Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

There’s No App for That May 4, 2013

I got something in the mail recently I couldn’t keep from sharing. As I’ve previously mentioned, I recently attended first communion celebrations for two of my favorite little people. While I was not allowed in either church, the messages of love, hope and peace filtered their way directly into my little doggie heart through the conversations that followed.

Thank YOUI was reminded of those messages this week when I received thank you notes from princesses Sophie and Abigail thanking my parents and I for our gifts of money and jewelry. Just as my name had been included on the invitations, my name was included on the notes thanking us for coming to be part of their special days. I can honestly say I was absolutely touched by the sincerity of gratitude in the priceless little people handwriting of Sophie and Abigail.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life,” author Melody Beattie writes. “It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

These written words have an unspoken power to ignite my imagination and feed my soul. But they also bring to mind something about the written word itself. It is dying amidst our technologically savvy culture and it breaks my heart.

Every time the newspapers get thinner and smaller, I know that also means there are less people on staff to do the reporting, editing and layout. While e-books are enabling more writers to dip their ink in the wonderful world of publishing, gizmos like tablets and e-readers are encouraging people to opt for a paperback-free way of the future. And with the millions of apps and games, Smartphones are helping people around the word stay “connected.” Connected to what? Certainly not to each other, when it’s more convenient to use technology.

Why call when you can text message? Why write when you can e-mail? Why browse a library when you can buy the book with a click of a button?

I’ll tell you why. There is one very important thing people who buy too far into the technology are missing: the context of emotion. The vocal tone of a sentence can drastically alter its meaning, and good intentions can be so easily misinterpreted for sarcasm. Albeit, the majority of tech-savvy folks know that ALL CAPS MEANS YOU’RE YELLING, but a yell is meant to be heard not read. Sure, you can put a smiley emoticon (or a winky face, or a kissing face, or an undecided face) at the end of a text message, but that doesn’t come close to the impact of any of those emotions experienced in person. The thought that goes into a handwritten letter or thank-you note is unmatched by the autocorrect and spell check of word processors.

All the teeny tiny happy faces in the world can’t replace a real one. You can’t give someone a hug via e-mail. Herein lies the problem with our reliance on modern technology. Power to the people who still write thank you notes, send paper cards to family members on birthdays and anniversaries, and who read the newspaper. Call me old school, but getting those special little envelopes in the mail this week brought to light a serious problem with our continuously evolving technological society. Let us really stay connected by remembering the power of a hug or kiss can’t be felt through a text message. I will always be a supporter of local libraries and book stores. And (perhaps most important of all) there is no app for gratitude.

Related Articles:

Peace Be With You – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/04/21/peace-be-with-you/

Hope In Gratitude – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/01/14/hope-in-gratitude/

 

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.

 

I’m No Angel April 10, 2013

I can’t say I’m that big a fan of people calling me a mutt. I know my mom was a purebred Norwich Terrier, and I never knew my father. But every now and then I hear my mom say it (on a walk or at the dog park or whatever) in response to someone asking what kind of dog I am, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me a bit that she occasionally refers to me as a mutt.

By Bing’s definition, mutt is synonymous with a mongrel dog of a mixed or unknown breed (which I suppose I am), also known as an offensive term that insults someone’s intelligence. While I would argue the former makes me who I am, I also say the latter is a complete dissention on what it means to be man’s best friend.I'm No Angel

The way I see it, a lot of purebred dogs these days are encountering more and more problems because of careless (or in some cases intentional) breeding decisions that result in health problems that haunt the breeds for the rest of their lives. I know standards of the Westminster Kennel Club are at an all-time high for complete impossibility in terms of the expectations they place on certain breeds. Obviously, the breeders make changes to adhere to the ever-changing regulations, but I can’t say I believe the changes are for the best of the breeds, or their intelligence.

Meanwhile, genetic scientists who study dog breeds are more supportive of so-called imperfect mutts than ever before. Due, at least in part, to our genetic diversity, we tend to inherit the best of our parenting breeds. Furthermore, if our parenting breeds are mixed as well, we are even more likely to inherit the best of all the involved breeds.

