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.

 

 

The Whole Way Home November 27, 2014

It’s one of my most absolute favorite days of the year. Not just because I get to see the extended members of my forever family. Or because of the delicious variety of table scraps I inevitably score throughout the day. It’s not even because I know I have a game or two of pickle in the middle to look forward to with some of my favorite (not-so) little people.

It’s because of how these things make me feel. Gratitude. From the ground up, it oozes out of my soul today, as our nation celebrates a day designated to pause and reflect on one’s blessings in life. Though this is something I try to do on a daily basis, there’s something special about today. Maybe it’s the time with family and those table scraps and after-dinner games. Or maybe it’s what happens when all that is over. Joy

That was the case for me today, as my most recognizable moment of blissful gratitude took me by surprise. It happened on the car ride back to my forever home. It was dark outside so no one could see it happening. Somehow that made it even more memorable for me. As has become the norm of late, mom was in the back seat with dear baby Carter, leaving me to her former spot in the passenger seat. This is an honor in itself, but that’s not all.

Soft music echoed through the car as dad drove, Carter napped, and mom sat in reflective silence in the back seat. In itself it was a perfect moment for our little family. But what completed it for me was dad’s hand. He pet me with his free hand the whole way home. Mom tells me all the time what I already know. She loves me bigger than the sky. Dad doesn’t have to say so. And no words were needed in that 40-minute car ride for me to know true gratitude.

Because today is one of my absolute favorite days of the year. I’ve never been at a shortage of reasons why I love it so much, but this year will always stand out from the crowd for its simplicity in silence. No one has to say a word for me to know real love.

That is what I am most grateful for today. The true and unconditional love I feel in my heart for my people. And even more so for the moments when no words are necessary for me to know for certain they feel it too.

 

Broken Little Things November 26, 2014

I think it is probably one of the most frustrating things I see people experience. That says a lot given all that I observe in a day between my early morning, mid-morning, late morning, early afternoon, mid-afternoon and late afternoon naps. And it happened again today.

Mom has been in the holiday spirit even more than usual (which is saying a lot, believe me), so she’s been going against her self-imposed rule not to put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. Alas, the garland is up, the stockings are hung, and various other decorations donning messages of all things holiday are sprinkled throughout my forever home. I love every bit of it, not just  because of the brightness of the twinkle lights throughout the house, but because I can see straight through the twinkle in her eye to her happy heart.Just call me Wiley

All was going according to plan today when it happened. Three strings of new lights didn’t work. They were all brand new, purchased from the store today, and they simply did not light up. They were broken beyond repair. And there was a brief pause as this sank in for my forever mom and dad as they were near completion on operation holiday decoration for the day. Defeat. From the ground up, it was in the air. But not for long.

Because things don’t work sometimes. Things are broken. It is not the end of the world. First of all, they are just things. You can’t take any of it with you to heaven, so in my opinion it doesn’t really matter all that much. Beyond that, defeat has no place in a day like today. A day full of twinkle lights and Christmas carols and joy. That is what today was about.

The thing is, I understand it’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s absolutely maddening when something is supposed to work and doesn’t. But that’s life. And life goes on. The question is, are you going on with it? Or are you going to let something as silly as a broken set of holiday lights bring darkness into your day? Either way, it’s up to you. But I find there is strength to be gained from these situations that is much more significant than any broken little thing.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places,” as American author Ernest Hemingway put it. And I would say it is the broken places that make us who we are.

 

On Being a Firecracker July 4, 2014

It’s pretty special. It’s one of those things you save for a rainy day to remember the sunshine even. And it’s all mine. Well, to be fair, its my forever parent’s. Nonetheless, I’ve found it hasn’t changed with time. Dear baby Carter is six months old now and he still does the same thing he always did when he was overwhelmed with happiness. He smiles and turns away into whomever is fortunate enough to be holding him at the time.

As he’s gotten older, the excitement has spread to his little chubby legs, which usually kick like crazy while he is overwhelmed with joy. It’s one of those things that makes me so very happy to see that I honestly am overcome with joy myself. And it happened today. A lot.

