Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

My (New) Favorite Time of Day January 30, 2015

Toys and clothes and food and mobility. If there’s something I’ve learned from my time with my dear little person so far, it’s that things constantly change.

Storage bins of now-too-small onesies and outfits are accumulating in the basement of my forever home. Rattles and stuffed animals have been replaced with toy cars and blocks. Breastmilk is no longer the sole source of all things nutritious. And running is the norm these days (because apparently walking is for babies).

Just when my dear forever mom starts to figure things out, dear baby Carter changes it up on her.

But there are some things that remain the same regardless of the time of day they happen. Eat, wake, sleep is still a thing. A self-proclaimed nap nazi, my mom ensures there are at least two naps a day, usually in the morning and afternoon. And much of the bedtime routine has persevered.

I realized it tonight after dinner though. Four months ago, my favorite time of day was the time I spent alone with mom after dear Carter went to bed. While I do still value that time above most things, tonight I noticed the joy in my heart abounded more at a certain (pretty special) time other than that.Family in the snow

I’ll call it family time. It’s this tiny fraction of our day really. It never really happens for the same amount of time each day either. But even if it lasts for 15 minutes, it’s become my new favorite time of day. There’s pickle in the middle sometimes. Other times it’s just mom, dad and I sit back and relax while Carter engages in all kinds of goofiness. Tonight he almost figured out how to ride the toy car he got for his birthday a few weeks ago. It probably sounds like nothing, but this has been no small feat for him. Not to mention the laughs my people have gotten over watching his efforts.

That’s the thing. It doesn’t really matter what we’re doing. What matters is that, for those precious minutes, we are all together. And there is joy, from the ground up.

I know toys and clothes and food choices will probably all continue to change. I can’t imagine what it will be like when the changes integrate another little person into the mix. But I do hope that family time remains a part of the day, even if it is for only a few precious minutes. Because that is (by far) my new favorite time of day.

 

 

Our Corner of the World January 8, 2015

Last night, words spilled out of my heart. Tonight I’ve got nothing.

It’s not like today was particularly different than yesterday. There was a fair share of ups and downs just like any other day. Dear baby Carter danced around like a ninny (on his own!) in the kitchen, which in itself was a joy-filled feast for the eyes. And earlier in the day, mom cleaned up what might have been the most horrifying diaper explosion anyone has ever seen. Ups and downs. But none of it was as prolific as everything that made yesterday what it was.

The more I thought about it, I started to realize something. Not every day is spectacular. Now is our present to do with what we will, but that doesn’t mean each day is filled with life-changing revelations. Every day is a gift filled with moments that flood our hearts with a variety of emotions. As it should be.

I watched it all today. The dancing. And the diaper change with the epic poop (so much poop). And the silliness that happened when mom and Auntie M went to get Carter as he woke from his mid-morning nap. He giggled a strange and unrecognizable giggle that is unlike any other I’ve heard of his. His whole little body shook with excitement at the sight of two of the people he loves most in this world coming to get him from a nap of all things.

“I have found that if you love life, life will love you back,” as American-Polish thinker Arthur Rubinstein suggested. It sounds simple, but maybe that’s the point. Carter loves life with his whole heart, regardless of what each day brings. I saw it today in his shameless giggle.

To think that after the magic I witnessed yesterday, I was under the impression I had a whole lot of nothing to share with the world today. I thought wrong. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized how special even the seemingly uneventful days are.

Joy. From the ground up, it does not only live in prolific moments. It is all the little moments that make up our corner in this world.

 

 

In The Moment September 4, 2014

Usually I side with dad when mom is emotional. Lately she’s been emotional a lot, so dad and I have enjoyed us some quality time. But tonight, on the opening night of NFL football as our beloved Green Bay Packers play the Superbowl champion Seattle Seahawks, I side with my dear forever mom in all her emotional glory. At least a little bit. But mostly I’m with dad.

Eight months ago, when dear baby Carter was a limp cuddly baby noodle, mom and dad and I dressed up in support of our Packers in the one and only game they would play with all four of us present in the 2013-14 season. Carter was only five days old at the time. Packer boys

Tonight was the first game of the 2014-15 season, which I knew meant a lot to mom. Packer football is a big deal around here, and the Schmidt home is no exception. Mom has been looking forward to this day for months, the day her dear little Carter would be part of his first-ever family football game experience. Dad made dinner (which meant a lot to mom) while mom played with Carter and pre-game footage ran in the background. I could sense the enthusiasm, which made it a little bit easier to allow mom to put on the jersey I don’t particularly like to wear.

