Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Walking On Sunshine October 21, 2014

I didn’t really need another reason to love fall. From homemade apple pies (and the leftover apple pieces I score) and brisk twilight walks around the neighborhood to Packer football (and my dreams of catching a pass from QB Aaron Rodgers), it’s definitely my favorite season. And don’t get me started on the cuddles.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that today I lived another reason to embrace all things fall. There has been somewhat of a pattern forming this time around that involves several cold, dreary days in a row followed by relief otherwise known as the sunshine. Today the sun shined on me as I strolled along next to dear baby Carter in the stroller mom pushed through the neighborhood. As we walked, I felt the crisp fall leaves under my feet and soaked up every ounce of sunshine.

That’s when it happened. I discovered another thing I love about fall. From the ground up, there is no other time of year you can walk on sunshine. Our neighborhood has an abundance of mature trees that a few short weeks ago made for a beautiful landscape as you approached my forever home. That is no longer the case, as much of the trees have now shed their (mostly yellowish) leaves, which can be a bit disheartening. Not to me.

I love the idea that today I walked on sunshine in the sunshine. I was warmed with joy to my core as we perused the neighborhood I’ve grown to know and love. I know I didn’t need another reason to love fall, but you can never have enough reasons to feel blessed. And that is how I felt in that hour or so with my beloved forever mom and dear baby Carter. Completely and utterly blessed.

I know not everyone saw the sunshine today. Literally or figuratively. So today I share the words of American baseball executive Frank Lane, who said “if you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm.”

As certain as I know the sunshine will come again, I believe no one should have to weather the storm alone. For what it’s worth, that is why I choose today to share my sunshine with you in hopes the light of joy is as contagious as I know it can be.

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A Little Sunshine October 16, 2014

It’s a pretty easy thing to take for granted. It’s there so much more than it isn’t, so I think that’s part of the problem. But I’ve certainly missed it around here the last few days. Sunshine. From the ground up, its light has the power to warm the soul. Backyard Happiness

I do sincerely love and appreciate the beauty of fall and all the things it brings with it. This you know. The last few days I was reminded why I sometimes doubt my love of this spectacular season. It has been cloudy and rainy and downright dreary for four or five days now. I find its easier to lose count when you succumb to the darkness.

I didn’t even realize I had indeed let the weather get to me until the sun slowly revealed itself this afternoon. It was like seeing a long lost friend. There I was in one of my favorite spots in my forever home – the windowsill in the living room. (My beloved forever people call it my perch). As the light shined in through the blinds, I felt it warm my fur and somehow it seemed to soak right through to my soul.

It must have had a similar effect on mom, because it was a matter of a few seconds before dear baby Carter was bundled up and in his stroller and it was time for a walk around my neighborhood. The crisp fall air smelled so much better with the light shining down around us. The leaves fell from the trees in the beautiful silent way they do. I pranced. Carter giggled. Mom smiled. It was a happy moment for the three of us.

It was a reminder to me to cherish the sunshine. It was a reminder not to let the darkness get to me because the sun will shine again. It was a reminder to live in the moment instead of longing for something you can’t have. Because if you do these things, there is no way the dreary things in life can conquer your spirit. If you do these things, you bottle up the sunshine for the bad days. If you do these things, you have the power to warm your own soul, whether or not the sun is shining.

Take that, dreary Wisconsin fall.

 

Of Monsters and Dogs May 21, 2014

I’m not proud of it. But I succumbed to a human emotion I prefer to avoid today. And (even worse) it wasn’t the first time.

I was ecstatic that my (more than slightly ill) forever mom and dad decided to take baby Carter and I for a walk on this beautiful evening. It’s a far cry from those terrible frigid winter nights of the not-so-distant past. There we were, a happy family of four, journeying through my beloved neighborhood. It was grand.

Until it wasn’t. We were almost home when I saw him. Monster. I’m not joking or being coy. This dog’s name is actually legitimately Monster. I know it because I’ve heard him called that by his owners on several different occasions, including today.

Here’s the thing. Monster is scary looking. I’m not sure what breed he is, but he probably weighs about 120 pounds and is black and has red eyes. I’m not just saying so – his eyes are bloodshot red all the time. And it kind of freaks me out. It doesn’t help that he isn’t exactly friendly to other dogs in the neighborhood (namely me). Or that his forever people don’t ever have him leashed. But I digress.

There he was, unleashed, in all of his scary glory today and it was the first time he was exposed to my dear baby Carter. Well, I wasn’t having that. I could almost picture my all 15 pounds of my dear little person getting swallowed up by his big scary teeth. The thought was terrifying.

