Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

How Big Your Brave Is August 26, 2014

For some people, it’s as simple as getting out of bed in the morning. Or standing up to a coworker about some kind of injustice. For other people, it is the decision to get an ultrasound to try to find out the origin that nagging health problem they’ve been battling. For others still, it’s spending 12 hours in the waiting room while a loved one undergoes surgery to remove cancer.

Sometimes I think it’s too easy to forget the challenges those around us are facing on a daily basis. You go about your day doing what needs to be done, and that’s not necessarily wrong. But the reality is these things happen to people day in and day out. I know it because each of those things happened today. Family members and friends alike faced a variety of uphill challenges today worthy of pausing to recognize and respect. Thank YOU

Sure, it’s national dog day in America today. I could (and almost did) let myself get swept up in that, wondering why I didn’t get a special ice cream cone like I do on my birthday. Sure, it’s the day after my adoption anniversary, which went generally unnoticed by my beloved forever people yesterday. I could let that bother me. But life has taught me there is no reason for such things. There is no reason for negativity. Negativity is its own kind of cancer in my book.

The only way to beat it is to kill it with kindness. So today instead of fretting about what I could see as disappointments in my own little life bubble, I focused my thoughts and prayers on those people around me encountering a variety of situations. Like my mom’s good friend Dorian, whose dad underwent surgery to remove cancer cells today. And my mom’s good friend Mel, who had an ultrasound to figure out what might be causing her thyroid issues. These are real life things that happened in the lives of people I care about today.

It reminds me of some of the lyrics in that catchy song “Brave” by Sarah Barielles. “Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down by the enemy,” she sings, “fallen for the fear and done some disappearing, bow down to the mighty,  stop holding your tongue…show me how big your brave is.”

So to the loved ones I so deeply care about, and to the strangers I don’t know, show me how big your brave is. Because it might not mean all that much, but I’m rooting for you. I want to see you be brave.

 

Going For Gold February 12, 2014

I wonder what I would look like in ice skates. Or skis. Or those goofy looking goggles so many athletes are wearing these days. It’s hard not to at least put some thought into these things as my people have been watching something called the Olympics so much lately.Snowy Dreaming

Whatever they’re doing at these Olympic games sure looks tough to me. Much of it involves snow and ice. And winning medals. But I definitely don’t need a set of those goggles to see its so much more than that. These athletes are living their dreams.

For many of them, this is something they’ve dreamed of doing since before they even knew they were dreaming. Since then they’ve practiced and trained. They’ve won and lost. And they’ve fallen. Hard. I was reminded of this tonight as I watched in horror as a women’s downhill skier took a painful fall in the finals. All of that hard work and determination is worth nothing without one fundamental truth. The most important decision you can make in your quest for the gold is to get back up.

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them,” suggested American filmmaker Walt Disney.

I’m pretty sure I would tumble right off those skates, right into a tree on those skis and let’s face it – I would look pretty ridiculous is one of those figure skating getups. But that’s the thing about going for gold. The gold itself looks different to everyone. Good health and happiness. Landing that dream job. Or, in the case of the Olympians at Sochi, a gold medal.

Yet all dreamers share something deep within that keeps them going. Courage. From the ground up, they share the courage to accept failure with grace. Because courage is the fuel for those who dream. And dreams are only as big as you make them.

 

Keepers of the Light January 27, 2014

Leadership. It’s a big word that means a lot of things to a lot of people. Ask 100 people to define a leader and you’ll get at least 60 different responses. Words like strength, courage, integrity, honesty, and loyalty all come to mind. Ask a dog, and the response is pretty simple. Leader of the Pack

For us, its almost instinctual. We have a pack mentality, therefore there will always be a pack leader. And there will always be a pack leader because of our pack mentality. It is that simple. We look to our leader for everything, and do not mind doing so because we prefer to know where we stand. And if no pack leader steps forward, we will assert ourselves as the leader. Whether or not that is the best option is left for interpretation.

I’m not saying one way of thinking is better than another, but I do think there is something to be learned from especially the similarities between the two. At least from what I can tell, there is something almost instinctual about a person’s definition of leadership as well. It is personal, usually aligned in some way with one’s subjective experiences. Good leaders have a way of asserting their leadership in a way that guides rather than forces followers. A way of making them feel at home with their place in life while at the same time in control of it.

Late great American basketball coach John Wooden had a few things to say about leadership, one of them being that leaders make decisions while followers make suggestions. Because let’s face it. It’s pretty easy to make a blanket statement about something bothersome. It’s something completely different to actually do something about it.

That’s the thing about leadership. It means different things to different people. But in a way that is also the glue that binds its meaning together. Whether you have two legs or four, one thing in particular seems to ring true. The best leaders are those whose followers become leaders themselves.

