Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Heart Full of Seeds March 22, 2015

It’s not the first time it happened, and I’m sure it wont be the last. My guess is this story started yesterday as I enjoyed a little more time than usual in my backyard paradise. The weather was nice, so I relaxed in the sun for a bit under my favorite tree.

I found myself daydreaming about the warm summer days to come, with Carter running around and swinging in the tree swing dad hung for him last year. And the new baby, most likely all bundled up and protected from the sun. And mom and I in my beloved cozy spot with her in her hammock. There is so much to look forward to as the weather continues to warm up, I found myself lost in all of it. Second Chances

So I suppose it makes sense I didn’t particularly stop and take notice when a teeny tiny tick decided to move his permanent residence from somewhere in my favorite tree to somewhere in my neck fur. I went about my daydreams and (as far as I knew) all was well.

That is, until my forever dad was petting me this morning and found the creature had embedded itself into my neck. He and mom immediately jumped into action, mom consoling me as dad carefully extracted it. It doesn’t necessarily hurt, but it does feel a bit itchy. I know a visit to the doggie doctor is likely in my future this week, too, just to make sure everything is okay.

I’m sure everything will be fine. But as I thought about this thing ticks do, burrowing into a host and potentially infecting it with disease, it reminded me a bit of that thing called negativity. It’s not a favorite people feature of mine, and for good reason. I feel like for every good thing you share with someone and they pass along, there are ten bad things that seem to catch fire even easier. I don’t know why this is, but I know I don’t like it.

Nor do I like the impact it has on the host it infects with its parasitic evil. However, I hold the belief that just like my dear forever parents jumped into action to remove that tick, negativity so too can be removed. It’s not always easy to flip the switch and turn things around. It can even be painful. But (at least in my opinion) it’s necessary.

“Your heart is full of fertile seeds, waiting to sprout,” suggested Japanese thinker Morihei Ueshiba.

None of those seeds will sprout in a cloak of negativity. They need light, they need joy, to come to life.

 

The Winter Doldrums Cure March 6, 2015

I know it happens in the winter months around here. It’s one of those things I have gotten used to, living where I do in the fine state of Wisconsin. And, as much as I might prefer to whine and moan about it, I know it’s for my own good.

From late October through some mysterious time in spring, I simply don’t spend much time outside. My time in my backyard paradise gets limited primarily to practical things, and my dear forever mom and I don’t walk the neighborhood much. If at all. Car rides are also limited. And the dog park? Forget about it. It’s a wasteland anyway, because a lot of other pet parents feel the same way about having their dogs out in negative-degree temperatures. Running Joy

So when mom said the magic words this morning, my heart about jumped out of my chest. (Especially because I also heard her say it was seven degrees outside a few minutes prior). Car ride. From the ground up, it is one of my favorite things to hear. Off we went, mom, dear baby Carter and I, on a car ride to the groomer.

It’s a place I like more than I think I should. I don’t necessarily like the grooming part, but the socialization is unparalleled. Today did not disappoint either, as I saw my pal Jack. He’s one of the dogs who hangs out there on a daily basis, so I’ve come to know him pretty well during my times there.

It turns out I didn’t know something pretty important about him. He too has been a big puppy brother to two little people who were not very far apart in age. And he survived. Well, more than that. He loved it. Sure, there was the tail and fur pulling phase. And the newborn screams that pierce straight through to one’s brain. But the playtime. He said that’s the best.

It was an interesting perspective to hear, especially since I’ve admittedly had my concerns about having another little person to look after. I already knew it would be okay, but it was refreshing to hear about it from someone who’s been there. Especially since he said one of the best things about having two little people around is that it makes these long, cooped up winters around here not feel as long.

Because let’s face it. It’s pretty terrible being trapped inside for so many months of the year. We usually don’t know how long it will be until it’s finally over. But the little people with all of their crazy ways have a way of keeping things busy in a way that truly warms my heart. That doesn’t mean I’m not sure as anxious for spring as everyone else around here. It just means I know I have something pretty special to tide me over until it arrives.

 

 

 

Up With The Birds July 14, 2014

It happens at the exact same time every day. 4:11 a.m. Whether there is a downpour of rain or the sun is shining, they are always there. Even when the snow flies, a few stick around. Birds. From the ground up, they are always there. At times I side with my mom and find them incredibly annoying. Like when they wake dear baby Carter up earlier than usual. Or my forever mom and dad for that matter. But, like most things, it’s which side of the coin you want to land on.Joy

Because at times, I side with my mom (she can’t make up her mind either) and find them incredibly calming. Peaceful even. I think that’s one of the reasons she has a newfound interest in bird watching in my backyard paradise. In addition to a bird bath or two, there are more feeders out than usual. And, unlike summers past, she has been diligent about keeping them filled to the brim with delicious concoctions of seed, including sunflower seeds that I occasionally snag from the ground by my favorite feeder in the far corner.

Today she was working from home over her lunch hour when it happened. It wasn’t anything that out of the ordinary. Yet there she sat on her favorite patio chair, typing away on that laptop of hers, shaded slightly by her happy orange umbrella (as she calls it) soaking up the sun with a mug of hot tea in hand. Carter was napping inside and I was curled in the shade up at her feet. It wasn’t much. A stranger would have missed it. But not me. She spotted the cardinal duo (male and female) that visits every day around the same time and sighed a big ole happy sigh that made my heart smile.