Today is one of those days that I know for certain Carter wasn’t the only one overcome with joy to observe. Today is a day filled with parades and fireworks and love and joy and celebration. Today was independence day.

Sadly (for me) I wasn’t invited to some of the joy-inducing fun, such as the parade my people attended. But I got my fair share of joy out of the day when they came home and we all spent time outside in my backyard paradise while they recalled the events. It really was the kind of time filled with moments you know you will never get back.

Mom and dad took Carter swimming in our neighbor’s pool, which made mom happier than anyone else. Then dad grilled, mom baked, and I napped in the sun while Carter napped in his crib. It really was one of those magical days mom hoped it would be. Which, to be honest, was a relief for me. I know my dear forever mom better than the average outsider and I know how important today was to her. I know she wanted everything to go perfectly for Carter’s first fourth of July.

Because it is pretty special. A day when people are so overcome with joy they can’t even contain themselves. Just like when dear baby Carter kicks his crazy little legs with uncontrollable enthusiasm. So it all makes me scratch my head sometimes why mom would worry so much about things being perfect. At least from what I can tell there is no need for worry. All is well in our world. Now all we need to do is realize it.

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Painted Baby Blue February 23, 2014

I thought we were past all of this. The exhaustion. The disoriented distracted state of mind. The emotional instability. But mom has seemed especially disheveled the last couple of days and I can’t put my paw on why. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love dear baby Carter. That simply can’t be the case as she tells him she loves him even more than she tells me. Something isn’t right.

Unbeknownst to my people I have done my own research on these things. Apparently it’s normal for new (especially first-time) moms to experience something called the baby blues. (It’s a good thing blue is one of the colors I can see). Usually it happens early on, within the first couple of days, and wears off over time. Feeling Blue?

That’s why I’m not completely convinced that’s what’s wrong. (But I’m ready with all kinds of love if it is). That, and the fact that it seemed at least mostly cured by something pretty silly today. I will never understand why people paint their nails. It’s enough of a rigamarole for me when I get mine trimmed. Mom frequently takes it quite a few steps farther when she gets her fingers and toes painted, blue of all colors. That’s what she did today.

She left dad and I alone with Carter (a fairly new and unfamiliar experience) and came back with a new color about her. I got the impression it wasn’t so much about where she went as it was that she went at all. It doesn’t mean she loves us any less. It doesn’t mean she wants to return Carter to the magical place he came from. She just needed a little time away to regroup.

I don’t think we can call this the baby blues. Because I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we all need that every now and then. A little time away to regroup. Whether it’s a five-minute walk around the office or a week away in a foreign place, experience demonstrates it does the body good. It doesn’t mean we love our lives any less. It just means we are human (or canine in my case). And, as Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle suggests, it fuels our drive to persevere.

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes a strong soul from the weak.”

 

An Open Apology to the Mail Man January 7, 2014

Apparently it’s called a mailbox. To me, it’s another post to pee on during my walks through the neighborhood. And it marks the entry to the driveway to my forever home. But at least from what I can tell this thing called a mailbox must be pretty special. It gets a special visitor almost every afternoon, who delivers a variety of things.

Love/hate is how I would describe my relationship with this visitor, who is also referred to by my people as the mail man. He usually visits when my people are away at that place called work, so I feel it is my duty to at least pay close attention (if not bark and/or whine) when he stops by. Observation has informed me he is not a hazard, but one can never be too careful.One Big Card

In addition, it seems he brings both good and bad news to my people. I don’t know what bills are, but he seems to bring a lot of those. We also get a fair share of junk mail and credit card offers. But today it was good news this man delivered. In multitude.

To say my people have been the slightest bit preoccupied lately is an understatement. There’s also been a bit of sleep deprivation. (Baby Carter wakes us several times a night, and together we wander our tired family around the house to accommodate his hunger). I would say it has probably been at least a week since they last checked the mailbox for good news or bad.

