Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Gift January 1, 2015

I finally found it. It took a little digging this year, but now it’s alive and well in my heart. The spirit of Christmas. From the ground up, there’s a certain appeal in the understanding and appreciation of all it has to offer. I don’t know for sure what the hold up was this year, but today I was reminded of something.

For most people, today was New Year’s Day. A day to focus on all things new and exciting. For the Schmidt family, it was Christmas. Again. Mom even dressed dear baby Carter in his special Christmas Eve pajamas again last night, so when he woke it would be (kind of) like Christmas Day. Except without the quiche and Santa and presents. But that wasn’t the point.Love Is

The point was we had another exciting day of family time to look forward to in Port Washington where my forever dad grew up. His side of the family opts to celebrate together a few days after Christmas for a variety of reasons, and while some might find this strange, it’s something I’ve come to look forward to each year.

This year did not disappoint. All the usual suspects were there, but there was someone new too. I got to meet my new doggie cousin, Jackson. At about a month old, the puppy energy he exuded was contagious from the ground up. Similar to how it is for Carter, everything is new to him. He sniffed and explored and played and explored some more. And I don’t think his little tail stopped wagging the entire time we were there.

I had to dig a little to find my Christmas spirit this year, but today reminded me of something. Sure, there were presents (again). And way too much delicious food (which I obviously scored several samples of throughout the day. Thanks, Sophie!). But that’s not what it was about.

Sometimes the things we have to dig for are most worth the effort. That certainly was the case for me this year. As we drove home and the reality that all things Christmas have now ended, the love in my heart reminded me of the most important Christmas gift of all. The gift that keeps on giving all year round. Joy. From the ground up, it brings us to life in a way few other things can.

 

 

To Give Is To Receive December 10, 2013

I wasn’t trying to be funny. It was all just part of my standard outside routine. But tonight it may as well been part of a stand-up comedy act. I assumed play stance to the left. And again to the right. To the front. And to the back. And so on, for about 2 minutes.

Do I have something on my face?Meanwhile I heard it from the other side of the screen door. A sound that warms my heart. My people were laughing together (rather hysterically I might add) at my antics. There are few things in the world I love more than that sound. I knew at an early age people laughter would be a favorite sound of mine, in situations not that unlike what occurred tonight.

The first time was the night my birth mom and brothers spent in a homeless shelter. It was a frigid Wisconsin winter night (just like it is tonight) and at the mercy of a little girl who saw us shivering outside the window we spent the night in warmth. But that wasn’t the highlight of my night. That happened later when I heard it for the first time. A little person laugh. The little girl was laughing at a movie we watched together that night called “An American Tail.” I didn’t know it at the time, but I would come to view that beautiful sound as my Christmas gift that year.

The same sort of thing happened the following holiday season, which I spent with Jo and the man with the leather belt. All I wanted for Christmas was to see her happy. And she was. It didn’t last long, but it didn’t have to. It was Christmas and she was laughing and that was gift enough for me.

This will be my third Christmas in my forever home, and I know in my heart what I am most looking forward to about it. I can’t wait for Christmas morning when mom and dad traditionally open their presents from each other. (And it’s not because there is inevitably a toy or treat for me under the Christmas tree).

Even more surprising, it’s not because of the gifts they receive. It’s because of the gifts they give. I don’t witness the shopping, but I do witness every other part of preparation that goes into their gifts for each other. That’s why I know it doesn’t really matter what’s inside the boxes.

Because they ultimately give each other the best gift of all. Joy. From the ground up, it happens in ways most people wouldn’t even find entertaining. Like my antics in the snow today for example. I didn’t mean for anything to come of that. But as laughter is the embodiment of joy, so the real gifts in life are those we give. Not those we receive.

 

Bundle of Joy August 21, 2013

I got a taste of big brotherhood today. Literally. Her name is Alexis and she is the little person that my doggie pal Diesel oversees. She is two people months old today and she tastes delicious, at least by what I could tell by licking her cute little button of a nose. This was the longest bit of time we’ve spent together (my mom, Diesel’s mom Jessica, me, Diesel and Alexis) since she was born and I got the strangest feeling she somehow sensed she was not (technically) the only baby in the room.You Smell Like Joy!

I knew it was probably nonsense. I figured it was just probably the sense I got. It’s not that unlike me to misread a situation regardless of my good intentions. But then mom’s friend Jessica said it out loud and I knew that maybe (just maybe) I wasn’t imagining things.

“It’s like she somehow knows you have a baby in your belly,” she said to my mom.

Chilling with AlexisAnd it’s true. Baby Alexis was the very embodiment of joy when she was looking at my mom. She smiled so much I was surprised her little baby cheek muscles didn’t give out. She was entranced by my mom and I was entranced by her. As I’ve never seen such a little person smile before, I was unfamiliar with the completely overwhelming sense of joy you get from seeing a whole little body smile. She was baring the most beautiful completely toothless smile I’d ever seen, but it was more than that. Her eyes were smiling. She truly was a little bundle of joy.

