Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

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.

 

On Kindness and Diaper Wipes November 18, 2013

It’s not rocket science. I know it might be a mystery to the two-legged observer, but our canine bathroom routine is far from complicated. It’s all part of my process. I go outside, do my business, enjoy extra-curricular activities (like staring at the birds, attempting to chase off squirrels and occasionally conversing with Demon Dog), and come back inside.

I don’t use a toilet, let alone flush it. I don’t wash my paws when I’m done. And I certainly don’t use toilet paper. My Bathroom

So you can imagine how out of place I felt this weekend as I listened to a long and serious conversation my forever parents had about something called a wipes warmer. This contraption, which apparently warms diaper wipes to what is supposed to be a more comfortable temperature, has joined the ever-growing pile of baby things accumulating in the nursery. And my people are torn about its necessity amongst things like the diapers and wipes themselves.

While I consider it to be completely unnecessary (given my previously aforementioned bathroom behaviors), their conversation got me to thinking about what people refer to as the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done to you. I highly doubt either of my people would like it if they were being woken up to go to the bathroom several times a night. Add to that some freezing cold toilet paper and you’ve got two very upset people. So why would you do essentially the same thing to a little person?

I’ll be honest. I think the wipes warmer is hogwash. But the argument for having one is incredibly solid. “Carry out a random act of kindness,” Princess Diana suggested, “with no expectation of reward, safe in  the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” While the sincerest acts of kindness and compassion require nothing in return, these things have a way of coming back to us in one way or another.

It doesn’t take much. It’s not nearly as complicated as our canine bathroom routine may seem to the two-legged observer. And it certainly doesn’t require anything to warm it to a conceivably agreed upon temperature. Something as seemingly insignificant as a smile (or in my case an enthusiastic tail wag) can contain within it more power than a thousand words. Forget the artificial warmer. Kindness. Compassion. The Golden Rule. These are the words of true warmth.

 

Chasing Treasure October 24, 2013

Saving the best for last is not a concept that resonates with me. If treats get mixed into my regular dog food, I eat them up first. If I have a rawhide to chew on, I don’t devour it. And if there is love to be had, well, that one speaks for itself.

It has come to my attention this is not necessarily the norm amongst my four-legged brothers and sisters. I realized this when I overheard my mom talking to her friend Huntie about her greyhound named Elby (otherwise known as the perpetual pen stealer). It is not uncommon for pens to disappear into something of a black hole in Huntie’s house thanks to the crafty skills of Elby. I’ve heard of dogs burying rawhides away for later, so I thought maybe that’s what Elby is up to with the pens.Treasure Hunting

And the more I thought about it, I think he might be on to something. This is not to sy I’m going to start stealing away all of the pens in my forever home. But it’s not about the pens. It’s about what they represent. For Huntie, pens are instruments of joy she uses to piece together her writing. To Elby, pens are a source of joy from the ground up.

It all makes sense now. We all need some joy stored away somewhere for those rainy days when the clouds keep us from finding the sun. Be it pens, or rawhides, or anything else that one associates with joy and happiness. And it might not always make sense at the time, but it is ultimately an investment in future happiness.

This must be why mom keeps what she calls her adventure money stashed away in her jewelry box. I catch her counting it from time to time, and can see her dreaming of what’s to come, but back in the box it goes. It can’t be easy. Just like I know I would struggle trying to save my treats, savor my rawhide or (gasp) not burst with love 24/7.

But “the true treasure lies within,” suggests Indian author and spiritual leader Radhanath Swami. It’s like treasure hunting for the soul and those little items we’ve stored away are our treasure map. Joy is both around us and within us. Sometimes we just need a little help finding it.

 

Diamond In The Rough September 29, 2013

Garbage stinks.

Today the garbage in my forever home smells like a combination of pizza crusts, discarded stale bread, and onions. And I love it. I often gaze at it longingly, just dying to attack. To knock it over and feast on all the fabulously delicious samples inside. Sometimes I even get close enough to make my (albeit naughty) feasting fantasy come true. But I’ve never actually gone through with my malicious plan. Partially because I will admit I do eat a pretty well-balanced diet of dog food, treats, rawhides and people-approved people food throughout the day. Mostly because I don’t want to get scolded.

