Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

TGIF August 16, 2013

It’s going to sound selfish, but I don’t care. I like the weekends. There, I said it.

I make the best of it, but I think I’ve already made it pretty clear I sincerely hate all that time when my parents are away at that place called work the majority of the week. (It’s not the most attractive quality of mine, but I digress.) So I do count down the seconds until “about that time” on Friday afternoons when mom and dad come home from work and I have them to myself for the majority of the weekend. Happy Friday!!!

But a blog friend of mine was kind enough to remind me of something lately. If not for that place called work, my people wouldn’t be able to take care of me. Without that place called work where they make money, they won’t be able to take care of the baby. I’ve said before (and I stand by the truth) that money can’t buy happiness, but it certainly does buy food. That’s a bonus.

I still thank God it’s Friday, but I suppose even that is a matter of perspective. If the weekend started on Thursday night, I bet people would long for it to start Wednesday night. If it started Wednesday, the wish would be for it to start Tuesday. And so on. To what end does this bring us anyway?

It’s not just a people thing. Fridays are a dog’s favorite day of the week too. We canines understand routines pretty well, and we know what the Friday routine means for the next couple of days: people time. Adventures. Car rides. Dog park trips. So much fun happens on the weekends.

The way I see it, the weekends are a blessing. All the people time means all kinds of fun that we appreciate all the more because it is special. If it was always the weekend, what would we have to look forward to? Regardless of the darkness, I think everyone merits from knowing there is some type of light at the end of the tunnel.

So I know it might sound selfish, but I don’t care. I kind of love Fridays. Fridays are family to me.

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy June 18, 2013

It’s kind of like hitting your hind legs on the footboard jumping up on the bed. Or getting your leash wrapped around the tree in the backyard when the sky is crying. Or being left at home alone for the majority of a weekend day.

Each of these things can make me feel emotionally handicapped in the most bizarre way. I know everything will be all right – the shooting pain in my hind legs is sure to pass, my fur will dry from the rain, and my parents will return from their so-called errands – but there is something unsettling about when these bumps in the road happen.

As I soaked up some sun in my backyard this afternoon, I questioned why these occasional stumbles (physical or otherwise) have such a power to bring down my otherwise optimistic spirit. Stuff happens. Life moves on. Or does it? I remember thinking my life was over when I first was separated from my mom and brothers. And again when I lost Rusty to doggie heaven. And again when that family returned me to the humane society citing my alleged behavioral problems.

SimplifySuddenly it made sense to me. These stumbling blocks seem to have a way of bringing my past into my present. At the root of all my stumbles is the same useless emotion: worry. I know it’s not a four-letter word in people language but it is in my world. Worry is the handicap!

Yet I worry my parents got a higher bed so I wouldn’t jump on it anymore. (Don’t they like our cuddle time?) I worry maybe my forever parents will take a book from previous chapters of my life and forget about me outside, leaving me in the rain to shiver and fend for myself. (Don’t they love me anymore?) I worry that maybe they’ll never come back from wherever they go when they run errands. (Will anyone else ever love me like they do?)

Worry, worry, worry. It’s a nasty little habit for a practicing optimist to conquer. It’s one I don’t frequently even address out of sheer embarrassment that people won’t take me (and my joy) seriously if I admit to my weaknesses. But there is strength in admitting to our shortcomings, not only in the truth of the admission itself but in what it means for the future. It’s easy to push aside being a worrier. To hide it away in a place in my heart I don’t want anyone to know about.

But I’ve never been one to take the easy road, especially in matters of the heart. So worry be gone. I cast you away like the bad habit you are. Starting today, I will make an effort to see life’s stumbling blocks not as triggers for worry. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow,” Dutch Christian activist Corrie Ten Boom once said. “It empties today of its strength.” I’d much rather seek strength in knowing everything will be all right than add any unnecessary sorrow to my days.

