Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Day I Met Myself January 9, 2014

Wiley C. Schmidt. That is the name engraved on the new tag I got from my forever mom and dad recently. It was my Christmas present, mom said, a replacement for the one they got me the day I went home with them from the Oshkosh Humane Society. That one had tarnished over time to the point where a stranger would no longer be able to read mom’s contact information. (Heaven forbid!)

Just call me WileyI was surprised at how bittersweet it was for me to see that old tag go (I think mom put it with a memory box or something with my name on it). It also said Wiley C. Schmidt, and to me it symbolized something. A fresh start. A second chance. A new life. It was all of these things and more. Because that day when I walked into my forever home I felt like I met myself for the first time.

I think this happens to all of us at one point or another in life. We continue along the path, sometimes veering off on our own, other times stopping entirely. Along that path we find out what challenges us, what brings us joy, and what we absolutely cannot handle. And, whether by our choice or the strong encouragement of others, we find out who we are somewhere along the line.

That’s what happened to me that first night in my forever home. I made up my mind this would be my new life, and while there were plenty negatives in my old one, there were lots of positives to incorporate into my new future. Take my name, for example.

That was part of my old life that brought me into my new life. My people opted not to change it when they adopted me, which I appreciate. Because on that day all those days ago I knew it. I was Wiley C. Schmidt. I knew who I was and I was not afraid of it. So while it will always have a very special place in my heart, I know now I don’t need that old tarnished tag to remind me of who I am. Because I have that on lockdown in my heart.

 

Just One Thing November 22, 2013

Two years and three months. That’s how many people years I lived before I met my forever family. I had my time (albeit brief) with my birth mom and brothers. Then there was Tiger – the single doggie dad – and his puppies, who I lived with on the streets for a while. Next came Jo and the man with the leather belt. And finally the first family who adopted me but never loved me as one of their own.

Happiness Is...Looking back on all the homes I’ve had sometimes makes me wonder what life had been like if I had been one of those fancy breeder puppies that cost all kinds of money. Even my forever people first considered purebred West Highland or Norfolk terriers before deciding to adopt a rescue dog. So what would have happened if they had found me in puppyhood? How would life have been different? Would I be different?

I may not be able to travel through time and space to make such a thing a reality, but I can imagine it. And I’m not going to lie – it looks pretty swell. I picture dad picking me out from the litter and tying a big red ribbon around my neck. At eight weeks old, I could have been mom’s birthday present for her 23rd birthday.

I would never have known the pain of losing my birth mom and brothers the way I did. I would never have seen so many things I wish I could un-see while I lived with Jo and the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t know the rejection that accompanies being returned to the humane society. Sometimes you don’t even know you were lost until you are found.

But that time was not devoid of family. Quite the opposite in fact. I wouldn’t trade the time I had with my birth mom and brothers. She was home to me. I wouldn’t know the sincere compassion I learned from the time I spent helping Tiger support his family. I wouldn’t have the overwhelming desire to protect those I love without time with my beloved Jo.

Three years and two months. That’s how long I’ve lived with my forever family. Though there are a fair share of ups and downs here just as there is anywhere, joy has overwhelmed my time here. But I realized something today. If I could change just one thing I wouldn’t. Each of those pieces comes together into who I am. Past, present and future.

 

The Same In Any Language October 21, 2013

He was patient. He was kind and gentle. And he fooftered. A lot. These are the things people are saying about my dear doggie cousin Scotty tonight. At the age of 12 1/2 he has left us for the Rainbow Bridge, and I can’t help but join the family in mourning his loss.

We All Have A StoryBut there’s this thing I need to share about Scotty and I. We didn’t exactly get along. This is not for lack of trying on either of our parts. We were family. And we liked each other. Scotty the greyhound and Wiley the terrier just didn’t really speak the same language. When we would get together at family functions, he would relax in what I deemed his “spot” somewhere in the middle of the living room floor. I would try with all my might to entice him into a game of chase. I wagged and jumped and pawed. And he laid there, calm as a cucumber, often in a deep and peaceful slumber. I’d never really met a dog like him before.

