Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

All That Sparkles December 4, 2014

I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to Christmas decorations around here. From the ornaments on the tree to the garland on the windows to holiday-themed gadgets mom disperses throughout the house, mom usually covers all the bases.

With this being dear baby Carter’s first Christmas, I expected the full array of all things Christmas to sprinkle the house with a special kind of holiday joy. So you can imagine my surprise at the restraint she’s demonstrated (at least thus far) for what she is saying is the sake of Carter’s safety.

Anything that would normally be within his almost three-foot-tall reach has been held back. The tree features a more sparse selection of ornaments than usual at the bottom area, including primarily the squishy or non-breakable (namely, slightly less sentimental) items. But there is one thing she whole-heartedly embraced. Twinkle lights. They seem to be Twinkleseverywhere. On the tree, in the windows, you name it. Twinkles everywhere.

Today I saw why. I’m sure it’s happened before in the handful of days the decorations have been displayed. But this was the first time it happened when I was able to pause and take it all in. It was dark in the living room except for the lights of the tree and the window garland and Carter was absolutely mesmerized. There he was, standing there by the tree, his little face lit by the faint glow. That’s when I saw it. His eyes were twinkling almost as bright as the lights. And his smile was the brightest thing in the room.

I’m not usually a fan of all that glitters. I could care less about all things glamorous. But all that sparkles is indeed gold in my world, especially when there is joy involved. It brought to mind the words of American pastor Roy L. Smith who suggested “he who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”

I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to Christmas decorations. It feels like every year, there’s a new something or another joining the collection of all things holiday around here. Though at first it appeared mom was scaling back, she brought more lights into play. And I’m so glad she did. Because today I saw joy sparkle. It was a beautiful sight to see.

 

A Spoonful of Sugar December 26, 2013

Apparently I have gotten a wee bit chubby. Maybe it was the tiny piece of leftover bacon I scored at brunch this morning. Or the doggie treats under any of the three Christmas trees I’ve visited in recent days. Whoever thought having a routine checkup the day after a major holiday clearly wasn’t giving me the benefit of the doubt.Do I look chubby?

Nonetheless, Dr. Morrison’s exact words to mom during today’s annual pilgrimage to the vet clinic echoed through the room. “We don’t want him to put on any more weight,” she said as she grabbed around by my hind quarters. Excuse me madam, I wanted to say, but I’d guess the majority of folks I know to be up a pound or two after the caloric splurge known as the holiday season.

Little did I know there were more stingers headed my way in the form of shots for things I don’t understand. Three shots, to be exact, each one a bit more painful than the last. That followed other poking and prodding, none of which was very pleasant. Overall, the experience was not my favorite thing in the world.

But it wasn’t the worst either. In spite of the aforementioned weight gain, I got all kinds of yummy treats. And the best part was when Dr. Morrison first came in to see me and asked how her “favorite terrier” has been doing. Or maybe it was when the veterinary nurse kept petting me and telling me how cute I am. Or when the doctor said she thinks I’m going to be a very good dog with my soon-to-be little person.

Either way, I realized something as I snuggled a little closer than usual into mom on the car ride home. We don’t always know what’s good for us. Like me, with my almost obsessive urge to sink my teeth into a piece of the apparent delicacy known as chocolate. Or my aversion to the vet clinic.

In reality, we all need checkups every now and then. Not just for our physical health, but also for our mental and spiritual well-being. And it’s not always easy to take the criticism and advice that comes along with these checkups. But we need them. And they’re definitely a little bit easier to take with a little sugar. Or compliments in my case (since I’m going to be watching my waistline more closely). That Mary Poppins was on to something. A spoonful of compliments makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way.

 

Oh Christmas Tree December 18, 2013

A chubby fisherman. A pickle. Yoda. These are all random pieces that make up the whole of the Schmidt family Christmas tree. I found myself browsing the ornaments today from my perch in the windowsill and I realized how incredibly random they are.The tree and I

There are snowflakes, and a frog, and a stand mixer, and (gasp!) even a picture of me scattered throughout the tree. Each ornament has its own story, starting with the ones mom and dad both got as children. Then there are the ones they’ve purchased together through their time as a couple. “Our First Christmas” 2004 is among mom’s favorites. This year, a stork joined the mix to commemorate the impending arrival of our little person.

