Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Smile Never Goes Out of Style March 31, 2013

Snow was coming down sideways for a bit today. It got incredibly dark outside and looked like it was going to rain, but instead it snowed just enough to cover the ground with a healthy layer of snow blanket diamonds in a matter of about five minutes. It was remarkable in the worst kind of way for us Wisconsinites who have been so desperately pining for the warmth of spring.2013-03-31 18.51.572013-03-31 18.51.51

I found victory in those five minutes I couldn’t help but share. Hardly anyone noticed the snow because I was the center of attention (as it should be). Joking aside, I noticed two circles around me containing a dozen sets of eyes focused entirely on me. Closest to me was a circle of my favorite little people and around them was a circle of their adult loved ones.

We were playing pickle in the middle (with me as the pickle as usual), I had just gotten the toy away for myself and was celebrating my victory. Then it hit me. In that moment I heard the most beautiful sound: a whole room of people I love laughing. Better yet, literally everyone was smiling regardless of the reality of the weather happenings outside. It wasn’t too long before a hushed sense of surprise came over the room when they saw what was happening outside, but in those few precious moments leading up to that joy was in the air.2013-03-31 18.39.44

Some may think I’m overreacting about the painfully long winter we’re having in Wisconsin. I’m not one to exaggerate the truth. I even heard a few people comment on how there is finally more green than white on the ground (which is a small spring success story for us). Then the cloudburst happened. It was brief but it was heavy.

It reminded me of those moments that seem to come out of left field and mix things up in ways we don’t always appreciate. In these challenging moments we find strength in smiles and laughter. We seek comfort from our circles of loved ones. In these moments we find sincere and lasting joy. “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face,” as French poet Victor Hugo once said.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all of the pictures my mom took of me being the pickle in the middle appear to have a bright light in the background. Snow was coming down sideways for a bit this afternoon, but that didn’t keep the sun from shining in the living room where my family gathered.

 

On Solitude: A Spoonful of Peanut Butter March 30, 2013

I am a believer in the theory that sometimes (but not always) less is more. This is why I can say with absolute certainty what I’m about to say. Solitude sucks. I know I have previously commented on silence and my loathing of the communication gap between canines and their people, but solitude is far worse a reality than silence.

While I tend to agree with the majority of what transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau had to say, I have found my exception to the rule.

“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude,” Thoreau suggested. It is at this point that I take my turn away from the Thoreau way of thought. I would much rather be silent amidst a gaggle of loved ones than at a fabulously orchestrated event all by my lonesome.

I think it is true of most dogs who have an unbreakable bond with their humans – time drags on for us while they’re anywhere but with us. I know a lot of us make the most of our solitude by daydreaming, napping, or enjoying some peanut butter goodness in the Kong toys left for us in our peoples’ absence, but that’s all we’re doing. Making the best of it.

In reality, we are counting every minute until we hear that car come back up the driveway, listening for the door to shut, the garage door to go down and alas! The door opens and we are reunited at last. I think its related to the unconditional love in our not-so-little doggie hearts. Personally, I know it’s related to my understanding and appreciation that my joy feels the most sincere when I share it with someone. Whatever it is, there is nothing like that time when we’re together.

But as I am in the habit of seeing the glass half full, I found myself thinking that maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Solitude offers a unique opportunity to be alone with one’s thoughts, which (to some) is a mighty scary thing. Dark days are real. Seeing the light can seem impossible when we’re at our lowest of the low. And yet that is the most important time to see the light at the end of an otherwise pitch black tunnel. Today I seek the light in solitude, as I know there must be something in which to find solace in even the darkest of places.

Alone with My Thoughts

 

While I hope to never be exiled to a deserted island, I think I’d find a way to make the most of it. (Other than my allowable carry-on items of bacon, peanut butter, rawhide bones, water, my dog food and Mrs. Prickles obviously). Again I find myself attempting to change my perspective on solitude, and (in doing so) I change my perspective on life. “Loneliness is the poverty of self;” As American novelist and poet May Sarton said, “Solitude is the richness of self.”

