Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Man’s Best Medicine March 10, 2015

It’s not the first time it’s happened, but it might be the most memorable time to date.

“Today this little guy doesn’t have many big thoughts. Instead I have gratitude.”

Two years ago (almost to the day), I spoke these words in reference to a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It was 40 degrees, and I was cold, but it was the first time my dear forever mom and I got outside for a decent walk since before her knee surgery. Recovery from that surgery was an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, so it was especially meaningful for us to hit the road again that day. A beautiful day

Today it happened again. Recovery wasn’t an issue this time, unless you count the emotional recovery from the winter doldrums we Wisconsinites all experienced for the last several months.

Instead it was simply joy. From the ground up, that is what filled my heart when dad (of all people) said the magic words. “Do you want to go for a walk?” I’m never sure why he and mom ask me such silly questions when they already know the answer.

Off we went, dear baby Carter and mom and dad and I, together, on a quick jaunt through the neighborhood. It was almost 60 degrees this time, and (while I love my alone time with mom) it was nice to be with everyone. Carter babbled in a language only he (and sometimes mom) understands the entire way. And mom and dad laughed, happy to be breathing in the fresh spring air.

Ancient Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates took it so far as to suggest that “walking is man’s best medicine.” Today I soaked up the medicine, just as I did two years ago. And in doing so, I must have brought my mental motion to a halt because all I could think was how happy I was to be on the road again. Gratitude.

From the ground up, today I find myself thankful. Thankful for the weather. And the sunshine. And the way it warms hearts and minds. But, even more so, thankful for the people that bring it all to life.

 

Forget and Forgive February 1, 2015

I used to think it wasn’t possible for someone’s brain to be somewhere apart from their body. I’ve heard it talked about in the people circles I follow, but it never made much sense to me. Though I consider myself quite philosophical, my sense of all things literal has a tendency to take it too far occasionally. I think that’s why it always sounded strange to me that a mind could be “somewhere else.” Motion

That is, until today. I’ve seen it from time to time in other situations too, but never has it been quite as blatantly apparent as it was throughout my Sunday.

It was a fairly dreary day around here, but I have a fresh blanket of snow blanket diamonds in my backyard. I was grateful for it, too, since the first time it happened I was outside. I was enjoying the peaceful beauty of the fresh snow when mom called me in, so I opted to stay outside. That decision ultimately lasted a wee bit longer than I would have chosen. I would get it was about a half hour or so before mom called for me to come inside again. Though I was perfectly happy out there, I realized as she brought me back in that she forgot about me until then.

It happened a second time when she and Carter went upstairs to make dinner. I took my time following them, only to be greeted by the closed baby gate at the top of the stairs. I understand this is for dear baby Carter’s safety, but I can’t say it’s my favorite thing in my forever home. It wasn’t until a half hour later when dad got home from that place called work and let me upstairs the rest of the way that I rejoined society again.

One last time it happened with all three of my family members, including dad. My food and water bowl has been temporarily sequestered in a bathroom to prevent Carter from splashing water and sampling from my kibbles. In order to allow me some much-needed privacy while eating, mom shut the door to allow me to eat in peace. In itself, this is not such a bad thing. But another half hour went by before I was rescued from the bathroom.

If I didn’t know better, I’d be pretty hurt by all of this. I would feel forgotten and few things are as disappointing and heart-wrenching as that feeling in my world. But I get it. The mind does wander off to other places sometimes. It’s okay. Regardless of this, I know the love is always there. The heart never leaves, even if the mind does from time to time. That’s what matters to me anyway.

 

If At First You Don’t Succeed January 27, 2015

Persistence. Determination. Strength. From the ground up, these are some big-picture words in my world. They get you through the valleys and up to the mountains. They push you to the limit. I’ve always been a believer in the British writer W. E. Hickson’s words “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

It’s a simple thought. And I think it applies to a lot of challenging situations. We all encounter hurdles on our journey through life, and we all fall from time to time. In the short-term, it might be the best thing to do. Happiness.

But in the long-term, I wonder sometimes if it’s really always best to try, try again. Life happens in ways we can’t anticipate sometimes, and I think there can be hurdles that seem to multiply before our eyes.

That was the case for my dear forever mom today. In itself, there was nothing that out of the ordinary that happened. After an incredibly productive morning, her presentation for work this afternoon went off without a hitch. She managed to keep a group of more than 60 middle school students entertained for a half hour immediately following their lunch break. I’d say that is a feat in itself. Everything was great.

