Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

No More Sick Days March 24, 2015

There’s coughing. And sneezing. And lots (and lots) of tissues. All of these things made for a very tumultuous night of sleep last night at absolutely no fault of dear baby Carter (who ironically slept more soundly than he has in weeks).

My dear forever mom is, as they say, sick as a dog. Though I’ve never fully understood that phrase, this seems an appropriate time to use it. Normally, she would run to the drug store for the usual arsenal of cold-fighting medicines and kick this thing in the butt. But she’s pregnant. So nothing is normal. Love in Truth, Truth in Love

Instead, I watched as she (albeit sluggishly) made it through the day. Though I would say that is exactly what she did (made it, barely), I noticed something throughout the day that made my heart smile. She woke up and got out of bed (very) slowly, rubbed her tired eyes, and slipped on her slippers. What surprised me came next.

“Good morning, sunshine,” she said to Carter, in her cheeriest voice. She smiled at him and he hugged her and (at least in that moment) everything was okay. I saw it in glimpses throughout the day, too. Because she was clearly tired. And that makes working and keeping up with a toddler even more challenging.

I listened as she kept painfully clearing her throat to cheerfully talk him through the day. I watched as he hugged her more than usual, almost like he knew she wasn’t quite herself (in spite of how hard she tried to hide it). And I felt the love in my dear forever home.

 

Today I realized there are indeed no sick days as a parent.

There was coughing and sneezing and so very many tissues. And yes, mom is, as they say, sick as a dog. But today she became living and (albeit barely) breathing proof that whatever this sickness is will not get the best of her. Because she’s a mom. She’s being a mom to the baby in her decision to use only natural means to tend to whatever illness ails her. She’s being a mom to dear Carter by doing her very best to stay cheery for him even though I know she feels anything but that.

She’s a mom. There is power in that. There is strength in that. If that’s not enough to kick this thing, I don’t know what is.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Keepers of the Light January 27, 2014

Leadership. It’s a big word that means a lot of things to a lot of people. Ask 100 people to define a leader and you’ll get at least 60 different responses. Words like strength, courage, integrity, honesty, and loyalty all come to mind. Ask a dog, and the response is pretty simple. Leader of the Pack

For us, its almost instinctual. We have a pack mentality, therefore there will always be a pack leader. And there will always be a pack leader because of our pack mentality. It is that simple. We look to our leader for everything, and do not mind doing so because we prefer to know where we stand. And if no pack leader steps forward, we will assert ourselves as the leader. Whether or not that is the best option is left for interpretation.

I’m not saying one way of thinking is better than another, but I do think there is something to be learned from especially the similarities between the two. At least from what I can tell, there is something almost instinctual about a person’s definition of leadership as well. It is personal, usually aligned in some way with one’s subjective experiences. Good leaders have a way of asserting their leadership in a way that guides rather than forces followers. A way of making them feel at home with their place in life while at the same time in control of it.

Late great American basketball coach John Wooden had a few things to say about leadership, one of them being that leaders make decisions while followers make suggestions. Because let’s face it. It’s pretty easy to make a blanket statement about something bothersome. It’s something completely different to actually do something about it.

That’s the thing about leadership. It means different things to different people. But in a way that is also the glue that binds its meaning together. Whether you have two legs or four, one thing in particular seems to ring true. The best leaders are those whose followers become leaders themselves.

So I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of the canine and the people way of thought. The way I see it, leaders are keepers of the light. They shine brightly for those in the darkness. They guide gently with even the smallest flickering flame. They help people see the way. And (perhaps most importantly) they pass the torch along so there is never a moment of darkness.

 

A Moment of Magic October 31, 2013

I don’t believe in magic. Not in the traditional sense at least. The whole now you see me, now you don’t idea? What fun is that anyway? But I will never forget the day I discovered a different kind of magic.

To the rest of the world it was Halloween. To me, it was Jo’s eighth birthday. That’s all that mattered. I had been living with her and the man with the leather belt for a few months, and had seen my fair share of things I still wish I hadn’t. But this was a day to remember for all the right reasons.My Kind of Magic

This was the one time I ever witnessed Jo and the man with the leather belt happy at the same time. I was surprised he remembered the day at all, since he was usually pretty forgetful about basic things like having anything besides frozen pizza and beer in the fridge. But alas, he surprised us both. After dinner (he actually cooked something), he got out a pink cupcake with a single candle on it and sang happy birthday to her. I sat by her side, proud and humbled to share in such a special moment. Then he gave her a present. It wasn’t wrapped (it was still in the Toys ‘R Us bag) but that was beside the point.

