Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Peace on Earth December 24, 2014

It is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. It is not the absence of war, (but rather) a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. It begins with a smile.

Peace. From the ground up, minds filled with a lot more wisdom than mind have a few things to say about it. Like civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. And Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. And Catholic visionary Mother Theresa.20141224_170645

Like joy, I know peace takes many forms. It looks different to everyone depending on his or her life experiences and overall perspective on the world around them. It’s Christmas Eve around here, and though we don’t have any snow (an incredibly unusual occurrence in Wisconsin this time of year) on the ground, celebrations are in high gear.

But I can’t help but think about what happens in a couple days. After all the ribbons and bows are torn from their presents. After the holly jolly music has fled the airwaves. After the turkeys and hams and other holiday goodies are all long gone. Trees and decorations get put away, and a big empty hole can stand in its place.

It all brings to mind the words of Buddha, who suggested “peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

I hear it in the stillness of snowflakes falling around me in my backyard paradise. I feel it in my heart when my forever family is together and happy. I see it in smiles and laughter. I find peace all around me, and I know it is because it starts in my heart.

This may seem to many like a time of year for embracing all things worldly, but to me it’s just as important to remember where it all starts. The reason for the season. The love and joy and peace and all things holly and jolly. The life this season is capable of breathing into our souls is like no other.

Like the thinkers who are wiser than me suggested, it is how we arrive at a goal. It is a state of mind that can present itself in something as simple as a smile. And, as Mahatma Gandhi said, it “is its own reward.”

So from my little family to yours, I wish you a very Merry (and peaceful) Christmas.

 

And Let It Begin With Me December 17, 2014

It’s not uncommon for it to happen at any given time during the year. Thanks to the evolution of streaming radio, it can happen with the touch of a button. And around here it does. It doesn’t matter if it’s February or July or September. Christmas music is a favorite thing for my dear forever mom.

What that means for me is I get to hear all my holiday favorites whether its snowy and frigid or sunny and toasty. And I’m not going to lie – it has a way of evoking that special sense of the magic of Christmas regardless of when I hear the words. Frank Sinatra’s original version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” are two of the best in my opinion.

Today I (re)discovered a familiar tune that I had forgotten about in recent years. I haven’t heard it much for whatever reason, but when I heard it today it invigorated my previously lacking sense of holiday happiness.

“Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me,” the song goes. “Let there be peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be.” There is something so simple about the lyrics, but what stands out to me is the sense of personal responsibility for one’s role in the world. A personal responsibility for the impact we have on others. And (good or bad) it doesn’t take much.

I think I heard one too many stories of the rude and pushy people out there in the world this holiday season. It got to me.

That ends now.

Today was not unlike most days in my forever home. But hearing that song reminded me yet again what is important in even the most normal of days. Joy. Peace. Love. From the ground up, these are the building blocks of who I am.

So tonight I do my part to bring to life the words of my new favorite Christmas carol. Let there be joy. Let there be peace. Let there be love. And let it all start with me.

 

Up With The Birds July 14, 2014

It happens at the exact same time every day. 4:11 a.m. Whether there is a downpour of rain or the sun is shining, they are always there. Even when the snow flies, a few stick around. Birds. From the ground up, they are always there. At times I side with my mom and find them incredibly annoying. Like when they wake dear baby Carter up earlier than usual. Or my forever mom and dad for that matter. But, like most things, it’s which side of the coin you want to land on.Joy

Because at times, I side with my mom (she can’t make up her mind either) and find them incredibly calming. Peaceful even. I think that’s one of the reasons she has a newfound interest in bird watching in my backyard paradise. In addition to a bird bath or two, there are more feeders out than usual. And, unlike summers past, she has been diligent about keeping them filled to the brim with delicious concoctions of seed, including sunflower seeds that I occasionally snag from the ground by my favorite feeder in the far corner.

Today she was working from home over her lunch hour when it happened. It wasn’t anything that out of the ordinary. Yet there she sat on her favorite patio chair, typing away on that laptop of hers, shaded slightly by her happy orange umbrella (as she calls it) soaking up the sun with a mug of hot tea in hand. Carter was napping inside and I was curled in the shade up at her feet. It wasn’t much. A stranger would have missed it. But not me. She spotted the cardinal duo (male and female) that visits every day around the same time and sighed a big ole happy sigh that made my heart smile.

Sure, we as a family collectively curse those birds outside the windows when dear baby Carter wakes up before his normal time. Or when the chirping alone wakes my parents. But today I was reminded of what beauty is signified in the routine these dear birds have. It happens at the same time every day. 4.11 a.m. The weather doesn’t matter. The storms that rolled through yesterday are a thing of the past. Today is a new day. A fresh start. And that brings the sincerest sense of peace to my heart.