Then it happened. Somewhere between answering her work phone for the nineteenth time in a row while finishing up the story she was working on and keeping an eye on the mashed potatoes on the stovetop and trying not to overcook the pork roast in the oven and cleaning up after Carter as he decorated the kitchen floor with pots, pans, lids and tupperware containers and ultimately carrying Carter as she danced around the kitchen because he simply could not stand to be on the floor one more second, she lost it.

Not because of any one thing in particular. The snuggle time from Carter was actually kind of nice. But the sum of the parts got to her in a way I know it wouldn’t have if she weren’t 20 weeks pregnant. She’s firing full speed ahead as if nothing were different, but the truth is it’s starting to catch up with her.

And that’s okay.

It was okay to let that one last phone call go to voicemail. It was okay to save that story to finish for tomorrow. It was okay that dad ran to get takeout because the potatoes somehow got overcooked and the pork was undercooked. It was okay that (for once) the kitchen and rest of the house were a complete mess when dad got home from that place called work. It was okay.

Because persistence, determination and strength can only take us so far sometimes. Limits are real, and need to be respected for a reason. If at first you don’t succeed, it’s okay to try again tomorrow instead of today. In some cases it’s better.

Like today, when dad finally convinced mom to just stop. To take a breath. And sit down. And snuggle dear Carter. And tomorrow we will try, try again.

 

Smiling Eyes January 24, 2015

I didn’t mean it. I couldn’t help it. I don’t know why it happened. And I’m sorry now.

I did a terrible thing last night. I know I can’t take it back, but I certainly wish I could. It was bath time, which I’ve recently shared has become something of an event around the halls of my forever home. It involves the nakie baby run down the hallway to the bathroom where bath time ensues before bedtime. It’s a whole lot of silliness that breeds joy, from the ground up. Morning love

Until last night. I don’t know what came over me really. One second, we were playing chase and the next minute he had little pink lines running down either side of his body. From me.

It’s important to note that I would never intentionally hurt him. Ever since the day he came home from the hospital all those months ago, I vowed to protect and love him as my own. That’s why I’ve survived the tail yanking, fur pulling and occasional eye gouging that has ensued with him since he figured out he loves me too.

So when I jumped on top of him as he journeyed down the hallway to the bathroom last night, I don’t know what got into me. But that didn’t matter. That doesn’t matter. Because those little pink lines running from his tummy to his calves on either side of his little man body were my fault.

My paws didn’t break skin. And he didn’t cry. But that doesn’t change the fact that I hurt my little person. We all went about the routine as usual, but I thought about it a lot afterward.

It’s terrible that it happened. I wish I could take it back. But sometimes you just can’t. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes we say and do things that hurt those we love. Intentions aside, the pain is real.

Fortunately for me so is forgiveness. After the initial disappointment from both of my beloved forever parents wore off, it was like nothing ever happened. And when Carter saw me for the first time when he woke up this morning, his face lit up just like it always does. “Doggie,” he said, with smiling eyes. And all was right in the world.

 

Everything and Nothing January 15, 2015

Sometimes it’s hardly recognizable. Other times its clear as day. Ever since life as I knew it changed, a day in the life of me looks different than it used to. The intricacies of the daily routine are altered in most ways.

I’d come to be quite accustomed to spending weekdays alone in my forever home when my people were at that place called work all day. It fit quite well into my rigorous napping schedule, in fact. I would anxiously look forward to my forever mom coming home from work over her lunch hour so we could explore the neighborhood over her lunch hour. I would enjoy my late-afternoon nap in the bay window so I could more aptly hear the gentle hum of the cars coming home, first dad and then mom. The night together would come and go and it would all start over again.

All of that is a thing of the past, and has been since dear baby Carter came home. I see a lot more of mom than I used to, and when she’s not here, someone else I care about is (usually it’s my grandma or Aunt Morgan). My nap schedule hasn’t really changed, but my exercise has taken on a little different approach. It is a lot less frequent than it used to be (such things happen in sub-zero temperatures especially), but now it involves everyone in the family, usually at night, so that’s okay by me. Dont Worry, Be Happy

Tonight, as Carter made an art out of diving in and out of his ball pit and mom and dad and I played pickle in the middle, I was reminded how much has changed. Not just for me, but for all of us. Almost everything I knew is different now. And yet the important stuff is the same. Somehow everything and nothing has changed in the best kind of way.