 

Sadness: Life’s Most Slippery Slope June 15, 2013

I lost an argument with a fly today. It was an epic battle of the minds, lasting for what seemed like hours. I don’t know when exactly it was he found his way into my forever home, but I knew the moment I saw him he didn’t belong. So I did what any dog would do. I set out on a mission to take him down to Chinatown. Or at least down out of the sky.

It was not my first rodeo of this kind, and I began confident. I jumped, I twisted, I chased, I growled. I came so close to catching him I could taste victory…yet it evaded me. The darned fly flapped its teeny tiny little wings up to the farthest corner of the bedroom ceiling, a place not even a bed would help me reach. I can’t explain what happened next. I was completely overcome with frustration to the point I was almost fearful. It was an unusual turn of emotional events and it took me by surprise.

It’s nothing out of the ordinary for me to follow mom everywhere throughout the house, but in the moment I declared defeat I started snuggling up next to her regardless of where she stopped. I sat and snuggled up to her legs in six different places before she deduced something was awry. She (wrongfully) assumed I had won the victory with the fly when (in fact) I had lost. She told dad she thought I must of swallowed the fly (a theory which lasted about two minutes longer before dad caught and disposed of it).

All SmilesI indeed had not swallowed the fly, but my mind turned to a children’s story involving an old lady who did. In the 1960s author Nadine Bernard penned the story of the woman who swallowed a fly (in addition to all sorts of other things) and the aftermath that ensues.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a fly, but I don’t know why she swallowed a fly…perhaps she’ll die,” the story reads. So the woman does what any woman would do (oh I jest) and swallowed a horse to catch a pig to catch a goat to catch a dog to catch a cat to catch a bird to catch a spider (“that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her”) all to catch the teeny tiny fly that started it all.

While it is an admittedly silly story, I think there is a lesson to be learned from the slippery slope it contains. Often negative thoughts begin as tiny flies buzzing around in our minds. The buzzing isn’t so bad at first, but slowly it grows louder and more irritating and before you know it has the power to develop into full-fledged pessimism. This cycle of negativity happened to me relatively quickly today as I found myself waving the white flag of forfeit to the fly who one the battle.

I lost an argument with a fly today. So what? It’s like the great American comedian Lucille Ball once said. “One of the things I learned the hard way is that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.” My daily commitment to seeing the best in all people, places and things will not be defeated by this intruder. No sir. That fly may have won the battle, but he cannot win the war. It astounds me how something so tiny somehow be so powerful.

 

 

The Silence Hurricane June 11, 2013

It was like a hurricane came through the house this weekend. My mom and dad spent the better parts of Saturday and Sunday whipping around cleaning and moving furniture. I’d never seen anything like it in my treasured time in my forever home, and it frankly freaked me out. Cleaning is one thing, but this interior design coup threw me for a loop. My mind filled with questions, the least of which was what brought this on? Why now? Are we leaving? What on Earth is going on?

While I found myself feeling inexplicably ill-at-ease and fearful of the implications of the changes, I remained calm with the hope that peace would be restored. The images of undressed beds, empty bedrooms, and torn apart linen closets I was experiencing brought to life a part of the Simple Abundance journey that I haven’t yet shared.

The recent musings of Sarah Ban Breathnach have focused on bringing peace, order and contentment to the soul by taking action to bring these things to life in the home. Since I have very little control over these things, I haven’t paid much attention lately to the suggestions to make subtle changes to rooms to allow more light into the heart.

“Many of us today experience creative silence,” Breathnach writes. “Not the hush of the heart necessary to bring forth the unexpressed from Spirit, but the creative silence brought about by circumstances we feel are beyond our control.”

