Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Truth About The Worst Case September 2, 2014

It’s a little tough for me to wrap my optimistic doggie mind around. To be entirely honest, it’s hard for me to understand how my otherwise positive-thinking mom can even feel this way. Yet she does and I know she has her reasons.

Lately mom has been going through this negative thinking phase in her life. Everything (and I mean everything) is the worst case scenario. Truth be told, it’s tough to watch. Me

If something happens with Carter (he hits his head, cries differently, or basically does anything out of the ordinary), the computer, phone and tablet are instantly all in use searching to make sure he’s okay. She is way more tough than she should be on her post-knee reconstruction surgery and post-baby body. She had a bad dream (or I guess you could say nightmare) the other night about something terrible happening to me. She frequently talks about what emotional turmoil she would/will be in one day if/when my dear forever dad leaves for heaven because he is seven years older than her and because men die seven years sooner than most women that means she will be alone for at least 14 years.

It’s exhausting. Even for me, a doggie that has been through my fair share of things in life. But even thinking about that, I am forced to remember why she might be this way.

Five years ago, she lost a job she loved and her dad died suddenly within two weeks. Given the world of hardship and loss we live in, it might not sound like much. She knows and respects and understands people lose a lot more in one fell swoop all the time. Or they were never fortunate enough to have anything so special to lose in the first place. And, while I know her heart is with these people, I know (and see) the emotional aftermath on an almost daily basis.

It might be tough for me to wrap my optimistic doggie mind around, I understand she has her reasons almost as much as I see the progress she’s made. I know things were bothering her today. I know she had all kinds of negative thoughts running through her head. But she paused and found joy in life moments. She sat on the floor and had a (baby) talk with Carter when she got home from that place called work. Dinner was (for a change) not quite perfect, but she and dad got a good laugh about it regardless. And when the time came for our daily love fest tonight, she was 100% present for that too.

I know life can be tough. I know the worst can happen. But I guess what I learn from my dear forever mom is that even the worst case scenario isn’t really the worst. There are better things in the future. You just have to believe.


A Living Emotion April 4, 2014

Today I was confronted with a conundrum. Happiness is a living emotion, as a favorite author of mine Sarah Ban Breathnach would say. The optimist in me believes this as truth. Yet today I encountered another living emotion. Or six.

Sadness. Grief. Devastation. Complete and utter dismay. My arsenal of positivity was not strong enough to battle these things today. I failed and I’m not afraid to admit it. It has happened before, but I don’t think it’s ever been quite this bad. Maybe it’s because I can’t say I blame them.

Mom got bad news today. Really bad news. Epically bad news. That little slip on the ice about a month ago that the doctor hoped was just a sprain? Some test called an MRI showed otherwise. It’s a torn ACL. I don’t know much about these things other than that is what mom talked so much about with her other knee before surgery the last time.

And I was here. I saw how bad it was. Mom has (not-so-jokingly) said it was worse than recovery from labor. I don’t know what happened when they went to that hospital place three months ago, but I can’t imagine it was pretty. She was there for days, after all. The knee surgery was only an outpatient procedure. She was back home the same day. And she cried. All the time. I remember her crying out in pain in the middle of the night. It was bad. wpid-20140309_115645.jpg

So the thought of it happening again has taken our whole home by complete shock. She will be completely immobile for at least a week or two. Fortunately the damage is nothing near as bad as it was in the other knee, but the doctor still estimates the recovery time as about the same as last time. How on Earth will she do the thing that matters most to her in the whole world right now? How will she take care of our little person?

These are among what I would call the big picture questions my people were asking themselves tonight. That, and a question that broke my little doggie heart. How will we ever get ahead, dad asked to no one in particular. Mom cried at the thought. It’s like I’m on a hamster wheel, she said. Every time I think I’ll break free, something holds me back and I keep spinning in useless circles. I might not care much for hamsters (as it’s in my nature as a terrier not to), but the concept of their wheel is one that has always made me a little sad.

Today sadness was the emotion living in our house. Try as I might, I realized there are some things even my best tricks can’t fix. This is a pretty awful situation. These things happen. But life goes on. If I had a message for my beloved forever people on this day of days, that would be it. Life goes on. This too shall pass. It sucks. I won’t say it doesn’t. But life will keep plodding on, and I will be here to remind them of that each and every day.


Being First Responders March 21, 2014

It happens every year. In fall, Wisconsinites dust of hats, mittens, scarves and winter coats when the temperature first falls below 50 degrees. Then, half a year later comes spring and you’d better believe all of those things have been discarded as soon as the temperature reaches a balmy 40 degrees.

