Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

What To Expect December 22, 2013

We’ve got hiccups known as practice breathing. We’ve got normal aches and pains. We’ve got the baby bump (which has been a very comfy pillow for me lately). But of all the things in all the books and all the online reading, I certainly didn’t expect this.

At nine months pregnant, mom got some startling news from her doctor the other day. Baby Schmidt is racing to the finish line. It turns out he or she is growing exceptionally fast for his or her gestational age, with measurements that put our dear soon-to-be little person in the not-so-little category. Mom went to something called an ultrasound to confirm the details, and sure enough. Baby Schmidt’s measurements reveal a baby that could be as much as nine pounds. Already. At 36 weeks.

This came as quite the surprise to me, as I have resigned myself to thinking I will not be meeting my little person for some time yet. Just because the bottles are all sterilized and the clothes are all washed and the room is put together (and has been for more than a month now) doesn’t mean the arrival will happen any sooner.Snowy Sunday

But alas, perhaps it could. To me this is joyous news! My little person wants to meet me sooner rather than later! I’m pumped! So I can’t quite piece together why mom seems so worried. Worry has been the dominating emotion around here lately and I can’t say it’s my favorite. She is my person and I can’t stand to see her like this. But I’ve done everything I can do – including some fun in the snow today followed by serious cuddle time – to bring that worry out of her. Nothing is working.

Instead she continues to consult those darned books and blogs and all other sources of potentially scary information. Worry isn’t getting us anywhere. I realized today it never does. Pregnant or otherwise, worry tends to do nothing but stall forward progress.

“While we are focusing on fear, worry, or hate,” suggested author Bo Bennett, “it is not possible for us to be experiencing happiness, enthusiasm or love.”

From practice breathing to aches and pains to the bittersweet beauty of the baby bump, we’ve got a whole lot of normal going on around here. Even this news is okay news. Normal news. There is joy in these things. So I chose to focus on that – the happiness, enthusiasm and love. Because these are the emotional fuel for something much bigger than worry. These are the fuel for faith. And faith conquers worry every time.

 

Joy: From the Inside Out December 21, 2013

I don’t even know what to say. That’s right, all. Something has rendered me speechless. It’s shocking, I know. Almost as shocking as thinking about the meaning of today.

On December 21, 2012 I felt inspired. It was snowing, and mom and I were happy together, and I didn’t know which came first, her laughter or my joy. It fell from the sky that day. And I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was like a light bulb turned on in my heart and I knew what I had to do. I had to share this magic with whomever would take it. Joy. From the ground up, it became my 365-day mission to share it with the world.

Dog Blog with a CauseAnd that’s what I’ve done. Every day for a year, I have written about everything from existential philosophy to canine poop rituals. Because that’s life. It’s random and messy and beautiful and heart wrenching and hard and fabulous all at the same time. And I love every minute of it.

That doesn’t stop just because my one-year commitment has come to pass. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have grown, over the last year, to better understand myself, the world I live in, and how those two things interact and create the blessing that is life.

This knowledge has empowered me to take on a new mission that promises to be challenging in a whole new way. I want to continue sharing my unique perspective on joy. From the inside out, our understanding of joy in the Schmidt house is bound to change in the next year. Any day now, my little person is going to bring his or her joy into our world. If we thought we knew joy before, I think we have a whole other thing coming.

I know there will also be sleepless nights and dirty diapers and (gasp) a little less attention coming my way. And I may not be able to share these happenings quite as regularly as I have for the last year. But that’s life. From the ground up, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the course of my blogging journey it is that this thing called life is certainly worth living to the fullest.

“Nobody gets to live life backward,” advice columnist Ann Landers suggested. “Look ahead, that is where your future lies.” The past has become my future and my future will soon become my present. From the inside out, joy is most definitely upon us. So today I turn the page. I start a new chapter. And I’m not going to lie – it’s one I can’t wait to read either.

 

Dive On In December 20, 2013

I don’t know why she does this to herself. Last year with a bum knee. This year nine months pregnant. It seems nothing will cause mom to so much as reconsider hosting her annual Christmas party. Both times I listened as she assured her guests beforehand that it would be “low key” given “her condition.” And both times I watched as that is far from what happened.

She inevitably hustles around the kitchen up until the very last minute when the first guest arrives, regardless of her “condition.” Sure, there are the staples that grace the table of deliciousness that is strategically placed just beyond my reach. There are the chips and dips and cheese trays. But there are also the extras like the ham and cheese puffs and cranberry bliss bars. And then the guests come.