All of that said and done, it may or may not come as a surprise to some of you that I am in complete support of genetic testing to determine one’s makeup as a breed. Please do not misunderstand: my qualifications for participation on a genetic test would not be to find out how high I might score in a dog show. Oh no. My intention would be to find out where I’ve come from, what makes me who I am, and what these so-called imperfections mean for my personality.

Many famous thinkers have commentated on the concept of imperfection, and its surprisingly positive impact on personality. One of my favorite empiricist thinkers Soren Kierkegaard once said “it belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.”

Imperfection indeed. Let us instead focus on opposites by exploring one’s “imperfections” and embracing them instead of focusing extra emotional energy on what comes unnaturally (or opposite) to them.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring,” said the late, great American actress Marilyn Monroe.

Imperfect, mad, and ridiculous as I may be, I don’t necessarily appreciate when my mom calls me a mutt. I’m no angel, but (as British singer Dido says) does that mean that I can’t fly? In fact, several human members of my family refers to imperfections in a surprisingly optimistic way. Rather than turn away from the attributes that make them who they are, they opt instead to embrace unique personality traits as those that make them who they are.

With that in mind, I honestly would rather be called these things (imperfect, mad, and ridiculous, for example) than any other adjectives because I know that with these words comes a certain sense of power and understanding of society that is unmatched by those who consider themselves to be perfect.

Perfection? No thank you. I would much rather embrace my inner mutt, regardless of the negative connotations of its definition. I would much rather be interesting. I would much rather be unique. I would much rather be imperfect in the best kind of way than be ordinary by anyone’s terms.

 

Everybody Wins March 24, 2013

If attention-getting were an Olympic sport, I would compete for the gold medal. In literal terms, dogs aren’t that great at playing games. Don’t get me wrong, we love our catch, fetch and agility as much as the next species, but in my humble opinion most of us are too honest to be good at most games. We wear our hearts on our fur and couldn’t tell a lie to save our life. You can see it in our eyes. But emotionally speaking, dogs are exceptionally skillful attentioPlaying in the snown stealers.

While I don’t posses the skills required for most human games, I do have this attention-stealing game I like to play especially with dad, where I sit and stare at him, paw at him and jump at him until he pays me what I consider due attention. Sometimes I even throw a toy at him. I almost always win these battles of the mind, either with a dental bone, or a rawhide, or with my favorite treat: playtime. I bet he doesn’t even know I do it just as much for him as I do for me. You see, I would call myself an attention stealer without hesitation or embarrassment. And I have my reasons.

Today is a day for making your own sunshine. It feels like the millionth dreary Sunday in a row, and this time there’s snow falling in droves. It is also the fourth day of spring, but it feels like the 150th day of winter. The seemingly never-ending dreariness does take its toll on the spirit, so I can only imagine today is a dark day for some people. It’s all too easy to let these days consume us sometimes, but I refuse to let that happen in the Schmidt house. Instead I play one of my most favorite games to bring some sunshine into the lives of my people.

When my little game results in playtime, I have really won a small battle for all of us if you ask me. Dad throws a toy, I fetch it, he throws it again. Sometimes he even throws it back and forth with my mom and I am ultimately the pickle in the middle. And they both laugh. Regardless of what is on the television or what the weather is doing outside, they both laugh. Everybody wins. I’ve said before that joy is best when shared, well, this is one of my most favorite examples of that. DSC00229

“Dark days come to all of us,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Yet discouraging days bring with them golden opportunities when we can be kind to ourselves. Believe it or not, today offers you a hidden gift, if you’re willing to search for it.”

No need to search, because the gift of sunshine is never hidden in my house. After all, dogs are no good at playing games. We are no good at bluffing, scheming and plotting. No sir. Instead we specialize in honesty, loyalty and nonsense. And we have a sense for when our people are having a dark day. I would argue we can tell when something is awry better than people in some situations. Call me annoying or a pest or whatever word you may, but often when I seek attention my goal is to give it back rather than to receive it. Today is a day for making my own sunshine and I am most definitely up to the task.

