Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

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!

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Quit Playing Games November 16, 2013

It’s one thing when its Mrs. Prickles being thrown around in a game of pickle in the middle. It’s something completely different when it’s a person’s heart. I’m a believer in seeing the best in the people, places and things that make up the chapters of my life. But people don’t always make it easy.

The way I see it, relationships are pretty cut and dry. You love someone, you spend time with them. They are your world in that moment. And in every moment, I suppose. We forgive. We move on. We are loyal, and nothing will stand in the way of that. I don’t why people let things get so complicated.Game Face

Take, for example, a pair of girlfriends who are interested in the same potential mate. That never seems to end well for anyone involved. Or the “mutual” breakup between a couple, in which someone decides its best to stay friends. That’s not fair to the person who wants (or perhaps needs) to make a clean break and start fresh.

Mom and dad don’t really partake in these sorts of games, but these are a mere sample of the myriad of relationship struggles that seem to plague the people they care about. Which makes them people I care about. Friends and family alike, these are some of the real relationship games being played in modern society. And I don’t like it.

Because my time as an observer of people has made me pretty savvy to the reality of these games. Many times what people don’t seem able to piece together is that they may think they’re only playing with the other person’s mind. Really they’re playing with the heart.

And it’s one thing when its Mrs. Prickles being thrown around in a game of pickle in the middle. It’s something completely different when it’s a person’s heart. Matters of the heart are not game friendly. “The only way to have a friend is to be one,” as my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson said.

And what does it mean to be a friend? When you love someone, you spend time with them. They are your world in that moment. You forgive. You move on. You are loyal, and nothing will stand in the way of that. I don’t why people let things get so complicated.

 

Search and Rescue November 6, 2013

I’ve seen it all before. And the story ends the same every time. But today the moral of that story took me by surprise.

My mom misplaced her glasses this morning. She looked everywhere as I followed her through the house. They weren’t on the nightstand or under the bed (I helped her look). They weren’t in either of the bathrooms. They weren’t in the freezer (stranger things have happened). So she stopped looking. She went about her other business and that’s when it happened. The lost glasses were found on the dresser in the bedroom right where she left them the night before. Right where the belonged.

I see the lightAnd it struck me. She had to stop looking to find what was lost. It got me to thinking about this misconception I think people have about us canines being able to find anything we’ve left someplace. Sure, there are some breeds that are especially gifted at tracking just about anything. But there are others who leave a graveyard of buried bones in the backyard of a home when moving to another. I’m not proud to say I probably fall into the second category myself.

Especially when I think back to one night in particular at the Oshkosh Humane Society. It was the night after Rusty left me to go to doggie heaven. He took his contagious optimism with him, leaving me behind with nothing but my thoughts. So I resolved to change some things that night. I resolved to stop trying so hard to be adopted. I was probably not helping matters by trying to jump into the arms of all of my visitors anyway. So I stopped looking.

I know it sounds terrible coming from your resident doggie optimist but sometimes I think that’s what it takes to find what we’re really looking for. “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves,” as one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Henry David Thoreau put it.

I’ve seen it all before and it always seems to end the same way. It’s quite the paradox really. From little things like mom’s glasses to life-changing things like when my forever people found me, sometimes what we seek is more easily found when we stop looking for it. And so the lost is found.

 

Building a Mystery November 5, 2013

Mystery solved. Today, amidst a shared moment of joy from the ground up, I figured it out. Which came first – the chicken or the egg?

The epiphany happened during a game I invented to bring laughter into the Schmidt house at any given moment. The best part is my people never see it coming. If you’ve ever seen a dog initiate play with another dog, you’ll be able to picture it. The game begins with me with my butt in the air, tail wagging. Then mom or dad pretend to grab something out of thin air and hide it under a pillow or a blanket or even the kangaroo pocket on what they call a sweatshirt. Joy

And I always take the bait. I chase the invisible prize wherever it goes – under the pillows, through the blankets, inside the sweatshirt, I stop at nothing to claim victory. By the end, my people are as out of breath from laughing as I am from chasing.  It’s really quite the ruse.

I’m convinced my beloved people think this is all their idea. That they came up with this game, and that I must not realize its only air I’m chasing. And I can’t say I’d ever want them to think otherwise.

Because victory isn’t the invisible prize. No sir. It’s the laughter, the contagious joy, that happens in these precious silly moments. Tonight the moment lasted a good 10 minutes, which allowed me time to reflect on the mystery of the joy contagion.

“Joy is not in things,” German musician Richard Wagner suggested, “it is in us.”

It is oddly reflective of the chicken and the egg debacle. Which comes first, my happiness or the joy of my people? I solved the mystery tonight. Today, amidst a shared moment of joy from the ground up, I figured it out. Which comes first – the chicken or the egg? It doesn’t really matter. “Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others,” beloved American first lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.” Mystery solved.

 

In God’s Hands November 2, 2013

It’s normal for leaves to fall from the sky in my part of the world this time of year. Especially in my backyard paradise, where we have a few exceptionally large trees. As a result, a blanket of gold and orange currently coats the grass (or so my people tell me – it’s kind of tough for me to decipher these colors). But the leaves weren’t the only thing to fall from the sky today.

I was ruffling around in my backyard (aka leaf blanket) this morning when I got a surprise visit from two of my favorite little people and their parents. Apparently it wasn’t a surprise to my people, but they hadn’t said anything about Sophie and Sam coming by to spend the day with us. I suppose this may have been a proactive decision, as the mention of their names may have sent me into an excited panic until they arrived. But that’s neither here nor there.

