’s own second chance changed lives for the better regardless of the outcome.Cycling for Second Chances

“If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on,” he said. If you can get one, a second chance is a gift. Lance Armstrong did not do the right thing, but he sure did help people, and based on everything that has been stripped from him, I’d say he’s learned a pretty important life lesson. So does he deserve a second (or third or three hundredth, depending on who you talk to) chance? You tell me.

 

Hope in Gratitude January 14, 2013

Hope in GratitudeWriting can be a bit like life. Some days are like poetry, weaving experiences together in the most beautiful (albeit sometimes ironically morbid) of prose. Those days can be easier than others to write things worth reading. Other days are like the worst case of writer’s block. Nothing among the list of one’s ordinary function comes easy. Even waking up (or picking up a pen and paper) sounds absolutely impossible on “one of those days.”

Either way, I’m starting to notice how easy it is to find something to bring a ray of sunshine into even the cloudiest case of writer’s block. I say this because if its possible for a dog to have what humans refer to as “one of those days,” that was my life today. Instead of shattering a glass on the hardwood or breaking a nail (which I’ve heard can be quite painful for womenfolk), I struggled to find any inspiration in today.

Mom journeyed back to this place she calls work today. I missed her terribly. After all the time off for her leg surgery, I realize I’d gotten spoiled with people time during the day. But to make matters worse, I could tell things didn’t go well by her emotional state when she came home over her lunch break. And again when she came home from work well after the sun went down. And I will be the first to admit it: a tough day on her takes a toll on me. I can easily slip into a darker way of thinking, wishing more than anything I can somehow be that lantern of love I’ve pledged to be while at the same time not having any idea of how to light the match.

Then something hits me. A ray of sunshine makes its way through the cloudy darkness that is the blank screen or notepad mocking me with its silence. Today it was two things combining in perfect harmony, just like poetry coming together on the page: music and good writing. Two obvious things that inspire me (and lots of other thoughtful writers, poets and songwriters), but as I am embracing simplicity this year I find solace in (even) these most obvious of things. Miracles happen in simple moments like this.

I was reading today’s thoughts on Simple Abundance, which focus on finding specific things to be thankful for in even the cloudy days while listening to “Tell Me a Story” on Phillip Phillips’ album.

“Hope is just a ray of what everyone should see
alone is the street where you found me
scared of what’s behind you
and scared of what’s in front
live with what you have now
and make the best of what’s to come.”

Phillips sings to me his guitar-stringed thoughts on the world, and I find myself so grateful for his words that I want to share them with anyone who reads. Quite the paradox, since today’s Simple Abundance entry cites the thoughts of author Melody Beattie.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow,” she said.

Tantalizing little cursor on a blank screen? You’re no match for me. Trouble lighting the match for my lantern of love? Forget about it. There is hope in gratitude, even on a day like today.

 

Glamorous Gratitude January 13, 2013

I think its ironic that today’s Simple Abundance reading challenges me to see the value of all things normal.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching television and movie sensations strut their stuff on the red carpet of the Golden Globe awards.

There have been a lot of classy (and some not so classy) black, white and red dresses, lace, diamonds and names like Versace, Armani and Vera Wang. Sophia Vergara looks fabulous as always, Julianne Hough looks ravishingly rockstar, and Zoeey Deschanel is a vision in red. I just had a moment when I wish I had a bow tie even though the closest thing I have to the red carpet is the area rug in the living room.

So you can imagine my surprise when I opened Simple Abundance to see one of my favorite quotes by e. e. Cummings: “The eyes of my eyes are opened.” Today Breathnach dares us to dream in normality, to take a refreshed glance at life’s blessings. And so I am reminded that I do not need a bow tie. Watching these awards shows is fun and all, but even the stars have the dresses and jewels out on loan. They return them to Cartier, or Tiffany’s or wherever they borrowed them from.

It brings to mind something wise that singer-songwriter and pianist Tori Amos had to say on the matter of glamour: “to me glamour isn’t about being sparkly.” Its about opening our eyes to see the sparkle in everyday things and pausing to be grateful.