“Things to not change; we change,” suggested transcendental thinker Henry David Thoreau.

The love around here is stronger than ever, the joy multiplies on a daily basis, and life is full with all things new. No two days are the same anymore, and while I will admit to liking structure, I’m okay with everything about the nothing that’s changed.

 

 

Like No One’s Watching January 9, 2015

It starts with a little sway. Some might even consider it more of a shimmy. It’s subtle. Almost too subtle for an unfamiliar eye to pick up. As the moments pass, the motion gets a little more noticeable, particularly in the region of the left arm, which starts to swing. It is definitely a sight to be seen.

Dear baby Carter is a dancing fool all of a sudden. As one of his primary caretakers, I can speak knowledgeably on the topic of his distinct appreciation for music from a very (very) early age. But now that he has figured out how to really express himself through dance, his one-year-old self just can’t help but feel the rhythm. If there is a song to be heard, he will listen. And there will be dancing.

As it happened tonight to Jason Mraz’ “Waiting on the World to Change,” the whole family got involved. Even me, as I heard my forever mom say those familiar words. “Wiley, up.” And up I went into her arms. So there we were again, dancing around like no one was watching just like mom and I used to do around the kitchen. Just like we did when mom was pregnant. Just like we did before Carter was walking.

Like no one's watching

It all got me to thinking about this passage of time with a little person around. It really does seem to fly by a lot more swiftly than it used to. At each step of the way, I know mom’s thinking it. When it was just her, dad and I, we were family and life was good. When all tiny little baby Carter wanted to do was snuggle into shoulder and sleep for hours at a time, that had to be the best time. Or maybe it was when he started smiling at her (and shortly thereafter, me). Or when he started talking. Or the first times he said mama and dada and doggie.

No. It has to be this time, when we are all dancing together for the first time.

That’s the catch. We keep waiting on the world to change and thinking there is no possible way the change can be any better than this moment. Yet every stage in life we’ve encountered together has been so special. It has been so uniquely different from the last stage, yet fills our hearts with the same warmth each and every time we let it.

This week it’s dancing. Next week, who knows? But I sure can’t wait to find out.

 

In A Moment January 3, 2015

I woke up smiling today. I didn’t know why at first (as I sometimes don’t), but I encountered the reason as soon as I made my way outside to my backyard paradise for my early morning stroll. Snow. From the ground up, it has always been a favorite source of joy for me. I know some people (especially anyone who plows or shovels it, or tries to drive in it) don’t particularly care for the stuff. But I love it.

It’s so simple and understated as it falls silently from the sky, covering everything in a snow blanket of diamonds. Happy memories abound for me and especially my forever mom, who has on occasion been so excited to get outside and play in the snow with me that she has abandoned all common sense to do so. (Coats and boots? Who needs them?)

Family in the snow

Today was no exception to this, as we got our first significant snow that dear baby Carter could enjoy. It has been an unusually warm and dry winter in Wisconsin thus far, with hardly any snow to date. Though I’m sure the headaches involved with snow were not terribly missed, I could tell my forever mom was waited with baited breath for this day. This day when she could share her child-like appreciation of the simplicity that is snow with her son.

There was no forgetting boots and coats this time around either. Carter was so very bundled by the time we made it outside that I wasn’t sure he’d be able to move. True to form, he figured it out.

Really it’s no surprise I woke up with a smile today. Because in the matter of a few hours, there we were. Mom and dad and Carter and aunt Morgan and I, playing together in the snow like a bunch of ninnies. Dancing like no one was watching. There were snowballs. And giggles. And silliness. We played and they laughed and I couldn’t tell whether my tail wagging or their laughter came first. Joy. In a moment, there it is.

 

Be The Change January 2, 2015

Sometimes when you think you’ve mastered something, life has a way of reminding you how much you have to learn. That’s how I feel about this thing called change. As a young pup, it was exciting. It was something I looked forward to and sought out at every turn. That all changed the day I lost my birth mom and brothers. That was when I decided change was not my friend. Looking Happy

I’ve never exactly feared it or disliked it, but it isn’t something I necessarily feel fondly for either. So the fact that 2014 was a year of more change than I’ve ever before encountered might sound like it made for a pretty awful time of it. I’ll admit that it wasn’t always easy, but reflecting on all that change has a way of reminding me of its value. It might be scary at first (like it was for all of us when dear baby Carter first came home from the hospital a year ago today). But as time passes, it fosters understanding and appreciation for where we’ve come from.