It’s its own kind of melting pot of stories and memories. And that too is a random piece that makes up the whole of society. It’s different for everyone. I’d venture to say it’s safe to assume no two Christmas trees are alike. Each one tells a story (or stories) of the home it graces. There are big trees and little trees and real trees and fake ones. There are trees filled to the brim with beautifully coordinated ornaments and trees of random memories collected through the years.

As I found myself somewhat entranced by the lights today, I realized there is something more than beauty to be taken from these trees. Just as they take on their own unique sense of personality, we too have our stories that make us who we are. And, depending on the circumstances, we may not share them as openly as we could. I understand from a practical standpoint why a Christmas tree only on display for a short time each year, but I see no reason why this should be true of our unique senses of identity. That should always be shared.

Even if it comes randomly, like in the form of a tiny pig or a plaque that reads “Nothing Is Impossible to a Willing Heart” on the Christmas tree. Because I’m not certain whether stories inspire life or life inspires stories. And maybe it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the stories get shared.

 

All I Want for Christmas December 11, 2013

It’s pretty ridiculous. I might even get in trouble with mom for sharing the details. But it brings me joy and, as I am in the business of sharing joy, I can no longer keep this particular holiday ritual a secret.

Every time Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” comes on the radio is go time. It’s like a trigger for silliness. There is dancing (the kind that doesn’t particularly follow the beat) and galloping around the house. And joy. Lots of joy. It doesn’t matter where they are or who they are with, because it’s a family tradition. It’s as simple as that.All I Want

Apparently it started in my mom’s family a few years back when her dad was still alive. He had about as much rhythm as a broom but that didn’t stop him from joining in the fun. It’s my understanding he even took the lead every now and then.

It’s a memory that seems to bring about bittersweet emotions for my mom at least once during the holiday season. I know she misses him. He passed away suddenly in June 2009 and she never got to say goodbye. And now she grieves the loss in knowing our future little person will never know his grandpa.

The circle of life is funny that way – it finds ways to help us remember things we would sometimes rather push aside. And in this case grief is brought to life in joy, which is especially perplexing. But I suppose that makes sense because loss itself is a confusing thing. It isn’t easy regardless of how it happens. And everyone deals with it differently. But regardless of the circumstances, it evolves.

“Grief is in two parts,” suggested American writer Anne Roiphe. “The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.”

The second is the remaking of life. I think that’s what happens every time that song comes on the radio. A little part of what was broken is mended. And we all are reminded to cherish the most important gift we have – each other. I’m with Mariah on this one. All I want for Christmas is my people. So I say bring on the silliness. Bring on the dancing and stomping and galloping around the house. Bring on the joy. Because sometimes there is no better way to grieve than to live.

 

A Different Kind of Light December 1, 2013

Salami. It’s one of the less glamorous things I dream about. And today my dreams were realized, as they usually are around this time of year. I knew it the second mom came into the house with those bags from the grocery store. I could smell that deliciousness a mile away. Salami.

It’s a special treat in my forever home, saved only for a special occasion. Around here, it’s a very small part of a very big tradition in the Schmidt home known as Christmas tree day. It came a little earlier than usual this year (thanks, in part, to my parents planning around the impeding arrival of baby Schmidt). Usually this special day happens the first or second weeks of December. Not this year.
Let There Be Light
Christmas came early this year. And with it came a slew of traditions. All I can think to compare it to is when us canines obsessively nest. You’ve all seen it – we can’t lie down until we find the absolute perfect position in the best possible spot. The ritual can take as much as a few minutes sometimes. Though none of it involves lying down, tradition and ritual seem to be incredibly important to my mom this time of year.

All I have ever been able to focus on during Christmas tree day is the salami. So today (after I had secured at least two samples from mom) I focused on the rest of the traditions that surround the day. Mom turns up Christmas music, puts on a silly Santa hat, and prepares a few plates of appetizers for her and dad to munch on while they work. It’s all part of the tradition, and has been since my mom was a little girl.

I enjoy watching them reminisce about where and when they bought certain ornaments. Some bring laughs (like the goofy handmade ones mom made when she was little). A couple bring tears (like the one dad gave to mom a year or two before he passed away). But, as with all rituals, it always ends the same way. And it doesn’t have to make sense. It started with salami but it ends with glowing light. Not just on the tree, but in our hearts.