Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Just Breathe August 20, 2013

This has to be one of the strangest things I’ve seen my mom do. (Please bear in mind I’ve seen her do many a strange thing). I leave her alone for ten minutes to spend a little time with dad in another room and when I returned, I was welcomed by the most ridiculous sight.

There she was in the living room with her butt in the air holding herself up by her arms. I was alarmed at first, like something must be wrong that would cause her to be in such a strange position. What if she hurt herself? Or (worse) what if she hurts herself getting out of this strange bodily contortion? I was concerned not only for her, but for the baby! Couldn’t it just fall out or something with mom’s body in that position? So I did what any concerned canine would do and ran to her to investigate. I sniffed, but nothing smelled awry. And while she was breathing heavier than usual she seemed all right. Just to be on the safe side, I laid down underneath her in case she fell.

That’s when I heard the woman on the television say something most unusual. She was speaking in quiet tones and there were sounds like the wind chimes I hear in my backyard sometimes. Downward facing dog, the lady said. My ears perked up at the mention of the “d” word, and I began to gather this is something mom was doing by choice. The woman finished talking shortly thereafter and I heard something about this concluding the yoga session.Google Searching

Yoga. A quick search of the Internet explained to me that yoga is a very popular Hindu discipline that promotes balance of the spirit though a series of postures and rituals. (My search also uncovered something called doga, otherwise known as dog yoga, which I think merits its own separate commentary at a later date). Central to the concept of yoga is the importance of breath on inner balance, which my (19-weeks pregnant) mom has definitely seemed a little short on lately. Between her increased clumsiness and her random bouts of breathlessness, she could definitely use a boost of both.

So as strange an image as it was, I’m glad mom is doing this yoga thing. As it turns out, she was not in danger. She was not playing a joke on me. She made it out of the whole ordeal with all four limbs intact. And I learned something pretty important from all of this. Sometimes we have to do scary things, things we are not necessarily good at or comfortable with initially, to find balance in life. Sometimes it is best to simply pause and take a deep soothing breath. Just breathe. You might surprise yourself with the result.


A Lesson In (Servant) Leadership May 8, 2013

I’ll be honest. I don’t really care for nights when my mom works late. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the one-on-one time with dad (especially the extra cuddles and hugs he sneaks in when no one else is around). But my heart is bursting with happiness when my family is all together. I mean it. I can literally feel my little doggie heart beating out of my chest those first few moments my family is together after they have been at that place called work all day.

So you can imagine my disappointment on days like today when I only get a few precious moments with my whole family together before bedtime. It’s heartbreaking for me to wait at home alone all day and only have this small amount of time when them. Not only that, but my mom’s face was lit up with excitement when she got home, and it had nothing to do with being happy to see me. Don’t they realize how long a day is in doggie time, my mind asked. I was surprised with the answer my heart gave to my selfish mind: it’s not all about you.Leadership Is...

Of course it isn’t. I don’t usually get so carried away like this. I don’t dig into the realm of negativity. No sir. I find and share joy from the ground up. Call it coincidence, karma, or whatever you believe, but it was a blessing to talk myself back from the negativity bridge tonight. Instead of dwelling on how small our time together was, I focused on making the moments count. I stopped thinking about myself, and I’m so glad I did.

With an open mind and heart I took in every detail about where my mom had spent that time away from me tonight. As it turned out, she truly was where she needed to be. While I don’t completely understand the kind of program she was at, I was able to gather that it was a commencement ceremony of some kind that recognized some of the leaders in our local community.

Leadership gets defined so many ways by so many different people, but mom said the theme that set this conversation apart was an emphasis on servant leadership. Leading by example, stepping up to the plate when no one else will, and (yes) sometimes not just taking the road less travelled, but paving it for others were among the highlights of the conversations about leadership. Above all, servant leadership is putting others before oneself and doing something because it’s the right thing to do regardless of potential financial, political or emotional gain.

Tonight I turned off my wishes to play fetch and steal all the attention in the room and let my mom share some pretty valuable information with my dad. She was happy and enthusiastic and I could tell she is passionate about everything she heard tonight.

Taking the moment to dwell on that instead of on my disappointment was the best decision I made today. After all, the program tonight was referred to as commencement. That sure is a powerful word. Rather than refer to it as a graduation (which is more synonymous with the end of an educational journey), mom made it very clear as she told her story the program was purposely referred to as a commencement. A beginning.

Leadership doesn’t stop when you walk across the stage – it begins. I suppose in my own little way I successfully was a servant leader in my home tonight, even though my people wouldn’t have noticed it. That is kind of the point sometimes, isn’t it? It wasn’t easy, as I do sincerely look forward to the nights when my whole family is together. But I’ll be honest. I have a new aspiration in life to be a better servant leader, and the first step on that journey is understanding it’s not all about me.


