Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Remembering The Before February 28, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 10:47 pm
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It seems like a given. Like one of those things that is simply understood. No words required. But sometimes I don’t think that’s enough. For the last year or so, our threesome (dad, mom and I) has been evolving to include baby Carter. First while mom was pregnant, and especially now that he’s here, he comes first.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Nor do I feel jealous of the attention. But I have noticed something – a change in how mom and dad interact with and treat each other. They’ve gone from simply being husband and wife to being parents. And let’s face it – that involves a whole other job description.Family Love

Not to mention how easy it is to get lost in the eat, wake, sleep cycle of a newborn. It’s easy to forget the before. The before when it was just mom and dad and their love for each other (and me, of course). The before when all they had was each other, in sickness and in health, ’til death does them part. All that has changed (for the better now), but that doesn’t negate what they had before.

So I was overjoyed tonight when they went on a date – their first since Carter was born almost two months ago. They left Carter and I in the kind and loving hands of a friend to go to their favorite restaurant for dinner. It was hardly an extravagance, but it didn’t need to be. It reminded them of the before and how much that still means in the now.

It all got me to thinking of how important it is to not get too caught up in routines and life’s diaper changes. How much it means to remember the loved ones who make it all possible. Moreover, the special chosen circles of trust that make life a better place to live. Because it seems like a given. And when there is so much going on around us, it might be simply understood. No words required. But that doesn’t mean actions aren’t necessary every now and then to show we still care. And all things that seem like a given began as just that – a gift.

 

Another Piece of Pie February 27, 2014

I know it’s going to sound silly. Especially since I can’t actually have any of it. It’s apparently one of those “not for doggies” foods. And yet I can put my selfish longing for people food aside to enjoy the simplicity of joy. From the ground up, it took the form of pie tonight.

It took me by surprise too, since I heard somewhere that cravings like this were supposed to happen while mom was pregnant. Not now, when baby Carter is about to turn two people months old. She actually had very few cravings that I can recall while pregnant, now that I think about it. So today when she randomly proclaimed to the room (which included myself, Carter and dad) that she could really go for a good piece of pie, I didn’t really think anything of it. Pie? Did you eat Pie?

That is, until dad jumped on the bandwagon. I could have pie, he said. And so the joy train left the station. Literally. All four of us piled into the car and set out on an adventure to find the best pie in town. They eventually settled on a chocolate peanut butter pie that smelled so deliciously tempting it took every bone in my little doggie body to hold me back from trying to break into the box on the way home.

But it wasn’t long after we got back home that I realized I didn’t need a slice of pie to find my daily dose of joy today. I had it right there, in the completely random and spontaneous pie adventure that brought smiles to my people. Their smiles warmed my heart tonight, on yet another frigid negative degree evening, like my very own slice of pie.

That’s when I realized how powerful such a thing can be. A random piece of indulgence every now and then really does wonders. And even though I couldn’t sample the pie itself doesn’t mean I didn’t experience the joy firsthand. The adventure. The randomness. The love.

From the ground up, I think I’m going to make a point of finding another piece of pie in my day tomorrow. And maybe the day after tomorrow. Because when something that simple can bring joy into the hearts of those I love, it doesn’t matter that I can’t taste it. Instead I feel it. Sometimes that’s better anyway.

 

A Wish The Heart Makes February 26, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 10:27 pm

I have them all the time. Big ones and small ones and ridiculous ones and odd ones. Dreams. From the ground up, they are a regular part of my doggie life. Awake or asleep, I am always dreaming.

But that wasn’t always the case. I remember a time after I lost my friend Rusty at the humane society when I was at a very low point. Rusty was the only friend I had and he was gone. I was alone in a strange place holding on to nothing but a dream. A dream to be adopted into a family who would love me and take care of me and (if I was particularly lucky) spoil me rotten.Sweet Dreams

These dreams were soon challenged by the dog who all-too-quickly filled the vacant cage where Rusty once laid his head. Draeger. If I thought I was struggling before he arrived, I had no idea what was coming next.