Suddenly it made sense. Watching my parents work together to make our house an even more comfortable home no longer brought so many questions to my little doggie mind. Instead, I sat back and enjoyed the hustle and bustle. I realized that it doesn’t matter where this bed is or how the linen closet is organized as long as I have my own little safe haven of peace and serenity to continue my daydreams. I think we all need a place like that regardless of where we ultimately lay our heads at night. A little nook to call our own. Mine is my little doggie bed in the kitchen. More often than not, I prefer to cuddle up to whoever might be on the couch (or bed) but its reassuring to know I always have my little doggie bed to call my own. What’s yours?

“(We all need) a psychic space that offers passionate reminders to attend to your private, artistic impulses, a place to encourage you to reclaim your creativity,” Breathnach writes.

I’m not sure what sparked the hurricane of furniture in the Schmidt house this weekend, but I’m grateful it happened. What a pleasant reminder to silence the question-filled world around us so we can hear the faintly whispering tones of innate creativity coming to life.

 

 

 

My Kind of Zoo June 4, 2013

My mom and I have this weekday morning routine. She usually wakes up before dad, let’s me outside and then feeds me my kibble and water. I stand guard on the bath mat (which I’m certain is laid out specifically for me because of the chilly tiles) while she readies for the day. Dad leaves for that place called work, usually giving me a healthy pat on the head before closing the door behind him. When mom is leaving, I do a circle and sit in my doggie bed in the kitchen awaiting the surprise treat she always leaves me. (I’m not one to turn down the treats, but let’s face it – a treat is no fair trade for her leaving me all day).  The New Look

Today I was mid-sit in my bed when she said the magical words that turned routine into an adventure. Car ride, Wiley? Well all right then, I thought, as I practically jumped into my leash and off we went. A few minutes into the ride, she said another set of words I associate with adventure. Haircut, Wiley? I wagged my tail wildly to ensure she knew this was a more than acceptable turn of events. It might not be the typical doggie reaction to going to the groomer, but I’m not your typical doggie.

While I’m not that crazy about the entire process of being bathed, trimmed, and brushed, I do love everything else about my trips to Paws R Us. When I get there, I’m greeted by all of my pals who hang out at the shop while the groomer named Mary does her magic. It is chaos personified, with dogs everywhere pacing and playing and barking. It’s my kind of zoo.

My time today took an interesting turn for the thought-provoking as I waited in the back room for mom to come pick me up. I met a lab/chow mix puppy named Titus who wanted to wrestle and paw at my head and bare his razor-sharp puppy teeth. I wanted to talk philosophy and dreams. (I tried telling him about my blog, but he didn’t seem to have any idea what a computer is, let alone a blog).

That’s when it hit me. I’m getting older. I used to love engaging with rabble rousers like Titus, but today I only enjoyed our playtime for a few minutes before I got bored. I guess it would be kind of like the equivalent of when a person finds his or her first gray hair. I can’t say it was a happy revelation to come to amidst the adventure of today. I even found myself having a moment of self-doubt, like maybe my forever mom and dad won’t love me as much when I get old and loose my spark.

But it didn’t take much to snap me out of that horribly sad state of mind. I saw my spark was alive and well in mom’s eyes when she came to take me home. He looks adorable, she told Mary with a humongous smile on her face. And just like that, all of my negative thoughts faded away.

This is the mom, I thought, who feeds me and walks me and plays with me and tells me she loves me. What was I thinking? I decided then and there to leave my self-doubt behind just like all my fur on the groomer table. As it should be, according to the wise words of great transcendental thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you,” Emerson once said. It’s amazing what one can learn about yourself from a little unexpected adventure to the zoo.

Before            Before and After. What do you think?                  After

 

Joy To The World June 1, 2013

I caught my mom listening to Christmas music today. There it was mixed in with the normal tunes of Phillip Phillips, Dido and Norah Jones. There’s no place like home (for the holidays). Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Sleigh Ride. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. That’s right, folks, all the classics joined the Christmas party. In June.Merry Christmas in June!