 

Second Nature April 8, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:46 pm
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That place called work. I’ve often wondered if the shoe were on the other paw, what my place called work would be like. Where would I go away to for all those hours at a time? What would I do? Today I think I (quite literally) stumbled upon the answer.Looking Happy

Maybe it’s because it happened with four different people in what felt like a very short period of time. I used my keen observational skills to deduce they were down about one thing or another in life, and (without thinking) I did something about it.

With my grandma, I greeted her with a love fest upon entering the threshold. With my aunt Morgan, I licked up her tears as she cried about changes in life. With my mom, I simply rolled on my side funny while she took a few minutes to pet me. And with Carter, when he smiled at me as I performed one of my many attention-seeking behaviors. Well, that was pretty magical even though he may not know it.

That’s when it occurred to me. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I didn’t even know I was brining joy until it happened. I saw it on their faces, heard it in their voices, and felt it in their embrace. Joy. From the ground up, it is a favorite habit of mine. It’s one with no deadline, no pressure, and no wasted days or nights.

So I think I know what I would do for “work” if the shoe were on the other paw. (That is, assuming my first attempt at a dog blogger turned book writer never comes to be). I would stay home. I would do exactly what I do naturally every single day. I would find ways to bring joy to the lives of my people. Now, I can admit the job is not a traditional one. But I don’t think it matters, and would argue that perhaps it should be. Because I read once if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. And that is certainly true for me.

 

Love’s Heartbeat March 5, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 10:30 pm
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I’ve seen it a million times in the last couple of months. So I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it sooner. A single moment transported me through time today, and I’m so thankful it did.

In the blink of an eye I was back with my birth mom and brothers all of those years ago. I was just a little pup and we were settling into our new locale on a chilly winter’s night. I didn’t give it a second thought and simply did what I always would do in that situation. I scrunched my shivering little body as small as I could, cuddled into mom, and listened for her heartbeat. As chaotic and uncertain as our lives were at that point, her heartbeat brought me peace. Stability. Hope. Cuddles

I felt these things today in such an powerfully different yet ironically similar way. I was snuggling myself into the cuddle fest unfolding between mom and baby Carter when it happened. I stopped an assessed the situation, really taking in what was happening. And there he was, scrunching his little body as small as he could, cuddled up into mom, listening for her heartbeat. She is home to him, just as my birth mom was home to me once upon a time. Her heartbeat brings him peace. Stability. Hope. As it does the same for me.

I’ve seen it a million times in the last couple of months. I’ve also done it myself about that many times. Cuddling. From the ground up, it’s a pretty powerful thing. I know scientists are convinced we dogs just do it for the warmth. They couldn’t be more wrong. Now I know it more than ever before. In those cuddles we are each other’s heartbeat. In those cuddles we are home.

 

The Luck We Make January 17, 2014

I don’t mean to be rude. Quite the opposite in fact. I make it a business of mine to speak the truth in love. Even if it hurts. And even though I can’t speak. (At least not on command).

JoyTruth. From the ground up, I have some to share today. It occurred to me as I watched more snow diamonds fall from heaven. Snow is a pretty common occurrence in the beautiful state of Wisconsin, but it never ceases to amaze me with its understated beauty. In today’s peaceful stillness of the snowfall I found myself counting the flakes, each one a reminder of the blessings I have in life.

Family. Love. Loyalty. So many things money can’t buy, all at my paws at a moment’s notice. But I wouldn’t say this makes me lucky. The truth is, I wouldn’t call myself lucky. Friends and family call me this all the time and I tend to disagree. But not for reasons one might think.

I’m not bitter. I have no reason to be negative. But I believe in a lot of things, and luck isn’t one of them. Luck implies happenstance. Chance. Random good fortune. I’ve had too much good in my life happen to believe in such things.

Instead I count my blessings. Each one is unique and brings me a different kind of joy. Like today when baby Carter grabbed my paw in his sleep. My heart surged in that moment and I instantly forgave him for all the screaming he’s been doing morning, noon and night.

No snowflake is alike, and no true and lasting moment of joy is either. Each is a blessing of its own, entirely separate from this think called luck. Truth. From the ground up, I mean no disrespect to anyone who believes in luck. Instead I tend to side with World War II general Douglas MacArthur, who once suggested “the best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.” And my luck isn’t luck at all. It’s joy. From the ground up, this is the truth I speak in love.

 

A Little Dream January 10, 2014

It finally happened. I’ve been thinking about it for months. But I didn’t want to push my luck and try it too soon. So I waited. Perhaps not as patiently as my forever mom and dad would have liked. But I waited. After almost ten months of waiting, that’s saying something.

Well today I got my chance. And let me tell you something. It was worth the wait. Today I got to cuddle with my new little person. It was just as beautiful as I imagined it would be. He was warm. And I could hear his little heart beating. Peace. From the ground up, that’s what was contagious in the Schmidt house today.Peace.

So there we were, snuggling ourselves into the nap world, when things took a turn for the unexpected. For this I was not prepared. It was fleeting. If I hadn’t been peaking at Carter out of the corner of my eye at that exact moment I would have certainly missed it. But I didn’t.

