Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Gift January 1, 2015

I finally found it. It took a little digging this year, but now it’s alive and well in my heart. The spirit of Christmas. From the ground up, there’s a certain appeal in the understanding and appreciation of all it has to offer. I don’t know for sure what the hold up was this year, but today I was reminded of something.

For most people, today was New Year’s Day. A day to focus on all things new and exciting. For the Schmidt family, it was Christmas. Again. Mom even dressed dear baby Carter in his special Christmas Eve pajamas again last night, so when he woke it would be (kind of) like Christmas Day. Except without the quiche and Santa and presents. But that wasn’t the point.Love Is

The point was we had another exciting day of family time to look forward to in Port Washington where my forever dad grew up. His side of the family opts to celebrate together a few days after Christmas for a variety of reasons, and while some might find this strange, it’s something I’ve come to look forward to each year.

This year did not disappoint. All the usual suspects were there, but there was someone new too. I got to meet my new doggie cousin, Jackson. At about a month old, the puppy energy he exuded was contagious from the ground up. Similar to how it is for Carter, everything is new to him. He sniffed and explored and played and explored some more. And I don’t think his little tail stopped wagging the entire time we were there.

I had to dig a little to find my Christmas spirit this year, but today reminded me of something. Sure, there were presents (again). And way too much delicious food (which I obviously scored several samples of throughout the day. Thanks, Sophie!). But that’s not what it was about.

Sometimes the things we have to dig for are most worth the effort. That certainly was the case for me this year. As we drove home and the reality that all things Christmas have now ended, the love in my heart reminded me of the most important Christmas gift of all. The gift that keeps on giving all year round. Joy. From the ground up, it brings us to life in a way few other things can.

 

 

The Best Kind of Way December 28, 2014

A year ago today I had absolutely no idea what I had in store. I was going about my business keeping mom’s spot on the bed warm as she wrapped a couple of last-minute Christmas gifts for an after-Christmas holiday party. Everything about the scene was as I’ve seen it dozens of times: her traditional Christmas movies played in the background as she sampled from a tray of goodies she only lets herself eat once a year while she wraps presents.

But this time something was different. At nine months pregnant, it was an issue for her to walk comfortably, let alone wrap an attractive present. I was getting frustrated even watching it happening, but she stayed calm. She took her time and ended up wrapping those two presents just as beautifully as the first round she’d completed days ago. So what if it took her an hour? Dad was out running errands. All said and done, it was a pretty typical day.

Hi Carter

Hi Carter

What happened a few days later when they brought home dear baby Carter for the first time was life changing. I knew it would be, but I don’t think anything could really have prepared me to the extent to which everything I knew in life would change. From the daily (and for those first few months nightly) routine I’d come to appreciate to the constant effort that is baby-proofing to the presence of this new little person, my forever home would never be the same.

I remember being a bit resentful after the initial excitement wore off. As much as my instincts told me to protect this tiny screaming bundle of “joy,” I couldn’t help but notice how much time and attention dear baby Carter was taking away from me. So I kept my distance and slowly re-integrated myself into a comfortable rhythm in this new life.

I thought I might regret that decision, but now I realize it was the smartest thing I could have done. It allowed me to do one of the things I do best – observe. I listened as Carter’s cries morphed into various forms of happy babbling and have since started to resemble words and sentences. I watched as rolling turned into crawling. I stood by as walking turned into running.

And I’ve learned so much. Life has changed a ton since that quiet moment with my mom all of those months ago. Through all of it, I’ve learned about perseverance and how to survive the ultimate form of sleep deprivation. I’ve learned the value of relationships as I’ve seen almost all of those in my circle come closer together. I’ve learned what it means to adapt and be flexible and understand that sometimes there are days that things just don’t get done.

That is why I can say with confidence this year has indeed been life-changing in the best kind of way.

