Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Headless Happy (Birthday) Chicken February 5, 2015

It’s a matter of respect for me. I won’t say how many years ago it happened, but that doesn’t change its level of importance in my life. Which is high.

Today is my forever dad’s birthday. Though that happened at least a year or two before I was around, it’s a day I pause to appreciate each year. It’s a day I couldn’t miss, too, since mom has this thing with birthdays. I’m not sure of the rationale or reasoning behind it, but its very important to her to go above and beyond to celebrate a life. A few years back...

Today was no exception. The stars aligned and (somehow) everything got done. I wouldn’t have guessed it this morning either. Between her work and all things birthday, she was running around like a headless chicken. There was cleaning and cooking and laundry and grocery shopping to be done. And there was a surprise visit with Carter to dad’s work, and later a surprise lunch date with Carter.

And everything fell into place. Work got finished. The cleaning and cooking and laundry and grocery shopping went smoothly. The surprise work visit and lunch date were a huge success. It was a good day.

I know because we’ve had some bad ones lately that days like today should be celebrated. Not just for the obvious reason that I’m elated that my dad was born all those years ago. But for the refreshing sanity I know my dear forever family feels when things go as well as they did today. It’s invigorating.

It’s also a novel idea that there can indeed be headless chicken running that doesn’t revolve around only unsatisfying chaos. Instead there was a sense of joy about it from beginning to end. Headless and happy can coexist after all.

For me, it’s a matter of respect. I won’t reveal the number behind my forever dad’s wisdom. But today I will live the words of American entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey who suggested “the more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

 

Life’s Little Messages August 1, 2014

It’s probably going to sound ridiculous. But that’s never stopped me before, so I’m certainly not going to let it stop me now. I’m a believer that things happen for a reason. This we all know to be true. But sometimes my faith is sparked in a way that can only be described as contagious.

I speak, of course, of moments in life when it’s like the message we need to hear finds us right when we need to hear it. Has this ever happened to you?

Feeling reflective

It happened to mom this morning when she ordered her first fully caffeinated vanilla latte in a year and a half. She has been so careful with everything she drank while she was pregnant with dear baby Carter and continued to proceed with caution throughout nursing. But today, in a moment of weakness, she gave in to the urge to indulge. She was a little nervous about some sort of presentation she was asked to give at that place called work, and felt the indulgence would somehow calm her nerves.

Had I been with her, I would have advised against such things, but I digress. It was not the coffee that calmed her (I could have told her that), but the message written on it:

“Know what sparks the light in you,” suggested American talk-show host turned entrepreneurial genius Oprah Winfrey, “then use that light to illuminate the world.”

I know how ridiculous it might sound. But I believe as much in those words as I do they were meant to find my mom today. And, in finding her, they found me. Light. From the ground up, I feel it is my duty to share it with you as best I know how. Because I’m a believer that things happen for a reason. That way when life’s little messages fall from heaven, I’m ready and waiting with open paws.

 

Just Say Hello February 20, 2014

It really breaks my heart to say it. It goes against everything my optimistic little doggie heart believes in. But sadly it’s true. Some things really can’t be fixed.

There are some medical conditions that can’t be cured. Cars that get totaled in accidents. And hearts that break beyond repair. Considering each of these, I think its the broken hearts I most desperately long to mend. So you can imagine how my ears perked up today as something other than an animal caught my attention on the television.

Just say hello. It sounds so simple and yet Oprah Winfrey has launched an entire campaign behind these three little words. Because let’s face it. They aren’t nearly as little as they seem. In a world where many of us so frequently replace interpersonal contact with a quick text, email or phone call, the power of human interaction has certainly lost some of its emotional traction.Hello.

That stops now. Because, as O Magazine editor Gayle King puts it, you never know.

“You never know the difference it could make in someone’s life,” she says in the campaign video. “You never know what people are going through, you never know how appreciated it is, and it’s easy to do.” She’s right. So many people are more lonely than they admit to anyone. And therein lies the fundamental problem.

