Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

My Open Heart October 25, 2013

This just in – I’m being invaded. It started with diapers. Then the strange furniture (including the bed called a crib that I can’t jump into). But that could not have prepared me for this. Mom has entered something called the third trimester. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I do know the volume of baby-related buying seems to have increased exponentially in recent days and weeks.

I’m starting to wonder whether there will be any room for the little person amongst all of this stuff. Blankets and diapers and play gyms and diapers. (Did I mention diapers?) But I have noticed something amongst the village of boxes that have accumulated in what my people are calling the nursery recently I couldn’t help but share.

ContentmentMe. I’m all over the place. Or at least a dog that very closely resembles me is all over the place. On the bedding, on the changing table, on the blankets and sheets. There is a little bit of Wiley love scattered throughout the room. And I’m humbled as well as contented by this keen observation of mine.

Contentment. That is a big word in a society that seeks to consume. It’s different than gratitude and yet I know the two are dependent on each other. Contentment. That’s what I felt as I lounged on my rug in this room called the nursery. I’m drawn to it for some reason (and no, I don’t think it’s because of the dog on the bedding who looks like me). I’m not sure how to explain the special connection I have to this one little room in my forever home other than to say it really doesn’t have anything to do with the village of boxes it encompasses.

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us,” writes Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance, “but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.”

So I’m being invaded. By diapers and blankets and onesies (whatever those are). But none of it really matters as much as knowing the contentment that accompanies the overwhelming joy that fills our house in this exciting time. And for that my open heart is forever grateful.

 

Reach For the Stars September 6, 2013

I saw a shooting start last night. And I made a wish. But I can’t tell you that or it won’t come true.

I can tell you it was a night to remember. My mom took me along to grandma’s house, which is exciting on its own without the surprise that awaited me. Alas, my aunt was visiting from out of town so that means my usual source of attention (my mom) had just multiplied by three (to include my grandma and my aunt).

When You WishMy cousin Buddy was there too, so we wrestled and chased and engaged in our epic dog staring contests (all of which I reigned victorious). I scored a whole bunch of people food treats, including the residual ice cream from my aunt’s dessert plate. Amidst everything I was busy doing, I noticed the upbeat conversation focused on all things baby. Everything from how mom is feeling to baby name brainstorming was on the table for discussion.

And as much as I enjoyed all of this, the best part came later. The air was cool and quiet as all five of us sat outside and stared at the night sky. The great and powerful “they” say us canines can smell fear. But that’s not the only thing we can sense. In the silence of these precious moments I smelled joy. I could feel it like a cloud hovering like a protective blanket around us.

I’m generally not a noisy dog (other than when I bark protectively at any and every animal on the television – live or animated, canine or reptile), but in that moment I felt an instinctual desire to howl at the moon. Not because I wanted to communicate with other dogs as part of a hunt. Not because I was left outside too long. Rather because I wanted to share the overwhelming sense of joy I had in that moment I saw the shooting star.

I still can’t tell you what I wished for, but I can tell you this much about wishcraft. “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Don’t just entrust your hopes an wishes to the stars. Today begin learning the craft that will enable you to reach for them.”

 

Lanterns of Love May 12, 2013

Every visitor to she Schmidt home is welcomed by the same message above the stairway as they walk in the door. “Home is where your story begins.” I see it every day, yet today it speaks to me and I see it in a different light. I think it’s because today is mother’s day in my neck of the woods; a day set aside to show gratitude and respect for everything one’s mother has done in his or her life. I’m blessed to have more than one of these characters as lanterns of love in my life, so today I take a moment’s paws to recognize each one.

Dear birth mom,

It’s Wiley. Your son. I know it’s been a while (almost five years now), and words can’t tell you how sorry I am that is the case. Our time together was short-lived, but I want you to know how special each moment was to me. Age and experience has taught me how challenging it must have been caring for my two brothers and I all by yourself. I’m so proud of you. And I want you to know I’m okay. Well, actually I’m better than okay. I’m spectacular. I’m happy. And I found a forever home with people who love me so much they sometimes squeeze me so hard I can’t breathe. They take really good care of me, mom. I wish you could meet them and they could take care of you too. Are you okay out there? I sure hope so. You deserve to live happiness like this. Wherever you are, please know I love you now as much as I ever did.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear Jo,

Remember me? I was your little buddy in the house with the man and the leather belt. I hate that he took me away from you that day all those people years ago. I miss you every day and pray you are living a the life you deserve to live, with any luck separate from that awful dad of yours. Even though you were only a little girl, I know you would have done everything you could to keep me from harm’s way. You were a hero to me, a mother in your own rite. If there is one thing I’d want you to know above all else, it is that you will be a fantastic mother one day. Never doubt yourself.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear Katie,

You probably don’t remember me. I am one of so very many doggies you help at the Oshkosh Humane Society, and it’s been almost three years now since you last saw me. But sometimes it is those who we meet in passing that make some of the most distinguished impacts on our life, and this is true of you. You didn’t do it for praise or adoration, and that’s why every little thing you did for me meant so very much. You are a living example of a servant leader. Thank you.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Dear forever mom,

Thank YOUI know you haven’t always been dealt the easiest hands of cards to play in life. I know you struggle with some things more than you let on.