Then I noticed something. There were six or seven of them, all huddled around Monster, petting him and telling him to stay. Which he did. But more astonishing than that was that there they were. Six or seven little people, no older than 5 or 6 years old, in the company of this so-called monster.Forgive Me

I was overcome with guilt on the spot. All of this time I had assumed the worst about Monster. His name is Monster for crying out loud. But that’s the thing about first impressions.

“It’s pretty simple, pretty obvious: that people’s first impressions of people are really a big mistake,” suggested American actor Vincent D’Onofrio.

I’m not proud of it. But I succumbed to a human emotion I prefer to avoid today. First impressions. From the ground up, I was reminded today that there are a lot of impressions that come next. I’m a believer in second (third and fourth) chances, and this should be no different.

 

Along Memory Lane February 18, 2014

It doesn’t happen often. Usually it’s all blue skies and sunshine. Lately there’s even been a lot of playing with a slightly more grown up version of Carter. But every now and then I get a glimpse of the past in my doggie daydreams.

Today I was back on the streets with Tiger (the inappropriately named lab who I came to think of as family). It’s funny how having a little person of my own changes how I reflect on the time I spent helping him care for his puppies. This occurred to me as my daydream trip down memory lane took me to a fateful day. It was like I was there again. Sweet Dreams

It was Tiger and I against the world. Usually we stayed on our part of town but not that day. That day our search for food brought us into a territory better left alone. We were met there by a brutish pack of dogs just as fierce as rumor had it. Except for one thing. We had a lot at stake. We had three little puppy mouths to feed. And we were not going to negotiate with bullies.

That’s the thing about bullying. They stay in power as long as they are allowed to do so. Stand up to them, put them in their (not so powerful) place, and in a way you stand up for every other victim of their bullying. It’s not always easy, and might not always take on the first try, but persistence will pay off in one way or another.

If not for the bullies, for those who took a stand. It wasn’t easy to cross enemy lines that day, but I’m glad we did it. Sure, we got the food we sought. But we got more than that. We stood up to the bullies and (more importantly) we lived to tell the tale.

The past has a way of making its way into my present in the oddest ways sometimes. And today I’m so glad it did. Because every now and then we need reminders of where we came from to light the path to where we’re going.

 

A Shower of Gold October 9, 2013

Sometimes I want it. Badly. Other times I’m overcome with relief that I never really have to worry about it. This thing called money offers me a variety of emotional responses. Lately I’ve been struggling with the realization that while I am blessed not to have to worry about it, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Instead my people worry about it. A lot.

Money, money money. It used to come up occasionally, but the frequency has increased lately as preparations continue for my new little person. And its never really a happy conversation. Not that there is arguing or fighting, but us canines have a sense for things like stress and tension.Its just money

It happened again today. I overheard them talking about it and I was overcome with longing. I wanted money. I wanted to buy them all the nice things for the little person they keep talking about like a travel system (whatever that is) and a mobile for the crib. I wanted to give them everything they think they want.

But that’s just it. Wants are not always needs. And needs are not always wants. It sure would be nice if I somehow had all kinds of money to spend on these things. But that’s all they are – things. Just things. Things don’t create happiness, no matter how necessary they seem. Moments of real joy begin in the heart, not the mind.

I was reminded of this tonight as mom and I took a quick walk around the neighborhood right as the sun was setting. It made for a beautiful scene, with the sun shining through the trees as the leaves fell peacefully along our path. And I realized in those precious moments there is this thing about beauty – its completely free. And (even better) it often buys happiness. And joy. And gratitude.

“Here we are sitting in a shower of gold,” observed Australian writer Christia Stead, “with nothing to hold up but a pitchfork.”

It seems I’ve gotten it all wrong. I don’t want money. I want my people’s worry to go away. I want them to see the beauty in all things like I do and feel the sense of emotional richness that brings. I want them to be happy. These wants are really needs in my book. So today I renew my vow to do my small part to highlight these things in our lives, starting with my people. Because I know my heart contains within it its very own shower of gold.

 

A Second Spring October 2, 2013

We see clearly but not in every color. We hear a pin drop from one hundred feet away. We can taste the difference between health food and people bacon. The more than 200 million receptor follicles in our noses can smell diseases. But (at least in my opinion) we canines are cut off at the proverbial knees if you take away our ability to feel. And today I feel blessed.

It happened suddenly on my twilight walk around the neighborhood with mom tonight. I had one of those overwhelming senses of peace. Happiness. Joy, from the ground up. And I have all of my senses to thank. That, and the true beauty that is fall in my tiny piece of the world.