The smile. I can’t explain the joy I felt in the moment I saw that peaceful little smile. I knew then that he was dreaming and selfishly hoped that just maybe he was dreaming about me. Because when I closed my eyes again, I dreamed of him. I saw us together playing catch in a new fenced-in backyard I didn’t recognize. He was laughing, and I was wagging and all was well with the world.

I dreamed this little dream as I napped with baby Carter this afternoon. And it made me realize maybe us canines are more capable of being patient than I thought. “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet,” as 18th century Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau suggested.

I waited almost ten months for the cuddling I enjoyed today. All that waiting fulfilled in a single sweet moment. It was worth the wait.

 

Listen Here Baby November 1, 2013

I wish babies could read minds. If they could, I have a few messages I’d like to communicate through my mom’s baby bump. Some are subliminal (preparing him or her for a future as my best friend forever, for example). Others are growing in importance to me by the day.

If I could send a message tonight it would be for my soon-to-be little person to quit being a tease. At 29 weeks, mom has been feeling somersaults and practice breaths for several weeks now. And it brings her such joy (even in the night when I know that is what’s waking her). But lately every time the baby is dancing and mom tries to help dad feel the activity one of two things happen. Either the movement is too tiny for dad to feel or the baby choses that moment to stop hearing the music altogether.I'm Talking To You

They looked so blissful there for a few minutes – dad with his hand on mom’s bump, with mom’s hand on top of his. I could see the excitement in both of their faces as they waited. But they waited. And kept waiting. And finally, patience gave way to disappointment for all parties involved.

“Hey listen here baby,” I thought with all my doggie might, “get moving so dad can finally feel what all of the fuss is about.” No response. I looked at my people and wished at least for them to be able to hear me remind them to find joy even in the disappointment. No response.

You would think that five years of doggie life would teach me my messages don’t always cross the language barrier. It’s not the first time I’ve sent the baby a silent instant message that was never received. And I know it certainly won’t be the last. Not only that, but I feel for dad as a bystander in this whole process. I know he worries about whether he’s being supportive enough, or saying the right thing, or doing his part to prepare the house for the baby. I know because I feel the same way.

But patience is virtue as they say. Perhaps that is among the lessons meant to be learned from all of this. I’m no mind reader myself, but I can see that pregnancy has brought to life a patience in the Schmidt house that unites us all. We all just can’t wait to meet the little person already.

If only I could somehow “adopt the pace of nature” as transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson described, as “her secret is patience.” While a good reminder, I must admit that knowing this secret doesn’t change things for me. I still wish babies could read minds.

 

Our Little Guy October 11, 2013

That didn’t last long. Less than ten days ago, I (figuratively) raised a scruffy paw in favor of staying scruffy for a cause. There was only one flaw in my plan. There is no really good way for me to communicate these kinds of choices I make with my forever people. They clearly didn’t get the message.

Before AfterThe good news is I saw my beloved groomer Mary and all my Paws R Us pals this week. The bad news? I’m no longer a participant in Scruffy September. Sure, I went a tiny bit longer without my routine visit to Mary. And I remain committed to the Out of the Darkness cause regardless. But I can no longer call myself scruffy.

At first I was kind of bummed out about it. Then it happened. Dad said it out loud. The news I have been dreading (and mentally denying) for the last eight months or so. You see, dad has been having awful itchy red eyes for some time now at seemingly random times. It’s not exactly constant, but its bothersome frequently enough he finally went to see an eye specialist today. And she confirmed the truth.

Dad, my forever person, is allergic. To me. I listened in horror as dad explained the outcome of his appointment to mom over dinner. The doctor apparently went as far as to inquire whether they-my people-would consider finding me another home. I felt like I’d been kicked. Hard. Right in the heart. My mind raced with questions I couldn’t ask. Silence was not my friend. And time seemed to slow to an absolute crawl.

I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy to hear dad laugh.

“I told her there is no way,” I heard him say as he looked down at me. “He’s our little guy and he always will be, won’t you buddy?”

Relief does not even begin to describe the feeling that washed over me in that moment. Seconds earlier I had been temporarily paralyzed with fear (that I would have to go back the humane society again, would never see my beloved people again, and would never get to meet my new little person). Now it was like I had the life breathed back into me.

They went on with their conversation, strategizing about ways to more effectively control my dander like vacuuming and brushing me more frequently. And I thought to myself “self, it’s not so bad being groomed more frequently if it means you get to stay a part of this family.” And it’s not. I quite enjoy seeing Mary and my pals. I will do anything I can do to help control this pet dander that is apparently contributing to my dad’s painful allergies. Because I love him, and (even though he never will admit it) he loves me. And, as Mahatma Gandhi so aptly observed, “where there is love there is life.”

So what if Scruffy September for a cause didn’t last very long. Because dad’s love for me clearly will. And that means the world to me.

 

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.”