Sure, we as a family collectively curse those birds outside the windows when dear baby Carter wakes up before his normal time. Or when the chirping alone wakes my parents. But today I was reminded of what beauty is signified in the routine these dear birds have. It happens at the same time every day. 4.11 a.m. The weather doesn’t matter. The storms that rolled through yesterday are a thing of the past. Today is a new day. A fresh start. And that brings the sincerest sense of peace to my heart.

 

A Semi-Charmed Life July 9, 2014

I know it probably seems pretty obvious to some people. But I think there is this common misconception about the expression of feelings that too frequently plagues relationships. I don’t think the nature of the relationship matters. Mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, lifelong friends. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you think you know someone because ultimately you don’t know them as well as you know yourself. Hammock

I think that’s why it’s one of those things that too frequently gets lost in the shuffle. Yet I see it happen all the time. A message that might seem small, insignificant or redundant just sometimes needs to be received. You’re beautiful. I love you. I’m proud of you. Thank you. From the ground up, these are among the things I think need to be said (and meant) much more frequently than they are. Great job on that. I’m happy. You are a great dad/mom/wife/sister/brother/friend. I appreciate that you are in my life. Sometimes I think a person doesn’t even know how much he or she needs to receive these messages until it actually happens.

Take today, for instance. For the most part, it was like any other day since dear baby Carter was born. Mom and dad followed the same routine. Carter ate, played, napped and ate again. Mom wrote. Dad worked. But there was this moment, this one beautiful moment as mom refilled the bird feeders and dad watered the garden when it happened. They both stopped at the same time. They both paused. Joy. From the ground up, it happened in that moment, not just because they paused. Joy came to life in that moment because they said it out loud.

“I’m so happy,” mom said.

“Me too,” dad replied.

Then they smiled and both resumed their aforementioned duties in our backyard paradise.

I know it was probably the shortest conversation either of them had today, but I can promise you it was much more important than anything else that happened throughout the day. That’s the thing when something seems obvious – sometimes that makes it a lot easier to let slip through the cracks. But life is not a given. Moments are fleeting. And joy is in life’s little reminders.

 

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.

 

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.

 

The Love Tree October 13, 2013

Normally I don’t care much for those things they call Smartphones. They draw attention away from where it belongs (i.e. the company we keep, namely me). They distract people on car rides. And I don’t think they are really all that smart.

But today I witnessed firsthand what I suppose would be the one silver lining within these things called Smartphones. Randomness. This may come as a surprise given my open belief that everything happens for a reason, but it is a concept I can appreciate (and even find some humor in) within the right context. Today, for example, the context made for a pretty special moment of randomness even I could appreciate.Who do you love?

“I love you.” That was it. That’s all the text message contained. And (to be honest) that’s all it needed to say. Mom received that message from her little sister Morgan this afternoon and I’m pretty sure it made her day. Which made my day. Which got me to thinking (of course) about this people theory of randomness.

As I basked in the warmth of another unusually warm fall day, I took note of the tree (my favorite in my backyard paradise) above me. I looked up at the branches, each reaching out to the next. Connecting.

It reminded me of the random bit of love mom received from Morgan. Morgan shared love with mom, who shared it with me, and now I’m sharing it with you. Random? I’m not so sure. But love needs no explanation. And each bit of random love is like a branch, reaching to the next. Connecting.

“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit,” Lebanese thinker Khalil Gibran suggested. Well then (I thought to myself as I drifted away into the fabulous dreamland of my second afternoon nap) we must do all we can to share random moments of love with those around us. Heaven forbid anyone experience a life without love.

Morgan shared it with mom, mom shared it with me, and now I share it with you. Please consider reaching out to someone sometime soon. Connecting. Whether in person, on the phone or (gasp) even in a text on one of those Smartphones. Tell them they are loved. Because as ancient Greek theologian Saint Basil proposed, “a tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

 

Another Day in Paradise May 7, 2013

Soak Up the SunI had my first-ever encounter with a hammock today. Indeed you read that right: I, Wiley Schmidt, spent about a half hour in a hammock this afternoon.

It reminded me a bit of my first few days blogging. I felt uneasy, unsteady and uncertain. This new place is uncomfortable, I thought to myself, and I don’t know what to make of it. Then, as the moments ticked on, I felt more at home as I got to know my surroundings. But the first step was believing I wouldn’t let myself fall. With that, the unfamiliar became familiar and doubt faded away.

I know these moments of self-awareness aren’t easy to come by. I know there is always something “better” for my mom to do with that time, like clean the bathrooms, empty the dishwasher, prepare dinner, start a load of laundry, etc. But I would argue that each of those tasks can seem less daunting after a few minutes to yourself to collect thoughts and be thankful for the little things in life.

“Perhaps now – of all times – when I am nearly bowed under physically, emotionally, and psychologically by the minutiae of the mundane, is the very moment I need the reverence of poets who bear witness to the sacredness of the ordinary,” writes Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance.

It was peaceful there in the backyard. My mom and I sat in silence together for those precious thirty minutes being serenaded by the birds while soaking in the soothing rays of late afternoon sunshine. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t expensive. Quite to the contrary, it was perhaps the most simple half hour we’ve spent together recently. And I loved every second of it.

“We are all given a choice each day,” Breathnach suggests. “We can react negatively to the demands made on us or we can choose to live abundantly, to transfer the negative to the meaningful. Attitude is all.”

As I saw my life flash before my eyes as I tried to catch my balance my first few seconds in the hammock, gratitude overwhelmed my little doggie heart. I realized I wouldn’t erase any moments of uncertainty from my life, as I know I have emerged a better dog from each and every one. And just as the unease and uncertainty in the hammock wore off in the comfort of home that is my mom’s arms, I am grateful for my loved ones in the blogosphere who I know would never let me fall.