 

The Special Times December 25, 2014

Christmas breakfast with quiche and a tray of chocolate treats. Time with family that includes at least one silly dancing moment to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Cozy movie time by candlelight with hot chocolate and lots of comfy blankets watching “The Polar Express” on Christmas night. There are certain things about the holiday that is Christmas that it wouldn’t seem the same without.

Tradition. From the ground up, I’ve observed it is something pretty important to my dear forever mom. When it came to embracing old traditions, today was no different. Each of the aforementioned things were a very important part of our admittedly busy holiday. It was a truly action-packed day from start to end, and these familiar things tied everything together in a way only tradition can do.

But something was different this year. Very different. This year there was a little person in our midst. A little person who has never before been party to these traditions. A little one who has never before experienced Christmas. And, perhaps most notably, a little person who probably didn’t care too much whether or not quiche and chocolate treats were in the picture this morning.

That is precisely whey I was a bit surprised to find some new traditions in the mix. In reality, I know dear baby Carter probably won’t remember anything about today. So to him it certainly didn’t matter that he was wearing what mom fondly referred to as his special Christmas pajamas. Or that he got his very own piece of Christmas morning quiche. Or that Santa made his first-ever visit to our house to deliver special goodies from the North Pole.

Today was painted with all kinds of new traditions that embraced the addition of Carter to the family fold this year. It was all a joy to witness, and I can’t wait to see it all again next year.Let Your Heart Be Light

But amid all the new, it was surprisingly refreshing to me when something familiar filled my doggie heart with Christmas joy. It happened on the way from one family Christmas party to another as I assumed my position as co-pilot in the front passenger seat of the car. Mom has taken to riding with Carter in the back seat lately, leaving me to her usual spot in the front. And though I miss pushing my way onto her lap in that same spot, it is pretty nice having that prominent and important spot to myself.

I was reveling in that feeling when it happened. Dad put his arm over and pet me as he drove, just as I remember him doing for each of the four Christmases I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this family. In that moment and the moments that followed, the holiday was complete for me.

There are certain things this time of year that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without. For some, it’s in the memories of years past dancing around like ninnies to “All I Want for Christmas is You.” For others, it’s a certain dish or dishes that simply have to be a part of the day. For me, it’s what all of these things really are. Joy. From the ground up, that’s what Christmas means to me.

To see the special moment: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=593626052727&l=8269833515318459806

 

Peace on Earth December 24, 2014

It is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. It is not the absence of war, (but rather) a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. It begins with a smile.

Peace. From the ground up, minds filled with a lot more wisdom than mind have a few things to say about it. Like civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. And Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. And Catholic visionary Mother Theresa.20141224_170645

Like joy, I know peace takes many forms. It looks different to everyone depending on his or her life experiences and overall perspective on the world around them. It’s Christmas Eve around here, and though we don’t have any snow (an incredibly unusual occurrence in Wisconsin this time of year) on the ground, celebrations are in high gear.

But I can’t help but think about what happens in a couple days. After all the ribbons and bows are torn from their presents. After the holly jolly music has fled the airwaves. After the turkeys and hams and other holiday goodies are all long gone. Trees and decorations get put away, and a big empty hole can stand in its place.

It all brings to mind the words of Buddha, who suggested “peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

I hear it in the stillness of snowflakes falling around me in my backyard paradise. I feel it in my heart when my forever family is together and happy. I see it in smiles and laughter. I find peace all around me, and I know it is because it starts in my heart.

This may seem to many like a time of year for embracing all things worldly, but to me it’s just as important to remember where it all starts. The reason for the season. The love and joy and peace and all things holly and jolly. The life this season is capable of breathing into our souls is like no other.

Like the thinkers who are wiser than me suggested, it is how we arrive at a goal. It is a state of mind that can present itself in something as simple as a smile. And, as Mahatma Gandhi said, it “is its own reward.”

So from my little family to yours, I wish you a very Merry (and peaceful) Christmas.

