Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Can You Hear Me Now? April 21, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:06 pm
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I think it’s kind of hard for a lot of people. Well, I’ll be honest – I know it’s really hard for a lot of people. Listening. From the ground up, it is a skill. A gift. Most definitely not a given trait of human personality.

And I say this with authority in the matter. There is a good reason we four-legged canines are known as man’s best friend. Well, there’s more than one, but for the sake of my experiences today I shall focus on one. I would argue that’s okay since it might just be one of the most important behaviors that distinguishes us from people. We listen. Whole-heartedly, sincerely and honestly. We listen.

Experience observing people has taught me that is not always the case from person to person. Too frequently I think person one is too caught up in his or her own story (or stories) to notice what person two is trying to say. I often mention my appreciation of the person behind the people. This is probably one of my very best examples of how that is not supposed to work.

No matter how a good a person may thing he or she is at hiding it, we dogs always know when something bigger is going on. Words may not even be involved, but we listen. I Am Listening!

The same cannot always be said for people unfortunately, and so begins the fundamental communication struggle. Everyone has something to say. That’s given. But not everyone is capable of listening. Therein lies the problem with interpersonal communication.

It happened in my forever home today. My mom and her mom were both having bad days for very different reasons that don’t necessarily matter to the story. They both needed to talk about it. And, as a result, neither of them made good listeners. They forgot the person behind the people because their person was encountering challenges of their own.

“Listening is a magnetic strange thing, a creative force,” suggested American psychiatrist Karl Menninger. “The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us fold and expand.”

It happens. I’m not saying it shouldn’t. But I am saying that some days when there is nothing else to listen too, it wouldn’t hurt to try a dog’s hand (er, I mean paw) at it. Listen. From the ground up, put aside everything going on in your own life and listen to something someone else has to say.

 

Another Piece of Pie February 27, 2014

I know it’s going to sound silly. Especially since I can’t actually have any of it. It’s apparently one of those “not for doggies” foods. And yet I can put my selfish longing for people food aside to enjoy the simplicity of joy. From the ground up, it took the form of pie tonight.

It took me by surprise too, since I heard somewhere that cravings like this were supposed to happen while mom was pregnant. Not now, when baby Carter is about to turn two people months old. She actually had very few cravings that I can recall while pregnant, now that I think about it. So today when she randomly proclaimed to the room (which included myself, Carter and dad) that she could really go for a good piece of pie, I didn’t really think anything of it. Pie? Did you eat Pie?

That is, until dad jumped on the bandwagon. I could have pie, he said. And so the joy train left the station. Literally. All four of us piled into the car and set out on an adventure to find the best pie in town. They eventually settled on a chocolate peanut butter pie that smelled so deliciously tempting it took every bone in my little doggie body to hold me back from trying to break into the box on the way home.

But it wasn’t long after we got back home that I realized I didn’t need a slice of pie to find my daily dose of joy today. I had it right there, in the completely random and spontaneous pie adventure that brought smiles to my people. Their smiles warmed my heart tonight, on yet another frigid negative degree evening, like my very own slice of pie.

That’s when I realized how powerful such a thing can be. A random piece of indulgence every now and then really does wonders. And even though I couldn’t sample the pie itself doesn’t mean I didn’t experience the joy firsthand. The adventure. The randomness. The love.

From the ground up, I think I’m going to make a point of finding another piece of pie in my day tomorrow. And maybe the day after tomorrow. Because when something that simple can bring joy into the hearts of those I love, it doesn’t matter that I can’t taste it. Instead I feel it. Sometimes that’s better anyway.

 

I Said To The Darkness February 21, 2014

It happened in an instant, as these things usually do. I saw the sunlight at the end of a very dark tunnel the other day. Literally. After what has arguably been one of the most challenging Wisconsin winters I’ve survived we were hit with some seriously warm rays of sunshine. It was almost 50 degrees and I half expected my people to break out their swim suits.

SnowInstead mom broke out her running shoes (good choice) and I went on a very memorable walk around my dear neighborhood with my mom, my aunt, and Carter. It was my first walk with Carter and (to be honest) he didn’t seem to really notice we were outside. But I sure did.