So I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of the canine and the people way of thought. The way I see it, leaders are keepers of the light. They shine brightly for those in the darkness. They guide gently with even the smallest flickering flame. They help people see the way. And (perhaps most importantly) they pass the torch along so there is never a moment of darkness.

 

Mind Over Matter January 14, 2014

We thought we were so smart. Reading all those books, blogs and message boards. Doing all that research. Getting the nursery ready. Well, mom did at least. I knew better. I knew that baby Carter would write his own book. And he has not disappointed.

Me and My BuddyHis nights and days are flip flopped. Sometimes he cries when there is nothing to cry about. And then he smiles in his sleep about who knows what. I’ll be honest. I know nothing about babies. Absolutely nothing, other than what I’ve heard my forever mom and dad discuss between themselves, and the odds and ends advice they’ve gotten from the visitors in the last couple of weeks.

But I do know this. From what I can tell, my dear little person is every bit of the blessing I knew he would be. He is strong. He is healthy. He sleeps enough. Mom and dad love him. He’s pretty darned great. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud to call him my puppy brother.

I was thinking about this today as we had more visitors who had all kinds of advice for mom. I watched as she soaked it in. I saw the determination in her eyes as she even put a couple of the tips into action at bedtime tonight. She wants so badly to do everything right.

And I want so badly to tell her she can’t. She will mess up. I know because she made her fair share of mistakes with me (don’t tell her I told you). But look at me. I turned out all right. And Carter will too.

As British politician Sir Winston Churchill suggested “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” It doesn’t matter what all those books, blogs and message boards say. Mom won’t do everything right. But she has courage. That’s what matters to me.

 

A Moment of Magic October 31, 2013

I don’t believe in magic. Not in the traditional sense at least. The whole now you see me, now you don’t idea? What fun is that anyway? But I will never forget the day I discovered a different kind of magic.

To the rest of the world it was Halloween. To me, it was Jo’s eighth birthday. That’s all that mattered. I had been living with her and the man with the leather belt for a few months, and had seen my fair share of things I still wish I hadn’t. But this was a day to remember for all the right reasons.My Kind of Magic

This was the one time I ever witnessed Jo and the man with the leather belt happy at the same time. I was surprised he remembered the day at all, since he was usually pretty forgetful about basic things like having anything besides frozen pizza and beer in the fridge. But alas, he surprised us both. After dinner (he actually cooked something), he got out a pink cupcake with a single candle on it and sang happy birthday to her. I sat by her side, proud and humbled to share in such a special moment. Then he gave her a present. It wasn’t wrapped (it was still in the Toys ‘R Us bag) but that was beside the point.

It was magic. Literally. He gave her a 100-peice magic set. “I had one when I was about your age, so I thought maybe you’d like it,” he told her. She loved it. They spent the next few hours experimenting and doing something I’d never seen them to before. They laughed together.

That was the real magic. Magic is in moments like these. Moments brought to life by a power within us to believe. “Magic flows through us,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance, “mystery infuses every encounter of every day…You have no idea of the countless lives you touch in the course of a lifetime.”

My life was touched that day by something special. I may not believe in the hocus pocus kind of magic, but that day I became a believer in a whole other kind of magic entirely. I became a believer that the power is within us to live this magic in our daily lives. To find and embrace moments of pure joy is a magic all its own.

 

Dive Right In September 18, 2013

Water. I know it’s necessary for living. And for staying clean. But I just can’t understand why anyone (human or canine) would choose to spend any given amount of time immersed in water. My mom likes swimming in it, and I know there are certain breeds of dogs who love retrieving things from it, but the concept is one that just doesn’t make any sense to me.   In the Deep End

I can’t say I have a good reason for my opinion. It’s not like I ever had a bad experience that now haunts me or anything like that. I just don’t like it. But I do think there is something to be learned from the practice of swimming so maybe it’s not all bad. I got to thinking about this tonight after mom got home very much later than usual from that place called work. Apparently she spent the day at meetings listening to various people talk about all things interesting that relate to her job. Some speakers were more poignant than others, she told dad, which made for a long day. (She’s telling me! I hate when she gets home so late…talk about a long day!)

From what I’ve heard, public speaking is one of those things more people dislike than like. Kind of like dogs and water. As I thought about it, something unites these two seemingly unrelated opinions: fear. One of my very least favorite emotions. It’s right up on my list of disliked emotions with timid, anxious and shy. No one I know would use these words to describe me, but that wasn’t always the case.

Fear is debilitating. It commands our attention and directs our actions. And I say this as one who used to live in fear of a variety of things. I feared no one would ever love me. I feared the man with the leather belt. I feared and it consumed me. But I can say with confidence it consumes me no longer. My optimism has brought me to a place in life where I make it a goal to bring fears to purpose. And sometimes the only way to do this is to dive right in. Head first, or heart first, depending on how you look at it.