What that means for me is a new perspective, not just on change, but on life itself in 2015. Like most things, change is only scary if we let it be. And fear tends to do nothing but bad things to most people. So while I’m against making resolutions I would argue too frequently fall into the category of not fulfilled, I shall again set a goal for myself this year. A goal, not a resolution.

It’s not necessarily something new for me, but it reaffirms a belief that has become the foundation of who I am. It pieces together the best (and worst) parts of the past into a present that bridges the gap to a bright future. Not just for me, but for those around me and those around them if all goes well.

This year I will find more ways to be the change I want to see in the world. I will live the passion I feel in my heart, knowing that the joy I feel can light the way for those around me who might fear the change necessary to make the world a better place. It’s no small goal, I know. But it’s important.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals,” suggested American philosopher Henry David Thoreau.

I would argue that’s because sometimes when you think you’ve mastered something, life has a way of reminding you how much you have to learn. When I was a pup, I thought by exploring everything at paw’s reach I would know everything. I could do anything and everything. Now I realize how much there is left to learn that only change has a way of teaching.

 

Because I Love You December 15, 2014

It happens all the time. Sometimes several times a day. To be honest, it happens so frequently, I could very easily find myself taking it for granted. In reality I know that is the absolute worst thing I could do. I Love You

That’s why when it happened today, I paused. I took it in. I wrapped my heart around it so tightly in an effort to remind myself how special the words actually are.

“I love you so much, Wiley. Do you know that?” These are words mom says to me pretty often, and rarely do the words include one sentence without the other. The statement and the question. I used to think it was kind of silly of her to ask a question with such an obvious answer, but time has taught me not to be curious about such things. It is what it is, and for that I am thankful.

She’s taken to saying it to dear baby Carter as well, which I found some irony in as I thought about it this afternoon. Because neither he nor I can say it back. I know soon he will be talking up an intelligible storm, but that has yet to come to fruition. And I have nothing by my nonverbal arsenal to show her the obvious truth that I not only know her words as truth, but adamantly return the sentiment.

I know this as certain as I know she doesn’t need an answer to her question. She asks it all the time. But I will never (ever) take that for granted. In my book, a person can’t say they love another person enough.

“Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you,'” suggested German psychologist Erich Fromm. “Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.'”

A dog can’t show their unconditional love for their people in enough different ways. Maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to not hear it enough (or ever). Or maybe it’s because I’m not getting any younger and feel the need to embrace it each time I hear it. Either way, it’s okay with me.
 

Lease on Life November 21, 2014

I couldn’t believe my ears. Mom had the speaker on her phone today while she did an interview with a woman who owns a doggie daycare called “A Dog Sanctuary.”

She says its unique because she and her staff make an effort to actively engage the dogs in a variety of mental and physical games while they are there. She says its unique because its a place dogs go to be happy and dogs have a way of rubbing off on their people. She said this is her life’s passion.

That all sounded well and good. Drive safely

What shocked me was why she, at the age of 22, decided to quit her job as a post office worker and open a business. Just over a year ago, at the age of 21, she was the victim of an attempted homicide. The man snuck up on her from behind as she was leaving the dog park with her one-year-old German shorthair pointer, Millie. She was exceedingly happy because Millie had enjoyed the swim in the pond she’d been trying to encourage for months. Her glee turned to the most serious and breathtaking kind of fear when she saw the knife and roll of duct tape. As she fought for her life, she didn’t even feel the knife slice through her hand. All she said she could think about in those moments was how badly she wanted to live. And live she did.

A week later, the man went on to murder a woman of a similar age. Last month, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. But all of that is water under the bridge for this woman. She doesn’t even think about it anymore, she said, because she knows she is living her life’s mission. The mission she couldn’t spend one more day not doing. She’s more than a survivor. She is a giver of life to those around her.

All because she was given the kind of second chance that not everyone gets in life. A second chance I got (in a far less graphic and terrible way). I couldn’t even believe my ears as she told her story, seeming completely unphased by what happened to her a mere year ago. As surprising as that was to me, I realized there is a lesson to be learned from her passion. From her mission to share joy with the world. From her drive to live.

Second chances don’t come along every day. When yours comes, take it and hold on for dear life. Take it from me – you won’t regret it.