Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Every Second Counts March 2, 2015

It’s a pretty morbid thought in my opinion. Yet it’s something that dear baby Carter seems to get behind, so I guess I can give it the benefit of the doubt.

Every time he hears this song, his reaction is the same. Whether he is in his high chair or running down the hallway or trying (and failing) to climb the stairs, he stops cold and starts bouncing around like a ninny. Sunshine, in a Smile

It’s called “Live Like We’re Dying,” and in it Kris Allen suggests making the most of every moment since we never know when it might be our last. And my dear innocent 14-month-old Carter loves all three minutes and forty-three seconds of it.

“So if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would’ve done?” the song asks. “Yeah, we gotta start looking at the hands of the time we’ve been given. If this is all we got and we gotta start thinking if every second counts on a clock that’s ticking, gotta live like we’re dying.”

I will admit to liking the message, but the context bothers me every time. No one is dying. We’re too busy living.
At least that’s how I felt until it happened tonight. Right there, amid the relaxing routine of Carter’s bedtime, I heard the most beautiful thing. Laughter. From the ground up, all three of my beloved forever people were laughing hysterically. And it made my heart smile.
From what I could tell, mom was making a blowing noise on Carters belly, causing him to laugh longer and with more vigor than I have ever heard from him in his short life. The result was laughter from mom and dad. It went on like that for five precious minutes before Carter remembered he was tired and it was time to go to sleep.
But the length of time didn’t matter. Because in those minutes the laughter brought with it an understanding that it doesn’t matter that no one is dying. It’s that every second counts. The way I see it now, that’s the real point of the song.
That must be why Carter stops cold every time he hears it. It’s not because someone is dying. It’s because we’re too busy living.

 

 

Like No One’s Watching January 9, 2015

It starts with a little sway. Some might even consider it more of a shimmy. It’s subtle. Almost too subtle for an unfamiliar eye to pick up. As the moments pass, the motion gets a little more noticeable, particularly in the region of the left arm, which starts to swing. It is definitely a sight to be seen.

Dear baby Carter is a dancing fool all of a sudden. As one of his primary caretakers, I can speak knowledgeably on the topic of his distinct appreciation for music from a very (very) early age. But now that he has figured out how to really express himself through dance, his one-year-old self just can’t help but feel the rhythm. If there is a song to be heard, he will listen. And there will be dancing.

As it happened tonight to Jason Mraz’ “Waiting on the World to Change,” the whole family got involved. Even me, as I heard my forever mom say those familiar words. “Wiley, up.” And up I went into her arms. So there we were again, dancing around like no one was watching just like mom and I used to do around the kitchen. Just like we did when mom was pregnant. Just like we did before Carter was walking.

Like no one's watching

It all got me to thinking about this passage of time with a little person around. It really does seem to fly by a lot more swiftly than it used to. At each step of the way, I know mom’s thinking it. When it was just her, dad and I, we were family and life was good. When all tiny little baby Carter wanted to do was snuggle into shoulder and sleep for hours at a time, that had to be the best time. Or maybe it was when he started smiling at her (and shortly thereafter, me). Or when he started talking. Or the first times he said mama and dada and doggie.

No. It has to be this time, when we are all dancing together for the first time.

That’s the catch. We keep waiting on the world to change and thinking there is no possible way the change can be any better than this moment. Yet every stage in life we’ve encountered together has been so special. It has been so uniquely different from the last stage, yet fills our hearts with the same warmth each and every time we let it.

This week it’s dancing. Next week, who knows? But I sure can’t wait to find out.

 

Just Keep Chugging November 9, 2014

All aboard! I hear that a lot in my forever home these days as children’s television frequently features choo choo trains as my forever mom calls them. There’s even this one channel I’ve taken to watching with dear baby Carter occasionally that features a choo choo train song every couple of hours. It encourages the little people watching to get up and dance to the music. Though I’m not sure my little person understands those words, he’s always had a thing for music.