 

Life in Slow Motion February 18, 2013

I’m a pretty simple dog. I have a fairly regular daily schedule that involves sleep, food, love, playtime, food, and more sleep. I can’t complain. But sometimes I do wonder what Rusty and other pals from my past would think of my life if they could somehow live it with me.Life in Slow Motion

I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life, and all of my fur friends, yet sometimes I long for perspective from those I can no longer reach. This curious loneliness often takes me by surprise. I know what Rusty would say about this, which is oddly similar to what Sarah Ban Breathnach advises in Simple Abundance. So today I take in my life in slow motion as one of these distant loved ones might do from doggie heaven.

“Mary Kingsley was a hunter of a dream: the knowledge of who she really was and her place in the world. So are you,” Breathnach writes. “Yet even without encountering the daily dangers she faced…you have embarked on an adventure as exciting as that of any explorer. Uncovering the source of the Nile or charting the course of the Amazon are outward parallels to the inner journey you are on today – a safari of the self and spirit.”

On my safari, I have learned everyone we meet becomes as big a part of ourselves as we let them. Sometimes the more we take in though our interactions with others, the more we get to know our authentic selves. And we are more likely to let them in if we let our guard down and take a risk. That is where our journey to self discovery can take a challenging yet necessary turn toward the unexpected dangers of life’s adventures. But it is ultimately up to us to find the purpose behind our fears and make something of ourselves.

Every now and then, I’ll be caught in the middle while my people parents throw around one of my toys and I find myself wondering if Rusty is looking down on me from doggie heaven. Would he be proud of me? I know he would be very happy with my efforts to see the good in all people and things. And he would be absolutely ecstatic to find out I’m sharing my joy with whoever I meet in the world and in cyberspace. But would I make him proud?

Of that, I’m not so sure. I’m a pretty simple dog living a fairly scheduled life. So I stay the course on my safari of self and spirit and hope my life in slow motion does as much for others as it does for me.

 

Grass is Grass January 11, 2013

It bothers me when people talk about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence.

First of all, I don’t like fences. They are the ultimate metaphor for limitations. And while I have an appreciation for understanding one’s limitations, I don’t appreciate having a constant reminder taunting me about it.

Also, the way I see color completely negates the concept of the phrase. I see a spectrum of colors consisting mostly of yellows, blues and violets. Reds, greens and oranges are not distinguishable to me.

Regardless of my logical refutes to the phrase, I can admit there are metaphorical implications to consider. For people, fences are less of a limitation. (Especially those four-foot chained link ones that I have been known to clear in my more mischievous past.) And the grass may very well be greener on the other side. But just because something is perceived as a limitation doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be surpassed if it’s for the better good.

As with anything, it’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve said before that I’m an optimist. As a result, I’ve decided to find good in things on my side of the fence by watering the grass with my optimism. One of my favorite inspirational people Hellen Keller had a lot to say on this. Among many references she made to one’s optimistic option as an outlook on things made an appearance in today’s reading with Simple Abundance, which encourages positive thinking.

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit,” she said.

So I say no to the fence. And no to the grass being greener on the other side. Grass is grass, and its pretty darned great no matter what color it is.

Grass is grass

 

Writing my way to through Simple Abundance – Day One January 1, 2013

A new me in 2013? I hope so.Thirteen years ago Sarah Ban Breathnach had a simple idea that ended up changing her life forever. In Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, she set out to write an honest commentary on some of life’s most pressing questions.

“I knew I wasn’t the only woman hurtling through real life as if it were an out-of-body experience,” she writes in the foreword, “…But I also knew I certainly wasn’t the woman with the answers. I didn’t even know the questions.”

I will be the first to admit I laid out some pretty lofty goals for myself in 2013. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to find a practical way to hold myself accountable for how well I remember Christmas, love actively and live life backwards every day.

Reading the last few words of Breathnach’s foreward in Simple Abundance showed me how.

“Reading books changes lives. So does writing them. May Simple Abundance, through its gentle lessons of comfort and joy, help you find the authentic life you were born to live.”

And so begins my year-long journey to find the authentic life I was born to live…from my humble perspective. Joy, from the ground up.

