Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Never Far Away December 13, 2014

It’s a trip I’ve only made once. And it’s a long one. Don’t get me wrong, I love a long car ride through beautiful landscaping just as much as the next dog. But five hours one-way? I would say that quantifies a long journey. I figured with a journey that long, the destination would have to be something special. And it did not disappoint.Mom and Uncle Frank

Phillips, Wisconsin. From the ground up, it is indeed a pretty special place. I visited there a few years ago when my forever mom and dad brought me along on their anniversary trip to a cabin in the woods. Beyond the colorful surroundings of mature trees shedding their leaves, there is a distinctly homey woody scent in the air my nose captured about a mile outside of town. But all of that was nothing next to the history this place has for my forever mom especially.

It’s where her dear grandpa grew up. Where her mom spent summers as a child. And where she and her family visited throughout her childhood and young adulthood. Though mom’s grandpa went to heaven years ago, family remains steadfast in that neck of the woods all those hours away.

I know family means different things to different people. I also know some people don’t consider what some might think of as distantly related relatives family. That is and never has been the case with the folks mom fondly refers to as her “Phillips family.” They love and embrace each other any time regardless of how long its been since they last spoke or saw each other. That is real family in my eyes. Never Far Away

All of this came to mind for me tonight as we put dear baby Carter to bed. Mom and dad said Carter’s bed time prayer as usual, but afterward mom kept going. “And please bless Dolores Marlenga and the entire Marlenga family up in Phillips tonight, Lord. Please hold them in your arms and remind them that dear uncle Frank is in a better place. Please give them hope in knowing they will see him someday when we are all together again in heaven.” It’s always dark in the room when we pray as a family at night, but I know a shaky voice when I hear one. She was crying as she said those words.

Mom’s great uncle Frank left for heaven a couple of days ago, and though we all know it was his time, that never makes these times any easier. I’ve gathered by the timing involved that we will not be making the journey to the funeral, but I suppose that’s okay. Because that’s the thing that so special about this family. They can be so far away and yet are always close together. Always in each other’s hearts.

That’s the souvenir I took home with me on that long car ride home from that place called Phillips, Wisconsin. That’s the souvenir I carry with me in my heart on a daily basis. The peace. The hope. The joy in knowing family like that is never far away.

 

Now We Pray November 30, 2013

The house projects are finished. The nursery is ready. The diaper bag is even packed. At almost 34 weeks along, operation baby preparation seems to have come to a close.

I realized it as I watched in awe today as dad assembled something called a pack and play. I love all sorts of play, so I was sure to be at the ready for when playtime would start. But there was no playtime. At least not in the traditional sense of the word.

Once it was all put together, it appears to be (gasp!) another bed I can’t get into. Another place I wish I knew I could cuddle with my future little person that seems to be off limits. But something about this pack and play made my people happy. So I was happy even though we didn’t end up playing any sort of game.Now I Lay Me

Then it was quiet. A collective sigh echoed through the room. And then mom said it. “It’s bittersweet…it feels like everything’s done,” she said. “Now all we can do is wait.” They went on to talk more about this pack and play and how it will be a good place for the little person to sleep the first few months. Mom shared a story with dad about bedtime when she was growing up, and how her family used to pray together. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” the prayer began. It continued with blessings on all of mom’s loved ones.

In that moment, it’s like all three of our hearts and minds were one. We all seemed to realize it at the same instant. The house projects are finished. The nursery is ready. The diaper bag is packed. For all intent and purpose, operation baby preparation has come to a close. Except it hasn’t. Now (more than ever) we have so much more to do than wait. Now we pray. We pray for the baby to move off mom’s ribs. For continued healthy development. For a safe delivery for both mom and baby. And ultimately for a healthy baby. Now we pray.

 

No Words November 14, 2013

I don’t have a choice. All I get is my eyes, my tail, and the occasional strategic placement of my head or paws. Any other methods of communication are hard to come by when you have four legs. So I have to admit, days like today take a toll on my emotions.

We canines may not be able to see the entirety of the color spectrum, but I know with certainty that I saw my fair share of blue today. Mom is feeling blue, which is apparently a people term used to explain her emotionally cloudy forecast. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that little person inside her is somehow bringing down her morale. No Words

Because she’s been talking a whole lot about worry. She’s worried about the baby’s health. And being a good parent. And labor. And the money. Especially the money. Last I checked, money is green so I don’t know how it could be making her feel so blue. I stand, sit or lay idly by, all-the-while wishing there would be something – anything – I could say to make it better.

Then I hear dad say exactly what I would be saying and suddenly I don’t mind being silent. He tells her to calm down. Relax. Everything will work out. These are the things I would be telling her, too, if I could. But this is not the first time (and certainly won’t be the last) that there are no words. As I observed from dad’s attempt, it’s sometimes better not to say anything than to complicate the situation by throwing words in the mix. Sometimes a person just needs a hug.