It all made sense when I learned more about his background. We all have a story and Scotty was no different. He spent the first five years of his life as a working dog at a greyhound race track. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, but I can testify to the quirks that became part of his unique personality as a result.

I adapted pretty easily to my forever home when I was adopted because I was used to the same things many of us rescue dogs are accustomed to. To a greyhound like Scotty on the other hand, a home was a whole new way of life. It was like a new chapter, a fresh start, and (best of all) it incorporated characters into his life like Ken and Sue (his forever people). I can tell from the time we spent together they loved him deeply, which is all any dog really ever strives for. Though I’m not even sure he knew he was a dog. In his mind he was a companion.

Scotty lived a full life as what I would describe as a servant leader. He may not have understood play, but he understood patience (which is not exactly the norm in us canines). It was with this unique sense of patience he taught me you can like each other an awful lot but sometimes you just don’t speak the same language. And that’s okay because the basic lessons of life are the same in any language.

I’ve said before all characters enter our life for a reason. I know Scotty entered mine to teach me some very important life lessons. He was patient. He was kind and gentle. He knew how to make people laugh (because let’s face it – foofters are just a fact of life). Most importantly, he taught us to live in the present. Now is the time. Not yesterday and not tomorrow. Now.

I know if he were here, he would likely agree with the words of Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero who suggested “it is foolish to tear one’s hair in grief, as though sorrow would be made less by baldness.” So while I know he wouldn’t want those of us left behind to be sad (or tear out our fur for that matter), I take this moment (my own personal now) to pause and reflect on all things Scotty.

Rest in peace, dear friend. You will be missed.

Scotty

 

A Day of You October 16, 2013

I’ve got news for you. There’s never enough time in a day. I know, I know, that is brand new information right?

I’ve seen it happen all too frequently with my forever people. From work to laundry to grocery shopping to house cleaning, the to-do list sometimes outgrows the day. And with the little person on the way I know the list is about to double. Or triple.

Which is why I would like to add a new permanent item to their to-do list. Make time for you today, it would say. I know it probably sounds silly, but I don’t care. It’s important.Lazy Is Not the Enemy

This became crystal clear to me the other day when mom did not go to that place called work. Instead, she stayed home with me and enjoyed a lazy morning before leaving for a while to get something she called a massage. (Apparently its a lot like the pets I get during my love fests with my people). When she came home about two hours later, she was a new person. A sleepy new person, but a new version of herself nonetheless.

And the sleep that has been evading her so frequently lately? It did not evade her that day. She slept more soundly for three straight hours than she has in months. (I would know since I’m her cuddle buddy). It truly was a day of her for her, and it made me happy to see her so relaxed.

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time,” American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck observed. “Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”

Time is a priceless gift, regardless of how we chose to spend it. I know this issue of life balance is not new information to any of us. And it looks different for everyone. But there is one thing we all have in common: sometimes we all need a little day of us. To catch a breath. To read a book. To live. Because there’s always a reason not to take time for yourself. But in the end you deserve to be on your to-do list as much as anything else.

 

It Goes On October 15, 2013

I’ve heard it all before. If only I’d seen it coming. I should have planned for that. Hindsight is 20/20. Regrets. Somehow knowing everyone has them doesn’t make the ones we have any less real. I know the great and thoughtful “they” say misery loves company. In this case I’m not so sure.

Deep ThinkingTonight I stared up at the clear night sky dreaming about my future as a big brother. I’m going to love him or her as big as the sky, that much I know. And we’re going to be best friends forever (obviously). But I know my purpose in the life of this little purpose will be bigger than that. I’ve learned a lot in my five people years of life and I can’t wait to share everything. People can learn a lot from how us canines process things, after all.

Like regrets, for example. I have them. And I remember the day of my biggest one like it was yesterday. The day I was separated from my mom and brothers comes to mind instantly. There we were in the middle of oncoming traffic and I ran. I didn’t look back. I’ll never know what happened behind me that day. And it would haunt me to this day if I let it. If I let it. I think that’s the key to all of this regret business.

