Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Nothing Nice To Say November 2, 2014

It doesn’t happen often. But sometimes, when I hear a really good story, it’s not actually good in the traditional sense of the term. Instead, it is one of those stories that makes you think, that challenges you to read beyond the words and find the meaning. To find the morale of the story.

It happened again today when I heard a friend of dad’s tell him about a horrible date he went on last night. I know what you’re thinking and it’s not what you think. This friend got divorced a few years ago, and is the proud parent of a beautiful eight-year-old girl. Sunshine

As such, he has her artwork and other crafts displayed throughout his house out of respect for the time they spend together. I’m talking everything from tie-dye artwork to play dough dresses for her dolls. These things mean a lot to him, and therefore have a prominent presence in his place even when she is not there with him. Especially when she is not there with him.

Apparently the date distastefully showed disinterest in the artwork, telling dad’s friend he was going overboard. He was overcompensating. But that’s not what he heard. He heard her attacking his parenting skills, and it left him cold.

I can only go from stories I hear mom and dad share, but from what I know this man is a spectacular dad to his daughter. They go on adventures together, play games and make memories doing things like talking with a British accent at Walgreens just for fun. And he loves her bigger than the sky.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes when I hear a good story the content itself isn’t that great. In these cases it’s the lesson taken from it that brings it to life.

The lesson I take from today’s story is simple. My response to this woman, and others like her, is the communication version of the Golden Rule. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. It’s better that way, especially when what you’re saying isn’t just inaccurate. It is so far from reality, yet that doesn’t make it any bit less painful to the person hearing it. Think before you speak, people. It’s that easy.

 

 

Great Expectations November 3, 2013

I’m not sure what I expected. We are a little more than seven months into this journey of life change (otherwise known as pregnancy) and I’ve noticed some patterns.

Feeling the LoveAlmost every time mom comes home from wherever those errand places are, she has some baby things. Diapers or wipes or onesies or sleepers. It’s like an addiction. I hear it’s called nesting and it’s normal. Meanwhile I find myself wondering whether mom realizes she will indeed still be able to leave the house after the baby is born. It’s not like the birth of my little person is the baby apocalypse.

Then there is dad. He is nesting in his own unique way. Projects. It’s become a weekly thing around here. One after the next after the next. It started with the wood trim, which he insisted would look better white. So he made it happen. Then came the kitchen table switcheroo – the nine-piece table formerly in our kitchen has been resigned to storage and replaced with a smaller five-piece version that dad has overhauled. What was once an outdated table now looks like something you’d see on one of those shows on HGTV, complete with bright colors and trendy new fabric seats.

It happened again today. Mom went grocery shopping and came back with an extra bag of baby goodies. And dad finished painting the trim in the bedroom. So I did what any dog would do. I slept the day away.

But I can’t stop thinking about these patterns. Especially dad’s since mom has basically been wearing her (pregnancy hormone driven) emotions on her sleeve. Dad holds such things a lot closer to the vest. I thought this might change or develop somehow during the pregnancy process, but it seems I was wrong.

Frankly, I think he’s freaked. And these projects are his way of focusing at least some of that nervous energy on forward progress. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing, since most of what he’s working on he’s been talking about since I first came into my forever home. There’s no time like the present, as they say.

I don’t know what I expected but I do know one thing for sure. He shouldn’t be nervous. American writer Clarence Budington Kelland said it best. “He didn’t tell me how to live,” as American writer Clarence Budington Kelland said, “he lived, and let me watch him do it.” I’ve seen him with the nieces and nephews (otherwise known as my favorite little people). I’ve watched him take care of mom after her knee surgery. And I’ve lived it. Firsthand.

Sure, he was a little hesitant to let me into his heart (similar to him being nervous about having a baby in the house). But he’s a great dad. I couldn’t ask for someone more caring and fun and loving (even though he still won’t admit he loves me). He lives, and I am a better doggie because I watch him do it.