The wind was blowing and it was not the bone chilling cold wind of late. It was the wind of spring. Sure, there is still about a solid two feet of snow everywhere. And when the sun went down it took the warmth with it. I didn’t mind because it’s coming. The end is near. Winter is almost over.

So you can imagine my dismay when I overheard on the television today that we are due for more frigid temperatures next week. Albeit disappointing, I have to admit it was a lot easier to take after that one day of respite from the cold. After I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Darkness has no power over light, just as negativity has no power over hope. “The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us,” suggested transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau. “Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

It’s a pretty powerful thing to be sure. Seeing that light, even for a brief instant, can recharge the soul in such an overwhelmingly fulfilling way. The moment may have been fleeting, but its impact remains.

To view a video of our walk: https://vine.co/v/MZDBi59lHAi

 

In Spite Of It All February 13, 2014

It’s kind of a mystery to me. And I think dad feels the same way. Lately this thing has been happening that doesn’t really make sense. At least not when you hear of this thing called post partum depression. It’s apparently fairly common for women after they have babies to feel a little blue. For some, it’s manageable and goes away on its own. Others need help working through it.

My mom has needed no such managing or work. She has looked at baby Carter through the eyes of joy and love from day one. This, in spite of her incessant lack of sleep. This, regardless of spit up and stinky foofters and messy diapers and occasional bits of screaming for no good reason. This, even after what I witnessed the other day.

There she was, holding Carter in the air above her, telling him how much she loves him when bam. Spit up. In her face. And it wasn’t a little bit. We’re talking little bits of partially digested milk clumping in her eyelashes. But still she didn’t crack.Love

I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so happy as she’s been the last six weeks that she’s been home with Carter. So today I found myself wishing. Dreaming. It’s been so nice having her home all this time instead of at that place called work. She’s been a little preoccupied with Carter (obviously), but just having them both here with me during the days has been such a joy. Add to that how happy I’ve seen her and I’ve been one pretty blissful doggie.

I wish it could stay this way forever. I wish she didn’t have to go back to that place called work. I wish it could just be us three amigos against the world every day. We could go on adventures and explore new places together and I could show Carter my favorite hiding places at the dog park. Life could be grand.

Except for one thing. Mom is a pretty smart lady. I know she has a lot of schooling under her belt. And I know how happy she is when she accomplishes something or makes a difference at that place called work. I’m being selfish, I realized, and selfishness doesn’t get you anywhere.

It’s all a big mystery to me right now. A big mystery I can’t control. All caused by this one little person. It’s a wonder how something so little is actually so big.

 

Funny Little Number February 6, 2014

Perspective does funny little number on time. To a dog, a day when people are away at that place called work seems like an eternity. To a child, time is endless. To an adult, time is a precious commodity. To me, time is priceless.

That is why I don’t really understand what happens to people and birthdays. When you’re a little person, a birthday is something worthy of fanfare, presents and celebration. I’ve had the good fortune of attending several birthday parties for the little people in the family and they are always something to remember. They come complete with cakes with candles, beautifully wrapped presents and even the occasional water balloon fight (weather permitting). Silly Numbers

I must be missing a part of the puzzle. Because my forever dad never seems to want anything to do with any of it on his birthday. He turned 35 people years old yesterday and mom was sure to go about her usual attempts to commemorate the day. There were presents and mom got an ice cream cake, but dad wanted none of it.

Denial. From the ground up, that is the only emotion in the Schmidt home yesterday. Dad was in denial that he is another year older. Mom was in denial of his denial. I was in denial of all of it. And Carter? Well, he slept the majority of the time so I’m not really sure what he was thinking.

All in all it was one of those days you can’t wait to go to bed so it can be tomorrow. So that’s what I did. But today I got to thinking about these evolving perceptions of time. Why is it that birthdays stop being fun as people age? Age brings with it memories and love and wisdom. And I don’t care what dad thinks. I’m happy he was born, regardless of how long ago it happened.

I guess I side with American baseball player Satchel Paige. “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” he questioned.