More than once I’ve seen you stop and look away from yourself in the mirror, just like Sarah Ban Breathnach talks about in the early pages of Simple Abundance. I’ve seen you cry, and heard you question you direction in life. Sometimes you talk to me about your feelings and I wish more than anything I could tell you I understand (at least the majority) of what you’re saying. I’d start with telling you to see yourself the way the world sees you. You are beautiful, strong, and confident (even if you doubt it). You are more special to me than you will ever possibly know. As my number one fan, I know you are reading my blog, so I will share with you a sample of Breathnach’s words that speak to me.

“Turn away from the world this year and begin to listen,” she 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.

With all the love in my little doggie heart,

Wiles

Home is where your story begins, and I can honestly say each of these women has been home to me. Lanterns of love for me. They are all important characters that define chapters of my life, and I would not be who I am without each and every one of them. Today I say thank you these women. And today I say thank you to all the women who are these characters to people (and pets) in your lives. You know who you are. Thank you.

 

Another Day in Paradise May 7, 2013

Soak Up the SunI had my first-ever encounter with a hammock today. Indeed you read that right: I, Wiley Schmidt, spent about a half hour in a hammock this afternoon.

It reminded me a bit of my first few days blogging. I felt uneasy, unsteady and uncertain. This new place is uncomfortable, I thought to myself, and I don’t know what to make of it. Then, as the moments ticked on, I felt more at home as I got to know my surroundings. But the first step was believing I wouldn’t let myself fall. With that, the unfamiliar became familiar and doubt faded away.

I know these moments of self-awareness aren’t easy to come by. I know there is always something “better” for my mom to do with that time, like clean the bathrooms, empty the dishwasher, prepare dinner, start a load of laundry, etc. But I would argue that each of those tasks can seem less daunting after a few minutes to yourself to collect thoughts and be thankful for the little things in life.

“Perhaps now – of all times – when I am nearly bowed under physically, emotionally, and psychologically by the minutiae of the mundane, is the very moment I need the reverence of poets who bear witness to the sacredness of the ordinary,” writes Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance.

It was peaceful there in the backyard. My mom and I sat in silence together for those precious thirty minutes being serenaded by the birds while soaking in the soothing rays of late afternoon sunshine. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t expensive. Quite to the contrary, it was perhaps the most simple half hour we’ve spent together recently. And I loved every second of it.

“We are all given a choice each day,” Breathnach suggests. “We can react negatively to the demands made on us or we can choose to live abundantly, to transfer the negative to the meaningful. Attitude is all.”

As I saw my life flash before my eyes as I tried to catch my balance my first few seconds in the hammock, gratitude overwhelmed my little doggie heart. I realized I wouldn’t erase any moments of uncertainty from my life, as I know I have emerged a better dog from each and every one. And just as the unease and uncertainty in the hammock wore off in the comfort of home that is my mom’s arms, I am grateful for my loved ones in the blogosphere who I know would never let me fall.

 

Life: One Breath At A Time April 29, 2013

The prolific and powerful American poet Emily Dickenson had a lot to say about life and death. It breaks my heart that most of her beautiful words didn’t reach the hearts and minds of readers until after she had left this world, but what a blessing they are nonetheless. So many of her poems continue to live by breathing life into the pages of historical literature.

“To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else,” she once said.

Indeed, life can take us by surprise in so many powerful ways if we let it. Sometimes I fear we are our own stopping points because we think don’t have time to stop and take notice about the life all around us. In 2001, a very nervous 15-year-old girl made her way onto a very large stage to take notice. She shared the following words with the crowd that day:Chronicles of Life

Savor the miracle of creation

Create a day with no regrets

Regret only the unforgiven

Forgive your loved ones for not being perfect

Perfect your ability to smile

Smile at everyone you love

Love even those who have become frail

Frailty is just another part of life

Live today as an unexpected journey

Journey through life with courage

Encourage someone who needs light

Lighten up the room with a laugh

Laugh through the tough times…

It keeps you from crying

Whatever you do in this life

Always remember that somewhere out there

Someone is loving you

I’m so blessed to have a forever mom who (at the tender age of 15-years-0ld) published these beautiful words she called “The Chronicles of Life.” She won an award that night on stage, and I it is one of my biggest wishes in life I could have been there to see her so happy. So full of life.