 

A Winter One-derland December 20, 2014

It was all a little bit confusing to me. I vividly remember everything about last year at this time. I remember the holiday preparations and the family gatherings and all things Christmas. I remember all of it. And all of it happened before dear baby Carter came home.

But alas, today – a few days before Christmas, mind you – we celebrated that day that was (almost) a year ago. That fateful day when life in my forever home would never be the same again in the best kind of way. It was a couple days after New Year’s Eve (when Carter was born) that he came home the first time. And although literally speaking that day happened almost a year ago it does indeed feel like yesterday. Double trouble

So when celebrations unfolded today it was a little confusing at first. It made all that nervous excitement in recent days make a lot more sense. It brought to light what all that fuss was about in the kitchen yesterday and into the night last night. My forever home had become a “Winter One-derland” right before my eyes. And I loved every bit of it.

It isn’t often this particular group of friends and family get together. I’m sure it will happen a bit more frequently now that Carter is in the family portrait, but prior to that it didn’t happen much. Mom’s family and dad’s family came together today and I was just so overwhelmed to see it all happen. I love my people, so I adore their people by proxy.

Few things in life are as emotionally satisfying as being surrounded by so many loved ones in your home. Joy. From the ground up, it lived in the visitors today as all kinds of silliness unfolded before my eyes. There was no lack in things to see, but I think the incident with the smash cake was my favorite.

Mom went through all kinds of trouble to craft an absolutely beautiful work of art of a cake with the specific purpose of being torn apart by Carter. At first it seemed a bit wasteful to me, but I can’t say I minded the waste that made its way to the floor. Nor did I mind the various other treats and nibbles I gathered throughout the day. Or the extra pets and love.

I may have started the day a bit confused. The way I see it, we are celebrating the passing of time almost two weeks early. But as the day went on and all of the excitement that led up to it came to fruition, I was reminded of something. It doesn’t matter when the birthday celebration happens. Because every day is a day to celebrate.

To see the action of the day:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.593327026977&type=1&l=1c1252ca14

 

The Excitement Of It All December 19, 2014

Table cloths. Holiday decorations. And food smells. Lots of food smells. I’ve been around long enough to know what’s coming. I don’t need to have a crystal ball to know there will be some kind of fabulous shindig at my forever home tomorrow. Mom spent the majority of today running around like the headless chicken she often does before such events. There is cleaning and cooking and baking and decorating to be done, after all!

The funny thing is so many people tell her to slow down. Take it easy. Don’t stress. Yet she follows none of these pieces of (very sound) advice. It’s puzzled me for some time why she feels the need to uphold this reputation of hers as a “super hostess.” She could as easily not go to the detail she does with things. She could skip an appetizer (or three). There don’t have to be dessert options. One is probably just fine. Flangipropping

I think I finally got my answer today. It happened somewhere in between ironing her third table cloth and setting up the dessert table. She sat down, for honestly the first time since she woke up with dear baby Carter around 7 a.m. and sighed. To a stranger, it sounded like fatigue. And maybe there was a bit of fatigue mixed in, but I know better. I know better because I could see her face when it happened. Joy. From the ground up, it resonated in her smile and the twinkle in her eye as she surveyed the work that had been done so far.

Table cloths and decorations and food smells were the way of the day around here today. It was a lot of work, most of which mom made for herself. But she loves it. Thrives on it even. Has she been breathing a bit heavy since this afternoon as she runs around dusting and cleaning bathrooms? Sure. Will she be sore tomorrow? Probably.

But there is something about the excitement of it all that brings joy to life. And I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.

 

You Lose Some December 14, 2014

There is something about this holiday season I can’t put my finger (er, I mean paw) on. It bothered me on that day called Black Friday, when my forever mom and dad came home upset about the rude and pushy people they encountered. It bothered me every time since then they’ve ventured out to the stores and came back emotionally defeated. Silly People

It happened again today. Mom went on a solo trip to a few stores and instead of returning home joyful and full of the spirit of the season, she cried. That did seem admittedly a bit overkill from my doggie perspective, but I digress. The point is, it was not a good shopping excursion yet again. Partially because of the people, who have apparently gotten even more spiteful and hurried as time has gone on. But also because she came across a hurdle at every turn. There was something in the way of every single thing on her shopping list.