I witnessed the insanity first paw today as I watched many of the usual suspects walking through the neighborhood. Dog jackets have long since been discarded, but now almost no people were in coats. In 40 degree weather. I was especially surprised to see this was the case among the fire fighters and emergency response teams who visited down the street today.

They were running into a house a few homes down when I thought of it. Penny. My beloved cat friend (contrary to popular belief it is possible for dogs and cats to get along) from down the road. Though I’m happy she’s likely been keeping toasty warm inside the home she shares with her person Rose, I’ve missed her bushy little face around my front door step all winter. I was just wondering when I might see her again when the first responders came.

That’s when it hit me. Hard. They were going to Penny’s house. Where her person Rose lives. I remember one of the last times I saw Penny before winter went into full swing she mentioned her dear person was having some health problems. My view was limited since it is several houses down the road, but tonight my heart is heavy for Rose and Penny.

So rather than drive myself crazy thinking of possible negative scenarios, I’ve decided instead to flip the coin. To focus on the positive.

It’s an important job those first responders do (even if they aren’t sensible with their outerwear at this time of year). They are there when someone needs them most. They take care of those in need. They save lives. And as I watched them do their magic today I realized how important it is that we all be first responders from time to time. On the Clock

Certainly the majority of us lack the formal training in CPR and medicine that an emergency medical technician has worked hard to obtain. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for someone when they need it most. That doesn’t mean we can’t take care of those in need. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lives out there for saving.

I don’t know what happened down the road today. But I do know this. Today I took an oath to become a first responder in the lives of those around me. Because there is something worth saving in every negative situation.


On Thin Ice March 8, 2014

Stunned disbelief. That’s what’s going on in the Schmidt home tonight. And it’s not the good kind.

Mom slipped on some ice in the driveway of my forever home today. I watched in horror from my lead in the backyard as she fell down hard like she used to before she got her leg fixed. Except this was her other leg. This was the leg she has relied on the last two years to keep her strong and stable while the other knee went through the ringer. This was the leg that got her through the terrible surgery to reconstruct the ACL, MCL and meniscus of her other leg. Feeling Blue

And now it seems the worst may have happened. When she described the incident to dad, she said her leg bent the wrong way and she heard a funny popping sound before it buckled underneath her. I’ve never experienced such a thing, but I know what it was like for mom the last time she did, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Let alone on my beloved forever mom.

I don’t know what to do for her. She hasn’t stopped crying all night. She seems so afraid. Afraid to walk. Afraid to fall down. Afraid to walk or fall down while holding baby Carter. She couldn’t bathe him like always tonight, or put him to bed. She couldn’t sway with him in the hallway as he cried. And it is breaking my heart.

All I can do is hope. Hope that it’s not as bad as she thinks. Hope that when the pain goes away, the knee will somehow stabilize itself again. Because emotions are on thin ice around here right now and I feel helpless. At least I have hope. Sometimes that’s all you need.


All I Want for Christmas December 11, 2013

It’s pretty ridiculous. I might even get in trouble with mom for sharing the details. But it brings me joy and, as I am in the business of sharing joy, I can no longer keep this particular holiday ritual a secret.

Every time Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” comes on the radio is go time. It’s like a trigger for silliness. There is dancing (the kind that doesn’t particularly follow the beat) and galloping around the house. And joy. Lots of joy. It doesn’t matter where they are or who they are with, because it’s a family tradition. It’s as simple as that.All I Want

Apparently it started in my mom’s family a few years back when her dad was still alive. He had about as much rhythm as a broom but that didn’t stop him from joining in the fun. It’s my understanding he even took the lead every now and then.

It’s a memory that seems to bring about bittersweet emotions for my mom at least once during the holiday season. I know she misses him. He passed away suddenly in June 2009 and she never got to say goodbye. And now she grieves the loss in knowing our future little person will never know his grandpa.

The circle of life is funny that way – it finds ways to help us remember things we would sometimes rather push aside. And in this case grief is brought to life in joy, which is especially perplexing. But I suppose that makes sense because loss itself is a confusing thing. It isn’t easy regardless of how it happens. And everyone deals with it differently. But regardless of the circumstances, it evolves.

“Grief is in two parts,” suggested American writer Anne Roiphe. “The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.”

The second is the remaking of life. I think that’s what happens every time that song comes on the radio. A little part of what was broken is mended. And we all are reminded to cherish the most important gift we have – each other. I’m with Mariah on this one. All I want for Christmas is my people. So I say bring on the silliness. Bring on the dancing and stomping and galloping around the house. Bring on the joy. Because sometimes there is no better way to grieve than to live.