A Wiley By Any Other Name March 23, 2013

I was called Zorro once. The family that adopted me for a short time tried calling me that and it was honestly the strangest couple weeks of my life. The name simply didn’t fit. It was dark and mysterious whereas I am sunny and somewhat of an open book. Wiley fits my personality perfectly. Spontaneous, outgoing and a little bit crazy? Yep, that’s me.

But now that I am set in my ways as  Wiley, I sometimes wonder what I would look like in someone else’s paws. What if I were more pensive, agile or mysterious? Would life be different? Would life by any other name be as sweet? But my past has taught me I can’t live without embracing my personality. And one of the best ways I’ve found to embrace my personality is to explore my space. Most dogs would agree that defining one’s territory is obviously very important, so I find it necessary to do so today as I explore who I am in this life.

I have always and continue to live near the beauty that is Lake Michigan. While I would prefer not explore too much due to the busy nature of the surrounding downtown area, the area near the lake is beautiful. My mom has taken me there a couple of times over the summer months and we’ve gotten into disagreements about how to spend our time there. While she would prefer to find the perfect spot and stay there with a good book, I would prefer to explore every inch of beach.

I know my mom would occasionally prefer me to be more static. Especially when she’s trying to relax on the beach and she already has the company of the sunshine. She doesn’t need me being me in those moments, regardless of the many perks of my unique personality. It reminds me a bit of a song I heard the other night while mom was cooking dinner. “But I’ll see better when the smoke clears (when the smoke clears) inside my head,” Toby Lightman sings. “And I find myself in need of a pause, I’m not sure why, but I think that it’s because  of this desire to be what others want me to be which is nothing close to me.”

I occasionally wonder what I would look like if I was nothing close to me. Would my life by another name be as sweet? Then I am overtaken by the obvious. I know it would be. “You see, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we’re constantly programmed by the world to be other (people) not ourselves,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “(But) we should only strive to be first-rate versions of ourselves. And our best is always good enough.”

So I argue that a life by any other name would be as sweet because standing still is simply not part of my personality. While I do enjoy routine, I also embrace adventure. I always have and always will. No suburban life will take that away from me. While I wonder about it, I can honestly say that I don’t really care to be anyone else. I like being me. I would make a terrible Toto, but I sure do make a good Wiley Schmidt. A Wiley by any other name would still be Wiley. And my best is always good enough.


Where Dreams Come True March 21, 2013

It’s triggered by the oddest things. A birthday. A walk around the neighborhood. Playing catch in my forever home. Regardless of what triggers it, I sometimes get upset when I think about my birth parents. I don’t understand it when it comes to my dad. I have no memories of him and the ones I do have are of the impact he left on my mom when he left.

Somewhere Out ThereShe hated him, then she missed him, then sometimes she would get so angry that my brothers and I would know to stay away because she needed time to cool down. With every emotional turn, I found myself loving her more and hating my dad more in the same breadth. It makes perfect sense why I get upset when I think about my mom. I loved her. She showed my brothers and I how to love unconditionally. She brought home to us just by breathing, and that wasn’t always easy since we moved around so much. Sleep should come easily to puppies, but we struggled a bit as a family to get comfortable in whatever cardboard box or garbage can we found shelter in on a given night.

There was one night in particular when we just couldn’t get comfortable. It was so cold that even all the snuggling in the world wasn’t keeping us warm. Mom decided to take matters into her own paws that night. She marched our shivering little family up to a window of a nearby homeless shelter and there we sat. I remember being so irritated because it was colder sitting there than it was when we were all cuddled together. We sat and waited until finally a little girl tugged at someone’s shirt to get their attention. They welcomed us into the shelter that night, even though it’s not normally allowed.

Together with the little girl we watched the first thing I’d ever seen on the moving picture window I later learned was called a television. “An American Tail” tells the story of Fievel the Mouse that is not unlike my own. Like me, Fievel had a family that seemed destined for better times before they were separated. Like me, Fievel befriended his fair share of unique characters on his journey to self-reliance. And like me, Fievel never stopped thinking about his family.

“Somewhere out there someone’s saying a prayer that we’ll find one another in that big somewhere out there,” he sings. “And even though I know how very far apart we are it helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star. And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby it helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but it wasn’t that long after our night in the shelter that my family would get separated just like Fievel’s did. That night might have been one in a million, but that bedtime story stays with me always. And we went from shivering outside to sleeping in the company of a beautiful little girl who agreed to share her bed with my family that night. We all slept better than we had in weeks.

Regardless of what triggers my thoughts of my birth mom, I know I only get upset because I miss her so. Ever since my fateful first night without her, I have found solace in Fievel’s song and whenever I miss her I find myself thinking to myself “somewhere out there if love can see us through, then we’ll be together somewhere out there, out where dreams come true.”