Recylce ThisSo you can imagine my confusion when my mom returns from a store called Goodwill every now and then with a variety of second-hand items. I can’t say she ever needs any of it (just as I don’t need more food), but I get the impression there’s a sense of fulfillment in finding treasures in someone else’s trash. And I can’t fault her for that.

I didn’t get into the garbage today. I don’t plan to do so any time soon either. But all this gets me to thinking about something pretty powerful. Finding treasures in someone else’s trash. Recycling it. Giving it new life. I am fortunate enough to say this has actually happened to me firsthand when my forever people found me at the Oshkosh Humane Society.

I was a diamond in the rough. The staff at the shelter were very protective of me since I had already been adopted and returned once before. I was deemed a “problem puppy.” I heard tell more than one person to “look past the cute and see the commitment” it would take to bring me home. Yet my people found me, believed in me, and the rest is history.

I don’t mean to glamorize garbage. Because let’s face it – it does stink. But (in one way or another) we all have it. Junk. Garbage that we might deem to stinky to properly address. Probably not in the form of pizza crusts and onions, but perhaps in our closets. Or maybe even in our hearts. Both literally and figuratively, we have the ability not just to find treasures in someone else’s trash, but in our own.

Just as I was recycled, I continue to recycle myself on a daily basis. It’s a choice I make in seeing the good in all people, places and things around me regardless of the junk I encountered in my past. It’s not always easy. It might even stink from time to time. But at its very core it’s joy from the ground up.

 

Reach For the Stars September 6, 2013

I saw a shooting start last night. And I made a wish. But I can’t tell you that or it won’t come true.

I can tell you it was a night to remember. My mom took me along to grandma’s house, which is exciting on its own without the surprise that awaited me. Alas, my aunt was visiting from out of town so that means my usual source of attention (my mom) had just multiplied by three (to include my grandma and my aunt).

When You WishMy cousin Buddy was there too, so we wrestled and chased and engaged in our epic dog staring contests (all of which I reigned victorious). I scored a whole bunch of people food treats, including the residual ice cream from my aunt’s dessert plate. Amidst everything I was busy doing, I noticed the upbeat conversation focused on all things baby. Everything from how mom is feeling to baby name brainstorming was on the table for discussion.

And as much as I enjoyed all of this, the best part came later. The air was cool and quiet as all five of us sat outside and stared at the night sky. The great and powerful “they” say us canines can smell fear. But that’s not the only thing we can sense. In the silence of these precious moments I smelled joy. I could feel it like a cloud hovering like a protective blanket around us.

I’m generally not a noisy dog (other than when I bark protectively at any and every animal on the television – live or animated, canine or reptile), but in that moment I felt an instinctual desire to howl at the moon. Not because I wanted to communicate with other dogs as part of a hunt. Not because I was left outside too long. Rather because I wanted to share the overwhelming sense of joy I had in that moment I saw the shooting star.

I still can’t tell you what I wished for, but I can tell you this much about wishcraft. “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Don’t just entrust your hopes an wishes to the stars. Today begin learning the craft that will enable you to reach for them.”

 

How Are You Really? July 30, 2013

I’m not proud to admit this but I sent Mrs. Prickles to the emergency room recently.

One minute I was nursing on her as usual, and the next minute I couldn’t keep myself from tearing the little white fluff balls out of her. Both are instinctual behaviors for me, yet I was surprised to find myself enjoying the task of removing fluff balls. Several of the other members who make up my comfort circle have similar holes in them that I leave alone. So why now did I find myself losing control?

Truth be told, I don’t know what happened. And I think that happens sometimes. We get so caught up in something it kind of takes over our motor functions until someone brings us back to reality. I didn’t want to hurt Mrs. Prickles. I didn’t mean to. But I did.