I doubt I’m the only one who’s biggest regret somehow involves the loss of a loved one. Be it a conversation that was cut off, misconstrued, or never even happened at all, many of us have experienced a sudden loss and wished there was something we could change about those last precious moments together. And we all know (all too well) there is nothing we can do. We can’t repeat the past, but we can live the present.

And in my present I chose to learn from my experience. I learned to hold loved ones close because you never know when that last embrace might be. But living life in constant fear of impending doom won’t get us anywhere either any more than regret will bring them back. Instead, seize the day regardless of the circumstances.

If you’re fortunate enough to be surrounded with loved ones, let them know what they mean to you. That’s something I want to teach my little person. But (perhaps more importantly), I want him or her to know that it’s not the end of the world if the worst does happen. You might not be able to hold that person close right now, but it doesn’t mean you can’t hold them forever in your heart. In lessons like this, sometimes we learn that in life’s greatest regrets lie some of life’s greatest opportunities for personal growth.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life,” as great American poet Robert Frost put it, “it goes on.” More often than not, we don’t see it coming. We didn’t plan for that. And that darned hindsight thing taps us on the shoulder. But somehow, no matter how grim the regret may seem, life does go on.

Related posts:

To read the whole story of my biggest regret – The Day Forever Changed http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/09/01/the-day-forever-changed/

 

The F Word October 10, 2013

Brisk walks around the tree-lined streets of the neighborhood. Snuggling on mom’s lap while she and dad sip pumpkin spice lattes by the bonfire in the backyard. Snagging the occasional apple slice that makes its way onto the kitchen floor while mom bakes one of her apple pies on a lazy Sunday afternoon. These are the fall moments to embrace. Haunted houses, spooky corn mazes and scary movies filled with blood, guts and gore? Not so much.

I can’t personally understand why anyone would ever purposely subject themselves to any of these fear-inducing fall traditions. But then again, I have my reasons. As one who has lived on the receiving side of abuse (both physical and verbal), I am here to testify fear is truly its own four-letter word.

And that’s coming from a four-legged mind that generally doesn’t process swear words. Dogs don’t swear. Sure, we have our own unique ways to demonstrate choice words. But that’s one of the perks of silence – we never really have the opportunity to say something we will later regret.Forgiveness

It doesn’t happen often in my forever home, but it used to happen a lot in my life before my forever people rescued me. People swearing, saying hurtful things they didn’t mean, and ultimately filling their lives with nothing but regret. Well, I guess I’m not sure about the regret part. That’s not for me to judge.

What I do know is the fears I have each have a reason, mostly relating to the man with the leather belt. He swore a lot. Usually after he’d been drinking. And he is the reason I grew to fear leather belts, power tools and vacuum cleaners.

I remember the way his breath smelled on my face the time he thought he would vacuum me because he hated all my shedding. I can picture the glazed look in his eyes when he thought he’d cut my nails with his cordless drill. And the belt. That was the worst of it. The belt wasn’t usually meant for me, at least until I intervened when he would use it on my dearest little Jo (my little person at the time).

But there is this thing about fear. It has a way of controlling us if we let it. And it’s a huge roadblock to the one combination of things that can cure regret: forgive and forget. I have long since forgiven the man, but I can honestly say I will never forget the fear. It’s a part of me I can’t truly shut off, even with my forever people. I have absolutely no reason to believe my dad would ever use his belt on me yet I still cower at the sight of it. The same goes for the vacuum and the drill.

So I don’t know why people purposely subject themselves to fearful things this time of year. It’s one of those people things I have accepted I may never understand. Instead I focus my emotional energy on the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” he said. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

 

Don’t Let Me Go October 7, 2013

Life. No one ever said it would be easy. Quite the opposite in fact. Life is tough. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t really lived. And big or small, it doesn’t matter. Some troubles can seem insurmountable regardless of their size.

The LightI remember one of mine like it was yesterday. It was the day my first adoptive parents took me back to the Oshkosh Humane Society. I was showered with love from all the shelter workers (especially Katie, my friend who always had a few extra treats in her pocket with my name on them). Even a few of the other dogs were clearly happy to see me. But I wouldn’t have it. I was at the lowest of the low with no optimistic neighbor pal like Rusty to dig me out of the darkness this time.