I don’t have a choice. All I have is my eyes, my tail, and the strategic placement of my head or paws to communicate. And maybe that’s not so bad after all. Because as much words can help, they can also complicate things. Especially when it’s more a matter of faith than anything else. Faith takes no words. Faith is simply believing in the power that is contained in something so much more than words.

So tonight I keep quiet and instead silently pray for resolutions to come to some of mom’s worries. That peace come to her overwhelmed heart. But I can’t pray with my eyes, tail and paws any more than I can pray with words. Instead tonight I pray with my heart. “Prayer is not asking,” Mahatma Gandhi reflected, “It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of  one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

 

Not-So Little Luxuries September 7, 2013

It’s kind of like counting sheep. It’s my understanding people do this sometimes to calm their minds into falling asleep. This would never calm a canine mind (for obvious reasons) but my method sure does bring me peace. I count my blessings.

The list includes the obvious characters who make up daily life (like mom and dad), as well as the less obvious things (like my special spot under my favorite tree in my backyard). Today I noticed something about the list I couldn’t keep from sharing: it never seems to get shorter. Instead, it seems only to grow to include more of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) luxuries in life.

I recognize this in itself is a blessing, and yet it got me to thinking. What would happen if something fell off the list? What if one of life’s not-so-little luxuries went away for some reason? Which could I not live without?

My constant flow of healthy food and water came to mind, followed closely by their (slightly less necessary) tasty counterparts peanut butter and bacon. And Mr. and Mrs. Prickles. Losing them would be a major problem. But I know my people would never let me go hungry. And (as much as I hate to admit it) Mr. and Mrs. Prickles are indeed replaceable (exhibits A and B: Flea and Angry Bird).  My Comfort Circle of Characters

It wasn’t until later in the day I realized what ties the list together. I tend to think through these things around the same times each day. Morning and evening. Both times have something very important in common. My bed. And I’m not talking about the dog bed in the kitchen. Nor do I understand the appeal of a dog bed (which comes home smelling like a factory) compared to a people bed (which contains all of the smells of our people us dogs long to be near at all times).

My SpotIt was not an easy battle to conquer either. I took mom down first with what I fondly refer to as “the look” combined with my persuasive cuddling skills. Getting dad to agree to the arrangement was a whole other game entirely. I had to be strategic about it. And patient. Until one night (after more than two years of effort on my part) “the look” and my cuddling skills struck again.

Since then I’ve secured my spot in the bed and I will not let it go for all the dog treats in the world. It’s ridiculously comfortable. It smells heavenly. And it’s where I count my blessings at morning and at night. But the more I think about it, I suppose even the bed itself is replaceable at least to a certain extent. Because (as much as it is indeed the coziest bit of people-smelling cloud a dog could ask for) it’s so much more than a bed.

As American screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola reminds us “I like simplicity; I don’t need luxury.” I suppose I don’t need luxury either. I just need my people. It’s that simple. So as I count my blessings tonight from my perch on the bed, I give thanks not for the comfy cloud itself. Rather I give thanks for its representation of the love I have for my people, and their love for me. Ultimately I think that is the luxury I truly could not live without.

 

Say A Little Prayer June 14, 2013

My people were away from home for entirely too long today. Here I am waiting on the usual extra people time that kicks off on Friday nights and I got a whole lot of nothing. Mom didn’t get home to let me outside over her lunch break, which is bad enough. But when they both got home from that place called work they left again right away (to go on something they called a date) and didn’t return until dark.

From Up AboveWhile this is incredibly disappointing, I am with them as I work on the blog tonight and for me that is enough. And it wouldn’t be like me not to find the silver lining in a day of loneliness, now would it? Rather than dwell on my differing levels of happiness when I’m with my people (versus when I’m not) I choose instead to focus on the clarity of thought peace like that offers.

Somewhere between my mid-morning nap and my early afternoon nap, I began counting my blessings. (Some people count sheep, I count blessings). I thought of all of the people and animal characters in my life who have made me who I am. I gave thanks for each one of them and said a prayer that all is well in their lives. While it’s not an uncommon occurrence for me to address my thoughts to God, I realize doing so is probably thought of as fairly unconventional in the dog world. But since when am I conventional? Why start with that silliness now?

I thought back today to the first time I prayed. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I was all alone on the street right after I got separated from my mom and brothers. I was terrified, heartbroken and alone. So alone. I was so distracted by my thoughts I didn’t notice the car that was careening my way until the headlights practically blinded me. I saw nothing but light in that moment and begged God to let me live. I will never know how the car missed hitting me, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is regardless of how alone I felt in that moment, I saw the light: I’m never as alone as I think I am.

I can’t say I cared for being alone quite as long as I was today. But solitude allows us the great fortune to do some of our best thinking. It happened that day in the street and it happened again today. I didn’t realize it until it happened, but I wasn’t alone at all. I was talking to God and He was listening. Sometimes at the moments we feel most alone we are in the best company one could possibly have.