Cuddles with SophieAfter their parents left, we sat together – Sam, Sophie, my dad, my mom and I – in the living room for a bit. (All right, more like cuddled. I nuzzled my way into Sophie’s lap pretty much the second she sat down). The television was turned to the local news station (where I’m proud to say my aunt works) and they were interviewing season 8 American Idol finalist Danny Gokey.

“God’s written a beautiful story for people,” he told the interviewer, “you just have to walk into it and embrace it.” I was touched by this idea, as I am a believer in embracing the good in all people, places, and things that make up my life story. But then she said it and my heart really turned to mush.

“When I was little,” nine-year-old Sophie said, “I used to think God had the world in His hands.” She was sure to clarify that now that she’s grown up she knows God isn’t actually floating in space holding the world in His hands, “but He’s still got us all taken care of.”

The leaves weren’t the only thing falling from the sky today. So was joy. From above. Wherever I looked, it seemed determined to find me in its varied poignant messages. God may not be physically holding the world from his perch in space, but He was certainly present in my mind today. As well as in my heart.

 

It Goes On October 15, 2013

I’ve heard it all before. If only I’d seen it coming. I should have planned for that. Hindsight is 20/20. Regrets. Somehow knowing everyone has them doesn’t make the ones we have any less real. I know the great and thoughtful “they” say misery loves company. In this case I’m not so sure.

Deep ThinkingTonight I stared up at the clear night sky dreaming about my future as a big brother. I’m going to love him or her as big as the sky, that much I know. And we’re going to be best friends forever (obviously). But I know my purpose in the life of this little purpose will be bigger than that. I’ve learned a lot in my five people years of life and I can’t wait to share everything. People can learn a lot from how us canines process things, after all.

Like regrets, for example. I have them. And I remember the day of my biggest one like it was yesterday. The day I was separated from my mom and brothers comes to mind instantly. There we were in the middle of oncoming traffic and I ran. I didn’t look back. I’ll never know what happened behind me that day. And it would haunt me to this day if I let it. If I let it. I think that’s the key to all of this regret business.

I doubt I’m the only one who’s biggest regret somehow involves the loss of a loved one. Be it a conversation that was cut off, misconstrued, or never even happened at all, many of us have experienced a sudden loss and wished there was something we could change about those last precious moments together. And we all know (all too well) there is nothing we can do. We can’t repeat the past, but we can live the present.

And in my present I chose to learn from my experience. I learned to hold loved ones close because you never know when that last embrace might be. But living life in constant fear of impending doom won’t get us anywhere either any more than regret will bring them back. Instead, seize the day regardless of the circumstances.

If you’re fortunate enough to be surrounded with loved ones, let them know what they mean to you. That’s something I want to teach my little person. But (perhaps more importantly), I want him or her to know that it’s not the end of the world if the worst does happen. You might not be able to hold that person close right now, but it doesn’t mean you can’t hold them forever in your heart. In lessons like this, sometimes we learn that in life’s greatest regrets lie some of life’s greatest opportunities for personal growth.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life,” as great American poet Robert Frost put it, “it goes on.” More often than not, we don’t see it coming. We didn’t plan for that. And that darned hindsight thing taps us on the shoulder. But somehow, no matter how grim the regret may seem, life does go on.

Related posts:

To read the whole story of my biggest regret – The Day Forever Changed http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/09/01/the-day-forever-changed/

 

Write It On Your Heart September 20, 2013

It usually makes me kind of uncomfortable. If I’m being honest, I try to avoid it. But the more I thought about it today, the more I realized my avoidance and level of discomfort are nothing compared to the actual problem at hand. Complaining. I can’t stand it. I find myself getting upset when I hear complaints because (at least in my little doggie mind) I feel it is a useless waste of time. Why would you waste all that energy complaining when you could simply do something to rectify the problem?

Don't Worry, Be HappyI got my answer today when I looked out my front window to find my neighborhood feline friend Penny was back on my front doorstep. And she looked sad. I braced myself for the worst, thinking perhaps something had happened to her person Rose. Not quite.

Rose has been in poor health for some time, but she is all right. To Penny that’s part of the problem. She’s just all right. Instead of embracing that she’s still okay, I was surprised to find Penny complaining about how awful it is to see her loved one struggle. Dear Penny went on and on about how badly she wishes she could help somehow and the frustration she experiences because she can’t.

In that moment I realized why people waste all that time complaining. Life sucks sometimes. There, I said it. And when it does, the complaining develops a purpose all its own. It’s for good reason because sometimes there really isn’t anything you can do. And it isn’t fair. But there is always a silver lining.

In this case I think it comes from understanding the difference between optimism, realism and pessimism. In order to call myself an optimist, I must recognize within me the realist. The realism is reality in the making, but it is different from pessimism, which I avoid like the plague. The line between these things may be thin, but it’s made of steel to those who employ it.

I think that’s why complaining makes me so uncomfortable. It skirts around that line of negativity I prefer to stay away from. Instead I take the advice of my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson who encourages us to “write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.” Meanwhile, my mind knows sometimes its not. And there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s the realist in me. It’s a good thing my mind listens to my heart.

Related posts:

Negativity – The Silver Lining http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/21/negativity-the-silver-lining/

Penny For Your Thoughts http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/08/31/penny-for-your-thoughts-2/