That store in the mall closed months ago. That product isn’t carried at this store anymore. They are sold out of that item at all locations of this department store. Defeat was the word she used when she returned home with literally nothing to show for her efforts.

Like I said, there is something about this holiday season I can’t quite put my paw on. But I do know the reason for the season, and I know mom does too. It’s not about the people at the stores or the shopping or the bags or the presents. It’s not about the chaos and the wrapping paper and the perfect gift. It’s about the magic. It’s about celebrating with family and friends. All that other stuff is ornamental.

Regardless of what is going on with the season this year, I know that for sure. I also know these days happen. Bad days are a reality of life. You win some, you lose some. But in my opinion, that’s okay because it makes the wins that much more meaningful.

 

 

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.

 

Broken Little Things November 26, 2014

I think it is probably one of the most frustrating things I see people experience. That says a lot given all that I observe in a day between my early morning, mid-morning, late morning, early afternoon, mid-afternoon and late afternoon naps. And it happened again today.

Mom has been in the holiday spirit even more than usual (which is saying a lot, believe me), so she’s been going against her self-imposed rule not to put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. Alas, the garland is up, the stockings are hung, and various other decorations donning messages of all things holiday are sprinkled throughout my forever home. I love every bit of it, not just  because of the brightness of the twinkle lights throughout the house, but because I can see straight through the twinkle in her eye to her happy heart.Just call me Wiley

All was going according to plan today when it happened. Three strings of new lights didn’t work. They were all brand new, purchased from the store today, and they simply did not light up. They were broken beyond repair. And there was a brief pause as this sank in for my forever mom and dad as they were near completion on operation holiday decoration for the day. Defeat. From the ground up, it was in the air. But not for long.

Because things don’t work sometimes. Things are broken. It is not the end of the world. First of all, they are just things. You can’t take any of it with you to heaven, so in my opinion it doesn’t really matter all that much. Beyond that, defeat has no place in a day like today. A day full of twinkle lights and Christmas carols and joy. That is what today was about.

The thing is, I understand it’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s absolutely maddening when something is supposed to work and doesn’t. But that’s life. And life goes on. The question is, are you going on with it? Or are you going to let something as silly as a broken set of holiday lights bring darkness into your day? Either way, it’s up to you. But I find there is strength to be gained from these situations that is much more significant than any broken little thing.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places,” as American author Ernest Hemingway put it. And I would say it is the broken places that make us who we are.

 

A Season for Giving November 17, 2014

Some stories are meant to be told. I stumbled across one today in a conversation I overheard between mom and dad over dinner. Mom spoke with a woman today who volunteers at a local toy shop that is sourced by a toy drive around the holiday season.

The drive benefits struggling local families who may not be able to afford toys for their children for Christmas. The woman mom spoke with didn’t know what to expect when she volunteered last year, so what happened changed her heart forever.

There was a woman who was getting a couple of books for her children. When she brought them to the volunteer to check out (so to speak), she was crying. Upon initiation of conversation with this woman, the volunteer asked about her children and reassured her they would love the gifts she picked out for them. That’s when the tears really started rolling. Whether her children would like the books was not her concern.The New Look

“No, no, it’s not you,” the woman said. “I’m just so excited to have something to read to my children.”

I’m just so excited to have something to read to my children. Please understand, this is coming from your resident rescued doggie optimist. I’ve lived life as a have and a have not. I know not to take things for granted. But reading is implied. It seems obvious to me. That is until I heard this story.

What a fabulous reminder not only what the season is about, but what sincere giving is about. What living with purpose is about. What paying it forward is about.

Some stories are meant to be shared. What is yours?