Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

No Place I’d Rather Be January 23, 2015

I don’t have this problem very often. While not always the most succinctly, I can usually find a way to describe most things. Yet today I struggle. Because where I come from there are no right words to describe this sound.

It was different than it was in those first few months when dear baby Carter would cry. Though it had a way of tearing at mom’s heart, we all came to understand it was simply his only means of communication then. Over time, he has developed a myriad of other ways to tell us all what’s going on in that curious little mind of his. So now when the crying happens, we know it’s really something bad. Wiles and Carter

Especially when it’s more than your ordinary run-of-the-mill sleepy or hungry cry that does occasionally still happen. This was in a realm all its own. It was piercing. His little face was turning purple. And nothing (and I mean nothing) seemed to help. Except being in the arms of my dear forever mom, but even then the screaming continued.

Until it happened. Mom thought to cue up a familiar song on the music player and when those thoughtful notes entered the room I could almost see Carter’s body relax. He was still pretty upset about who knows what (mom thinks it was gas or something), but the crying was noticeably mitigated when the music started.

“Someday I wish I upon a star, wake up where the clouds are far behind me…where trouble melts like lemon drops high above the chimney top that’s where you’ll find me,” sings Hawaiian musician Isreal Kamakawiwo’Ole in a way only he could. “Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. And the dreams that you dare to…really do come true.”

It’s our song, mom whispered into Carter’s ear as he snuggled his bright red, tear-soaked face into her chest. And I know it’s going to sound crazy, but I knew in that moment something it is hard to put into words. A mother’s love. From the ground up, it’s about as unconditional as it gets.

I knew it when the crying first started. I knew it even as the crying ramped back up a bit as mom fiddled with the gadget to get the song to play again. I knew it when it quieted down. And when he snuggled his mommy. There is no place either of them would rather be.

 

A Blessed Life September 19, 2014

It was the strangest thing. There I was, walking along a familiar street wearing my same collar with my tags that read Wiley C. Schmidt. I was wearing the same walking harness I’ve had since forever too. I had the same leash attached, and I was wandering around the same neighborhood I have come to know and love.

But when I looked up at my forever mom, she was brand new to me. Even though I obviously know everything a dog can know about his person, it was like I had never seen her before.

And that’s when I woke up.Listen to your heart

Sometimes my dreams scare me. I know that sometimes people perceive whimpering while sleeping as a doggie daydream of all kinds of goodness. For me, that is rarely the case. I think maybe it’s because of the grief I still bear in my heart over losing my mom and brothers at such a young age or the homeless loneliness that followed. Or the denial I have in my heart about being returned to the humane society or being abused by the man with the leather belt. These are the things that haunt me in my sleep. These are the things I whimper about.

That is, until today, when I had the oddest dream I’ve ever been able to recall. It was like everything was familiar but I was meeting my dear forever mom for the very first time. And I won’t lie. That isn’t the worst thing to dream about in comparison to the usual.

I remember the day often. It was hotter than normal in Wisconsin, but that didn’t stop my would-be forever family from visiting me that day. I also can’t believe that was more than four people years (or the equivalent of almost 30 doggie years) ago. But alas, it was, and it is a day for which I frequently feel blessed.

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another,” suggested English writer George Eliot.

It might have evolved out of the strangest thing, but Eliot’s words ring true for me. I’ve seen what joy looks like through the eyes of love. I’ve seen what it’s like to live my life. And I love every single moment. Because, in my humble doggie opinion, that is what it means to lead a blessed life.

 

Belong To Your Dreams August 30, 2014

I wouldn’t say I’m a wimp. I’m not a weakling or a coward either. But in the face of pain, I will admit it. I don’t like it. I don’t like it in any variety I have ever experienced from physical to mental to philosophical. Pain is not my favorite thing.

Waiting to get going

No pain, no gain

Yet there is this popular people belief of “no pain, no gain.” It’s one that I will admit to completely blowing off in sheer denial the first time I heard it. Which is strange coming from me, since I generally love to embrace the musings of man. Not in this case.

Maybe it’s the physical abuse I encountered in the so-called care of the man with the leather belt. Or I guess it could be the emotional and psychological damage that followed not only his abandonment, but that of my first adoptive family. Such a thing calls into question literally everything you think you know about yourself. What did I do wrong? What would I (should I?) have done differently?

In many cases the answer to these absurd questions lies in the very same emotional space as their origin. Chances are, you didn’t do anything wrong. Most likely there is nothing you could have (or should have) done differently to change the outcome of a given situation.

