Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Best Kind of Way December 28, 2014

A year ago today I had absolutely no idea what I had in store. I was going about my business keeping mom’s spot on the bed warm as she wrapped a couple of last-minute Christmas gifts for an after-Christmas holiday party. Everything about the scene was as I’ve seen it dozens of times: her traditional Christmas movies played in the background as she sampled from a tray of goodies she only lets herself eat once a year while she wraps presents.

But this time something was different. At nine months pregnant, it was an issue for her to walk comfortably, let alone wrap an attractive present. I was getting frustrated even watching it happening, but she stayed calm. She took her time and ended up wrapping those two presents just as beautifully as the first round she’d completed days ago. So what if it took her an hour? Dad was out running errands. All said and done, it was a pretty typical day.

Hi Carter

Hi Carter

What happened a few days later when they brought home dear baby Carter for the first time was life changing. I knew it would be, but I don’t think anything could really have prepared me to the extent to which everything I knew in life would change. From the daily (and for those first few months nightly) routine I’d come to appreciate to the constant effort that is baby-proofing to the presence of this new little person, my forever home would never be the same.

I remember being a bit resentful after the initial excitement wore off. As much as my instincts told me to protect this tiny screaming bundle of “joy,” I couldn’t help but notice how much time and attention dear baby Carter was taking away from me. So I kept my distance and slowly re-integrated myself into a comfortable rhythm in this new life.

I thought I might regret that decision, but now I realize it was the smartest thing I could have done. It allowed me to do one of the things I do best – observe. I listened as Carter’s cries morphed into various forms of happy babbling and have since started to resemble words and sentences. I watched as rolling turned into crawling. I stood by as walking turned into running.

And I’ve learned so much. Life has changed a ton since that quiet moment with my mom all of those months ago. Through all of it, I’ve learned about perseverance and how to survive the ultimate form of sleep deprivation. I’ve learned the value of relationships as I’ve seen almost all of those in my circle come closer together. I’ve learned what it means to adapt and be flexible and understand that sometimes there are days that things just don’t get done.

That is why I can say with confidence this year has indeed been life-changing in the best kind of way.

 

The Special Times December 25, 2014

Christmas breakfast with quiche and a tray of chocolate treats. Time with family that includes at least one silly dancing moment to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Cozy movie time by candlelight with hot chocolate and lots of comfy blankets watching “The Polar Express” on Christmas night. There are certain things about the holiday that is Christmas that it wouldn’t seem the same without.

Tradition. From the ground up, I’ve observed it is something pretty important to my dear forever mom. When it came to embracing old traditions, today was no different. Each of the aforementioned things were a very important part of our admittedly busy holiday. It was a truly action-packed day from start to end, and these familiar things tied everything together in a way only tradition can do.

But something was different this year. Very different. This year there was a little person in our midst. A little person who has never before been party to these traditions. A little one who has never before experienced Christmas. And, perhaps most notably, a little person who probably didn’t care too much whether or not quiche and chocolate treats were in the picture this morning.

That is precisely whey I was a bit surprised to find some new traditions in the mix. In reality, I know dear baby Carter probably won’t remember anything about today. So to him it certainly didn’t matter that he was wearing what mom fondly referred to as his special Christmas pajamas. Or that he got his very own piece of Christmas morning quiche. Or that Santa made his first-ever visit to our house to deliver special goodies from the North Pole.

Today was painted with all kinds of new traditions that embraced the addition of Carter to the family fold this year. It was all a joy to witness, and I can’t wait to see it all again next year.Let Your Heart Be Light

But amid all the new, it was surprisingly refreshing to me when something familiar filled my doggie heart with Christmas joy. It happened on the way from one family Christmas party to another as I assumed my position as co-pilot in the front passenger seat of the car. Mom has taken to riding with Carter in the back seat lately, leaving me to her usual spot in the front. And though I miss pushing my way onto her lap in that same spot, it is pretty nice having that prominent and important spot to myself.

I was reveling in that feeling when it happened. Dad put his arm over and pet me as he drove, just as I remember him doing for each of the four Christmases I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this family. In that moment and the moments that followed, the holiday was complete for me.

There are certain things this time of year that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without. For some, it’s in the memories of years past dancing around like ninnies to “All I Want for Christmas is You.” For others, it’s a certain dish or dishes that simply have to be a part of the day. For me, it’s what all of these things really are. Joy. From the ground up, that’s what Christmas means to me.

To see the special moment: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=593626052727&l=8269833515318459806

 

Turn The Page July 20, 2014

For some people it’s a new job. For others its a major lifestyle change like swapping out alcohol or cigarettes for exercise. Or maybe it’s the end of a bad relationship or the start of a good one. Crossroads. From the ground up, we all come across them at different times and in different circumstances. Sometimes it’s expected. Sometimes not. Feeling reflective

For my mom and most of her family, it happened five years ago when her father died suddenly. Everyone in the family dealt with the loss differently, in good and bad ways. If the aftermath of the experience has taught me anything, its that there is no timeline on grief. Whether you lose someone suddenly or have enough warning to say goodbye properly, it doesn’t matter. It’s hard. And everyone copes differently.

I was reminded of this today when I overheard mom on the phone telling dad about her time at this place called the spa. It’s something her and her mom and sister do every year, and this year was not an exception. While the trip was abbreviated slightly this time around (due mostly to mom not wanting to be away from dear baby Carter for long), I could hear the rested enthusiasm in mom’s voice as she recalled the events of the day to my forever dad. (Meanwhile, it should be noted I am helping him care for Carter while mom is away).