At first I was concerned, and thought perhaps she was confused by the really long winter/non-existent spring we’ve had around here. But we’ve had our fair share of randomly beautiful days too, so that couldn’t be it. My next thought was that something must be wrong at that place called work. But her job changed for the better a few months ago and the result was a much happier (not to mention more well-rested) version of herself. So it can’t be that. In my little doggie mind, I found myself making a mental checklist of anything else that might be awry with her, and nothing made sense.

That’s when I realized I was breaking one of my cardinal rules. Your resident optimistic pooch was assuming the negative before considering the positive. Maybe nothing is wrong at all, I realized. Maybe the music is actually reflective of her joyful mood.

At second glance, there is a way about her that exudes happiness as she hums along. Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la! (Silly me, thinking the worst.) I’m not sure what’s got her so giddy, but I sure do like seeing her this way. That’s got to be among my favorite things about joy: it’s so contagious. It may not be wrapped up in pretty paper and bows, but it doesn’t need to be. She’s happy, so I’m happy, so I’m sharing it with you. Merry Christmas in June.

 

The Happiness Trinity May 30, 2013

Charlie. Milkbones. Home. A list of randomness to some, a daily happiness trinity to me.

It reminds me a bit of a bit I saw on “Sesame Street” many moons ago. I think I caught a couple episodes during my stint at my first adoptive home. The part I remember most is a song “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong.” I took the song at face value given my puppyhood at the time, but now I better understand the greater psychological implications of a the concept. One of these things doesn’t belong.Think Happy!

That was the story of me at the time. I know I didn’t belong on the streets. I didn’t belong at the humane society. I didn’t belong at my first adoptive home (with the people who adopted me and took me back to the humane society two weeks later). I’ve known it all along, but that didn’t necessarily make things easier. What did was changing my thought process to find a way to make myself belong, regardless of my surroundings. By using the tools I’d been blessed with at puppy birth, I was able to find my way to happiness even when the road was long and tough.

The secret equation that led me to where I am today? Finding three blessings to be thankful for on a daily basis, no matter how small. I find joy in all sorts of unusual places, and in doing so, I’m not like the others but at least I belong.

Today I met a dog named Charlie at the dog park. He is a five-month-old golden retriever, who reminded me a bit of my pals named Rusty. He was so full of life, and his playfulness was contagious. He had a personality that made you happy just because he was so happy. When I got home from the dog park, mom gave me two Milkbones (the joy involved is probably pretty self-explanatory on this one).

Then there’s that place called home. After all those places I didn’t belong, I now have a place called home. My happiness trinity is complete.

 

Over the Moon May 24, 2013

I’m back in my world. My parents have returned from their journey, and my subsequent stay at grandma’s house has drawn to a close. While I had a fabulous time away, there really is no place like home.

I was reminded of that tonight as I sat in my beloved backyard staring at the brilliant white light shining down on me. I’m no astronomer, but I’d say the moon is fairly close to being full tonight and it is a sight to be seen. You can blame the canine in me, but I much prefer the full moon to any smaller portion of it. In fact, we four-legged people tend to run with the go-big-or-go-home mindset in most things. (That birthday ice cream cone I got this week? Consider it gone in 60 seconds!)

Ice Cream FaceSo you can imagine my confusion at Sarah Ban Breathnach’s suggestion today to find fullness in emptiness.

“It’s difficult for many of us to accept that emptiness – in life or in the living room – can have a positive influence,” she writes in Simple Abundance. “We need either to become more comfortable with waiting to fill what’s empty with what’s authentic or become just willing to accept the exquisite fullness of nothing.”

I thought of this as I stared at that big bright object in the sky, realizing that regardless of its fullness, it is empty. Devoid of life. And yet the sunshine of the night sky is a thing of beauty, even in its emptiness. Like most things in life, it took a change in perspective for me to see what the light of the moon was trying to tell me tonight. It’s natural for me to see things through to completion, but sometimes its doing (or in my case tonight, seeing) what we fear that brings us powerful truth.