It was magic. Literally. He gave her a 100-peice magic set. “I had one when I was about your age, so I thought maybe you’d like it,” he told her. She loved it. They spent the next few hours experimenting and doing something I’d never seen them to before. They laughed together.

That was the real magic. Magic is in moments like these. Moments brought to life by a power within us to believe. “Magic flows through us,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance, “mystery infuses every encounter of every day…You have no idea of the countless lives you touch in the course of a lifetime.”

My life was touched that day by something special. I may not believe in the hocus pocus kind of magic, but that day I became a believer in a whole other kind of magic entirely. I became a believer that the power is within us to live this magic in our daily lives. To find and embrace moments of pure joy is a magic all its own.

 

Paws For A Cause September 3, 2013

The sun is always shining. No one goes hungry. And everyone has a dog.

There is a common misconception (even among my people) that dogs who stay home alone while they’re away at that place called work do nothing but sleep their days away. While there is some truth to this (I do nap throughout the day), one thing is for sure. Among other things, my mind is always an active place where the sun shines, there is plenty of food to go around, and everyone knows the love of a dog.Hard At Work

Waking and sleeping, these are parts of a much larger dream world I spend a lot of time in throughout my days. We all have one – a “happy place” in our minds we retreat to in good times and bad. And it looks different for everyone. But every now and then something reminds me that its all just a dream. That is, until I do something to make it a reality.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer,” suggested American patriot Harriet Tubman. “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Strength. Patience. Passion. These are the ingredients for positive change.

Albeit I have absolutely no control over the sun (nor do I think it would actually be that great an idea for it to shine literally all the time). I also cannot solve the global problem that is world hunger no matter how badly I wish I could. And I can’t undo the allergies people have to pet dander.

But I can stand firmly behind a cause. Animal rescue. If strength, patience and passion create a recipe for dreamer success, rescue is itself my recipe come to life. Rescue is a second chance. Renewal. A fresh start.

In my dreamscape, no one in need of rescue would go ignored. Because there’s this surprising thing I’ve noticed about my dream of being rescued becoming a reality. Its contagious. Many of the dogs I know who were rescued in turn rescued their person in some way. Not always, and perhaps not right away, but in some (literal or figurative) way, the rescuee becomes the rescuer.

It is this above all else that I dream about while my people are away at that place called work all day. I dream about helping others find their forever people just as I did. About second chances. About hope. Hope for positive change in the lives of others. My efforts might be small in the grand scheme of things. But they’re not small to me.

An organization called Rescue Pledge believes in the power of rescue just like me.
Please consider standing with me. Take the Rescue Pledge today.

 

Life Worth Living August 3, 2013

I learned some unexpected lessons yesterday. I asked for help, and it wasn’t so bad. But the responses to my request, as well as my reaction to them, brought me to some interesting conclusions.

It wasn’t news to me that I have an incredible support system made up of larger than life hearts and creative minds. I’ve known that for a while. But my defensive emotional response when it was suggested that I take a break? I wasn’t expecting that. Let my mind rest until new stories come to me? Stories happen around me every day – I just need to pay attention. Alone With My Thoughts

Indeed it has crossed my mind to take a day or two off from my 365-day journey, but I realize (or perhaps just reaffirm) now that I am stubborn about finishing what I’ve started. Being stubborn is not a very attractive quality to be sure, but I’ve never been a quitter and I have no intention of becoming one now. How can I be when I have words like commitment, perseverance and passion on my mind?

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor,” suggested American football coaching legend Vince Lombardi. My chosen field of endeavor is bringing joy to the world, and I can’t exactly do that if I don’t challenge that little blinking cursor of doom I know as the occasional case of writer’s block. You will not defeat me writer’s block.

It’s no Armani neck tie. It doesn’t hold a cake to a Gucci handbag. It’s definitely not an Hermes scarf. Stubborn is one of those people accessories that just doesn’t look good on anyone. And yet I can’t give up. Instead I’ve decided to be stubborn about that in spite of how it looks on me.

So when I struggle I shall instead embrace excellence in simplicity by taking a page from American naturalist and essayist John Burroughs. “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see,” said Burroughs. I know I have a lot more thoughts to think, places to go, things to learn and friends to make in this life. These are the things that make life worth living.

This post is dedicated to my pal Trev, who shared with me the John Burroughs quote in addition to his friendship. Thanks for being you, dear Trev.

 

The Little Engine August 2, 2013

I need your help.

I didn’t realize it until recently when I spent almost three hours staring at a blank screen while the little flashing cursor laughed in my face. Writer’s block happens to dogs too. And (as is usually the case in matters of stubbornness), the answer to my troubles seemed obvious. Yet it also somehow seemed impossible. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help.Will You Help Me?