And (if all else fails) a spoonful of peanut butter makes the medicine of solitude go down in the most delightful way.

 

You’ve Got a Friend In Me March 29, 2013

Guy friends are underestimated if you ask me. I mean, everyone always talks about the sisterhood of the traveling collars, but I’m not so sure. Guys are simple. We see things for what they are and usually say so.

I’ve recently been spending a little extra time with my guy pal Diesel. Six months ago, I was bigger than him and now he’s bigger than me. I suppose size doesn’t matter in friendships though, so I digress.

From what I’ve seen and heard about gals, that’s not always the case. I don’t mean to generalize as I’m certain not all gal pals are the same. But I do think there is a certain encouragement of judgmental thinking and unreasonably high standards for things I just don’t understand.

Diesel and Me

I’ve struggled with this lately on my journey with Simple Abundance. I “cheated” recently and looked ahead a few days and it’s more of the same commentary on low self-esteem and finding your inner fashion sense. I may not identify with the message, but I certainly agree.

I’m all for outfitting our authentic selves in a way that empowers us to conquer daily life, but I don’t appreciate the pressure generally put on women in our society to present better than they might actually feel. I mean, some days you just want to laze around and be comfortable. Those days shouldn’t have to come with pressure to look or act a certain way.

Diesel and I have this thing we agree on that I think makes us the friends we are. Our moms are pretty great, even if they occasionally don’t think they are. I know the pressures of the world are tough on women, and as a result challenge their relationships with each other.

That’s what I like about being a guy. We can be lazy. It’s almost expected some of the time. I might be simple, but in my opinion simplicity opens a door to emotional openness that provides purpose to what some may see as laziness. We have all kinds of extra emotional energy to spend on making sure the womenfolk in our lives feel special.

 

Living the Dream March 28, 2013

Big dogs don’t cry. I’m not ashamed to admit little ones do. It’s no secret that I wear my heart on my proverbial sleeve. But there was a time I wasn’t so open to expressing my emotions. My time on the streets and in the humane society had hardened my perspective on the world. Fortunately the world has a way of changing our perspective on things.Dreaming to Live

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way,” English poet William Blake suggested. “Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and  some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature  is imagination itself.”

My eyes were opened on a hot August day almost three years ago when I met my adoptive parents for the first time. Just as perspective changes things for the bad, I remember that day my perspective changed for the good. It’s a switch I won’t be flipping back in the other direction any time soon either. In fact, I’ve noticed lately that the more you let the good into your life, the more good life gives you. That’s one of many reasons I dream big.

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today,” as American icon James Dean once said. I am, in fact, living the dream.

So I suppose it’s not fair of me to assume big dogs don’t cry. I would prefer to think we all are capable of shedding a tear every now and then, happy or sad. “Maybe I’m in the black, maybe I’m on my knees,” sings Chris Martin of Coldplay in “Every Tear’s a Waterfall.” “Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes, but my heart is beating and my pulses start, Cathedrals in my heart….Every tear’s a waterfall…so you can hurt, hurt me bad, but I’ll raise the flag.”

William Blake saw beauty in the trees. Chris Martin finds the joy in teardrops. I dream to live and live to dream.

 

On Self-Esteem: A Book and its Cover March 27, 2013

I hate the way my mom looks at herself in the mirror. Or (worse yet) when she avoids looking at herself entirely because of the disdain for the body looking back at her. I know it’s a common issue among women to reflect negatively about their appearance, but I just don’t understand it. And I don’t care to understand it. It breaks my little doggie heart to see her look at herself that way.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been,” the fabulous George Eliot once said. Well, I refuse to be anything other than what I’m meant to be, which is a source of joy. Joy is not in my mom’s face when she looks in the mirror, which bothers me even more given that the past several days of my journey with Simple Abundance have taught me that my Daybook of Comfort and Joy indeed cannot be judged by their cover.