Back at the humane society for the fourth time, Draeger was the epitome of the narcissistic pessimist. I made the mistake of sharing with him what had happened the night before with Rusty, to which he coyly responded “you’re next kid.” I told him the only thing getting me through was the dream of being adopted. He snarled in response to that, telling me dreams are a waste of time. He was a living breathing chip on my shoulder, and after a few days he weighed me down. Nagging negativity has a way of doing that to one’s outlook.

Fortunately it wasn’t long before my forever mom and dad came to meet me and my life changed forever. My dream came true in spite of all of that negativity Draeger forced on me. And so my faith in dreams was restored.

“Dream and give yourself permission to envision a you that you choose to be,” suggested American actress Joy Page.

And so it is. I believe in the power of dreams, which is why I think they are such a frequent visitor in my heart. Big ones like my dream to publish a book. Small ones like my dream that summer will return to Wisconsin at some point. Even when I have nightmares I sleep smiling because I know I have my life to wake up to. And that is its own dream come true.

 

Stupid Is As Stupid Does February 25, 2014

I used to think it was pretty cool to be a know-it-all. Worse than that, I thought I did know it all. That is, until I realized I didn’t. The older I get, the more I realize how much there really is to learn. In reality, I know nothing in the greater context of everything.

This came to mind tonight as the story I was going to share shaped into something completely different. The evening started off better than most, with lots of laughter and love. Mom and dad enjoyed dinner together, after which dad showed an above average interest in spending time with baby Carter. He rocked him and talked to him and played with him. Meanwhile, Carter cooed and smiled and seemed to be having the time of his life while mom and I sat by and watched the scene unfold. It was like something from a movie.

Us Against The WorldUntil it wasn’t. None of us will ever know why it happened, but Carter started crying. Mom and dad ran through all the usual suspects – he’s not hungry because he just ate, he’s not wet because we just changed him, he doesn’t have a fever and all four limbs are still well attached. So what could possibly be wrong? It was kind of a devastating turn for the worse but I was still kind of surprised by what happened next. (Especially when you consider the truth – this is normal baby behavior. Every now and then they cry. It happens. We’ve been over this).

Tension built and they turned on each other. Mom and dad got upset. With each other. Even though I know (and they know) it was completely unnecessary for them to do so. In reality, they were simply sharing in frustration and confusion and exhaustion and it all just caught up with them. But I realized something. Dad said something he’s said more than once before about not being good with babies. About not knowing what he’s doing. To which mom responded that she doesn’t know what she’s doing either.

I’m hardly a know-it-all, but in this situation all I wanted to do was raise my little doggie paw to correct them both. They may not know everything about parenting a newborn. But they’re doing great. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing sometimes. It’s okay to learn as you go. And (perhaps most importantly) it’s a blessing that they have each other to learn with. They can work through challenges together and celebrate success together. They can learn together. And they have.

They did it again tonight when they brought the argument to a quick and (fairly) painless close. Because it’s not always about knowing it all.  Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is admit you don’t know everything.

 

From Now On February 24, 2014

It’s the same thing every night. Eat, bathe, cuddle, sleep. I don’t know about baby Carter, but its a routine with which I could get pretty comfortable. My role in all of it is pretty minimal. I usually oversee the bathing process and lay patiently on the rug I know is just for me in Carter’s room while mom rocks the baby to sleep. Soothing sounds fill the room and I frequently drift off to dreamland myself, albeit temporarily.

Tonight was different. Tonight I put my paw down. I’ve had enough of this cuddling business not involving me so I quit laying idly by. Instead I hopped myself right onto the tiny portion of lap mom has to spare on the rocking chair and laid myself down. I stopped watching and started living (or, more accurately, cuddling) in that moment. And it was grand. Is it cuddle time yet?

Baby CarterI was quite comfortable drifting into dreamland there in our cuddle bubble. What happened next took me by surprise given the intense feelings of joy I felt just a few moments prior. It was Carter’s 12th birthday (in people years, not dog years) and he was blowing out the candles on the cake. I waited patiently to see myself, pestering my way into the mix to get a lick of frosting as I tend to do. But I never came. I wasn’t there to see Carter turn 12.