Perspective. From the ground up, it does a funny little number on time. Heck, I turn the equivalent of 45 people years old in May and I’ve never felt better. And to me, time is endless, precious and priceless. Because instead of counting years I count blessings. And in doing so, I celebrate the years to come rather than counting the years past.

 

The Truth About Cuddling January 21, 2014

The sun deceived me today. There it was, all bright and happy, tempting me with its beauty. After a few days of dreary Wisconsin winter, it was a breath of fresh air waking to the beautiful sunrise this morning. I couldn’t wait to get outside to soak it all in.

I (not-so-patiently) waited my turn while mom changed, fed, and rocked baby Carter back to sleep. Then it was my turn. It was breathtaking. Literally. It took my breath away. It was all kind of sunny and a whopping two degrees outside. I was devastated.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I know this is the norm in Wisconsin this time of year. But when I woke up and saw that beautiful sunshine, it’s like my months got all switched around. Suddenly it was July 30 and Carter and I were playing in the grass together. It was warm, but not just from the sun. It was warm from the love. From the ground up, love warmed my heart thinking about all the fun I have to look forward to this summer.

The breathless start to my morning was a pretty clear reminder that some time needs to pass between now and then. Some chilly and potentially dreary time. But as I am not in the habit of wishing time away, I realized later today it is a time to embrace.

Who needs the sun anyway? The sun may have deceived me today, but its message did not. Sometimes even when its sunny we need to make our own warmth. Because true warmth starts in the heart.Tummy time for two

So that’s what I did today. I snuggled with baby Carter and I had all the warmth I needed. Scientists undermine such things, attributing a dog’s desire to cuddle as purely logical. People are warm, so we cuddle. While there is some truth to that, warmth is not just a physical thing. There is more than one kind of warmth, and it is both kinds we canines seek in cuddling. The main source of warmth is that which we feel in our hearts when we are close to our people. Next to that, physical warmth is just a bonus.

 

 

Making a Splash January 19, 2014

I know it’s necessary. I sure wish it wasn’t. The dreaded bath. I have a love/hate relationship with this most simple and basic necessity. Namely, I hate getting wet. Please remember this is coming from your resident doggie optimist who makes it a point to find the silver lining in all things. It’s not like me to complain. But misery loves company and I found some today in Baby Carter.

Making the Best of ItIt wasn’t his first bath since being home, but it was by far the most tumultuous. I have heard my fair share of screeching cries (most of which pierce right through my little doggie heart) in his almost three weeks with us, but today he hit a whole new range of emotional distress. From which I have gathered that he too hates baths. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, since he has not been quiet about his hatred of being naked. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder why we are this way.

That’s when it occurred to me. I like the attention that accompanies the ritual of it all. It happens during the bath. It happens after the bath. Sometimes it continues for a few days as I apparently smell so nice in all that perfumed shampoo they use on me. I’ve never been one to turn down attention.

I wish I could somehow communicate my thoughts on the matter to Carter to ease his pain a little. Instead I found myself thinking about the water that makes all of the turmoil possible. The cleansing, cleaning, refreshing (even I can admit there is something nice about being clean) water.

Therein I found it. The silver lining. Because I know it’s necessary. And even though I hate it, now I have a reason to love it. Because attention is only as good as what we do with it. I would much rather have my splashes mean something than have them simply get others wet. Even the smallest little pebble can make ripples in the water. And no ripple is too small to evoke positive change.

 

The Night Before January 15, 2014

It’s different for everyone. I’m sure white sandy beaches, picturesque mountaintops and bubbling waterfalls are among the most common though. The happy place. My understanding is its a place people go in their heads when the environment around them is…well…less than happy.

I don’t really have a need for such an imaginary place because I can’t say I ever really experience less than happiness in my forever home. Joy. From the ground up, that’s my way of life.