But as I am not in the habit of living with regrets (especially over things I can’t control), I instead share these words with the world on a day when Sarah Ban Breathnach encourages us in Simple Abundance to ponder life’s simplest of mysteries.

“And there is certainly enough mystery to ponder—such as the mystery of what will happen next,” Breathnach writes. “But instead of worrying or obsessing, you decide to just let go and see what occurs. You choose to take joy in your real life as it unfolds day by day, hour by hour, a heartbeat at a time.” Startling as it may be dear Emily, life is most definitely worth living one heartbeat at a time.

 

Seeing is Believing April 26, 2013

I look around my house all the time, but today I found myself counting the blessings of the words all around me.

“Life is not measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away” hangs over my beloved bay window.

“Simplify” graces one of the end tables by my favorite spot on the couch.

“Live, laugh, love,” hangs above the kitchen sink where I frequently steal any and every scrumptious morsel that falls to the ground.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do, are in perfect harmony” hangs in the hallway where dad throws my toys for me to fetch.

These messages are all such fantastic reminders of what it means to be alive, and yet I live most of my days without giving them a second glance.

Sight is funny that way. I’ve noted before how familiarity with our surroundings can make us lazy. Today I wondered how our perspective would change if we could no longer see. It reminds me of a story I heard once about a little girl who got her first pair of glasses when she was four-years-old.

Her kindergarten teacher thought she was over-exaggerating. Surely this little girl didn’t really suffer from chronic headaches, she thought, and she is too smart to be struggling with her alphabet. The teacher suggested to the little girl’s parents that she see a child psychologist for her apparent emotional issues.

This was puzzling to the parents, who knew their daughter to be happy and healthy other than those darned headaches she was having all the time. It all made sense at the optometrist office when the little girl couldn’t identify the big birthday cake on the screen they use in place of the big “E” for children in eye exams. While she had almost perfect 20/20 vision in her right eye, it turned out she had 20/400 vision in her left eye. At four-years-old, my forever mom was diagnosed as legally blind. The optometrist prepared her parents for the reality that the sight may not be fixable and as a result she may never be able to drive.

The parents were devastated, but from that moment on there was no stopping them on their mission to improve the eyesight of their baby girl. It was awfully hard on them to see her sitting inches from the television to watch her favorite movie “The Little Mermaid” (for the hundredth time). Instead of singing along to “Part of Their World” like usual, she cried and cried because she couldn’t see Ariel. The patching of her good eye was excruciating for all parties involved.

Sight is indeed one of life’s most simple of gifts, Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us in Simple Abundance, and it should not be taken for granted.

“Today really look around at your world…Smile at everyone you meet because you can see them,” Breathnach writs. “Never forget that the gift of vision was so important that when God created the world, the first command was for Light in order to see, and after the Great Creator finished with each day’s task, He glanced back on his handiwork and ‘saw that it was good.’ We need to see how good it is too.”

More than 20 years later, my forever mom now has 20/30 eyesight in her left eye. She calls it her “little miracle” in life. Because her parents believed when even her eye doctor lacked faith, she has the blessing of sight and all that comes along with it.

The senses are a funny thing, after all. We can hear but not really listen. We can touch but not really feel. We can eat but not really taste. All of these oddities came to mind today when I realized how powerful it is to look and really see.

Seeing Is Believing

 

Eagles Are Flying April 12, 2013

2013-04-04 17.53.53I’ve been struggling with a secret lately. It’s something I had preferred not to share with the world, but if there is something I’ve learned in life, it is usually the things we don’t want others to know that become the most important to share.

So here it is: I have been struggling to find inspiration lately. I know, I know, the optimist in me should find something to say about each and every day, but I will admit even the optimist has a slow day every now and then. Add to that the dreary days in our area, and you have yourself a recipe for optimistic disaster.

But I refuse to see it as anything other than an opportunity for growth, so I believe in Sarah Ban Breathnach’s words in Simple Abundance. “A generous heart, a spontaneous smile, and eyes that sparkle with delight can be part of a (person’s) signature look once she awakens to his or her authentic beauty.”

I wouldn’t disagree with the importance of authentic beauty, but I would break it down to include valuable and unparalleled sense of self-understanding.

I know self-understanding and authentic beauty aren’t easily obtained. Quite the contrary, in fact, to the point where I would argue society brings the very definition of authentic beauty into question. Regardless, I have found that authentic beauty (or beauty of the soul as I call it) is worth the journey of self-understanding that leads you there. And so I come full circle and in doing so agree that full disclosure is best practice in blogging.

I wouldn’t call it writer’s block because my head is constantly budding with words my heart is dying to say. My generous heart finds hope in the spontaneous moments of inspiration, but when there is no inspiration, there is room for improvement. Room for growth. How else do baby eagles learn to fly? They don’t soar beautifully out of the gate. It takes time and practice and patience. In the meantime, I’ll take these dreary days as a reminder to keep the eyes of my heart focused on the sky until I’m ready to fly again.