 

It makes me stop and think about how I see people interacting with one another. With everything going on in people’s lives it can be so easy to get caught up in things and not pay attention to what is happening around you. It brings to mind a commonplace people conversation I have overheard one too many times. Person one asks person two how they are. Person two responds with a generally generic answer like super, swell, good or (on occasion) terrible. Person two then turns the question back to person one. How are you? Sometimes the conversation continues, sometimes not.Thinking of You

What bothers me about this interaction is that it always seems to me to be on autopilot. Just like me and Mrs. Prickles. The people are (more often than not) just having the conversation to be polite and really neither person cares all that much about how the other person is doing. Not really. So why do we ask the question?

Why did I start uncontrollably taking fluff balls out of one of my favorite toys? It’s in our nature. Something in my nature (that I don’t particularly care to embrace or understand) encouraged me to rip Mrs. Prickles (who I happen to love) to pieces. Something in people nature makes them feel the need to start conversations in which their heart isn’t invested.

And I’m not saying these are bad things. Without our nature we wouldn’t be who we are, after all. But I am in the business of challenging what’s easy. Mrs. Prickles is all fixed now, no thanks to me. (I’m going to do what I can to keep it that way). I have, after all, also seen the polite “how are you” question develop into much deeper people conversations. So maybe its worth it to take life off autopilot every once in a while.

 

Best Laid Plans July 19, 2013

I don’t care for flies. I don’t like when I can’t catch them buzzing around the walls of my forever home. I don’t like them when I do catch them and they buzz around in my tummy. The way I see it, they are useful in one (and only one) way. Metaphorically speaking, flies on the wall get all the great information before it hits the public presses. Granted, I see this as a gross exaggeration of their microscopic brain capacity, but the theory is sound.

Dog on the WallI would argue instead that dogs are the ultimate flies on the wall. We see and hear things. But more importantly we understand things. We’re man’s best friend, after all. So when it comes to understanding my people, I am your resident dog on the wall. As such, I have come to recognize certain patterns of conversation that lead nowhere fast. And I can say this because I love her more than she will ever know. My mom tends to put far too high a stake in things sometimes.

She looks forward to something, plans it all out in her head, and when it doesn’t work out — if it doesn’t go according to plan — it’s a complete disaster to her. It’s all very confusing to dad, who generally tries to make the best of a sticky situation. Unfortunately for the both of us, best laid plans don’t always come together and there is little we can do to fix it.

It turns out you were right. My mom absolutely missed me as much as I missed her while she was away at that place called the spa earlier this week. She missed me so much she came home the same day she left! Well, that’s not entirely true. Health issues brought her home early, and I was ecstatic (albeit sincerely concerned). But what made my day may as well been a weapon of mass destruction on hers. She clearly felt incredibly ill, but moreover there was simply no cheering her up. I tried all of my tricks. I jumped and licked and wagged and jumped some more. Nothing.

Fortunately I’ve been in the business of being the dog on the wall long enough to know this too shall pass. And it did. But it got me to thinking about the best laid plans that don’t work out. Because let’s face it – things do not always go exactly according to plan. And yes, it sucks. It’s disappointing. But these things happen and it is not the end of the world. “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment,” suggested one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Henry David Thoreau.

I don’t care for flies, but I sure do like their job of being on the wall. There’s lots to be learned from that perspective. I (for one) find my compensation in knowing even the best laid plans can go awry. It’s how we deal with the hurdles, how we find ways to be quiet and ready, that we grow.

 

The Company We Keep July 5, 2013

Advertising works. I’ve seen it happen in forever home enough to know it to be true. That latest miracle face cream appearing in the bathroom a few days after the commercial. The occasional trip for ice cream after a tempting tease between classic “Friends” episodes. Even that new kind of dog food that (definitely doesn’t taste as good but) is supposed to be better for me.

This came to my mind as I made the best of my people deciding to watch entirely too much television when they got home from that place called work today. Here it is, a gorgeous afternoon and evening, squandered away with mindless chatter. We could have gone for a walk, or to the dog park, or on a car ride! But as I’m in the habit of finding the silver lining in things, I pawed my way into the perfect cuddle spot between my two favorite people and joined in the (albeit incredibly boring) family activity.