So it was a big old pile that (miraculously) only contained one bill and a bit of junk mail. The rest was joy. Holiday cards and baby congratulation cards and gifts made up the majority of the contents. Congratulations cards from great grandma Fran and great aunt Kandi (including one the size of baby Carter himself). Messages of love from great aunt Lesleigh. A Christmas card from our blog friend in Ohio. A special delivery from our blog friend in the United Kingdom. Within it, each contained a personal message of love and encouragement. And each card made mom cry because to her that wasn’t all they contained. Joy. From the ground up, it was had in today’s mail.

Maybe I owe the mail man an apology.

 

The Middle December 30, 2013

It all started with a fairly routine trip to Petco. I was there for a quick nail trim (in between visits to my regular groomer) and one would think I would have been sidetracked by all of the 50% off holiday toys and treats. No such thing. Instead I spotted them right away and I could tell exactly how they had spent their day.

It was a family of four, complete with a mom and a dad and their two little girls. With them stood a patient and surprisingly well-behaved terrier mix who (with a little help from mom) I later learned to be named Cooper. And the cart. From puppy training pads to Petco’s very best all-natural treats and dog food, it was loaded to the brim with everything a family taking in a new dog could possibly need.

Reflecting on lifeBut Cooper wasn’t just any new dog. He was a one-year-old rescue dog, his mom explained, and they had just adopted him for Christmas. The older of the two little people (who I would guess to be about five-years-old) was gripping Cooper’s leash like the lifeline I know it to be. When I saw the way her little hands proudly held that leash, it was like she was holding something in my heart. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy and happiness and the slightest bit of cautious anxiety for the journey on which this family was about to embark.

Under most circumstances, the anxiety is abnormal for me. At least in my world, a house is not a home without the special pet who (in his or her own unique way) somehow completes the picture. I think that’s why I felt a certain cautious emotion I recognized as anxiety.

Because I know one too many dogs who have recently left their forever homes for the Rainbow Bridge. Snuggledog was put down after he got so sick and the doggie doctors couldn’t figure out what to do to help him. He was three. A few days earlier Rusty took his 15 years of wisdom with him to doggie heaven. And then only a couple of nights ago, eight-year-old Raider got a little too interested in something in the road and was hit by a speeding car.

It starts and ends with my otherwise routine trip to Petco. Amidst so much loss, my encounter with Cooper and his new family struck such a tender chord in my heart. This week, as the family and friends of Snuggledog, Rusty and Raider pick up the broken pieces of their hearts, Cooper’s family becomes whole as he settles into his forever home. Life. From the ground up, each day is precious whether we are at the beginning or the end of our journey. Because ultimately it’s how we spend the middle that counts.

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Merry Little Christmas December 25, 2013

Tradition. It’s pretty important to especially my mom at this time of year. I’ve mentioned the traditions she’s put in place around wrapping Christmas presents and dancing like a ninny to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.” There’s also certain movies we all cuddle up to watch together at given times throughout the season. (Tonight’s feature is “The Polar Express”). But amongst all of these, I think Christmas morning is my favorite.Let Your Heart Be Light

The best part is how simple it is. Mom and dad exchange their gifts to each other, I get a new toy, and we sit together listening to Christmas music. They snack on a special kind of chocolate they buy only for Christmas, and I feast on whatever treat shared a bag with the new toy. It’s a joyful moment in our home that I sincerely look forward to each year.

So you can imagine my surprise when tears made an appearance during the tradition this morning. I’ve become fairly attuned to these as my nine-month pregnant forever mom’s emotions have been a little unsteady lately. But these were truly challenging to decipher whether they were tears of joy or sadness. Bittersweet is the word I guess people use to describe what she was feeling.

This was confirmed as, about halfway through Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” she explained to dad that she was reveling in this last special Christmas morning with just the two of them while at the same time looking forward to the changes next year will bring with the little person around.

This has always been a favorite Christmas song of mine. I have my reasons, not the least of which is found in the soul of the lyrics of this beloved song. It celebrates everything I hold dear about the holidays, like time with loved ones and how we will always be together in spirit if not in person. But there is one line in particular that stood out to me within the context of this bittersweet moment with my mom this morning. “Let your hearts be light.”