It started with Jess and Rich and baby Alexis. One by one, the group grew to include several people I’ve come to know and love. It wasn’t long before everyone was sitting together enjoying samples of the variety of delicacies. And that’s when I saw it. Joy. From the ground up, it was radiating from mom.

It was subtle. I don’t think anyone else even noticed. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Her sigh wasn’t one of stress or exhaustion. It was a sound that somehow embodied everything about the spirit of the season. She was sitting in the living room surrounded by people she holds dear to her heart. All was well in her world in that moment.

So I think I get it now. I understand why mom does this to herself, with the bustling around the kitchen and the ham and cheese puffs. It’s the same reason I choose to share my unique perspective on joy with the world. It’s a reason that has not changed in all 365 days of my blogging journey. True joy, like what I saw in mom tonight, is meant to be shared. “Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle,” as English novelist Terry Pratchet once wrote. “It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” It’s a feeling to embrace this time of year. More importantly, it’s a feeling to share. So dive on in. The water is warm.A Few of My Favorite Things

 

A Dog’s Tail Never Lies December 19, 2013

I know they can’t always be avoided. But I sure wish there was a safe way around them. From freshly cleaned floors to ice patches on the road, I simply do not care for all things slippery.

This came to mind tonight as I found myself skating across the patio portion of my backyard paradise. I wanted to come inside quickly because I heard my treat jar open when bam! My paws slipped and slid underneath me. And, for that (albeit brief) moment, I was completely out of control. I lost my balance. That’s when I knew for sure this icy stuff is certainly not my friend. It’s slippery. I don’t care for slippery.

Don't Slip!The same can be said of people, I suppose. Us canines are known for our accurate judgment of the character of those around us. We are natural born observers, which I think aids us in our assessments over time. I’ve only made one grave mistake in not trusting my best doggie friend from the streets Tiger. I felt pretty silly about getting that first impression wrong when I learned the reason he was so protective of his food was because he was a single dad caring for his pups.

I learned my lesson and haven’t made the same mistake twice. I knew right away I could trust Jo, and that her caretaker (if you can call him that) otherwise known as the man with the leather belt was bad news. His face came to mind tonight as I was slipping all over the place. I don’t like slippery people any more than I like slippery surface. And he was such a bad person. He made me feel completely out of control. He took away my balance. But he could not take away who I am.

Because who I am is pretty great. I know that now. And you can believe me when I say so since a dog’s tail never lies. Above anything else we are honest. We are who we are. I know this with the same certainty I know there are unfortunately plenty of slippery people out there. And there isn’t always a way around them. But life has taught me sometimes the best defense against a slippery slope is a good offense. And when it comes to fighting evil, mine wins every time.

 

Oh Christmas Tree December 18, 2013

A chubby fisherman. A pickle. Yoda. These are all random pieces that make up the whole of the Schmidt family Christmas tree. I found myself browsing the ornaments today from my perch in the windowsill and I realized how incredibly random they are.The tree and I

There are snowflakes, and a frog, and a stand mixer, and (gasp!) even a picture of me scattered throughout the tree. Each ornament has its own story, starting with the ones mom and dad both got as children. Then there are the ones they’ve purchased together through their time as a couple. “Our First Christmas” 2004 is among mom’s favorites. This year, a stork joined the mix to commemorate the impending arrival of our little person.

It’s its own kind of melting pot of stories and memories. And that too is a random piece that makes up the whole of society. It’s different for everyone. I’d venture to say it’s safe to assume no two Christmas trees are alike. Each one tells a story (or stories) of the home it graces. There are big trees and little trees and real trees and fake ones. There are trees filled to the brim with beautifully coordinated ornaments and trees of random memories collected through the years.

As I found myself somewhat entranced by the lights today, I realized there is something more than beauty to be taken from these trees. Just as they take on their own unique sense of personality, we too have our stories that make us who we are. And, depending on the circumstances, we may not share them as openly as we could. I understand from a practical standpoint why a Christmas tree only on display for a short time each year, but I see no reason why this should be true of our unique senses of identity. That should always be shared.

Even if it comes randomly, like in the form of a tiny pig or a plaque that reads “Nothing Is Impossible to a Willing Heart” on the Christmas tree. Because I’m not certain whether stories inspire life or life inspires stories. And maybe it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the stories get shared.

 

A Snow Globe Life December 17, 2013

At first I thought for sure it was the snowflakes. It snowed again yesterday and I found myself in awe of the glittery magic all around me. It was like being in a snow globe. The flakes fell from the sky so peacefully. Once they lay to rest, they create a blanket of sparkling diamonds in my backyard paradise. So I thought maybe if I could collect anything in the world it would be snowflakes.