The same can’t always be said for my people, who I know experience a fair share of emotional ups and downs. I can’t figure out where dad’s happy place is, but I know mom’s is that spa place she goes every now and then. She loves it there. And I love when she’s happy and hate when she’s sad, so that means I love it there too. (Even though it’s a no-dogs-allowed kind of joint).Happy

All of this was turned on its axis a couple of weeks ago. It was the night before mom and dad went to that place called the hospital to get baby Carter. I sensed something was up. (Us canines have a sixth sense about these things.) But that didn’t distract me from the love fest mom and I had that night. That’s what I call it when a person spends an abnormal amount of time petting me and telling me how loved I am. It’s one of my favorite things.

Something happened during my love fest that night that never happened before. When I closed my eyes, I went to an unhappy place. I can’t explain it. There I was, with dad and baby Carter. But no mom. She didn’t come back from the place called the hospital. I waited and waited. But she never came back. It was terrible.

You can imagine my relief when I opened my eyes and there she was. Alive and well. But when she left for that place called the hospital I went back to that unhappy place in my head. I worried the entire time she was gone. What if she didn’t come back?

As is usually the case, all the worrying was for naught. She did come back and brought with her the best little present named Carter. And I realized something in those precious moments upon their arrival home that day. Not only did everything go just as I had hoped, but I know now why us canines don’t need a happy place. It’s different for everyone. For me, it’s not a white sandy beach or picturesque mountaintop. It’s a state of mind. It’s a way of life. Therein lies the answer. Life is my happy place.

 

Neighborhood Watch January 6, 2014

It’s been said more than once. Some have said it jokingly. Others have been more serious about it. Regardless of the reasons, the message is clear. I would make a terrible guard dog.

Watching the Angel SleepIn our neighborhood we are surrounded on either side by neighbor ladies who have been widowed, one of whom was especially enthusiastic about my impending ferocity when my people first brought me home from the humane society. It will be nice to have a dog guarding this neck of the neighborhood, she said.

Here I am, three and a half years later, and that could not be farther from the truth. My bark is rare, and every visitor to my forever home is greeted with fanfare and love. I do, after all, have a personal goal to share joy with whomever will take it, so why would I startle folks as they enter my home? It’s simply not in my bones.

Or so I thought. Then came baby Carter and suddenly everything has changed. Every little creak in the floor makes me jump, I find myself reacting to noises outside differently, and I have even uttered a protective bark or two at something other than the pig on the Geico commercials or the dogs with pretty teeth in the Pedigree commercials. I can’t describe the change other than that it feels instinctual, as natural as scratching an itch behind my ear.

“Follow your instincts,” American media mogul Oprah Winfrey suggested. “That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” Sometimes I think its all too easy to start believing what people say about us. Especially when it’s not necessarily complimentary. I’m not really sure which side of the fence a guard dog falls on, since it usually isn’t a good thing to assume the bad in everyone instead of the good. But I have developed some pretty keen instincts in my time on four paws, and I think its time I start employing them. It’s been said more than once that I could never be a guard dog. I’ve got new reasons to believe that doesn’t make it true.

 

 

 

It’s A Win-Win January 5, 2014

It’s not about winning. That was mom’s opinion of a failed attempt by the Green Bay Packers to continue their journey to Superbowl 48. Today our beloved Packers fell to the San Francisco 49ers 23-20 in a playoff battle to remember. My Little Team

It was Carter’s first Packer game, and (while he didn’t stay awake for any of it) that brought with it a new kind of excitement. Packer Sundays are filled with traditions in the Schmidt home, and this Sunday was no different. Except it was. My people prepared the usual delicious smelling food, dressed up in their Packer Sunday best, and cheered on the beloved team.

And it was an exciting game, filled ups and downs. Packed with moments of joy and moments of frustration. So when the clock ticked down to nothing and the loss was imminent, mom’s words brought to the situation into perspective for me.

This game, or any game for that matter, is much like life in that way. Filled with ups and downs. Moments of joy and moments of frustration. All of this is experienced as part of a team, which is sometimes greater than the sum of it’s parts. I was reminded in that moment how blessed I am to be part of this particular team. I know we aren’t going to win every battle. But that’s okay, because I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world. They are happiness to me.

“Winning isn’t everything,” Packer coaching legend Vince Lombardi suggested, “it’s the only thing.” And in most other ways, I agree with him. But he was wrong about this. It’s not about winning. It’s about enjoying the game.