“Courage is a peculiar kind of fear,” suggests British politician Charles Kennedy. Water may not be my favorite thing in the world. And I think public speaking is one of the most common fears people have. But something can be learned from the concept of diving in as a means of facing our fears. It takes courage to bring our fears to purpose in life. Dive on in – the water is warm.

 

 

 

A Love Uncommon April 23, 2013

It’s hard to explain. My heart rate picked up. I felt warm. I felt shaky in a way that made my paws feel like marshmallows beneath me. I didn’t understand it. I thought to myself, “self: could this be love?”

It was during my brief stint with the family in Port Washington, Wisconsin that adopted me for a few weeks. You know, the one with three cats and two other dogs? They deemed me to be too much a behavioral problem for them and returned me to the humane society, but not before I escaped on my own a few times. It began as what I would refer to as attention-seeking behavior, as I felt I didn’t receive as much emotional attention from the people trying to share it with so many other animals. But one warm summer day I found a new reason to make my way out the doggie door, jump the four-foot fence and explore the neighborhood.

Her name was Taffy, and she is the most beautiful Beagle I’ve ever seen. She lived a few blocks away with her forever dad Eric, who adopted her as a puppy. I’m not certain Eric ever knew what was happening between us since I only ever just saw her from a distance. But there was something in her eyes that made me wish we could run around her beautiful fenced in yard together for hours and hours.Love Makes Smiles

I know it might sound silly, since science tells very different stories about doggie love. Some scientists deny that dogs feel love for one another. Others believe the unconditional love we show our people is testimony to our passionate potential to love other dogs. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I am a believer in the latter theory that indeed dogs do love each other, perhaps not like humans but instead in ways that (at least the majority of) people wouldn’t understand.

Scientific theories aside, what I know for sure is I’d never felt like this before. I certainly loved my birth mom and brothers, Tiger and his puppies, and Rusty from the humane society. What I felt for Taffy was different in a way that stuck with me long after that family returned me to the humane society.

So you can imagine my surprise when one day, my parents brought me with them to that same northern suburb of Milwaukee. I’d come to recognize the scenery, as it is also where my dad grew up and where his parents still live. But this time we took a few different turns and ended up in my old neighborhood. In Taffy’s neighborhood. My dreams sometimes get the best of me, so I had to convince myself what was happening was real life rather than a dream. The memory I had of my dear Taffy was a love uncommon.

As were the moments that followed. I was reunited with Taffy that day. It turns out my forever dad and her forever dad go to that place called work together every day, and had become friends. I didn’t care. I was so happy to see her and finally have our time together running around like ninnies in her fenced-in backyard. It was a dream come true.

I’ve only seen her one more time after that, but I don’t have to spend more time with her to be sure. She is definitely one of the loves of my little doggie life. My mind still doesn’t believe it, but my heart knows it to be truth. I’m sure scientists wouldn’t be able to explain my rapid heart rate, above average body temperature and marshmallow paws either.

But time has offered me the chance to reflect on my feelings, which I now find brought to life through the words of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said “being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone gives you courage.” I needed both strength and courage at that point in my journey, so I will be forever grateful to Taffy for helping me find what I needed to get through to the next chapter of my life.

 

Love is Your Life to Live February 13, 2013

Most people know chocolate can kill dogs. Consequently I avoid the stuff like the plague. But that doesn’t mean I need to stay away from the adorable phrases on the aluminum foil packaging. My mom indulged in a chocolate tonight with packaging that read “Be your own valentine.”

This got me to pondering words like courage. Strength. Life.

Great thinkers throughout history have linked big ticket words like this to what is arguably one of the most fundamental words in the English language: love. There is great debate about whether this elementary English word should be classified in dictionaries as a noun, verb or adjective. Consider your source people. In the world of Wiley, love is most definitely a verb.

Like true and authentic joy, love is your life to live. But there is this thing about love that I could never quite put my paw on…and I know it is my own fault. Every day I make the conscious decision to see the best in people and things. And every day I overlook the best in myself.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,” said ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

It is not easy for most people to love their authentic selves deeply. It means accepting the unacceptable, letting go of grudges, and giving your soul a bear hug. It takes courage. It is something I should do, but don’t.

Melancholy

It is hard to love yourself when you get separated from your mom too young and no one will take you in. It is hard to love yourself when you sit at the shelter watching puppy after puppy get adopted while you pace hopelessly in your cage. It is hard to love yourself when you are returned to the shelter after being adopted by a family that didn’t have enough love to go around. I’ve always had an abundance of love to share with everyone but myself.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into place,” actress Lucille Ball advised. “You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” So today I plead with you to join me in my newfound quest to literally take the words of Gandhi to heart.

“Where there is love there is life,” he said. My life has not always been easy to love, but that will no longer keep me from living an authentic life of love. As my own valentine, its my life to live.