Eight months ago, we took a family photo with mom and dad and Carter and I all wrapped up in Packer gear.

Tonight it meant something to my mom to reenact the symbolism of that photo. As it becomes more and more likely that dear baby Carter may just be the only little person in the family, mom has gotten nothing but more sentimental about such things. So I guess it shouldn’t have really been a surprise to dad and I that she became passionate about somehow recreating the photo we took all of those months ago tonight.

Let’s just say it was the last thing on dad and my mind. We were much more interested in watching the game and eating the food dad made (which I may or may not have gotten plenty of sneaky scraps of). And while (at first) I definitely understood mom’s point – that she wanted to capture the moment in some way – I realized actually dad and I are right about this one.

Sometimes it is more important to live in the moment, to enjoy the present of presence, than to try to capture it in some way for future enjoyment. Please don’t misunderstand , as you can tell from the multitudes of photos of myself I’ve posted through my blog life you can certainly tell I’m not opposed to capturing the moment from time to time. But I am definitely in favor of living and being present in the present.

So while I am completely supportive of all things emotional, I’m going to stick with dad on this one. Because without living in the present, without taking in each precious moment, there are no memories to capture.

 

Slow It Down July 13, 2014

It’s pretty funny to me when mom says it out loud. Mostly because when she says it, I feel like she’s bringing my thoughts to life in a way only words can. “Stop it,” she’ll say to dear baby Carter. He keeps growing and getting stronger and more independent and we all know it’s all very good. He is hitting all of the baby milestones as he should be. He’s almost crawling already for goodness sakes. It feels like yesterday he was just a teeny tiny blob of joy (and tears). So mom tells him to stop it. I know she’s being silly, but it’s true sometimes.Life.

I think it’s kind of like wanting to hit the pause button on a beautiful moment. We’ve had a lot of those lately.

Like today, when we as family celebrated the birthday of my forever mom. She turned 29 today, and with that came a variety of moments I wished I could slow down. Moments I wish I could pause. Like the special time we all shared cuddling together this morning. Her and dad and baby Carter and I. Or the breakfast mom and dad shared on the patio. Or when aunt Morgan came to watch Carter and I while mom and dad went exploring somewhere. Or when they came back with treats for everyone. Or when Carter fell asleep on mom for the first time in a long time and she cried tears of joy. Or when mom and baby Carter swam laps around the neighbor’s pool (otherwise known as mom kicked around and Carter was along for the ride).

These are some of the moments that happened today I wished I could pause.

“God gave us the gift of life,” said French Enlightenment writer Voltaire, “it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”

It’s pretty funny to me when mom says it out loud. Yet I know it to be true. Sometimes we need to stop it. Sometimes we need to pause. Because it is when we do, when we slow down and take in everything happening around us, that we are reminded of the gift life truly is. In these moments we don’t just know joy. We live it.

 

The Silly Sleep Smile January 28, 2014

My heart stopped today. It was only for a second (or three), but it definitely happened. It seems an appropriate response to what I witnessed. Baby Carter stopped breathing. So my heart skipped a few beats.

The WatchdogThere we were – mom, Carter and I – settling in for our late afternoon nap (a custom to which I’ve come to very much enjoy) when it happened. Whoever coined the phrase sleeping like a baby clearly has never watched a baby sleep. There’s flailing and jumping and funny breathing patterns and grunting and the occasional random cries. But there are also smiles. Watching all of this unfold has become a favorite part of my days. I am watching over my little person and all is well in my world.The Sleep Smile

So today when he stopped breathing, my world turned on its axis. I wanted to do something – anything – to make him start breathing again. Fortunately I didn’t have to. It happened on its own a few moments later. And apparently it’s normal, at least from what I heard mom and dad discussing later. But it seriously and completely freaked me out.

That’s when I realized there’s something about newborn sleep that is kind of like life. It’s fun. There are moments that overwhelm you with joy and prompt a smile straight from the heart. It’s scary. There are moments that take your breath away – for good or for bad reasons. It’s not always easy. There are things along the way that make us sigh and grunt and flail (at least emotionally if not physically).

And dreams are real. Today was not the firs time I’ve longed to hop inside that little baby mind of his to see whatever he was dreaming about. Moreover, I wish I could have protected him from whatever made him scared in his dream and share with him whatever made him happy. But, just like life, there are some things that are uniquely our own. Dreams are one such thing.