Dance, dance dance, mom will say, and he will jiggle and wiggle his little self all over the place. When he does it is honestly like the world stops and there is nothing but the silliness unfolding in the living room. It’s especially entertaining when he hears certain songs, like what they feature on the choo choo boogie or whatever its called.

Fearsome Foursome

Car ride to the dog park? Joy.

Well all of that became very real for Carter today as he journeyed with mom and dad to something called a train show. I don’t know much about these things, but I can only assume two things. There were trains. And there was dancing at the sight and sound of them.

It all got me to thinking about my music. About my trains in life, if you will. We all have things that make us tick, that keep us going, or that fill us with such exuberance that we can’t help but dance for joy. For me, its pretty simple. Time at the dog park, or on a car ride, or in my backyard paradise tend to do the trick. Time with my beloved family? Well, that’s a given. But laughter? Humor itself coming alive like it does when Carter does his silly little jig? That might be one of the most precious jewels of joy I’ve come across in life.

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers,” suggested American comedian Bill Cosby. “And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.”

Now it’s my turn to say the words. All aboard! I think its due time (assuming you haven’t already done so recently) to reevaluate our joys in life. What are the things that keep us chugging along through the challenges? Sometimes they might not seem that important, but that is most likely when they’re most important. We need to identify these things and embrace them for all they’re worth, because I believe we have them for a reason. We have these things not just to survive, but to live.

 

Let It Take You Over October 22, 2014

Nothing went wrong. Nothing spectacular happened either. It was pretty much your average day around the Schmidt house today. Dad went to that place called work. Mom cared for dear baby Carter when she wasn’t working. Carter was in good spirits. All was well around here.

So when it happened this afternoon, it brought an unexpected smile to my heart.

Carter has taken to spending time with dad when he gets home from work. It’s like he’s soaking up all the dad time he can, since he doesn’t see him as much as mom and I. Today was no exception, as he clung to dad while mom finished making dinner. That’s when that magic thing happened again. To me there is really other logical explanation for the emotional vacation the spirit takes when a good song makes an appearance in one’s day. Music. From the ground up, it touches the soul in a way words alone cannot.

Please let me preface this by saying dad, in general, is not a giggly person. And he doesn’t particularly care for dancing. But when One Republic’s “Good Life” came on the radio as mom was cooking and dad was holding Carter, what happened next really was its own slice of goofiness. I think dad thought mom wouldn’t see, but she has a way of noticing these kinds of things. Namely, she could hear both dad and Carter giggling like ninnies, so there was no way she wasn’t going to investigate the cause.

The scene in the living room was one that would have brought a smile to anyone’s heart. There dad was, with Carter, dancing around like a ninny to a song about living a good life. “When you’re happy like a fool, let it take you over,” Ryan Tedder sings. “When everything is out, you gotta take it in.” Good Life

That is exactly what mom and I did in that moment. As dad was happy like a fool, we took it in. And, in doing so, we were happy little fools too.

Today was just another day. Nothing went wrong. Nothing spectacular happened. It was definitely a pretty average day around the Schmidt house. That is, until that moment, when joy came alive at the hand of music and reminded us we are, indeed, living the good life.

 

For A Moment May 7, 2014

It’s probably not the coolest thing for a little boy to do. I’m sure playing baseball or driving imaginary cars is way more trendy. But he’s way too young for that yet anyway. So instead we danced. And it was another one of those special moments you wish you could somehow bottle up for a rainy day. Another Moment that Happened Today

Every other time I can remember the dancing, it was mom who started it. “Wiley, up” is the signal that its about to start. And this time it was dad saying it instead of mom. I guess it made sense since mom was holding baby Carter. So there we were – the four of us – dancing together like a bunch of goofs. The song choice this time around was 100 years by “Five for Fighting,” which is an important detail because of what happened next.