I may not be able to actually say hello, but I know I can at the very least share joy with whomever will take it. That will be my contribution. That, and spreading the word about this fabulous cause. Because I believe in the power of words almost as much as I believe in the power of people to make a difference in each other’s lives.

As much as it pains me to say it, there are so many things in this world that are broken beyond repair. The human heart doesn’t have to be one of these things. Loneliness doesn’t have to be one of these things. It might not seem like much, but in a world where every little bit counts no step is too small toward saving a heart.

 

Neighborhood Watch January 6, 2014

It’s been said more than once. Some have said it jokingly. Others have been more serious about it. Regardless of the reasons, the message is clear. I would make a terrible guard dog.

Watching the Angel SleepIn our neighborhood we are surrounded on either side by neighbor ladies who have been widowed, one of whom was especially enthusiastic about my impending ferocity when my people first brought me home from the humane society. It will be nice to have a dog guarding this neck of the neighborhood, she said.

Here I am, three and a half years later, and that could not be farther from the truth. My bark is rare, and every visitor to my forever home is greeted with fanfare and love. I do, after all, have a personal goal to share joy with whomever will take it, so why would I startle folks as they enter my home? It’s simply not in my bones.

Or so I thought. Then came baby Carter and suddenly everything has changed. Every little creak in the floor makes me jump, I find myself reacting to noises outside differently, and I have even uttered a protective bark or two at something other than the pig on the Geico commercials or the dogs with pretty teeth in the Pedigree commercials. I can’t describe the change other than that it feels instinctual, as natural as scratching an itch behind my ear.

“Follow your instincts,” American media mogul Oprah Winfrey suggested. “That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” Sometimes I think its all too easy to start believing what people say about us. Especially when it’s not necessarily complimentary. I’m not really sure which side of the fence a guard dog falls on, since it usually isn’t a good thing to assume the bad in everyone instead of the good. But I have developed some pretty keen instincts in my time on four paws, and I think its time I start employing them. It’s been said more than once that I could never be a guard dog. I’ve got new reasons to believe that doesn’t make it true.

 

 

 

To Making it Count February 12, 2013

I’ve heard people say hindsight is 20/20. What is that about? I learn nothing from trying to chase my own tail around, so why would people? No. I prefer to dream bigger than my memories. I prefer to respect the past as part of my present on my journey to the future. And that’s coming from someone with animal instincts.

So why is it so tough for people to be themselves? To trust their instincts?

It’s not hard for Isabelle, Sam, Sophie and Abigail. They are the four little people in my life, and I learn a lot from them. Namely, they are fearless, they dream big, and they have absolutely no censorship clause on their thoughts. They are the embodiment of joy: from the ground up. And they have no idea how good they have it. “Youth is wasted on the young,” George Bernard Shaw said.Isabelle and I - Christmas 2012

Or is it? I’d rather think of youth as the building block of memories for one’s future. Good, bad, or indifferent, youth is a time of endless imagination and that is never a waste. But something changes between youth and adulthood that I think hardens the instincts. Up go the walls of cognitive censorship, and the next thing we know, we’re living life thinking hindsight is wiser than foresight. Where, in the midst of all this grown-up thinking, is gratitude? Imagination? Optimism?

This blog is called Wiley’s Wisdom: A Unique Perspective on Joy not because I think I’m particularly wise but because I make it my life’s mission to live a life of gratitude, which I know is better when shared. I give thanks for my life by giving back to the lives of others. “I figure life is a gift, and I don’t intend on wasting it,” as the humble street rat Jack Dawson said to his millionaire dining partners aboard the Titanic disaster that would ultimately take his life. “To making it count.”

His past was a valued part of who he was, but it didn’t get in the way of his (albeit short-lived) future. Nor will it get in the way of the future of my loved ones if I have anything to say about it.

That is one of many reasons why I think something valuable can be learned from the children in my life who disregard the opinions of others in favor of their own. Let’s do as they do and forget that 20/20 business. Let’s instead think like American mover and shaker Oprah Winfrey.

“Follow your instincts,” she said. “That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.”

