Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Elf on the Shelf December 6, 2013

The stare ahead. That’s what mom calls one of my most favorite moves I use to initiate play. And I suppose it’s pretty accurate whether my play mate has two legs or four. My head and eyes face straight ahead and I don’t make any eye contact. Don’t tell anyone I told you, but I’ve trained both mom and dad play along with me and act out similar behaviors. It’s my creative way of getting them to play chase with me. And it always works.

A Small SmileToday I got to thinking about this stare ahead and what it means for the power of the eyes. They seem to have just as much impact when they’re not looking at the subject as when they are. It reminds me a bit of this thing I’ve heard about lately called the elf on the shelf.

Apparently there is a large family of elves originally from the North Pole who, once adopted into a home, report back to Santa about the behavior of the children who live there. They leave at night to fulfill their mission, and return in a new spot each morning to resume observation duty. It sounds like a mighty important job if you ask me.

Almost as important as the original elf on the shelf. The Creator of watching without looking. The omnipresent and omnipotent “big guy” upstairs in that place called heaven. He is always watching us. And it’s no game for Him. Because (perhaps most importantly) He isn’t just seeing us. He is with us. He sees our good days and bad. He celebrates with us and cries with us. With no words at all, He crafts blessings s from teardrops. But because we can’t feel Him always looking directly at us, it can be easy to forget He’s there.

It’s very different from the stare ahead. And yet it brings me peace. Not only to know I’m always being looked after in every possible way, but in feeling empowered by that knowledge. I’ve always had my reasons for playing the stare ahead game. And while those won’t be changing any time soon, my perspective of my surroundings certainly will. Because just as I know the big guy in that place called heaven is watching over me, I know He would want me to watch over others in my own way very different from that of the elf on the shelf.
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“They might not need me, but they might,” wrote great American poet Emily Dickinson. “I’ll let my head be just in sight; a smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.”

 

A Different Kind of Light December 1, 2013

Salami. It’s one of the less glamorous things I dream about. And today my dreams were realized, as they usually are around this time of year. I knew it the second mom came into the house with those bags from the grocery store. I could smell that deliciousness a mile away. Salami.

It’s a special treat in my forever home, saved only for a special occasion. Around here, it’s a very small part of a very big tradition in the Schmidt home known as Christmas tree day. It came a little earlier than usual this year (thanks, in part, to my parents planning around the impeding arrival of baby Schmidt). Usually this special day happens the first or second weeks of December. Not this year.
Let There Be Light
Christmas came early this year. And with it came a slew of traditions. All I can think to compare it to is when us canines obsessively nest. You’ve all seen it – we can’t lie down until we find the absolute perfect position in the best possible spot. The ritual can take as much as a few minutes sometimes. Though none of it involves lying down, tradition and ritual seem to be incredibly important to my mom this time of year.

All I have ever been able to focus on during Christmas tree day is the salami. So today (after I had secured at least two samples from mom) I focused on the rest of the traditions that surround the day. Mom turns up Christmas music, puts on a silly Santa hat, and prepares a few plates of appetizers for her and dad to munch on while they work. It’s all part of the tradition, and has been since my mom was a little girl.

I enjoy watching them reminisce about where and when they bought certain ornaments. Some bring laughs (like the goofy handmade ones mom made when she was little). A couple bring tears (like the one dad gave to mom a year or two before he passed away). But, as with all rituals, it always ends the same way. And it doesn’t have to make sense. It started with salami but it ends with glowing light. Not just on the tree, but in our hearts.

 

Keeps On Giving August 5, 2013

It all started with a gift. It was Christmas Day 1997 and my mom and her little sister only asked Santa Claus for one thing that year. A puppy. They wrote to Santa, talked to him at the mall (several times), and prayed together every night that their wish for a puppy would come true.

So you can imagine their disappointment when there was no puppy under the tree on Christmas morning. It didn’t matter that there was plenty of other shiny packages with pretty ribbons and bows. There was no puppy. But a surprise lurked under the tree that later proved to be even better than a puppy. It was a package with a promise inside. “This coupon is good for one rescue puppy.”

It wasn’t from Santa either. It was from mom’s parents. They wanted mom and her sister (who were 12- and 8-people-years-old at the time) to be part of the process of picking the perfect puppy. And they wanted the puppy to be a rescue dog from the local animal shelter. It didn’t take long before they found her. Pheobe. It was love at first sight. Pheobe was the one.Gratitude

Phoebe counseled mom and her little sister through their remaining years as little people as only us canines can do. She got dolled up in all sorts of clothes, learned most of the same tricks mom would later teach me (give kiss was a favorite of hers), and made mischief that brought joy to the hearts of the entire family. She was the very definition of the gift that keeps on giving.

Later in her life, she went to live with my mom’s great-grandma to keep her company after great-grandpa went to heaven. She’d grown a bit less spunky then, but had a gift for simply being there. She was an extra set of ears to listen. An extra set of eyes to see. An extra heart to love.

Sometimes it happens suddenly. Other times it happens over time. I’ve seen it happen both ways and I don’t think one is any easier than the other. Loss is loss. When it happens doesn’t fill the gaping hole left in the hearts of those left behind. It was a gradual decline for Phoebe, but that doesn’t negate the truth that the world lost another canine treasure today. Pheobe went to doggie heaven today, after 18 years of bringing all sorts of joy to the hearts of many.

But it all ends with a gift. And, just like Phoebe, it’s not wrapped in pretty paper or tied up with ribbons. It’s nothing fancy. In fact, it’s about as simple as it gets. We never got to meet in person, but we didn’t have to for me to know the gift Pheobe granted me. My gift from Pheobe was the same as that one my mom opened all those years ago. It was a promise. This coupon is good for one rescue puppy. Thanks to the relationship my mom had with Phoebe growing up, it turns out that coupon was good for more than one rescue puppy. So far, it’s been good for two. I will always have Pheobe to thank for that.

Rest in peace, dear Pheobe. You will be missed.