The trees have begun turning all sorts of varying shades of gorgeous. Sure, I can’t see it nearly as vividly as my people, but I can tell something magical is happening. To me it’s all its own kind of sunshine. The leaves that fall are the rays that leave crunchy paths of novelty along my otherwise familiar route. It reminds me a little of the peace I hear when the snow falls. I don’t know whether people hear it or not, but I sure do.

And don’t even get me started on the smells. Though I do still catch a whiff of grilled goodness wafting through the air, it has mostly been replaced with burning wood and leaves. And candles that smell like cinnamon and caramel. And pies in the oven that smell like all kinds of delicious fruits of the season. (Did I mention my love for apples?)

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower,” suggested French philosopher Albert Camus.

How special then that these sights, sounds and smells all align around this season of harvest. Just as crops are now ripened and gathered this time of year, we are blessed with a veritable pantheon of potential sources of joy, happiness and peace. Trusting in our senses is perhaps the most basic way to soak it all in, and (at least in my humble doggie opinion) may even be the most powerful.

So today I saw my second spring. I listened. I smelled. And I felt it. Joy from the ground up falling down around me amidst the leaves.

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Til Death Does Us Part September 21, 2013

It’s not my fault. I’m a terrier. I’m programmed to stay alert. Sure, that means I tend to be easily distracted, but I hardly classify myself as having attention-deficit disorder.

It happened again today while dad and mom made dinner. They fired up the grill and made some steaks and lobster tails and asparagus and potatoes. It was quite the feast. All the grilled goodness wafted through the neighborhood air and made my little dog nose drool in hopes that I might receive some scraps after dinner (which I did, of course).

While the food cooked, dad and I played fetch as we usually do when the grill is going in the backyard. The game lasted about the normal amount of time for me – about three retrievals – before I spotted a squirrel in the far corner of the yard. I lost all interest in the game at hand (what game?) to begin pursuit of the squirrel. That too, was short-lived due partially to the squirrels grand escape up a tree and partially to a piece of grilled potato that hit the ground.

I found myself reflecting on all this as my people enjoyed dinner. I can tell it was special because they ate with dim lights and kept saying the word anniversary to each other and telling stories. They also exchanged cards and gifts. Joy. From the ground up, I saw it happen in my forever home tonight.

What Game?Tomorrow they celebrate six years of marriage,Love which followed four years of dating. I might be a bit biased due to my doggie perspective the passage of time, but that is a significant amount of years to me. In that time, they have been true to each other. Loved each other. And they haven’t strayed from their path together. All of this, in spite of the loss of a job. And the sudden loss of a parent a mere two weeks later. It’s yet another kind of love to which I am honored to bear witness, knowing its one of the only love languages I may never fully understand.

Initially I felt a bit left out of this particular celebration of love. There was no gift for me. There was no card. All I got was a bit of playtime in the backyard and a couple scraps of potato (and steak and asparagus). Then it happened. I realized this is my own personal version of ADD rearing its ugly head.

Because they have ultimately given each other the greatest gift of all. They’ve given each other their hearts. They have vowed to stay together, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in heath. It’s a concept I may not be able to wrap my doggie mind around, but that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace it with my heart. They love each other until death does them part, and I love them unconditionally in the meantime. Maybe I’m not so distracted after all.

 

A Wrinkle In Time September 14, 2013

To write is to be inspired by life. I find this happens in the most unusual of ways from the most unexpected sources. I’ve found it in everything from a stinky towel on the bathroom floor to the wind blowing delicious smells throughout my neighborhood. But sometimes its more simple than that. Sometimes it’s right there in front of our face. Sometimes we don’t even notice it because it’s something we see every day. Sometimes it’s in a word. Inspiration.Deep Thinking

I keep my most simple resources for inspiration close to my side while I write, and today they spoke to me. As I write, the following titles are within arms reach:

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach

Marley and Me, John Grogan

Poemcrazy, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz

A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron

To write is to be inspired by life. To read is to be inspired to write. Each of these titles has a purpose. A reason for being by my side in my recent past, present, and future. Today’s daily writing prompt challenged us to open to the first page of the closest book, read the tenth word, and do a Google image search for that word. From there we will find our inspiration. Or not. I can honestly say this is the very first time any of these books has let me down. In the order referenced above, the words were as follows: of, years, I, at, and squeaky.

In a word, my choices left me feeling underwhelmed. Not even squeaky sparked my cerebral cortex into action. But as a picture is worth a thousand words, I found it both ironic and enlightening to find the picture below come up in response to my search for “years.”

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This image can inspire all kinds of different thoughts for different people. For me, it looks like a wrinkle in time that immediately inspires hope. Faith in the future. Knowledge that the past is behind us (but still part of the journey) the present is a gift, and the future is looking pretty spectacular.