Instead I kept having that same internal conversation – they will think less of me the weak little doggie with writer’s block. They will think I’m giving up. And (worst of all) they will be disappointed in me.

Ironically, I’ve always thought asking for help seemed like such an easy thing to do. It’s always seemed like such an easy thing to do. And (unless you’re Superman or Wonder Woman) it is generally necessary. It’s one thing to be the little engine that could, but even that special little engine needs to stop for gas every now and then. It made perfect sense to me.

Then the last seven months of blogging happened and changed everything. I set out to share my perspective on joy from the ground up. But (as the little flashing cursor mocked me) I realized never did I say the stories I share need only be mine. Like most dogs, I live a simple life in which I enjoy simple pleasures. So do a lot of people. We have this foundation in common, but the design from there differs by life experience.

So today I paws to ask for your help. For your ideas. For your stories. Please, share them with me so I can share my perspective on them with the world.

Because sometimes no matter how hard it tries the little engine that could just can’t. That’s why there are stations along the journey to rest and refuel. In life we all need to stop and refuel every now and then to keep delivering our best to the world. It’s never easy to admit, especially for those who thrive on being miracle workers. But it doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you any less of a person. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up. Quite the opposite in fact. You’re breathing new life into a tried and true perspective. I would argue that makes you stronger than ever.

 

Great Minds On Forgiveness April 30, 2013

The great and infamous “they” say great minds think alike. I’m not so sure.

From what I have observed, there are a lot of great minds that have thought alike in the wrong kind of way. All it takes is a quick internet search of “stupid celebrity moments” or “celebrities say the darndest things,” and you will find some things that will change your philosophical perspective in the wrong direction.

Reflecting

Being in the limelight nonstop might start to affect people after a while, but I’m not sure that makes some of what happens excusable. Last year, names like Chris Brown, John Travolta, Halle Berry and even alleged lovebirds Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart made headlines for all the wrong reasons. More recently, Michael Richards (who is known best for his role as Kramer in the American comedic sitcom “Seinfeld,”) said some incredibly choice words that got him in incredibly hot water.

 

When the young people in society look up to celebrities whose names have unfortunately been linked with negativity, I can’t say I favor the result. What I can say for certain is I know I don’t necessarily agree with everything my philosophical mentors in life have to say, and I can’t say I’d change that. Mahatma Gandhi, for example, shared some religious beliefs I can’t say I agree with, but his theories are among the closest thoughts I hold to my heart.

“The weak can never forgive,” Gandhi said. “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Let’s face it. Celebrity or otherwise, we all make mistakes. Bad things happen to good people. But like another great thinker I tend to favor would say “a life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” Forgiveness is an attribute of strength as Gandhi would say.

Forgiveness is one thing. What comes from it is what makes it worthwhile. While the great and infamous “they” say great minds think alike, it is also known that great minds also make mistakes. I can say with honesty I don’t forgive and forget, but instead I prefer to forgive and learn. It’s what we learn from the mistakes of others and ourselves that makes us who we are.

 

Love is Your Life to Live February 13, 2013

Most people know chocolate can kill dogs. Consequently I avoid the stuff like the plague. But that doesn’t mean I need to stay away from the adorable phrases on the aluminum foil packaging. My mom indulged in a chocolate tonight with packaging that read “Be your own valentine.”

This got me to pondering words like courage. Strength. Life.

Great thinkers throughout history have linked big ticket words like this to what is arguably one of the most fundamental words in the English language: love. There is great debate about whether this elementary English word should be classified in dictionaries as a noun, verb or adjective. Consider your source people. In the world of Wiley, love is most definitely a verb.

Like true and authentic joy, love is your life to live. But there is this thing about love that I could never quite put my paw on…and I know it is my own fault. Every day I make the conscious decision to see the best in people and things. And every day I overlook the best in myself.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,” said ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

It is not easy for most people to love their authentic selves deeply. It means accepting the unacceptable, letting go of grudges, and giving your soul a bear hug. It takes courage. It is something I should do, but don’t.

Melancholy

It is hard to love yourself when you get separated from your mom too young and no one will take you in. It is hard to love yourself when you sit at the shelter watching puppy after puppy get adopted while you pace hopelessly in your cage. It is hard to love yourself when you are returned to the shelter after being adopted by a family that didn’t have enough love to go around. I’ve always had an abundance of love to share with everyone but myself.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into place,” actress Lucille Ball advised. “You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” So today I plead with you to join me in my newfound quest to literally take the words of Gandhi to heart.

“Where there is love there is life,” he said. My life has not always been easy to love, but that will no longer keep me from living an authentic life of love. As my own valentine, its my life to live.