Watching TVCommercials always have a way of catching my attention (usually because of the animal activity) and tonight I got to thinking about one particular type of commercial that used to be a head-scratcher to me. The dating sites. We all know them. E-Harmony, Match.com, OurTime.com, and ChristianMingle.com are among the first to come to mind (see what I mean about advertising working?). I used to see those commercials and (somewhat mockingly) dream up my own personal ads.

SCM (single canine male), 5 people years, 24 inches, 22 pounds, with floofy tail and point ears seeks a friend for the end of the world. (Nope, sounds too desperate). SCM, 35 doggie years, 24 inches, 22 pounds, with a heart of gold and lots of joy to share seeks a female canine to spoil with love. (Too cheesy?) SCM, mysterious, seeks someone to enjoy the journey with as much as the destination. (I kind of like this one).I'm a Half Full Doggie

All joking aside, I didn’t believe in this cyber-dating concept until recently when I found a new home in the blogosphere. We are family here, friends joining together from all over the world to comment on life’s refreshing moments of silliness and embrace each other in moments of struggle. It reminds me of one of the first moments I found myself just outside my mother’s protective cuddle zone when I was a puppy.

At first I was all alone in the tremendously bright sun feeling miles away from my mom and brothers who had all been cuddled so closely together for what felt like forever. (It was really only the first few days of my life, but time has a way of dragging when all you can do is sleep, eat, and sleep some more). In reality, I only felt far away from my family because of the closeness we had previously shared. Then I remembered I was there, out in the open, with my brothers and mom by my side. Suddenly it wasn’t so scary anymore. I didn’t know it then, but the company I kept in those terrifying moments made them worth living.

“Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary simply by doing them with the right people,” suggested American actress Elizabeth Green. Advertising has a way of making even the least desirable things seem necessary. But when the rubber meets the road, we don’t need the miracle moisturizer, ice cream cone or even the fancy designer dog food (that tastes like cardboard). We need people in our life to share moments with, even if it means cuddling together in front of the TV instead of enjoying the great outdoors. From our everyday people to the family we create on the world wide web, the company we keep make moments worth living.

 

Thoughts on Change: Let’s Go Places February 4, 2013

I’m not necessarily a fan of Toyota as a brand of vehicles, but a commercial of theirs caught my attention recently.

“Let’s go places,” the voice says, “Not just the ones you can find on a map, but the ones you can find in your heart. Let’s go beyond everything we know and embrace everything we don’t. And once we reach our destination let’s keep going.”

I’ve heard a lot of different people perspectives on change. My ability to see only portions of the world’s color spectrum does not impact what I have observed. In general, change is a grey area. Words like scary and intimidating face off against words like invigorating and exciting.

When it comes to making major life changes, I haven’t always had as big a say as I would have liked. I wouldn’t have chosen to be separated from my mom when I was still a puppy, for example. But I did what I had to do to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.

“If you don’t like something, change it,” said mover and shaker Maya Angelou. “If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

I'm Going Places - Want to Come?

Ultimately that is exactly what I’ve done. I embrace change wholeheartedly because experience has taught me change is like a light without a dimmer switch. It’s all or nothing. It’s a state of mind, and (if you let it happen) it will bring some light into your day. Without it, we can get lazy. It gets a lot easier to life in default mode rather than living to our destiny.

So I share these humble thoughts on change with the world, hoping that my perspective can bring some light to somebody who is facing a crossroads. Somebody who needs to decide whether to live life to their destiny rather than their default. Somebody who fears change.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world,” cultural anthropologist and writer Margaret Mead said. “For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

Good, bad, and ugly, I believe there is something to be said for change.

“Because inspiration doesn’t favor those who sit still,” says the man in the Toyota commercial. “It dances with the daring. It rewards the courageous with ideas that excite, challenge and inspire. Ideas that take you places you never imageined. Ideas big enough and powerful enough to make your heart skip a beat and in some cases maybe two. Let’s go places.”

What are others saying about change?