If It Wasn’t This July 31, 2013

I don’t get it. Car rides are joyous occasions. More often than not, the journey leads to exciting destinations. Not today.

Today I witnessed something terrible from my perch in the passenger seat. Today I witnessed death. There I was, safe and secure in my one of my happiest places, and there it was. I counted three mangled cars, and watched in horror as two people and a little person were carried away in beds with wheels. There was a Disney Princesses backpack in the road. Everything about the scene broke my little doggie heart.

As we pulled away, I listened as mom said a prayer for all those involved as well as their families. And we didn’t make it to the dog park. It took five times the normal amount of time to get there because of the accident (and no, it wasn’t just my perception of time moving at a snail’s pace) and mom had to get home to fix dinner.

Drive safely

I didn’t mind going home. I don’t recall ever seeing something like that before, and I was truthfully a little shook by it all. “It really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it Wiley?” mom said to me as she filled my bowl with kibble later. “Had I gotten home from work a few minutes sooner, that could have been us.”

It all reminded me of a line from a favorite flick of mine called Elizabethtown. “If it wasn’t this, it would be something else.” Talk about perspective. It’s so easy for me to think the world is coming to an end when I can’t remember where I “buried” Mrs. Prickles for the night. Or when mom comes home an hour or two later than usual. But really it’s not. Really it could be so much worse.

And it was worse – a lot worse – for that little person whose backpack I saw in the street. Mom followed the news of the crash and told dad the whole story over dinner. The little girl died. She will never wear her Disney Princesses backpack again. It makes me want to cry people tears just thinking about it.

Instead I will remember that if it wasn’t this, it would be something else. Mom was incredibly frustrated when she got home from that place called work later than usual. But I’m happy it happened. If it wasn’t this it would be something else. I could have been in a car crash today. A few minutes earlier and I would have been. And my mom would have been too. I shudder to think of what could have happened.

I realize now that it isn’t (always) the destinations that make car rides such a happy thing for me. I don’t even mind waiting patiently in the car while mom runs errands (which sounds exhausting to me anyway). My people are my world, and when they take me with them on people adventures I get the impression the feeling is mutual.  Car rides are joyous for me because of who I’m with, not where I’m going. Today I’m grateful for this and nothing else.


The Grief Tunnel June 3, 2013

Four years ago today, my mom’s life changed forever. It was mid-afternoon, and she was feeling incredibly accomplished after having submitted several job applications. (She had been laid off from a gig at the local newspaper two weeks prior). She confidently clicked the “submit” button, smiling because she knew someone that knew someone there who would certainly give her a positive recommendation. Then it happened.

The phone rang, she answered it, and so began the blur of sudden death and it’s aftermath. It is one of those days that everyone involved remembers to the moment where they were and what they were doing at various times throughout the day. Passing through their lives as death waited with baited breath to knock so unkindly at their door.

But all have emerged, and as a general observer of people I’d have to say they have all become stronger because of it. I may only be a dog, but my heart tells me there is no timeframe for grief. Everyone takes different paths along their own emotional journey to recovery, and it is not a race. There is no right way to grieve either. It’s one of those situations you never wish to be in, but once it happens you somehow work through it blindly until you see the light of hope at the end of the tunnel.

I am proud to report my observation of that light shining surprisingly brightly today. Mom surprised me by getting home a little earlier than usual, and with her was my grandma. They didn’t look sad or pensive. Quite the opposite, in fact. They were laughing about something or another. The real kind of laugh where you could see right through their tearing eyes to the joy in their hearts. It was a sight that made my heart smile.

I didn’t know my mom four years ago, but I can picture that day vividly in my mind. I can see her enthusiasm working away on the computer. I can feel the shock that followed that phone call. I didn’t know her then, but I know her now and I would say that she (and grandma for that matter) are on a healthy path to recovery. It hasn’t been perfect and I don’t expect perfection to start now, but there is something to say for reaching the end of those stages of grief everyone talks about. Shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining and depression round out the first parts of the process. Then follows the upward turn, reconstruction, and acceptance. Hope. Like grief, experience has led me to believe hope is a living, breathing thing that is fueled by our thoughts and emotions.