It was a far cry from earlier in the evening when she was dreadfully unhappy about something. Just as the wonderment of her smile took me by surprise, I didn’t expect the guttural reaction I had to the sound of a baby crying. It bothered me, but not because of the noise. It bothered me because I wanted to help somehow. I got as close to her as I could (usually this meant getting close to the person holding her) and sniffed and stood at the ready in case there was anything I could do to help stop the crying. It didn’t take long for me to realize there probably isn’t anything I can really do. (Unless I somehow figure out how to feed her, change her, or put her to sleep – wouldn’t that be a trick?). I think I might struggle with that when my little person comes along.

But I now know what I have to look forward to in terms of the bundle of joy this baby will be. And I know it’s probably nonsense. I don’t know how it could be true. Yet I hold the belief that baby Alexis was so happy (partially because she had at that point been fed and changed and was readying for sleep, but also) because she knows she will have that little person in her life someday too. What I felt in my heart as I saw those smiles and licked that little button nose is undeniable. I got a taste of big brotherhood today. And it tasted like joy.

 

Keeps On Giving August 5, 2013

It all started with a gift. It was Christmas Day 1997 and my mom and her little sister only asked Santa Claus for one thing that year. A puppy. They wrote to Santa, talked to him at the mall (several times), and prayed together every night that their wish for a puppy would come true.

So you can imagine their disappointment when there was no puppy under the tree on Christmas morning. It didn’t matter that there was plenty of other shiny packages with pretty ribbons and bows. There was no puppy. But a surprise lurked under the tree that later proved to be even better than a puppy. It was a package with a promise inside. “This coupon is good for one rescue puppy.”

It wasn’t from Santa either. It was from mom’s parents. They wanted mom and her sister (who were 12- and 8-people-years-old at the time) to be part of the process of picking the perfect puppy. And they wanted the puppy to be a rescue dog from the local animal shelter. It didn’t take long before they found her. Pheobe. It was love at first sight. Pheobe was the one.Gratitude

Phoebe counseled mom and her little sister through their remaining years as little people as only us canines can do. She got dolled up in all sorts of clothes, learned most of the same tricks mom would later teach me (give kiss was a favorite of hers), and made mischief that brought joy to the hearts of the entire family. She was the very definition of the gift that keeps on giving.

Later in her life, she went to live with my mom’s great-grandma to keep her company after great-grandpa went to heaven. She’d grown a bit less spunky then, but had a gift for simply being there. She was an extra set of ears to listen. An extra set of eyes to see. An extra heart to love.

Sometimes it happens suddenly. Other times it happens over time. I’ve seen it happen both ways and I don’t think one is any easier than the other. Loss is loss. When it happens doesn’t fill the gaping hole left in the hearts of those left behind. It was a gradual decline for Phoebe, but that doesn’t negate the truth that the world lost another canine treasure today. Pheobe went to doggie heaven today, after 18 years of bringing all sorts of joy to the hearts of many.

But it all ends with a gift. And, just like Phoebe, it’s not wrapped in pretty paper or tied up with ribbons. It’s nothing fancy. In fact, it’s about as simple as it gets. We never got to meet in person, but we didn’t have to for me to know the gift Pheobe granted me. My gift from Pheobe was the same as that one my mom opened all those years ago. It was a promise. This coupon is good for one rescue puppy. Thanks to the relationship my mom had with Phoebe growing up, it turns out that coupon was good for more than one rescue puppy. So far, it’s been good for two. I will always have Pheobe to thank for that.

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

 

Life is Love July 13, 2013

It wasn’t wrapped up in ribbons and bows. It didn’t cost any money to make. It all began very simply. Twenty-eight years ago today, one of my favorite gifts was presented to the world. Today my forever mom celebrates her 28th birthday, so today I celebrate her.

It’s not complicated. I know some people think it is, but I beg to differ. Whether we think of our own lives or the lives of those characters who make a difference in our lives, life as we know it is the best gift we could possibly be given. I realized it tonight as I basked in the glow of a very happy forever mom and dad feasting on something (that smelled ridiculously delicious) in the backyard. This is an infrequent event as the bugs often intrude on the enjoyment of such things, but tonight even the bugs cooperated. The bad ones stayed away and the good ones stayed close. Fireflies danced around them as they ate, and I was overcome with awe of the life in that moment.

It brought to mind the words of Indian philosopher Sai Baba who encouraged those he came into contact with to live life to the fullest in as many ways as possible. “Life is a song – sing it,” he once said. “Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.”Love You Mom

Life offers so many different choices, all beginning with our decision to live it to the fullest. It’s no secret I’m a believer in the contagion that is joy, so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that gifts that keep on giving are my favorite. And I’m not talking jelly-of-the-month club gifts (though I would probably be open to a chew toy of the month club). I’m talking about the things we are grateful for each day. Gifts from within. Gifts from above.

These are my favorite gifts that keep on giving. So today as I reflect on the gift of life, I am grateful for the gift of my forever mom. It all started very simply twenty-eight years ago today. She may not have come into the world wrapped in pretty ribbons and bows, but she made up for that later in life. And some of the best things in life are free. To me her life is love, and I’m going to enjoy it as long as possible. I love you mom. Happy birthday.