Simplicity is appropriately understated on the pink cover with the little picture of a tree on it, but I obviously would not have it any other way. Forget the cover. I would love this book even if it were bound with those little plastic binder clips the movers and shakers of the world occasionally use to make financial presentations, marketing pitches or performance summaries.Mirror, mirror

I’m not going to lie to you. (A dog’s tail never lies after all.) If I judged books by their covers, I may never have taken interest in the pretty pink simplicity of Simple Abundance. But this is yet another example of a reason I am happy I make a habit of seeing the best in all people and things. And the more I thought about it, I realized I have pieced together a powerful analogy for judging a book by its cover. In the most recent daily suggestions by Sarah Ban Breathnach, readers are challenged to see beauty in oneself regardless of preconceived notions and habitually negative thought processes I know are capable of crossing one’s mind frequently throughout a day.

So I tried a little experiment today. I left my copy of Simple Abundance open on the bed when I was done reading it this morning so my mom would see it. So she would be challenged to look past the cover to the soul inside both the book and herself. So she would be challenged to look at that reflection in the mirror with positive energy rather than negative. But just as one generally doesn’t start and finish a book in the same night (regardless of how good the cover might be), I know this isn’t a change I will see overnight.

In the meantime, I will continue to loathe the way my mom looks at herself in the mirror.  I know it takes time to change a way of thought, but as George Eliot said it’s never too late. If only the mirror would show her the reflection I see on a daily basis. You know the one. There is no negativity or disdain or heartbreaking disappointment. Instead there is complete and unconditional love for the beauty of book and its cover.

 

Remembering Ramsey March 26, 2013

Remembering RustyI will never forget my second first day at the Oshkosh Humane Society.

Yes, friends, you read that right. While it is not a chapter of life I am proud of, I haven’t kept it a secret that I was adopted my another family before my forever parents found me. I was adopted by a family who opted to return me to the shelter after a mere couple of weeks because they felt I had too serious of behavioral issues. Sure, my small 20-pound frame jumped their 4-foot fence. Yes, I also jumped out of a moving vehicle. And all right already, I did grab that stinker of a cat Tessa and give her a good shake by the neck.

That first adoptive home included three other dogs and two cats and I wanted to make an impression. I wanted to stand out and to make them love me best so I could make up for all that lost time of feeling neglected. I know now I took my attention-seeking aspirations too far, but at the time I did what seemed right. I’m not proud of any of these things, but I do believe I had my reasons for doing them and I also argue that if I hadn’t “misbehaved” I wouldn’t be the dog I am or in the home I am today.

But you can imagine the sense of deja vu I felt when that first adoptive family brought me back to the humane society. I wasn’t nearly as terrified the second time when I was surrounded by people I kind of knew at this somewhat familiar place. This time I was unenthused by the attention I got when I first got there, because I knew that the people there are overworked and wouldn’t have much time for me after my initial check in.

Then it happened. Again.

They put me away in a cage and Sarah came back to take care of me just as she had before. And (just like I had before) I found myself questioning everything about who I was and the decisions I made in life leading up to that second (first) night in the humane society.

That was the night I met Ramsey. He was a 12-year-old black lab mix in the cage next to me. I had to close my eyes and shake my head to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I swear I thought that somehow my dear mentor Rusty had come back to life and was in the cage next to me as he had been a mere few months earlier. I opened my eyes and instead of my wise old friend Rusty stood Ramsey, looking at me like I had lost my doggie mind. As it turned out, Ramsey was much more cynical than Rusty. Where Rusty had seen sunshine, Ramsey saw darkness. And I saw opportunity.

Rusty got me through that awful night when I had given up, and now it was my turn to paw it forward. Understanding he was 10 years my senior and might be listening but not actually hear a word this young whippersnapper might have to share with him, I told him my life story. I spared no details and told him everything I remembered, including Rusty and his humble wisdom.

It wasn’t long after that that Ramsey was adopted, and as happy for him as I was, I will never know whether my words had an affect on him. But that doesn’t matter to me anymore, because I know I did what Rusty would have wanted. I felt his presence with me that night, like he was watching over me from doggie heaven. I don’t think my feeling of deja vu was a coincidence. And I think he would have been proud.

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them,” English novelist George Eliot reasoned.