Moments after the scene came together, mom paused to go grab her camera phone in an attempt to capture the moment. It’s probably pretty hard to believe, but the picture taking has gotten way more frequent since my little person came into the world. I’m talking hundreds and hundreds of pictures, mostly of Carter, with the occasional ones of me or other family members scattered in the mix. Sometimes I wonder about this, since in a dog’s world you live the moment. You don’t take pictures of it. Not to mention sometimes she gets so caught up taking the picture to remember the moment that she misses the moment itself.

Clearly I’m not alone in my opinion, because in that moment mom got scolded. “Put the phone down and enjoy the now,” dad said. If I could have I would have given him a high paw. But alas I was in his arms so this was impossible. Instead I (happily) stayed where I was and dancing like ninnies resumed without further incident.

I found the whole thing ironic given the point of the song is to find joy in the moment regardless of what phase of life your living. The point is you’re in the moment. And you’re living. So today there is no picture. At least not of the dancing. In the moment, that is what mattered. And we don’t need proof. It will live on forever in our hearts. Maybe that’s better anyway, since I don’t know how cool dancing is in the confusing world of little people.

 

 

Just Keep Your Head Above January 20, 2014

It happened again. “Wiley up,” mom said as she picked me up for a dance around the living room. It was the first time we’ve done this since that fated night three months ago when my little family danced together in the kitchen.

But this time was different. This time mom couldn’t just feel Carter dancing in her pregnant belly. This time our little family danced together and we could all feel it. In our hearts.

The song choice seemed odd to me at first. I’ve heard it a million times and never thought much of it other than clearly it’s a favorite of mom’s. “You gotta swim, swim in the dark,” sings Andrew McMahon of Jack’s Mannequin. “There’s no shame in drifting, feel the tide and wait for the spark. Yeah you gotta swim, don’t let yourself sink – just find the horizon, I promise you it’s not as far as you think. The currents will drag us away from our love…just keep your head above.”

It isn’t exactly a slow dancing kind of song. But when it came on the music player dad was already dancing with Carter. So I wasn’t that surprised when mom and I joined the party. And as my family danced around the living room together I realized the importance of moments like this. There we were – the four of us. My forever family. Dancing together for the first (okay, I guess we could call it the second) time.My Family

And it all made sense. The song choice that seemed odd to me at first came alive in those precious moments together. These are the moments that inspire us to swim in the dark. These are the moments that are on that horizon. These are the moments that keep us swimming against the current. So I keep my head above and swim for moments like these.

 

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.

 

Come Away With Me October 5, 2013

I’m no Mozart or Picasso, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a thing of beauty.

I see art when I step out the back door into one of my favorite places. Some would call it a backyard. I call it paradise. There are squirrels to chase, trees to lounge under, and (perhaps best of all) it’s all mine.

And it doesn’t matter where I am in the house – it is music to my ears when my treat jar gets opened. That, or a treat bag, or the bag with my rawhides in it. Or the door where my people keep my leash. Forget Canon in D. I’ll take the sound that signifies impending adventure over that piano music any day.Come Away With Me

Until today. Today music and art combined into it’s own fabulous kind of symphony I will forever hold dear to my little doggie heart.

It began as it usually does. “Wiley up,” mom said before she picked me up for a dance around the kitchen. It was the first time we’ve done this since she’s been pregnant and I didn’t realize I kind of missed it. Her and I dancing like ninnies to Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me.” I know we looked absolutely ridiculous and I didn’t care.

So you can imagine my surprise at what happened next. Dad caught us. And he didn’t hesitate. Instead he came away with us. And I’m sure we looked even more silly-the three of us clumsily clamoring around in the small space. But none of it mattered because in that moment we were away together in a happy place. I didn’t think things could get any better (especially within only 3 minutes and 18 seconds of the song), but they did.

Beauty. It’s all around us in various forms. I see it in all kinds of places. I hear it in all sorts of ways. And today it took me away. Just as Norah sang the words “come away with me and I’ll never stop loving you,” mom interjected to point out the baby could hear the music. “And baby is dancing right now too,” she said.