 

On Self-Esteem: A Book and its Cover March 27, 2013

I hate the way my mom looks at herself in the mirror. Or (worse yet) when she avoids looking at herself entirely because of the disdain for the body looking back at her. I know it’s a common issue among women to reflect negatively about their appearance, but I just don’t understand it. And I don’t care to understand it. It breaks my little doggie heart to see her look at herself that way.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been,” the fabulous George Eliot once said. Well, I refuse to be anything other than what I’m meant to be, which is a source of joy. Joy is not in my mom’s face when she looks in the mirror, which bothers me even more given that the past several days of my journey with Simple Abundance have taught me that my Daybook of Comfort and Joy indeed cannot be judged by their cover.

Simplicity is appropriately understated on the pink cover with the little picture of a tree on it, but I obviously would not have it any other way. Forget the cover. I would love this book even if it were bound with those little plastic binder clips the movers and shakers of the world occasionally use to make financial presentations, marketing pitches or performance summaries.Mirror, mirror

I’m not going to lie to you. (A dog’s tail never lies after all.) If I judged books by their covers, I may never have taken interest in the pretty pink simplicity of Simple Abundance. But this is yet another example of a reason I am happy I make a habit of seeing the best in all people and things. And the more I thought about it, I realized I have pieced together a powerful analogy for judging a book by its cover. In the most recent daily suggestions by Sarah Ban Breathnach, readers are challenged to see beauty in oneself regardless of preconceived notions and habitually negative thought processes I know are capable of crossing one’s mind frequently throughout a day.

So I tried a little experiment today. I left my copy of Simple Abundance open on the bed when I was done reading it this morning so my mom would see it. So she would be challenged to look past the cover to the soul inside both the book and herself. So she would be challenged to look at that reflection in the mirror with positive energy rather than negative. But just as one generally doesn’t start and finish a book in the same night (regardless of how good the cover might be), I know this isn’t a change I will see overnight.

In the meantime, I will continue to loathe the way my mom looks at herself in the mirror.  I know it takes time to change a way of thought, but as George Eliot said it’s never too late. If only the mirror would show her the reflection I see on a daily basis. You know the one. There is no negativity or disdain or heartbreaking disappointment. Instead there is complete and unconditional love for the beauty of book and its cover.

 

Everybody Wins March 24, 2013

If attention-getting were an Olympic sport, I would compete for the gold medal. In literal terms, dogs aren’t that great at playing games. Don’t get me wrong, we love our catch, fetch and agility as much as the next species, but in my humble opinion most of us are too honest to be good at most games. We wear our hearts on our fur and couldn’t tell a lie to save our life. You can see it in our eyes. But emotionally speaking, dogs are exceptionally skillful attentioPlaying in the snown stealers.

While I don’t posses the skills required for most human games, I do have this attention-stealing game I like to play especially with dad, where I sit and stare at him, paw at him and jump at him until he pays me what I consider due attention. Sometimes I even throw a toy at him. I almost always win these battles of the mind, either with a dental bone, or a rawhide, or with my favorite treat: playtime. I bet he doesn’t even know I do it just as much for him as I do for me. You see, I would call myself an attention stealer without hesitation or embarrassment. And I have my reasons.

Today is a day for making your own sunshine. It feels like the millionth dreary Sunday in a row, and this time there’s snow falling in droves. It is also the fourth day of spring, but it feels like the 150th day of winter. The seemingly never-ending dreariness does take its toll on the spirit, so I can only imagine today is a dark day for some people. It’s all too easy to let these days consume us sometimes, but I refuse to let that happen in the Schmidt house. Instead I play one of my most favorite games to bring some sunshine into the lives of my people.

When my little game results in playtime, I have really won a small battle for all of us if you ask me. Dad throws a toy, I fetch it, he throws it again. Sometimes he even throws it back and forth with my mom and I am ultimately the pickle in the middle. And they both laugh. Regardless of what is on the television or what the weather is doing outside, they both laugh. Everybody wins. I’ve said before that joy is best when shared, well, this is one of my most favorite examples of that. DSC00229

“Dark days come to all of us,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Yet discouraging days bring with them golden opportunities when we can be kind to ourselves. Believe it or not, today offers you a hidden gift, if you’re willing to search for it.”

No need to search, because the gift of sunshine is never hidden in my house. After all, dogs are no good at playing games. We are no good at bluffing, scheming and plotting. No sir. Instead we specialize in honesty, loyalty and nonsense. And we have a sense for when our people are having a dark day. I would argue we can tell when something is awry better than people in some situations. Call me annoying or a pest or whatever word you may, but often when I seek attention my goal is to give it back rather than to receive it. Today is a day for making my own sunshine and I am most definitely up to the task.

 

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.