Rusty’s optimism lit a flame in my heart that no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. Deja vu or otherwise, I will not forget.

 

My Castle in the Air March 25, 2013

I’ve noticed a trend in popular literature lately. While The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched series are all brilliantly written, society is writing itself a morbidly bleak portrait for the future I can’t say I enjoy. I would much prefer to dig into the daydreams I have, in spite of the nonsense they might contain. Dreaming of the Castle

I realized today I spend a good deal of my day dreaming. I dream sleeping, but I also daydream in vivid images that bring joy to my heart. Today I dreamed of what my utopia would look like, and I have to admit it looked nothing like the dystopian future societies of District 12, Dauntless and The Society.

In my dream, I saw the sun and felt the warmth as I heard the faintest strumming of a familiar song humming through the breeze. All of my favorite people and canines are there, happy and well. And I finally was in the company of my friends in the blogosphere who I had only once known as Gravatar personalities from around the world. Laughter amongst all of these groups of loved ones echoed through the wind as the song hummed its way closer.

“Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly and the dreams that you dream of, dreams really do come true,” I hear Jason Castro croon. If dreams come true, I am one lucky dog because I dream often and I dream big. I dream in nonsense half the time, and I find humor in that. But imagination is a powerful tool for one’s relationship with his or her authentic self and I don’t intend to let mine go unused.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost;” my favorite transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau once said, “that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

My foundation is in my life choice to see the good in all people and things. I dream by living, and I live by dreaming. “It’s not what you look at that matters,” Thoreau said. “It’s what you see.” Forget the futuristic societies of popular literature. In my future, I see brilliant cloudless skies painted with bluebirds and smiling faces.

 

Everybody Wins March 24, 2013

If attention-getting were an Olympic sport, I would compete for the gold medal. In literal terms, dogs aren’t that great at playing games. Don’t get me wrong, we love our catch, fetch and agility as much as the next species, but in my humble opinion most of us are too honest to be good at most games. We wear our hearts on our fur and couldn’t tell a lie to save our life. You can see it in our eyes. But emotionally speaking, dogs are exceptionally skillful attentioPlaying in the snown stealers.

While I don’t posses the skills required for most human games, I do have this attention-stealing game I like to play especially with dad, where I sit and stare at him, paw at him and jump at him until he pays me what I consider due attention. Sometimes I even throw a toy at him. I almost always win these battles of the mind, either with a dental bone, or a rawhide, or with my favorite treat: playtime. I bet he doesn’t even know I do it just as much for him as I do for me. You see, I would call myself an attention stealer without hesitation or embarrassment. And I have my reasons.

Today is a day for making your own sunshine. It feels like the millionth dreary Sunday in a row, and this time there’s snow falling in droves. It is also the fourth day of spring, but it feels like the 150th day of winter. The seemingly never-ending dreariness does take its toll on the spirit, so I can only imagine today is a dark day for some people. It’s all too easy to let these days consume us sometimes, but I refuse to let that happen in the Schmidt house. Instead I play one of my most favorite games to bring some sunshine into the lives of my people.

When my little game results in playtime, I have really won a small battle for all of us if you ask me. Dad throws a toy, I fetch it, he throws it again. Sometimes he even throws it back and forth with my mom and I am ultimately the pickle in the middle. And they both laugh. Regardless of what is on the television or what the weather is doing outside, they both laugh. Everybody wins. I’ve said before that joy is best when shared, well, this is one of my most favorite examples of that. DSC00229

“Dark days come to all of us,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Yet discouraging days bring with them golden opportunities when we can be kind to ourselves. Believe it or not, today offers you a hidden gift, if you’re willing to search for it.”

No need to search, because the gift of sunshine is never hidden in my house. After all, dogs are no good at playing games. We are no good at bluffing, scheming and plotting. No sir. Instead we specialize in honesty, loyalty and nonsense. And we have a sense for when our people are having a dark day. I would argue we can tell when something is awry better than people in some situations. Call me annoying or a pest or whatever word you may, but often when I seek attention my goal is to give it back rather than to receive it. Today is a day for making my own sunshine and I am most definitely up to the task.