So there we were – the four of us. My forever family. As art and music collided in its harmonious symphony, I mentally confirmed what I already knew to be truth. I would come away with them anywhere.

 

Let’s Start With Forever June 29, 2013

It has been suggested that a canine’s greatest fault is our short lifespans. At an alarming rate that runs roughly seven times faster than people time, I can’t say I entirely disagree. Man’s best friend shouldn’t get taken away from man any sooner than both parties are ready. But would we really ever be ready?

I wondered this today as I caught my mom indulging in what she admits is guilty pleasure entertainment. From witches and warlocks to dragons and vampires, all things supernatural have become very popular lately in literature, television, and movies. And while my mom tends to side with vampires (more often than not) on their seemingly endless mythical feud with werewolves, I can’t say I agree. This may not come as a surprise as I am obviously a (very distant) canine relative of sorts, but that is not my only rationale. Sure, vampires have immortality on their side, but from what I can tell living forever has its fair share of cons. I Choose Life

Artistic interpretations of vampire life continue to evolve over time, but the basics remain. And while it’s not always the case, many interpretations paint vivid portrayals of vampires who long for a chance to be human and live a normal human life. This leads me to believe immortality might not be all its cracked up to be. In contrast, werewolf life somehow strikes the perfect balance between natural and supernatural, allowing for a normal human life and (along with that) a susceptibility to death.

To me, death is just as important as life because it is our constant reminder to cherish what we have. I believe in the gift of each morning, living each day like it could be my last, and dancing like no one is watching. I believe in James Dean’s suggestion to “dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” None of that would remain a priority if I were miraculously granted immortality. And if it did, I can honestly say it would never be the same.

While I don’t necessarily disagree that a canine’s greatest fault is our short lifespan, I also can’t say I would change that if I was ever afforded the option. The truth is I don’t think anyone is ever really ready to lose a loved one. It doesn’t matter whether someone dies unexpectedly or inevitably loses a hard-fought battle with terminal illness. You’re never really ready. And neither way is easier on those left behind. But just as it is for people loved ones, the relationship between a person and his or her dog is priceless even after the dog moves on to doggie heaven. Just ask someone who has lost their best canine friend – those paw prints remain embedded on their heart forever. I’ll take that over immortality any day. That is my kind of forever.

 

 

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching January 26, 2013

I may not know the waltz, the fox trot or the samba, but I sure can dance. My mom and I have this (semi-secret) routine that (almost never) involves anyone but us.

“Up, Wiley,” is my signal the dance is about to start. And the next thing I know, I’m up in my mom’s arms and we are swaying together to anything from Norah Jones to Bob Dylan. We truly are dancing like no one’s watching. And I love it. For those three or four minutes, all is well in the world. My mom is happy, I’m happy, and (as a believer in the contagion that is happiness) I could not ask for anything better than that.

2013-01-26 20.57.00

Up, down, or sideways, music moves me. Lyrics lull me into happier places, mourn with me in darker places, and inspire me to be better, write better, and live better. From Bette Midler to Phillip Phillips, words find their prophetically poetic home amidst the strum of guitar chords and harmonious tinkling of piano keys.

I find moments of solace in these things. My journey within begins here.

“I fall into a sacred rage to escape
the hells of the world made of puppets and fake
death wont be too far now the seeds in my heart start to awake
so all I can do is be the man that the Lord brought me to today
hold on to your life by love…”

Thank you Phillip Phillips for again bringing to lyrical life the ideas of Sarah Ban Breathnach, who speaks of the basic tools of holding on to life’s authenticity in Simple Abundance: “You need enough breathing space to allow your heart to ponder what is precious,” she writes. “Or perhaps you can let your imagination soar into the twilight where dreams first dwell.”

That is what music does for me, literally and figuratively. It offers me those precious moments with my mom dancing like a ninny with me all over the kitchen. And it offers me hope in harmony best illustrated in LeAnn Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”

“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake
But it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Reconsider
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance.”

She took the words right out of my little doggie mouth.