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.

 

 

Keeps On Giving December 29, 2013

It was dark. It was cold. And it was fun. That is, until it wasn’t. I ran away from grandma’s house tonight. I saw the back door open and I made a run for it. I love the way the brisk Wisconsin winter air ran through my fur as I ran around the block.

I followed two things: the scent of a nearby dog and the light from the main street nearby. I didn’t really hear dad and his brother Joe yelling after me at first. In fact, I figured they were simply joining in an especially exciting game of chase. But it wasn’t too long after that when my little adventure stopped being fun. Clearly Joe and dad misunderstood the rules of the game. Dad scooped me up and kept using several of my least favorite words.Sassy? Me?

Naughty. Bad. Sassy. I much prefer words like cute and cuddly, so you can imagine my dismay at hearing these words over and over as we made our way back to grandma’s house. There I was met with a whole host of emotions, the majority of which resembled the aftermath of minor heart attacks. Everyone had gathered in the kitchen. And everyone was concerned. Well, I guess you could say they were more than concerned. They were freaked. Especially mom, who kept saying something about a forecast with -25 degree wind chills tonight (whatever that means).

As I surveyed the rest of the faces of these people I’ve come to love, any of the residual wonderment I felt on my little jaunt lost its moxie and I felt nothing but remorse. It wasn’t that fun. And (now that they mention it) it was cold. And dark. And I’m not certain I would have known how to get back to grandma’s house without the help of dad and Joe. Maybe this whole adventure wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Because family offers its own kind of adventure you can’t find outside. We were all together to celebrate Christmas and there were all kinds of beautiful gifts for everyone. I made out like a bandit with treats and toys. But the best part of the night was the snuggles. I snuggled with whomever would let me, and in doing so I got the best gift of all in return. Love. The gift that keeps on giving.

 

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.

 

You Are My Sunshine October 19, 2013

I learned some things today. Until today a shower has always been that thing in the bathroom where my people clean themselves. And the sun has always been that bright thing that rises and sets upon each day. It turns out there is more to these words than meets the eye.

The day began like most Saturdays, with my forever people doing chores and various tasks around the house following slightly more family cuddle time than usual. Except today they both kept talking about the shower. I didn’t understand it. It felt like every other word was shower and by noon I was incredibly confused. I remained in a quandary when they left me to go to the shower. It’s right here, I screamed in silence, in the bathroom.Sunshine

So you can imagine my stupor when they returned home a few hours later with presents. Lots of them. And (as is the case with most misunderstandings) it turns out I was missing a very important piece of the contextual puzzle. This shower wasn’t like the one in the bathroom. It was a baby shower, which I now understand to be a shower of gifts to help us all prepare for the arrival of my little person.

Mom and dad shared stories of the afternoon while they revisited each of the gifts. The story that stuck with me most was of two of my favorite little people (Sophie and Abigail) singing a song I hold dear to my heart with my mom’s friend Dorian.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray…you’ll never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Once I got over the initial disappointment of missing the in-person show, these famous words (by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell) sunk a little deeper into my heart. As I sat by watching my people I was overcome with my own sense of gratitude for the situation.

They are my sunshine. My forever people will never know how much I love them, partially because I can’t say so out loud and partially because you can’t put love this big into words. And (at least from what I can tell) amongst the blankies and diapers the greatest gift of all was the love they received today.

I guess you could say they were showered with love. And I was overcome with joy. From the ground up, it was a pretty happy day around here. All of the clouds in the sky could not mask the sunshine in these moments. Joy and gratitude filled their hearts and I realized that is all the sunshine I really need.

I learned some things today. It turns out there is much more to showers and sunshine than meets the eye. Today these words did much more. They touched the heart.

 

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.