In these moments of darkness, the light can seem so far away. But in reality it’s not. Oftentimes it is just beyond our reach. We just need someone to reach out and pull us that last couple of steps. We need help. Because whatever the struggle may be, it has us in such a haze of negativity we just can’t see how close we are to relief. To safety. To life.

Sometimes the realization of this happens instantly. I wasn’t so lucky. Mine happened over time, with help from Katie and her treats. And her love. And her encouragement. “They will find you, Wiley,” she would say during our daily play time. “Your forever people are coming for you. I just know it.”

And they did. The found me and I felt whole again. I knew everything would be all right. But I don’t know what I would have done without Katie and her kind words every day.

It can be painful to remember the tough times, but they are part of who we are. And now that mine are behind me, I can appreciate their meaning in my life. I can appreciate the characters who kept shining the light at me, like Rusty and Katie. And I know the importance of not just looking back where I came from, but reaching back and bringing someone with me. Because as American author Helen Keller said “walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

Life. No one ever said it would be easy. I don’t know how long I was in the darkness before I found the light again. I guess it was only a couple of weeks, but (take it from me) that can feel like a lifetime when your heart is in a dark place. I renewed my vow the day of my adoption never to go back to that dark place. To instead find joy from the ground up in all people, places and things. And (perhaps most importantly) to be that person for someone.

Today’s post was written in response to the daily prompt:

Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong — and then, suddenly, you knew it would be alright.

I’m a believer in the growth that can come from recognizing these moments in our lives. Please share yours with me.

 

The Day Forever Changed September 1, 2013

My birth mother never cared much for cars. Or people for that matter. Put the two together into a moving vehicle? She usually kept her distance. Except for that day. The day that changed my life forever. The day we all got separated.

It started like any other day in my early puppyhood. We woke to mom going hunting for food, so my brothers and I wrestled until she returned. We feasted on a gourmet selection of leftovers she scavenged from behind a nearby diner. Discarded toast crusts were my favorite since my brothers usually stolGaining Perspectivee the ham and sausage scraps before I could get to them.

After breakfast, we would journey outside our cardboard shelter. I know mom’s intention was to keep an eye out for someplace better for us to move to even though I quite fancied our cozy hideaway. She always wanted the best for us though, and I will never forget that.

I don’t know what go into her that day, but she seemed edgy. Skiddish. Scattered. Her usual fear of cars and people was thrown to the wind as we paraded through the streets. My brothers and I followed (somewhat) blindly, trusting she knew what she was doing.

That’s when it happened. There we were in the middle of the road when not just one but two cars were coming at us full speed ahead. From both directions. My heart raced almost as fast as I did away from the imminent danger. I assume my mom and brothers did the same, though I will never know for sure. I ran as fast as my puppy legs would take me until I made it back to the cardboard box we called home. I waited there, knowing certainly that’s where we would all meet up. I waited a day. Every moment that ticked by felt like hours. I waited a week. Nothing.

I was devastated. The events of the day haunted my every thought as I wondered how I could somehow relive those moments. How I could make it right. I should have looked back, I thought. I should have waited for my brothers. I should have stopped running sooner so I could have seen where they went. All of these should haves, could haves, would haves still occasionally pop into my mind.

But how would life be different had I done “right” that day? Would I still be with my mom and brothers somewhere? Perhaps. But then I would never have met Tiger and his puppies. I wouldn’t have gotten to protect Jo from the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t have learned optimism as a way of life from Rusty at the Oshkosh Humane Society. I wouldn’t have found my forever home.

All of this makes me wonder whether there really is a “right” way in life. Moreover, I wonder whether what we sometimes think is right actually is what’s best for us on our path. I may be an optimist, but I can’t say whether there really is a way to get life right. I know my mom’s way involved keeping her distance from cars and people. But that isn’t the right way for everyone. It certainly isn’t for me.

The day I was separated from my birth family was one I will always remember. That day I learned a very important life lesson that forever can change in a moment. Sometimes you can make it right. Sometimes you can’t. The thing is we also don’t always understand what’s best for us in these moments. We can’t always see the big picture through the cloudy lenses of now. But that’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. In reality there is nothing I would change about that day because it led me to where I am today. And I wouldn’t change that for all of the dog treats in the world.