I realize this now that I have had some time and distance to process how my personal emotional past plays an active role in my psychological future. Regardless of what I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t call myself a wimp or a weakling or a coward. I have shown bravery and courage when it was necessary, even if I still have nightmares of certain events to this day.

But I also have dreams. Really really good ones. Dreams that come alive in various situations of my daily life. Dreams I live in my sleep. Asleep or awake, they don’t look much different. In each of them I am (in one way or another) surrounded by two-footed friends otherwise known as family. Dreams. From the ground up, they are a pretty special antidote to the painful way of thinking about things. I get that now.

I wonder if I’d get that as clearly if I hadn’t had my fair share of pain. Though I suppose it’s possible I would have, I do think sometimes you need to live through the storm to better  appreciate the rainbow that follows. My storms were tough, but my rainbow is better.

 

On Choosing Joy June 19, 2014

I don’t get out much. I mean no disrespect to my people in saying so either. It’s a simple truth that of the 365 days in a year, about half of those days are actually walkable by a dog who lives in Wisconsin. Especially when we have an epically cold winter like we did this year, followed by a freakishly chilly (almost non-existent spring) and now this. Tornadoes have taken over cities around here lately as thunderstorms make their presence known.

Happiness IsJust the other day I was napping peacefully when alarms sounded to let my people and I know danger was potentially headed our way. Thankfully we were safe, save for a few tree branches in my backyard paradise that didn’t make the cut. But I was more upset about the interruption of my dream. As is the norm during nap time, I was in a very happy place. Except this time it surprised me to find that place was someplace other than my forever home.

It was everywhere else. There I was, on my own again, exploring the world. Except in this dream I knew I had a home to return to when it was all over. I knew because I (of course) had Mrs. Prickles with me to remind me of my forever people. But, more importantly than that, I had my joy. From the ground up, it is always with me reminding me of all things past, present and future for which I can be thankful.

I was reminded of this as the most simple of things came into question the other day. The rain fell down and the thunder and lightning were so strong they woke mom, dad and I all up in the night. Carter somehow slept through all of that (don’t ask me how). But as the rain fell and the winds shook the walls of my forever home I was reminded of what is really important in my life. It’s not my toys. Its not my plush doggie bed. It’s not even the photos of my dear forever family that scatter throughout the house.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t get out much. Our weather around here is harsh and unpredictable. But that’s okay, because it’s the joy I choose every single day that brings me strength. I think this is what is missing from so many lives, more than the possessions people seek. Joy. From the ground up, it’s yours for the taking.

 

Dust In The Wind April 20, 2014

It could be as silly as a lost toy. Or as heartbreaking as a forever person. There is truth in the philosophy that sometimes it takes the loss of something to recognize its value. But the instigator in me can’t help but challenge this particular truth to a dual. So to you, truth, I stick my wagging tail in the air and dare you to chase me. Dreaming Big

Because it’s there. The elephant in the room. The meaning behind the ideology. The real truth. Appreciate what you have while you have it and you won’t have to worry so much when it’s gone. It’s why I didn’t use to believe in bucket lists. They seemed to morbid, too sad and too real all at the same time. But that’s because I had it all wrong. A bucket list shouldn’t be something you put together only when you get horrible news. It shouldn’t be squeezed into the last few precious days, months, or years of life. No. A bucket list should be lived.

I turn six people years old next month. That’s approximately 42 in people years. I’m no spring chicken anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be young at heart. Just as it’s never too late to dream big, I realized today that there is nothing morbid about a bucket list if it’s put together for the right reasons. So today I put mine out there, in writing, for the world to see. Not because I’m dying, but because I’m living. The future starts now.

A Bucket List – Wiley C. Schmidt

1) Publish a book

2) Eat a hot dog (with ketchup and a bun)

3) Meet a celebrity advocate for animals (maybe Ellen? Or Ian Somerhalder?)

4) Go on a blind date

5) Run a marathon with mom

6) Meet and properly train my doggie replacement in the Schmidt family

7) See a movie at the theater

8) Attend a sporting event

9) Travel to Tennessee (I hear it’s beautiful there)

10) Have a steak dinner with my people

11) Watch the sunset over Lake Michigan

12) Master a trademark trick

13) Become a best friend to a little person

14) Swim in a lake

15) Ride in a fire truck

 

The Silly Sleep Smile January 28, 2014

My heart stopped today. It was only for a second (or three), but it definitely happened. It seems an appropriate response to what I witnessed. Baby Carter stopped breathing. So my heart skipped a few beats.