“Life’s landscape becomes a lot more interesting when there an entire dimension we’ve never considered before simply because we couldn’t see it,” Breathnach writes. Being a closer of things also has its way of inspiring me not to want to miss out on anything in life, especially an entire dimension of thoughtful opportunities. So tonight I have opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibility, illuminated by the full emptiness of the moon. It’s good to be home.

 

Playing with Fire May 22, 2013

What is it about fire that is so tanlizingly mesmerizing? I find myself gazing at it, watching the flickers and sparks, and I can’t take my little doggie eyes off it. I’ve been staring at it all day, while falling in and out of sleep from its warmth. Maybe it’s the novelty of it, since we don’t have a fireplace at my forever home. I’m currently spending a couple of days with my grandma and my cousin Buddy at their place, as my parents have gone to a place called a spa and left me behind.

Catching FireAt first, I was kind of bummed to be left behind. This is the week we had all planned to pack up the car and head to a place called South Dakota. We were staying at pet-friendly places along the way, so I could tag along, and (like my people) I’d been looking forward to it for months. But I’ve heard my fair share of jibber jabber from my mom and dad about gas prices being at almost $4 a gallon (whatever that means), and I can’t help but deduce that is what nailed the coffin in our great American road trip. Instead, they settled for a quick mid-week getaway to a spa that’s a couple hours away. Mom calls it her “happy place” and I could tell how happy she was that she convinced dad to like it too.

The more time I’ve spent getting treats from grandma, playing chase with Buddy, and staring at this big beautiful fireplace, the less sad I am that I’m not cooped up in a car for all that time. Don’t get me wrong, car rides are among my most favorite things in the world, but a dog also needs to get outside and stretch his (or her) legs. The ride would have been about 27 hours round-trip, and that is a lot by anyone’s standards.

And now, as I stare at the sparks in the fire, my thoughts turn to how happy I am that they are happy, wherever they are. Which brings me full circle to my very reason for blogging in the first place.

“The spark divine dwells in thee: let it grow,” wrote great American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox. When I started this blog, I set out to share 365 days of my unique perspective on joy from the ground up–my divine spark–with whomever wanted it. The response has been overwhelming. The friends and family I’ve made have been powerful additions to my life. For me, this blog is like those sparks I’ve been watching all day in the fire. They’ve caught fire in their own little doggie blog way, and I can only hope the fire of joy is burning in at least a few more hearts now than before I started this journey.

 

As Big As The Sky, Old Sport May 18, 2013

It has come to my attention that Hollywood has pieced together a new and modernized take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s charismatic American novel “The Great Gatsby.” It only just came out in theaters last week and my mom has seen it twice, so it must be decent. I’m out of luck, at least until they either allow dogs like me to the movies or it comes out on DVD and I can watch it in the comfort of my favorite spot on the couch.

Big as the sky, old sportIn the meantime, my thoughts turn to the words that make up the original story penned by Fitzgerald all those years ago. I won’t spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen one of the many film adaptations, but I will share what is most meaningful to me.

The story is romantic to the core, featuring the undying love of Mr. Jay Gatsby as shared with readers through the eyes of Nick Carraway. To me, the vision of this man is one of the most powerful written demonstrations of real hope. Determination. Vision.

Gatsby was not afraid to dream as big as the sky. Failure was never an option through his imaginative perspective. Instead, he kept his eyes on the prize, the green light that marked his destination. The green light of hope.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us,” Fitzgerald writes. “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning– So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

At some point in our lives, we are all born into our past. We are afforded that rare second chance to do things better. To dream bigger. To effect change. Above all, I see our journey toward the green light as one that seeks progress over perfection.

“How much of our lives is frittered away-spoiled, spent or sullied- by our neurotic insistence on perfection?” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Today accept that perfection is unattainable.”

Instead we find hope in second chances. Instead we believe in the green light and are borne ceaselessly into the past. Instead, old sport, we dream as big as the sky.