 

A Wiley By Any Other Name March 23, 2013

I was called Zorro once. The family that adopted me for a short time tried calling me that and it was honestly the strangest couple weeks of my life. The name simply didn’t fit. It was dark and mysterious whereas I am sunny and somewhat of an open book. Wiley fits my personality perfectly. Spontaneous, outgoing and a little bit crazy? Yep, that’s me.

But now that I am set in my ways as  Wiley, I sometimes wonder what I would look like in someone else’s paws. What if I were more pensive, agile or mysterious? Would life be different? Would life by any other name be as sweet? But my past has taught me I can’t live without embracing my personality. And one of the best ways I’ve found to embrace my personality is to explore my space. Most dogs would agree that defining one’s territory is obviously very important, so I find it necessary to do so today as I explore who I am in this life.

I have always and continue to live near the beauty that is Lake Michigan. While I would prefer not explore too much due to the busy nature of the surrounding downtown area, the area near the lake is beautiful. My mom has taken me there a couple of times over the summer months and we’ve gotten into disagreements about how to spend our time there. While she would prefer to find the perfect spot and stay there with a good book, I would prefer to explore every inch of beach.

I know my mom would occasionally prefer me to be more static. Especially when she’s trying to relax on the beach and she already has the company of the sunshine. She doesn’t need me being me in those moments, regardless of the many perks of my unique personality. It reminds me a bit of a song I heard the other night while mom was cooking dinner. “But I’ll see better when the smoke clears (when the smoke clears) inside my head,” Toby Lightman sings. “And I find myself in need of a pause, I’m not sure why, but I think that it’s because  of this desire to be what others want me to be which is nothing close to me.”

I occasionally wonder what I would look like if I was nothing close to me. Would my life by another name be as sweet? Then I am overtaken by the obvious. I know it would be. “You see, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we’re constantly programmed by the world to be other (people) not ourselves,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “(But) we should only strive to be first-rate versions of ourselves. And our best is always good enough.”

So I argue that a life by any other name would be as sweet because standing still is simply not part of my personality. While I do enjoy routine, I also embrace adventure. I always have and always will. No suburban life will take that away from me. While I wonder about it, I can honestly say that I don’t really care to be anyone else. I like being me. I would make a terrible Toto, but I sure do make a good Wiley Schmidt. A Wiley by any other name would still be Wiley. And my best is always good enough.

 

Hand Me the Lemons March 22, 2013

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:37 pm
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Hand Me the LemonsMy parents like to watch this television show called “Chopped.” I think it is one of their favorites. It pits four chefs against each other in a battle with mystery ingredients and a prize of $10,000 for whoever is the most creative in putting the ingredients into something delicious. I prefer the commercials to the show, since there generally are appearances by some of my favorite dog stars like Ceaser and the dog in the Traveler’s Insurance and Cymbalta commercials. But there is something about the show that caught my attention recently.

The judges all talk a lot about repurposing the mystery ingredients into something new or different. Usually, the ingredient is something the chefs either aren’t familiar with or have been classically trained to strongly dislike for whatever reason. Whoever said creativity killed the cat clearly missed this powerful metaphor for challenges in life.

Creativity saves moments, days, and sometimes lives because people make the best out of what they’re given. Complaining gets you no where. Instead I say we do something about it. I can remember the first time I realized the importance of creativity amidst challenges. I was stranded without my mom and brothers in a new place with no food or friends. As if it wasn’t bad enough I lost my family, I didn’t know how to fend for myself. It could have been the end of me.

Instead I started my journey to self-discovery by looking outside myself to make some allies who could help me find food. Allies became friends and food became plentiful because I made the conscious choice to try something new that day rather than let the past drag me down.

I have embraced the mystery ingredients in my basket of life and I know that has brought me to where I am today. I don’t care for lemonade (or lemons for that matter) but that doesn’t keep me from understanding the concept of the phrase. When life gives you lemons, make something new or different. It doesn’t have to be lemonade.