The WatchdogThere we were – mom, Carter and I – settling in for our late afternoon nap (a custom to which I’ve come to very much enjoy) when it happened. Whoever coined the phrase sleeping like a baby clearly has never watched a baby sleep. There’s flailing and jumping and funny breathing patterns and grunting and the occasional random cries. But there are also smiles. Watching all of this unfold has become a favorite part of my days. I am watching over my little person and all is well in my world.The Sleep Smile

So today when he stopped breathing, my world turned on its axis. I wanted to do something – anything – to make him start breathing again. Fortunately I didn’t have to. It happened on its own a few moments later. And apparently it’s normal, at least from what I heard mom and dad discussing later. But it seriously and completely freaked me out.

That’s when I realized there’s something about newborn sleep that is kind of like life. It’s fun. There are moments that overwhelm you with joy and prompt a smile straight from the heart. It’s scary. There are moments that take your breath away – for good or for bad reasons. It’s not always easy. There are things along the way that make us sigh and grunt and flail (at least emotionally if not physically).

And dreams are real. Today was not the firs time I’ve longed to hop inside that little baby mind of his to see whatever he was dreaming about. Moreover, I wish I could have protected him from whatever made him scared in his dream and share with him whatever made him happy. But, just like life, there are some things that are uniquely our own. Dreams are one such thing.

My heart stopped today. It wasn’t for long, but it was long enough for me to realize in that small moment something pretty big. “Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s question,” suggested American psychic Edgar Cayce. If that’s the case, my questions don’t really matter. Because if that silly sleep smile is any indication, my little person’s got it all figured out.

 

A Different Kind of Light December 1, 2013

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

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

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

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

 

My Purpose-Driven Life August 28, 2013

It’s a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. But a pressure exists in our society to figure it out sooner rather than later and I can’t say I agree with that. What are you going to be when you grow up? We ask it of our little people, who (more often than not) respond with some pretty big ideas. They want to be a lawyer. Or a writer. Or (better yet) a balloon maker (this was my mom’s dream job at the tender age of four).

Then they start school, and the ideas change. The dreams continue to evolve, but the question doesn’t go away. What do you want to be when you grow up? A lawyer? A writer? (At this point you have matured enough to rule out balloon maker as a profession). Then comes college where the pressure sounds the worst. What are you going to be when you grow up? Law school sure is expensive. And there sure is a lot of competition to become a writer. How about psychology? Or communications? Or financial planning?Ground Up Thinking

Obviously us canines don’t really go through this whole debacle as we rely on our people to struggle through it on our behalf. (All so they can go to that place called work instead of play with us all the time – a concept I’ll never fully understand). Perhaps because I don’t personally deal with the distraction of the daily grind, I’ve noticed something. Regardless of where along the line a person ultimately comes upon their answer to this very big question, it has something very significant in common.

None of this matters without purpose. Without passion. And I may not have a career, but I’m no stranger to thoughts on what makes up a purpose-filled life. I remember the first time I questioned my purpose right after I was separated from my birth mom and brothers.

I feared I would never feel what it’s like to be a family again.

I thought I found my purpose in protecting Jo from the man with the leather belt, but he didn’t like that purpose very much and opted to abandon me on the side of the road.

I feared I would never know home again.

So I spent the majority of my time at the Oshkosh Humane Society questioning my purpose in life.

I feared I never know love again.

But I have found that fear (especially in our darkest moments) ultimately brings purpose to those who let it. My fears led me to purpose in becoming a valued part of a family in my forever home. And I know now with complete certainty that I am fulfilling my purpose in something as simple as that.

It is a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. What do I want to be when I grow up? Besides the fact I’ve committed to never actually growing up, I have found what matters. My purpose in life is to be a valued part of my family in my forever home. My purpose is to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. My purpose is to live, and (in doing so) bring fear to purpose. What’s yours?

 

Tick Tock (The Watch-Dog) June 25, 2013

My mom has a thing for clocks. Big ones. I realized it the moment I cautiously tiptoed into my forever home for the first time. Excitement abounded as I was greeted by all sorts of new smells, sights and sounds, but two things instantly stood out to me. Both hang above the stairway leading to the basement; one is a sign that reads “home is where your story begins” and the other is an enormous clock.