 

To Making it Count February 12, 2013

I’ve heard people say hindsight is 20/20. What is that about? I learn nothing from trying to chase my own tail around, so why would people? No. I prefer to dream bigger than my memories. I prefer to respect the past as part of my present on my journey to the future. And that’s coming from someone with animal instincts.

So why is it so tough for people to be themselves? To trust their instincts?

It’s not hard for Isabelle, Sam, Sophie and Abigail. They are the four little people in my life, and I learn a lot from them. Namely, they are fearless, they dream big, and they have absolutely no censorship clause on their thoughts. They are the embodiment of joy: from the ground up. And they have no idea how good they have it. “Youth is wasted on the young,” George Bernard Shaw said.Isabelle and I - Christmas 2012

Or is it? I’d rather think of youth as the building block of memories for one’s future. Good, bad, or indifferent, youth is a time of endless imagination and that is never a waste. But something changes between youth and adulthood that I think hardens the instincts. Up go the walls of cognitive censorship, and the next thing we know, we’re living life thinking hindsight is wiser than foresight. Where, in the midst of all this grown-up thinking, is gratitude? Imagination? Optimism?

This blog is called Wiley’s Wisdom: A Unique Perspective on Joy not because I think I’m particularly wise but because I make it my life’s mission to live a life of gratitude, which I know is better when shared. I give thanks for my life by giving back to the lives of others. “I figure life is a gift, and I don’t intend on wasting it,” as the humble street rat Jack Dawson said to his millionaire dining partners aboard the Titanic disaster that would ultimately take his life. “To making it count.”

His past was a valued part of who he was, but it didn’t get in the way of his (albeit short-lived) future. Nor will it get in the way of the future of my loved ones if I have anything to say about it.

That is one of many reasons why I think something valuable can be learned from the children in my life who disregard the opinions of others in favor of their own. Let’s do as they do and forget that 20/20 business. Let’s instead think like American mover and shaker Oprah Winfrey.

“Follow your instincts,” she said. “That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.”

 

Bless You! Learning from Life’s Sneezes February 5, 2013

I react pretty noticeably when my mom sneezes. First of all, its no quiet matter. It is a loud and intrusive sound that occasionally reverberates off the walls of our home. So when she sneezes, I run to her (regardless of where I am in the house) and sniff around her face a bit. I want to know what’s going on…I want to make sure she’s okay.

Jumping for Perspective

I heard once that when people sneeze, their spirit temporarily leaves their body. That is apparently why person two emphatically says “bless you” to person one; to ensure person one’s spirit returns safely to his or her body.

Initially, my reaction to this concept was incredibly negative. I hated the thought of a person losing their spirit for even a second. But the more I thought about it, I realized there could be something gained from that out-of-body perspective.

Like myself, transcendentalist poet e. e. cummings placed a high value on the kind of self awareness one can gain from perspective.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit,” he wrote. Human and doggie alike, I believe something can be learned from everything. So perhaps life affords us with sneezes to force us to take a moment to reflect.

Sarah Ban Breathnach speaks of reclaiming our future in such moments of reflection in Simple Abundance.

“Today, deliberately turn away from the world,” Breathnach writes. “Absorb the shock of becoming aware that many of your preferences and opinions are not really your own. Begin, instead, to listen for the whisper of your authentic self telling you which way to go.”

Granted, a sneeze is hardly a whisper, but the concept of understanding our own authentic spirit better by turning away from distraction might take more than a whisper. Heck, for some people I know, it takes a full out, reverberating sneeze to pull away from the television, cell phone, computer, or whatever other bright shiny object grabs our attention next.

“Only when the clamor of the outside world is silenced will you be able to hear the deeper vibration,” Breathnach writes. “Listen carefully. Spirit’s playing your song.”

What do you hear?

Today’s post is dedicated to my dad. He has requested his picture not be used in the production of this blog, but that doesn’t mean I can’t say how very many pictures there would be to chose from. They all have a special place in my heart. Happy Birthday dad!