Day one. New Year’s Day. “A Transformative Year of Delight and Discovery.” Today’s reading ironically challenges me to take time to dream. Take time to reflect on my most private of aspirations. All right Sarah, here you go.In deep thought

I want to be a writer. I want people to want to read what I have to say. Most importantly, I want my words to inspire people. I know its silly. I know people might not take me, a goofy four-year-old terrier mutt, seriously.

But I’m going to take the challenge to dream big. I am going to take a leap of faith and believe that this year I will post a blog entry every day. I’m going to believe in myself. Because sometimes, that is the hardest thing to do.

 

You can’t put Christmas away: Goals for 2013 December 31, 2012

I overheard an interesting conversation between mom and dad today. Dad was putting some Christmas things away, and mom scolded him. “Are you putting Christmas away!?” she questioned. His response surprised me. “Don’t be silly,” he said. “You can’t put Christmas away.”

Best known for writing the country classic “Happy Trails,” singer-songwriter Dale Evans had a similar commentary on the holiday season. “Christmas, my child, is love in action,” she said. “Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”

Loving enough is certainly not the problem. I love my people (and all of their people) wholeheartedly and unconditionally. It’s how I show it, how I “give” that I think I can improve.  Quality over quantity as they say. Christmas is not meant to be about the number of gifts under the tree, so why would one measure its spirit quantitatively?

1920s singer and comedian Margaret Young had a theory on this. “Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier,” she said. “The way it actually works is  the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do in order to have what you want.”Happy Trails

Who am I? I am a four-year-old terrier with a whole lot of love to offer the world. How will I accomplish this in 2013? I will begin by setting goals instead of resolutions. Webster’s dictionary defines “resolution” in a number of ways, including “the act or process of resolving, the act  of determining, or (my personal favorite) the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones.” What on Earth does that mean? As for me, I would rather set goals, which Webster defines as “the end toward which effort is directed.”

What do I want for 2013? What are the ends toward which my effort will be directed?

1. Remember that you can’t put Christmas away. It sounds simple (and perhaps even cliché), but I don’t care. Call it my effort to analyze a complex notion into a simpler one.

2. Love actively. Every day I will find a way to show my people I how much I love them. Literally speaking, I would like to convince my mom to take me to agility classes. I think it would be good for both of us – physically and mentally – to work together toward a common goal to get fit while spending time together.

3. Live life forward. I know who I am, and I want to share my perspective with the world. I will set aside the time necessary to keep sharing my thoughts on life with the world in hopes that my words might inspire someone else to do the same.

Happy trails in 2013 ya’ll.

 

My answer? I sleep smiling December 29, 2012

I saw one of those humane society commercials on the moving picture window today. You know the one…melancholy melodies, forlorn faces, and tear-jerking thoughts illustrating the unfortunate struggles of beaten, abused and neglected animals. If dogs could cry, I would have been bawling like a baby (my mom sure did).

Instead, I did what I always do when animals make an appearance on what my mom calls the television…I whined my most heartfelt of whines and even barked a little bit. (I don’t ever bark, except when animals show up on the television). “I will be the answer at the end of the line. I will be there for you while you take the time,” Sarah McLachlan swoons in the background of the commercial, “…Cast me gently into morning for the night has been unkind. Take me to a place so holy that I can wash this from my mind…”

I’m no stranger to beatings, abuse and neglect. I’ve endured the pain of being kicked to the side and whipped with a leather belt for going outside inside…even though I tried my hardest to hold it for four days without being let out. I’ve felt the misery of being discarded on the side of the road with no place to go, and more importantly no one to love me. I’ve wandered the streets in the freezing cold Wisconsin winters searching for shelter.  I’ve served time behind bars and cages. I know beatings, abuse and neglect. And it breaks my heart to see such a stark reminder that there are so many animals starving, without homes, or worse – in abusive, unloving or neglectful homes.

Its the kind of thing that I occasionally have nightmares about…images of my past haunt me, but thinking about those who live that horror in the present makes me realized how blessed I am. After everything I’ve lived through…the lyrics of the song in that commercial… “the memory of choosing not to fight”… .I sleep smiling because my parents gave me the best gift I could ever have asked for – a loving home. I found my answer. What’s yours?