 

Like Riding A Bike August 11, 2013

I blame my fairly parent-free puppyhood. My dad left my mom before I met him, and I lost my mom way too early. But that doesn’t excuse my selfish thinking lately. We canines love unconditionally and selflessly after all. Hard as it may be to admit, everything is not about me. There’s a nervous energy in the Schmidt home lately. It makes sense, with a baby on the way and all. But I realized today we have more than that in common. I’ve been pretty selfish, haven’t I?

I’ve been going about this (soon-to-be) big brother gig all wrong. I’ve been so worried about being a good big brother I didn’t think twice about how my people must be feeling about becoming parents. Parents. Yes, that is definitely a bigger deal than being a brother. Sure, all parts make a family whole. But being parents is one of life’s most excitingly terrifying miracles.

This all became startlingly obvious to me today when my parents were agreeing how much they miss biking together this summer. My regularly accident-prone mom is playing it safe staying away from the two-wheel balancing beam just in case her evolving center of gravity should befall her. And I noticed nerves in their conversation that I’ve been seeing a lot more of lately. No More Nerves

I wished I could jump in to remind them my mom didn’t learn how to ride a bicycle until her 27th birthday. It’s not really my confession to make, but I don’t think she’d mind. She grew up like any other child in every other way, but riding a bike was not part of her particular childhood story. I remember the day well.

She and dad came home with an air of excitement us dogs can sense in less obvious things like racing heartbeats and quicker breathing patterns. With them they brought a contraption I learned later was called a bicycle. I didn’t care for this new toy as it seemed to have a directly inverse relationship to my walks around the neighborhood. Instead of taking a walk with me, she would go off on a bike ride with dad.

Bike rides aren’t like car rides. No dogs are allowed on bike rides. But it seemed to bring them both joy, so I gradually let my feelings of disdain subside. Now it’s time to do the same with my nerves about being a big brother.

Because I saw it again today. Mom is already mothering the baby by staying away from something she enjoys that could put him or her in danger. Dad was an excellent (and incredibly patient) teacher with mom learning to ride a bike. Instead of catching the nervous contagion, I should be focusing my energy on reinforcing for my forever family the truth. They’ve already been parents. For three years, they’ve been the best parents a doggie could ask for. I don’t know what they’re so nervous about.

 

Man’s Best Friend June 16, 2013

Man’s best friend was lost on me in puppyhood. I have been blessed with more than my fair share of loving motherly types in my life, but I’ve had somewhat a drought of father figures.

I never met my biological father. I hated him for it every day I watched mom struggle to provide and make such short ends meet. My time with her was a gift and I wouldn’t change a bit of it for myself. We had fun, we didn’t go hungry and we always had a (somewhat warm) place to sleep. But I hated him for leaving her to do so much all by herself. And I wonder sometimes if he would have been in the equation if we would have all gotten separated on that fateful day so many years ago.Dad and I

My path in life would never be the same after we got separated. And wow, can a change in scenery can change your perspective on things. I went from not having a dad to having a string of them who were terrible to me. The worst (by far) was the man with the leather belt. I shudder to think of all those times I tried to protect Jo (the man’s daughter) from him, and the chaos and pain that made up the aftermath. To this day, I have a somewhat obsessive fear of leather belts, baseball bats, power tools and laundry baskets.

These pieces of my past remain in my present but that doesn’t change my current outlook on things. I’ve learned a lot along the way about the strength we have in perseverance through the tough times. Through each struggle we emerge stronger, better, and more equipped to take on the next mountain in life.

Man’s best friend was lost on me in puppyhood, but all that has changed now thanks to the current father figure in my life.

Today is Father’s Day in America, and for the first time in my life I have someone to celebrate. I know getting a dog was mom’s idea, but my forever dad is the one who found me online at the Oshkosh Humane Society. He’s the one I play with, wrestle around with and prefer to snuggle up to at night (mom gets too warm). He doesn’t say he loves me nearly as much as mom, but he doesn’t have to. I can set it in his eyes when we’re playing, when we have an epic love fest (usually when mom’s not around) and even when he talks nonsense to me. He loves me more than he’ll ever admit. And he has restored my faith in the concept of man’s best friend. I love you dad.

 

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.