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures December 28, 2012

Existentialism fascinates me. The philosophical theory that experiences define one’s existence was strongly influenced by German novelist Frank Kafka who said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” Well, that is the story of my year.

Good, bad or indifferent, 2012 was a year of firsts for me. I travelled to exciting new places, I earned the right to sleep in my parent’s room (instead of that blasted crate), and I had brushes with death that made me place a higher value on life. Its tough to pick just one “high” or “low” point, so I have chosen to review my most memorable moments as a means to recognize these existential moments that define my existence.

Memory lane 2012 began with me longing for the snow we saw at the start of 2011.

The great February blizzard of 2011 was very great indeed. I was disappointed by the lack of snow we saw this year, but the extra time exploring the great outdoors later in the year proved worth the wait…

In June, I took my first camping trip to Mirror Lake near Wisconsin Dells. I loved every second of it! All the new smells, sights, sounds….I know mom and dad were worried about me being quiet in the tent with them, but I was so exhausted after all our hiking on the trails that I paid little attention to the sounds of the night. Life lesson: Variety really is the spice of life.

In July, I got a haircut…while not my first, it was one of the shortest cuts I’ve ever had. I felt so free. Life lesson: “Beauty isn’t worth thinking about; what’s important is your mind. You don’t want a fifty-dollar haircut on a fifty-cent head” – Garrison Keillor.

In August, I met Diesel…one of my mom’s pals’ new puppy. I relished our moments together when I was bigger than him. He’s a chow/lab mix, so I knew he’d be bigger than me almost instantly. But I look forward to having him as a lifelong mate. Life lesson: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down,” – Oprah Winfrey.

September was an especially exciting month. I went to my first race at Elkhart Lake. While I’m not sure I understand the point of the cars going around and around the track, it was my kind of day. I got to be somewhere new with my people in the gorgeous outdoors. The Friday night football game about a week later held a similar appeal – one of the little people in the family was playing in the game, so it was even more exciting to be there to root him on. Life lesson: I like race days and football. Simple as that.

In October, I travelled with my family way up north and impersonated president Lincoln on the World’s Largest Penny. It was also around this time that my mom finally convinced my dad to let me sleep in their bedroom with them instead of having me sleep in a crate in a room down the hall. It might seem silly, but that is a big deal to me. Life lesson: Appreciate the small things-they may not be as tiny as they seem.

Remember that though by Kafka about the bites and stings? November quite literally brought a few of those for me. It was uncharacteristically warm in Wisconsin, so I had a few teeny tiny little unwelcome visitors take shelter in my fur. Not one, not two, but three deer ticks I had to contend with this fall. Fortunately for me, my mom and dad pet me on such a regular basis that they found them all and removed them before it became a bigger problem.

Mid-month brought my biggest struggle. It was one of the first frigid days of the winter season, but I was still so excited to go to one of my most favorite places in this whole world: the dog park. Mom kept talking about how it was the last time of the year, so I prepared myself for some fun. It was disappointing to get there and have there only be two other dogs to play with, but I didn’t care. I ran right up on the picnic table to greet a breed I know to be called a pit bull and was unpleasantly surprised with the result. It’s hard for me to tell what happened next, because I kind of blacked out, but I’ve overheard my mom tell the story enough times to know it wasn’t pleasant. From what she’s said, that pit bull had me dangling four feet in the air by its teeth, while still atop that picnic table for a good minute before I fell to the ground with my tail between my legs. The next thing I can remember is my eye hurting and that nice lady at the vet telling me how lucky I was that the scratch in my eye wasn’t worse…I could have lost my sight. Life lesson: Seeing is believing.

But November also brought a high for me in all the extra time I got to spend with mom while she’s been on what I have now heard her call a leave of absence for recovery on her leg surgery. Life lesson: If you look for it, joy actually is all around.

Such became the stepping stone for my blog, which I would call December’s most memorable moment. And so it is…here we are at the end of December reflecting on the year. At its most basic application, existentialism claims one is defined by his or her experiences. And with that, I would agree that 2012 experiences have contributed to who I am – good, bad, or indifferent.