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures December 28, 2012

Existentialism fascinates me. The philosophical theory that experiences define one’s existence was strongly influenced by German novelist Frank Kafka who said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” Well, that is the story of my year.

Good, bad or indifferent, 2012 was a year of firsts for me. I travelled to exciting new places, I earned the right to sleep in my parent’s room (instead of that blasted crate), and I had brushes with death that made me place a higher value on life. Its tough to pick just one “high” or “low” point, so I have chosen to review my most memorable moments as a means to recognize these existential moments that define my existence.

Memory lane 2012 began with me longing for the snow we saw at the start of 2011.

The great February blizzard of 2011 was very great indeed. I was disappointed by the lack of snow we saw this year, but the extra time exploring the great outdoors later in the year proved worth the wait…

In June, I took my first camping trip to Mirror Lake near Wisconsin Dells. I loved every second of it! All the new smells, sights, sounds….I know mom and dad were worried about me being quiet in the tent with them, but I was so exhausted after all our hiking on the trails that I paid little attention to the sounds of the night. Life lesson: Variety really is the spice of life.

In July, I got a haircut…while not my first, it was one of the shortest cuts I’ve ever had. I felt so free. Life lesson: “Beauty isn’t worth thinking about; what’s important is your mind. You don’t want a fifty-dollar haircut on a fifty-cent head” – Garrison Keillor.

In August, I met Diesel…one of my mom’s pals’ new puppy. I relished our moments together when I was bigger than him. He’s a chow/lab mix, so I knew he’d be bigger than me almost instantly. But I look forward to having him as a lifelong mate. Life lesson: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down,” – Oprah Winfrey.

September was an especially exciting month. I went to my first race at Elkhart Lake. While I’m not sure I understand the point of the cars going around and around the track, it was my kind of day. I got to be somewhere new with my people in the gorgeous outdoors. The Friday night football game about a week later held a similar appeal – one of the little people in the family was playing in the game, so it was even more exciting to be there to root him on. Life lesson: I like race days and football. Simple as that.

In October, I travelled with my family way up north and impersonated president Lincoln on the World’s Largest Penny. It was also around this time that my mom finally convinced my dad to let me sleep in their bedroom with them instead of having me sleep in a crate in a room down the hall. It might seem silly, but that is a big deal to me. Life lesson: Appreciate the small things-they may not be as tiny as they seem.

Remember that though by Kafka about the bites and stings? November quite literally brought a few of those for me. It was uncharacteristically warm in Wisconsin, so I had a few teeny tiny little unwelcome visitors take shelter in my fur. Not one, not two, but three deer ticks I had to contend with this fall. Fortunately for me, my mom and dad pet me on such a regular basis that they found them all and removed them before it became a bigger problem.

Mid-month brought my biggest struggle. It was one of the first frigid days of the winter season, but I was still so excited to go to one of my most favorite places in this whole world: the dog park. Mom kept talking about how it was the last time of the year, so I prepared myself for some fun. It was disappointing to get there and have there only be two other dogs to play with, but I didn’t care. I ran right up on the picnic table to greet a breed I know to be called a pit bull and was unpleasantly surprised with the result. It’s hard for me to tell what happened next, because I kind of blacked out, but I’ve overheard my mom tell the story enough times to know it wasn’t pleasant. From what she’s said, that pit bull had me dangling four feet in the air by its teeth, while still atop that picnic table for a good minute before I fell to the ground with my tail between my legs. The next thing I can remember is my eye hurting and that nice lady at the vet telling me how lucky I was that the scratch in my eye wasn’t worse…I could have lost my sight. Life lesson: Seeing is believing.

But November also brought a high for me in all the extra time I got to spend with mom while she’s been on what I have now heard her call a leave of absence for recovery on her leg surgery. Life lesson: If you look for it, joy actually is all around.

Such became the stepping stone for my blog, which I would call December’s most memorable moment. And so it is…here we are at the end of December reflecting on the year. At its most basic application, existentialism claims one is defined by his or her experiences. And with that, I would agree that 2012 experiences have contributed to who I am – good, bad, or indifferent.