My heart stopped today. It wasn’t for long, but it was long enough for me to realize in that small moment something pretty big. “Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s question,” suggested American psychic Edgar Cayce. If that’s the case, my questions don’t really matter. Because if that silly sleep smile is any indication, my little person’s got it all figured out.

 

A Snow Globe Life December 17, 2013

At first I thought for sure it was the snowflakes. It snowed again yesterday and I found myself in awe of the glittery magic all around me. It was like being in a snow globe. The flakes fell from the sky so peacefully. Once they lay to rest, they create a blanket of sparkling diamonds in my backyard paradise. So I thought maybe if I could collect anything in the world it would be snowflakes.

But today as the snow melted ever so slightly I realized how silly that would be. There are no lasting remnants of the snow after it’s gone. By summertime it’s like it never even existed. That is, until winter rolls around again and brings with it the frozen particles of joy.

So maybe if I could collect anything, I would collect toys. In all of their various shapes, colors and sizes, they are vessels of happiness for me. And, as demonstrated by my impressive skills in the games of pickle in the middle and tug of war, they often bring happiness to my people as well. I refer to my current collection as my comfort circle, which contains about a dozen different characters. But that’s enough to overflow an entire basket in the living room. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe I don’t need more.

ContentmentMaybe I don’t need more. This is not to say anything against collections of things, but I realized today there is strength in accepting what we have been blessed with in life. In being grateful for it. Because ultimately it’s not the things we collect that matter. It’s the details. It’s the moments.

As breathtaking as a fresh snow globe perspective can be, it’s not so much the snowflakes as the joy they bring that I hold close to my heart. Its the moments I share with mom and dad playing around in the aftermath of a big snowstorm. In the extra attention I get when we come inside from playing together and I need to get all cleaned off. In the cuddles we enjoy together to warm up.

The same goes for the toys. It’s not so much about having dozens of characters in my comfort circle as it is about making the moments with the ones I have mean something. And whether it’s just me and Mrs. Prickles, or my people are involved, I am blessed.

Perhaps that’s the bigger lesson I was to take from my observation of my snow globe life yesterday. Sure, the snowflakes are a sight to be seen. And my toys are deeply loved and appreciated. If I could collect anything, it wouldn’t be these things. It would be moments. Because they have something very important in common. Joy. From the ground up, it’s not the things that bring the joy. It’s in the moments joy is present that we truly live.

 

A Loving Heart October 17, 2013

I don’t want to know how I’m going to die. Or when. But I hear there is a new invention that offers a countdown to the last moments of life. It’s called a Tikker. And those on either side of the fence that separates the scientific thinkers from the philosophers can find things to legitimize the idea.

Me? I don’t want to know. There is a certain (in my opinion) less morbid mystery in not knowing the details of our eventual demise. It challenges us to live each day like it could be our last. It keeps things in perspective. It teaches us to live better. And I like that.

But I got to thinking about how I would change my life if I bought into this Tikker idea. If I knew when life would end, what would I change? What exactly would I do differently? And (perhaps most importantly) how would I spend my final moments? I surprised myself today with an answer to all of these questions in a single word: love.

I wouldn’t change a thing about my life or how I live it. I make it my life’s work to find sources of joy from the ground up to share with whomever will take it. I would do the same if my Tikker told me I would die tomorrow. But it gets a lot deeper than that. It has roots running through my soul that have sprouted into this thing called love for my world. I love you world

I wrote of this love tree recently, and today it grew a bit larger in my heart as I contemplated the one thing I would want to tell the world if I knew my moments were numbered. I know what I would say. And in the spirit of living each day like it could be our last, I’m going to just come out and say it.

I love you. Yes, you. Each and every one of you who take the time to spend a few precious moments with me each day. My world is comprised of my forever people, my family and my friends. It includes two-legged friends and four-legged friends, who I know either in person or through the blogosphere. You bring me happiness, love, friendship and joy from the ground up.

A certain sustained level of humility keeps me from believing the Charles Dickens’ idea that “a loving heart is the truest wisdom,” but I know my character benefits greatly from all those I love. And I wouldn’t change a thing about that.

So it’s settled. I don’t want to know how I’m going to die. Or when. But I do want all those I love to know it. Because to me love is life. Why then think about death?

 

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.”

 

The Holiest of Holidays June 20, 2013

We all have them. Special moments in time that are only ours, cherished deep in our hearts never to be forgotten. I was enjoying the warmth of the sun in the backyard today and one of these secret anniversaries of the heart sneaked up on me.