Inspiration. Sometimes it happens in unusual ways. Other times it’s right there next to us in someone else’s words.

 

On Neighborly Physics September 9, 2013

We all have at least one in our lives. One character we wish we had never met. One friend gone bad. One neighbor we can’t stand.

For me, it’s Demon Dog in the backyard behind mine. He scares me, irritates my people, and I fear for the threat he could be to the safety of my future little person.

For my newest dog park pal Tucker, it’s the neighbor man who lives next door to his forever home. He sounds like an angry person always carries a strong chemical smell I’ve come to recognize as alcohol on his breath. I didn’t say anything, but (at least from what I hear) he sounds like the man with the leather belt I once knew. I shudder to think of Tucker being exposed to such things. And Tucker shudders to think of the influence this man could have on the little people he oversees.

Since being at my forever home, I don’t think I’ve come across too many proverbial bad seeds. But I’m also not sure what the best course of action is when we cross paths with these sorts of characters on our journey through life. Every situation is different, but I think what brings each one together is a commonality of understanding. Ultimately we all have at least one of these people in our lives.Love thy neighbor

But how lucky we are to have this be the exception rather than the rule. I was reminded of this recently when I finally got to offer my condolences (in the form of some kisses and cuddles) to the next-door neighbor whose husband went to heaven a couple months ago. I can tell she is still very sad, but I think my love helped (at least a little) to bring a little sunshine into her day.

Mom talked to her too, about how she’s doing and life in general. Mom told Mary (that’s her name) about the baby and how she’s been struggling to stay active during pregnancy. What happened next surprised us both. Mary said my mom is welcome to use her pool as often as she’d like, at least until she drains and covers it for the winter.

It might sound like a small thing, but to my mom it was a pretty big deal. Ever since her knee surgery last November she’s wanted to get back into swimming. But something (I think it was fear) was holding her back. She used to swim competitively (a concept I’ll never understand – why would you intentionally spend all that time in the water?) and was afraid of how out of shape she’d be when she picked it up again. It turns out it wasn’t that bad at all, and she’s been going swimming a few times a week ever since.

We all have a few of them in our lives. A character we are so glad we met. A friend who will do anything for us. A neighbor who makes a difference. With all this good in our lives, what power is there in the bad? It reminds me of the scientific belief of English physicist Sir Isaac Newton. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” he theorized.

I think there’s all kinds of ways we can choose to approach the negative people in our lives. I avoid Demon Dog at all costs. And I know Tucker will do whatever he can to protect his little people from the awful neighbor man. But all this thinking about neighbors served as a reminder that the negative influences are the exception not the rule. If anything, they make us appreciate the positive people in our lives that much more.

 

Just Call Me Blessed September 2, 2013

Swell. Good. Great. Peachy. These are all common responses to what I think is likely the most frequently asked conversational question. How are you? As I am a believer in responding to this question with nothing but sincere honesty, I time to time find myself cooking up creative responses in my mind. Super duper. Splendid. Or (again in support of honesty)  crappy.

Perspective has taught me a lot about the power contained in identifying with such words, or putting labels and names on things. Words are powerful tools to begin with, but names take the conversation to another level.

This struck me today as I found myself feeling particularly happy. It is Labor Day in America, which (for some reason I don’t fully understand) means my people stayed home from that place called work. I’ve never been shy about my love for the weekends, so I suppose it’s not too far a stretch that a three-day weekend is in a land of happiness all its own. Especially since they spent the majority of the day with me at home.

In turn, I enjoyed an unordinary amount of time lounging outside (where I do some of my best thinking). Today as I contemplated these words with which we identify, I searched my memory for something and came up blank. Before I was Wiley (and briefly Zorro), I didn’t have a name. I was just another dog living out my life on the streets. Characters I came across while I was nameless either had given names I picked up or names I assigned them.Peaceful Gratitude

Like Tiger, the lab mix I once misjudged as manipulative and catty because he had a sneaky selfish way about him. It turned out Tiger was sly because he had to be. He was always stealing the best scraps before I could get to them because he was feeding his puppies, not because he was vindictive. But in addition to mystery, tigers are known for their strength and Tiger was one of the strongest dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

His name (the name I assigned him) was true to who he was. And I would say mine is true to who I am as well, though I know another name would not change my identity. So today as I let the breeze sweep over me and took in all the delicious smells of the neighborhood, I developed a new name for myself.

How am I? I’m blessed. Who am I? Just call me blessed. My days are not always perfect, but this simple truth remains. From the moment I wake to the moment my head hits the proverbial hay I am grateful to be alive. I am, indeed, blessed.