But today as the snow melted ever so slightly I realized how silly that would be. There are no lasting remnants of the snow after it’s gone. By summertime it’s like it never even existed. That is, until winter rolls around again and brings with it the frozen particles of joy.

So maybe if I could collect anything, I would collect toys. In all of their various shapes, colors and sizes, they are vessels of happiness for me. And, as demonstrated by my impressive skills in the games of pickle in the middle and tug of war, they often bring happiness to my people as well. I refer to my current collection as my comfort circle, which contains about a dozen different characters. But that’s enough to overflow an entire basket in the living room. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe I don’t need more.

ContentmentMaybe I don’t need more. This is not to say anything against collections of things, but I realized today there is strength in accepting what we have been blessed with in life. In being grateful for it. Because ultimately it’s not the things we collect that matter. It’s the details. It’s the moments.

As breathtaking as a fresh snow globe perspective can be, it’s not so much the snowflakes as the joy they bring that I hold close to my heart. Its the moments I share with mom and dad playing around in the aftermath of a big snowstorm. In the extra attention I get when we come inside from playing together and I need to get all cleaned off. In the cuddles we enjoy together to warm up.

The same goes for the toys. It’s not so much about having dozens of characters in my comfort circle as it is about making the moments with the ones I have mean something. And whether it’s just me and Mrs. Prickles, or my people are involved, I am blessed.

Perhaps that’s the bigger lesson I was to take from my observation of my snow globe life yesterday. Sure, the snowflakes are a sight to be seen. And my toys are deeply loved and appreciated. If I could collect anything, it wouldn’t be these things. It would be moments. Because they have something very important in common. Joy. From the ground up, it’s not the things that bring the joy. It’s in the moments joy is present that we truly live.

 

Recharging Life December 16, 2013

Momma said there’d be days like this. Well, not my momma. But apparently this is a message moms everywhere chose to communicate to whomever will listen. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how proudly we optimists wear our rose-colored glasses. It doesn’t matter that we chose to see the good in all people, places and things. Because ultimately we can’t always control when the battery runs out.Recharging My Battery

Literally. That is how my beloved people began their Monday. The battery went out on one of the cars, which made them both late for work. There was no turning back from there. I don’t know what happens to either of them when they are away, but I know what happens when they return. And on a rare occasion like today, I can’t say I care for it.

Clearly they both had very little emotional battery left upon their return this evening. I don’t think it’s a coincidence either. The car, which (at least in my humble doggie opinion) normally functions as a mode of transportation to various sources of joy instead gave them grief. When money is already tight. And temperatures are bitterly frigid.

That’s the thing about days like today. Most times you don’t see them coming. But that’s not such a bad thing, because the tides can turn just as quickly in the other direction. It’s not always easy, but it certainly didn’t take much today. My people were sad. Tired. Disgruntled.

So I did what I do best. I engaged in a game of pickle in the middle with my newest addition to my comfort circle cast of characters. Mr. Squirrel is floppy, unlike the majority of my other toys, and he did just the trick. It started with dad. We played tug of war on the living room floor. Laughter followed smiles. Then it caught on with mom. Joy. From the ground up. It’s a pretty effective way of recharging one’s emotional batteries, that much is for sure.

Dad swapped out the battery for a new one. I swapped out the negative energy in our house for the positive. Maybe that’s why my momma never said there’d be days like this. Just because we can’t control when or how the battery runs out doesn’t mean we don’t have the power and strength within us to recharge.

 

Shadow of Joy December 15, 2013

It startled me at first. There I was in my snowy backyard paradise when I saw the strangest yet most beautiful thing. It was so big it made me feel small, which was somewhat intimidating in a space I consider my own. But tonight the yard was not mine. It was the tree’s.

My favorite tree was casting the most dignified shadow across the majority of the yard. Once I got over my initial inner battle with something else ruling my space, I paused to appreciate the image before me. A clear sky shed it’s full moonlight on the yard, resulting in this statement of majesty that somehow remained mysterious.

It certainly put me in my place. And it got me to thinking about the shadows we cast in life. It starts with the light necessary to create such a thing. My light comes from the joy I find in people, places and things around me. It also comes from my heart. The combination of these internal and external stimuli create a unique balance of the light necessary for my shadow to appear.
My Shadow Self
Unfortunately that is where things can get complicated if we let them. By nature a shadow is larger than the object it reflects. While it is indeed magnificent, the tree in my backyard certainly isn’t actually as big as the entirety of the yard. But its shadow is.

And it can be startling at first. It can seem both strange and beautiful at the same time. But it makes a statement. I realized as I stood there basking in the glow of this shadow that I want to make a statement like this in my life.

“Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see,” as Martin Luther King Jr. suggested.

I think I figured it out. I’ve been going about things all wrong. I don’t need to be so concerned with finding joy in the people, places and things around me. That will take care of itself. Instead I should focus on the shadow that joy of mine casts on the world around me.

It doesn’t matter that I weigh 20 pounds. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to shadows. Because our shadows can be as big as we want them to be.

 

Survival in the Real World December 14, 2013

It’s a pretty crazy world out there. Yesterday was Friday the 13th and (though neither of them believe in the meaning of such things), both my mom and dad came home regaling a series of unfortunate events involving unexpectedly odd amounts of crazy. Their stories were incredibly different, yet one thing bound them together. Negativity. Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough heart to practice common courtesy around others.

Going Somewhere?Mom would never have expected that nicely dressed elderly woman to literally push another woman out of the way over a bar of luxury bath soap. But it happened. Dad didn’t believe his eyes when he witnessed a near hit-and-run accident in the parking lot over a spot that was literally five feet away from the next closest spot. Wherever that person was going sure must have been important.

Regardless of the source, this negativity thing is like it’s very own breed of pollution. Its own unique type of noise that keeps us from hearing the music. And it sneaks up on you in the oddest of ways to tear away at your resolve. To bring you down. And ultimately to make you weak. It’s all so frustrating to me. I would much rather be strong. And I can be, when I am armed with the most powerful weapon.

Optimism keeps me strong. As milk is to bones, optimism is to my soul. So when I think about what can be done to reverse the pollution in our society, I think it comes down to us. The fighters. The people who resolve to retain a positive outlook amidst life’s most challenging curve balls.

“Negativity is an addiction to the bleak shadow that lingers around every human form,” proposed Irish poet John O’Donohue. “You can transfigure negativity by turning it toward the light of your soul.”

It can be pretty crazy out there. It’s enough to make me second guess my occasional bitterness that I am not allowed to accompany my people to literally everywhere outside our forever home. But negativity has no place in my home, nor out there in the world. Because the real world is what we make it, not what it tells us it should be.

 

One Little Ribbon December 13, 2013

My name is Wiley Schmidt. I am a five-year-old terrier mix with an inquisitive mind and an open heart. I like the snow, long walks on the beach (or wherever really), and spherically shaped dog toys. My favorite dog treats are Beggin’ Strips. My favorite people food is peanut butter. I’m an instigator. I’m a poet. I am a lover of life.Who am I?

All of this came to mind today as I contemplated life’s ultimate crisis in existentialist thinking. Who am I? Beyond that, what do I offer the world? And how are the two connected?

It was about this time two years ago when mom came home with the answer. (I remember it clearly because I make a point to remember all things that make her as happy as she was that day). She came home from a class she was taking on leadership with these little blue ribbons in hand. Upon the ribbons was a message from above. “Who I Am Makes a Difference” they read.

She received one from a friend, who explained that mom’s enthusiasm for life makes the world around her a better place. That one little ribbon signified one of the kindest things anyone has ever said to her. But the story doesn’t end there. Mom came home with three ribbons and a mission. She was to pass the sentiment and the ribbons on (or paw it forward as I’ve come to say) to someone who makes a difference to her. And that person was to pass it along as well.Joy from the ground up

So I watched (and waited patiently for my usual amount of attention I get upon mom returning home) as she explained that who dad is makes a difference in her life. He cares for her in the way only a husband can care for his wife, she told him, and he takes good care of her. Who he is makes a difference.

Within a minute or so I was getting above and beyond my usual amount of attention from dad. He didn’t say anything, but he put his ribbon on me and said who I am makes a difference to him. And that was that. We were officially out of ribbons. But you don’t need an excuse (or a ribbon) to tell someone he or she is appreciated.

So today I’ve decided to hand my proverbial little blue ribbon to you. Who you are makes a difference. Your personality, your mannerisms, your smile. Who are you? You are the melting pot of psychological and sociological backgrounds from all over the world. And who you are makes a difference to me.

My name is Wiley Schmidt and am a five-year-old terrier mix with a lot to offer. But I find the world also has a lot to offer me. I say this as a proud recipient of my little blue ribbon. Please take yours and pass it on to someone, and encourage them to do the same. It doesn’t take much. And you don’t even need a ribbon. Because who you are makes a difference. And don’t you forget that.

For more information on the blue ribbon initiative, please visit http://blueribbonstory.org/about/impact/.

This post is dedicated to my friend Huntie over at Chasing Rabbit Holes. Please consider stopping by to say hi!