Her heart seemed to be anything but light. And yet it was. Just as mine is and will continue to be regardless of the season. The light of joy burns in my heart and that glow is one that nothing can burn out. I’m not sure Mr. Sinatra meant it this way, but that’s my take.

Who knows what will happen with all of these beloved traditions next year when we are no longer two people and a dog. But that’s okay. Because things change. Families grow. And, if anything, that light burns even brighter than before.

 

To Keep Me Warm December 24, 2013

It was 2 a.m. when it occurred to me. This whole mom being nine months pregnant thing is disrupting my sleep schedule almost as much as it is for her and dad. I’m up every time she’s up (which is more and more frequent lately). Certainly she can’t go wherever she’s going alone. Someone has to watch over her to make sure she’s safe wandering the house in the dark.

Loving the Treats!So I follow her wherever she wanders off to, regardless of the time and frequency. Today during our 2 a.m. rendezvous I was overcome with two very impactful pieces of information. First, that it is Christmas Eve. Day one of two of mom’s most favorite days of year. And second, it is freezing outside. Literally. It was 2 degrees at 2 a.m. in our part of the world today. Even when you’re used to it as us Wisconsinites are, weather this brisk still has a way of taking your breath away.

Showing Some LoveBut then again, so does this emotion that seems to overwhelm all members of my forever family at this special time called Christmas. Love. From the ground up, it is all around this time of year. I know because I show it in my extra cuddles. And my doggie kisses. And my tail wags. I share it in every way I know how. And it inevitably comes back to me in droves. It seems to be another one of those emotions that comes alive in its contagiousness.

And it’s not really something we even think about. Real love does. It radiates from us in everything we do, and in doing so creates a distinctive warmth that is sure to spread to the next person ready to receive its glow. Real love is. It becomes us to the point where we aren’t sure which came first – the love of the giver or the receiver.

It was 2 p.m. when things came full circle in my heart. I welcomed mom’s side of the family into my forever home for an afternoon and evening of joy and love. Sure, there were presents. And pretty ribbons. And treats. But none of that mattered as much as the love I felt in the room. At 9 degrees, it was still incredibly brisk outside. But that was outside. Inside it was warm, not just from the heat we are blessed to have but through the love in the air. Tonight I rest easy because (as Frank Sinatra croons in the age-old Christmas carol) I’ve got my love to keep me warm.Love Is

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Joy: From the Inside Out December 21, 2013

I don’t even know what to say. That’s right, all. Something has rendered me speechless. It’s shocking, I know. Almost as shocking as thinking about the meaning of today.

On December 21, 2012 I felt inspired. It was snowing, and mom and I were happy together, and I didn’t know which came first, her laughter or my joy. It fell from the sky that day. And I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was like a light bulb turned on in my heart and I knew what I had to do. I had to share this magic with whomever would take it. Joy. From the ground up, it became my 365-day mission to share it with the world.

Dog Blog with a CauseAnd that’s what I’ve done. Every day for a year, I have written about everything from existential philosophy to canine poop rituals. Because that’s life. It’s random and messy and beautiful and heart wrenching and hard and fabulous all at the same time. And I love every minute of it.

That doesn’t stop just because my one-year commitment has come to pass. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have grown, over the last year, to better understand myself, the world I live in, and how those two things interact and create the blessing that is life.

This knowledge has empowered me to take on a new mission that promises to be challenging in a whole new way. I want to continue sharing my unique perspective on joy. From the inside out, our understanding of joy in the Schmidt house is bound to change in the next year. Any day now, my little person is going to bring his or her joy into our world. If we thought we knew joy before, I think we have a whole other thing coming.

I know there will also be sleepless nights and dirty diapers and (gasp) a little less attention coming my way. And I may not be able to share these happenings quite as regularly as I have for the last year. But that’s life. From the ground up, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the course of my blogging journey it is that this thing called life is certainly worth living to the fullest.

“Nobody gets to live life backward,” advice columnist Ann Landers suggested. “Look ahead, that is where your future lies.” The past has become my future and my future will soon become my present. From the inside out, joy is most definitely upon us. So today I turn the page. I start a new chapter. And I’m not going to lie – it’s one I can’t wait to read either.