The image jolted me right out of dreamland and back to reality. And (for once) I’m so glad it did. Because there I was, cuddling with my forever mom and my little person. Joy. From the ground up, it overwhelmed my little doggie heart in those precious moments together.

Because my dream tonight contained within it a wake up call. There is a chance I will still be around to get that lick of frosting after all. But it’s more likely I won’t.

Eat, bathe, cuddle, sleep. It’s the same thing every night and promises to be that way for the foreseeable future. Some might see it as monotonous, but (as is typical to us canines) I find routines soothing. They bring order to a world that can seem chaotic at times. In those moments, those precious moments, the world is exactly as it should be. I think I will be sneaking my way into cuddle time more often from now on.

 

Painted Baby Blue February 23, 2014

I thought we were past all of this. The exhaustion. The disoriented distracted state of mind. The emotional instability. But mom has seemed especially disheveled the last couple of days and I can’t put my paw on why. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love dear baby Carter. That simply can’t be the case as she tells him she loves him even more than she tells me. Something isn’t right.

Unbeknownst to my people I have done my own research on these things. Apparently it’s normal for new (especially first-time) moms to experience something called the baby blues. (It’s a good thing blue is one of the colors I can see). Usually it happens early on, within the first couple of days, and wears off over time. Feeling Blue?

That’s why I’m not completely convinced that’s what’s wrong. (But I’m ready with all kinds of love if it is). That, and the fact that it seemed at least mostly cured by something pretty silly today. I will never understand why people paint their nails. It’s enough of a rigamarole for me when I get mine trimmed. Mom frequently takes it quite a few steps farther when she gets her fingers and toes painted, blue of all colors. That’s what she did today.

She left dad and I alone with Carter (a fairly new and unfamiliar experience) and came back with a new color about her. I got the impression it wasn’t so much about where she went as it was that she went at all. It doesn’t mean she loves us any less. It doesn’t mean she wants to return Carter to the magical place he came from. She just needed a little time away to regroup.

I don’t think we can call this the baby blues. Because I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we all need that every now and then. A little time away to regroup. Whether it’s a five-minute walk around the office or a week away in a foreign place, experience demonstrates it does the body good. It doesn’t mean we love our lives any less. It just means we are human (or canine in my case). And, as Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle suggests, it fuels our drive to persevere.

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes a strong soul from the weak.”

 

The Psychology of Science February 22, 2014

I can’t say I always agree with science. Chemistry is necessary, biology is interesting and physics completely confuses me. Given a choice of high school classes in which to enroll, I can’t say any science would be high on the priority list. Then there’s psychology. While some would argue its philosophical roots negate its scientific clout, I argue science is prevalent in its close examination of all things thoughtful.

Take this study done recently in Current Biology, for example. Scientists have uncovered the truth we canines know is so much more than science. Our brains contain within them sensory receptors for receiving and deciphering emotions in sounds. The study reports this is why we tend to respond to the unique emotional needs of our people in spite of our lack of English-speaking skills.Thinking

While I’m glad this is now scientifically confirmed, this is certainly not news to me. I know how my mind responds to unique emotional situations. I know because it happens all day every day in a dog’s life. Today I responded to love as my forever family cuddled together speaking in hushed tones (as not to wake baby Carter). I didn’t think. I cuddled. I paced nervously as baby Carter cried and cried when he accidentally scratched himself on the nose. I didn’t think. I cared. I sought immediate positive reinforcement when dad tripped and stepped on my paw in the process. I didn’t think. I loved.

“There are moments in life when the heart is so full of emotion that if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret, split on the ground like water, can never be gathered together,” penned American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

That’s the problem with science if you ask me. There’s not always enough room for emotion in things like chemistry or physics. And yet so much pressure is put on the “proof” that so many people need to see the science to believe. Let’s face it. While I am excited that science can now confirm what most dog owners already know, there is more to it than that. It’s more than a stimulus-response reaction. It’s more than a brain scan can show. Because really, it’s love.