I remembered a day at the Oshkosh Humane Society a couple days before my parents brought me home. It was hot and muggy (like it was today) and Katie was playing with me outside. She was (by far) my favorite angel helper during my time at the shelter, because she embodied servant leadership. She made me realize the important impact someone we meet in passing can have our our lives. She did little things for me to make my time there feel more homey, like bringing me extra treats and buying me a special toy. The thing is, those little things may have been little to her but they were never little to me.

Neither was our moment together that day. We were playing catch with the Mr. Prickles she’d given me in the play area outside. She laughed and I smiled and I couldn’t tell whose happiness came first. I couldn’t tell where my joy ended and hers began. That remains one of the most memorable moments of joy in my life.

I’ve never shared that moment with anyone and today I found myself wondering why. It is these special moments, these secret anniversaries of the heart, that make up our own personal unique definitions of joy, so why on Earth would we keep them all to ourselves?

Like Sarah Ban Breathnach speaks of in Simple Abundance, it took a secret anniversary of the heart to remind me that there is always time to remember these special moments in time we cherish deep in our hearts. “But there is never time enough to commemorate what we cherish unless we pause to observe, when they occur, the holiest of holidays.”

My holiest holidays usually involve moments that might seem random to the outside eye. Like the special moment I had with my mom six months ago today. Instead of the humid mugginess, we were surrounded in the most beautiful diamonds of snow glistening as they fell down from heaven. From start to finish, everything about that moment was perfect. Again I don’t think she could possibly have known how blessed I felt to watch her run around like a ninny with me outside that day. I knew she was cold because she was so excited to get outside in the snow that she didn’t put on a sensible coat. But we played and she laughed and I couldn’t tell whether my tail wagging or her laughter came first. Joy. In a moment, there it is.

It’s no secret. Today I celebrate that day, the joy it created in my heart, and the inspiration it provided to finally put my words out there for the world to read. Today I celebrate six months in a row successfully sharing my unique perspective on things with whomever will take it. Today I celebrate you. Thank you for making my doggie dream a reality.

Playing in the snow

 

Wiley Schmidt: A Fortunate Accident? January 25, 2013

Tomorrow is such a powerful word. It is a promise of a fresh start on a new day. It is another chance to get caught up with that to-do list or start that project you always wanted to start when you could never find the time. It is a chance to make a difference in the lives of others, or finally put that dream to action. But ultimately, tomorrow is the devil’s playground for procrastination. What if there is no tomorrow?

Hillary Cooper once said “life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” I’ve been fortunate to have my fair share of breathtaking moments. The day I met my forever mom and dad, the day they took me home, and the day I realized how much they loved me all come to mind.

So today I embrace life by contemplating death. It might sound morbid, but I see the value in contemplating how one will be remembered when they are no longer among the living. How would I want to be remembered? The ancient Greeks asked one thing after a man died: did he have passion?

The Eulogy of Wiley Schmidt: A Fortunate Accident?

Wiley (Coyote) Schmidt was a pretty special dog. He was dearly loved by his adoptive mom and dad, as well as extended family and friends too plentiful to list. For this, he considered himself the luckiest dog in the world.

It wasn’t always that way for him. Separated from his birth mother too young, Wiley struggled to find acceptance and love from various foster homes. He lived on the streets, fought for food and shelter, and knew life without a loving home. He was resilient amidst life’s hurdles, and slowly learned to embrace the challenges as they became part of what made him unique.

His positive outlook on life started paying him dividends at the age of two, when his parents adopted him from the humane society. Life was a series of fortunate accidents for him after that.

After two years in his forever home, he started a little blog he hoped could touch some lives. Another year later, the scope of his aspiration to share his joy with the world spread beyond his wildest dreams. His mom helped him piece together a year of blog entries into his groundbreaking book. It was called Joy: From the Ground Up, and it became an instant hit with dog lovers all over the world.

He always dreamed big, but his dreams were never selfish. The ancient Greeks asked one thing after a man died: did he have passion? Wiley had passion for the greatest gift of all: life. He was the embodiment of joy, and shared it with whomever would accept it.

People say hindsight is 20/20. Wiley didn’t believe in that. Wiley said if we live life as it is supposed to be lived, there shouldn’t be hindsight. We should be looking forward. Our dreams should always be more exciting than our memories. He would want us all to remember that.

Rest in peace, Wiley. You (and your forever joy) will be missed.