Time is on our sideIt’s not the only oversized clock in the house, and sometimes when I’m all alone waiting for my mom and dad to come home from that place called work it’s all I can hear. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. The tiny rhythmic sound drowns out all others in those final moments before one of my beloved people arrive home.

I for one generally have mixed feelings about clocks. On the one paw, it is a constant signal of time passing that can in itself be a reminder to live in the present. On the other paw, it is a reflection of time passing. Period. In a dog’s life where one dog year is equal to seven people years, it’s not always a happy thought to think about another moment passing us by. Tick tock. Tick tock.

The Watchdog

All of this came to the forefront of my little doggie mind today thanks to a strange recurring dream I had again last night. I’ve been having this same dream since before I can remember that I am Tock (the watchdog). As in the Tock (the watchdog) made famous in Norton Juster’s famous children’s book “The Phantom Tollbooth.” I’m wearing a watch and everything.  In each dream I befriend a little boy just like Milo in the book. It’s a different boy each time, but our journey is the same. I find the boy in the Duldrums where I rescue him from the dreariness and we begin our journey to exciting places like Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, Mountains of Ignorance, and the Land of Wisdom. Along the way, we meet a variety of characters who share their stories (all rich with life lessons) with us.

Each time I wake I know I’ve just lived the plot of Juster’s book. I know for sure because each time the dream begins and ends the same way. It starts with an image of a boy who seems generally bored with life receiving a message “to (insert name here) who has plenty of time. It ends with the boy seeming much more excited about all that life has to offer receiving a message “to (insert name here) who knows the way.” Just like in the book.

All of this makes me wonder why my mom has a thing for clocks. I generally have mixed feelings primarily because of the dog-to-people ratio of time. But then I am reminded of what it’s like to be Tock (the watchdog) helping a lost little person find the way and suddenly my perspective on the matter changes drastically. Maybe that recurring dream I have is God’s way of reminding me to be thankful for every moment of time I’m granted in life.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Indeed we do not have plenty of time. Each moment is a blessing now, just as it is for the little people in my dream. While I can’t say I care much for clocks in real life, I don’t mind being Tock (the watchdog) in my dreams. Tick tock. Tick tock. The rhythmic sounds of time passing remind us to embrace the present. Time is on our side if we let it be, not because we’re bored with life but because we know the way.

 

If Dogs Ruled The World June 13, 2013

There’s a lot of controversy in politics today. I don’t know a lot about it, but from what I gather from the television a lot of people spend a lot of time debating a lot of things that may or may not actually come to pass in the legal system. While I wouldn’t dare imply these conversations are anything other than necessary stepping stones to the betterment of the world we live in, sometimes I feel like there’s far too much talk leading to not enough action.Love in Truth, Truth in Love

Maybe its the canine in my brain. Most of us dogs act before we think. We make decisions based on impulse rather than a process of deduction or inference. I know (in my mind) it’s not safe to chase that rabbit into the street but it doesn’t stop me from doing it anyway. That grape that falls to the floor could kill my doggie kidneys, but I gulp it up anyway. And (on a more serious note) my instinct is to share my joy with the world even though I’m not certain how eloquently my intentions translate.

Understanding this fundamental difference in processing, I wonder sometimes what it would be like if dogs ruled the world. I have often dreamed of myself in a suit and tie making my way up the steps of Capitol Hill. (This little guy has big thoughts to share with the world.) In my dream, I stand to represent all other dogs wishing to make a difference in the lives of people. I walk my way up to the podium with my list of bills I wish to present for consideration to become laws, I dust off my pants, and I begin.

Love your neighbor as yourself, I say.

And the dream always ends the same way – with the room in an uproar of laughter at my (allegedly ridiculous) proposal. I don’t even get to say my other ideas (like including putting an end to animal cruelty) before I’m escorted away from the podium. I always wake feeling completely and utterly helpless. Feeling helpless is the absolute worst, especially when I know in my heart that us dogs have an abundance of love to share with the world.

So I stand by my idea, even if I never get my moment in Washington DC. To me, we could all use a visit back to basics. I don’t care what those people in my dream think. Like ancient Greek philosopher Plato, I stand for love and its power to change the world.

“Love is the joy of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amazement of the Gods,” Plato said.

There’s a lot of controversy in politics today I feel could be solved with some simple doggie truths that are fundamental to our way of life. Listen when you wish you could speak. Love when you want to hate. Make change when you feel comfortable with the status quo. And (perhaps most important of all) stand proudly when others sit because you believe in the power of truth in love.