Today I turn all my extra emotional energy, all of my positive thoughts, toward hope. For my mom and dad. For my grandma and my aunt. And for the bright light at the end of the grief tunnel.Eyes on the Prize

Related article: Let Me Be A Lantern of Love – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/01/05/let-me-be-a-lantern-of-love/


The Shores of Heaven March 12, 2013

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:43 pm
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One spring morning a daughter and her dad took flight in a small plane in north-central Wisconsin. At 16-years-old, she was more excited to get her pilot’s license than her driver’s license. She had been practicing with her dad for some time now and couldn’t wait to take off. Little did either of them know it would be the last flight one of them would ever take. Moments after takeoff, the engine failed and the plane tumbled to the ground. Only one of them survived.

I know it as one who has loved wholeheartedly and lost. I know it as one who has seen people experience losses of beloved people and animals alike. I know it as someone with a beating heart. Survival isn’t always for the fittest. If losing a loved one is tough, living with the aftermath is worse.

Referred to by some as a celebration of life, funerals offer those left behind the chance to grieve together amidst the company of those who have their misery in common. Obviously they don’t happen that often in the doggie world (other than perhaps in the privacy of a beloved backyard), but it is for this reason that I can’t help but believe that funerals are usually more for those left behind than for the loved ones lost.

And, in most cases, those in attendance of a funeral occasionally have those moments for days, months, and years afterward. If you’ve lost someone you know what I mean. The moments where you close your eyes and pray and wish with all your heart you could have that person back. Just for a second. So you can ask them their opinion on something, hear them laugh, or touch their hand.

It happens to me with several of the loved ones from my past, most of whom I hope are still alive and well somewhere out there. I wish so badly I could consult with Rusty one last time, make sure Jo is okay, wrestle with my brothers again, or snuggle with my birth momma again. I wish I could erase my loss of them from my life and we could all somehow live happily ever after in my present.

Then it happens. I remember that if I hadn’t lost my mom and brothers, if I hadn’t gotten deserted by the man with the leather belt who lived with Jo, if I hadn’t met Rusty, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Heck, I may not even be happier than ever in my forever home with my adoptive parents if not for all of the heartbreaking losses in my life.

Heavenly Reflections

Don’t get me wrong, I still have “those moments.” They happen all the time. But I find myself picturing an image the pastor brought to life a few days after the tragic plane crash that took the life of my adoptive mom’s 16-year-old cousin Shelly.

Think of her as being on a boat, happily journeying between what was and what will be, the pastor said. The person is paddling toward the shores of heaven where she is being welcomed by those who have already made the same journey. Meanwhile, she fondly waves goodbye to the shore of loved ones left behind as they become smaller and smaller and the people on the shores of heaven get closer and closer.

Shelly left behind her dad (who survived the crash), her mom and hundreds of friends and family who gathered together at her funeral to mourn her loss. But she’s happy now, looking down on us from heaven. And, like all loves lost, she lives on in our memories.


Let me be a Lantern of Love January 5, 2013

You know something I’ve heard people say a whole lot that I think is a bunch of poppycock? God only gives us what we can handle. I say this as a regular and active observer of people in a wide variety of emotional situations. The people who returned me to the humane society. The people who cared for me at the humane society. And even my current people in my forever home.

Person one says this to person two, who generally nods and accepts a hug from person one. Person two thanks person one for the for the sentiment. Then, shortly after person one has either left or ended that portion of the conversation, person two gets really upset.

“God only gives us what we can handle?!” they say (sometimes scream). “I’ve never heard something so ridiculous/stupid/untrue/insert-swear-word-here in my life.” I’ve been witness to this verbal exchange often enough that not only do I recognize it, but I find myself wishing I could somehow console the clearly suffering person. I try, in my way, but I know there’s no antidote to their emotional strife.

Just like I was separated from my mom too soon, my forever mom was taken away from her dad. He was gone before I could have met him, but from what I can tell, he was a pretty neat guy. Not a born dog lover, but I know my charms would have easily won him over. He died suddenly, and I know mom has struggled with that.

More than once I’ve seen her stop and look away from herself in the mirror, just like Breathnach talks about in today’s challenge to be who you were meant to be. I’ve seen her cry, and heard her question her direction in life. Sometimes she talks to me about her feelings and I wish more than anything I could tell her I understand (at least the majority) of what she’s saying. I wish so badly I could comfort her in a better way than those that say that silly thing about what we can or cannot handle.

As my number one fan, I know she is reading my blog, so I will share with her what I would share from my experience with Simple Abundance today.

“Turn away from the world this year and begin to listen,” Breathnach writes. “Listen to the whispers of your heart. Look within. Your silent companion has lit lanterns of love to illuminate the path to Wholeness. At long last, the journey you were destined to take has begun.”

I love you mom. Let me be a lantern of love for you this year.

Me and my number one fan