I couldn’t hear the whole story, but I gathered the point of it from dad’s reaction. Someone (or possibly all of them) had some sort of revelation today at the spa. There they were, at the place they sought emotional refuge just days after the loss of 2009, and something happened. A weight was lifted off shoulders. A deep breath was taken. And a decision was made. It’s time to turn the page.

An original thought it certainly is not, as it pays homage to Bob Segar’s ballad (which I understand was a favorite of the man who would have been my grand forever father). But it was as if he were somehow there with them today, prompting them to turn the page, which itself looks different to each of these very important ladies in my life.

As I suppose it does to everyone, but ultimately the root of things is the same. Crossroads. From the ground up, we come to them from time to time for reasons good and bad. Like anything, it’s what we do next that matters. And I say we turn the page.

 

The Key to the Future May 24, 2014

It’s Memorial Day weekend around here. Which means a few things for me. First (and foremost) it means we pause to recognize the heroes who have put their own lives aside to serve and protect the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis. Selfishly, I think my most favorite thing about these freedoms might be the extra day away from work my beloved forever people get to observe the holiday.

Because this means my people are home together for three whole days. This has always been a luxury due to the necessity of that stuff called money and its direct relationship to that place called work. Sure, mom has been home a little more frequently than before because of her new job, but my favorite is the time when we are all together. Like the family we are.In the yard

Being part of this family for almost four years now, I’ve come to expect certain things on this weekend. Tradition. From the ground up, it took over my day today. My people spent the day planting as they always do around this same Saturday every year. And so my backyard paradise has been restored. There are flowers and bird feeders and a garden and the whole bit of it makes my people so happy. Therefore I am happy.

As I found myself a place in the shade to observe the action this afternoon, it occurred to me how blessed I am to have such a home with a yard and all that space to run through and enjoy. More than that, I thought of this being the third time I’ve observed this day. As I thought back through the todays past my heart filled with more joy.

That’s the thing about memories. While (yes) they are capable of doing some very bad things to joy sometimes, they become better with age.

“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future,” suggested Dutch thinker Corrie Ten Boom. I feel these words came to life for me today as I watched Memorial Day tradition unfold around me. So, as I usually do, I embraced the past right along with the present on my journey to the future.

 

Merry Little Christmas December 25, 2013

Tradition. It’s pretty important to especially my mom at this time of year. I’ve mentioned the traditions she’s put in place around wrapping Christmas presents and dancing like a ninny to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.” There’s also certain movies we all cuddle up to watch together at given times throughout the season. (Tonight’s feature is “The Polar Express”). But amongst all of these, I think Christmas morning is my favorite.Let Your Heart Be Light

The best part is how simple it is. Mom and dad exchange their gifts to each other, I get a new toy, and we sit together listening to Christmas music. They snack on a special kind of chocolate they buy only for Christmas, and I feast on whatever treat shared a bag with the new toy. It’s a joyful moment in our home that I sincerely look forward to each year.

So you can imagine my surprise when tears made an appearance during the tradition this morning. I’ve become fairly attuned to these as my nine-month pregnant forever mom’s emotions have been a little unsteady lately. But these were truly challenging to decipher whether they were tears of joy or sadness. Bittersweet is the word I guess people use to describe what she was feeling.

This was confirmed as, about halfway through Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” she explained to dad that she was reveling in this last special Christmas morning with just the two of them while at the same time looking forward to the changes next year will bring with the little person around.

This has always been a favorite Christmas song of mine. I have my reasons, not the least of which is found in the soul of the lyrics of this beloved song. It celebrates everything I hold dear about the holidays, like time with loved ones and how we will always be together in spirit if not in person. But there is one line in particular that stood out to me within the context of this bittersweet moment with my mom this morning. “Let your hearts be light.”

Her heart seemed to be anything but light. And yet it was. Just as mine is and will continue to be regardless of the season. The light of joy burns in my heart and that glow is one that nothing can burn out. I’m not sure Mr. Sinatra meant it this way, but that’s my take.

Who knows what will happen with all of these beloved traditions next year when we are no longer two people and a dog. But that’s okay. Because things change. Families grow. And, if anything, that light burns even brighter than before.

 

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.

 

From Rags to Riches August 17, 2013

It started with a collar. It had little candy corns on it, and my mom bought it at the Menomonee Falls Pet Fair three years ago today. She had yet to actually have a dog in her life, and she was told this was bad luck. It’s bad karma to buy things for a best friend you’ve yet to meet, people told her (as if she was going to somehow jinx the search).

Here’s the thing: she had already met her best friend. She had met me a few days earlier. She knew she loved me at first sight. But her and dad’s first visit to me was so late in the day the shelter wouldn’t allow them to take me home that same day. I knew she’d be back, but I didn’t learn until later that she almost wasn’t.

Since I had been previously returned, the people at Oshkosh Humane Society were particularly cautious throughout my adoption process to ensure this would be the right family. To ensure I wouldn’t be returned again. They didn’t like that mom and dad were a young couple who would likely be having children in the near future. They didn’t like that dad had never had a dog before. They said they feared my soon-to-be forever people were just falling in love with a cute face and weren’t prepared for the behavioral handful I could be.

Mom didn’t take any of this very well. She saw it as a direct attack on her ability to be a good doggie parent, and perhaps even a good little people parent. Apparently she and dad even resigned to the point they went to meet another terrier mix named Ariel at a different shelter.

The collar would have fit Ariel too. But dad wouldn’t have that. Meeting Ariel did nothing but prove to him that I was the one they were meant to rescue. So he called the people at the Oshkosh Humane Society, told them they were being harsh, and took me home about a week later. He fought for me and no amount of cuddles, kisses, or tail wags will ever thank him enough for that.

Sporting my new tieEver since I was adopted mom takes me to that fair every third Saturday in August. It’s kind of our thing. So you can imagine my disdain when she and dad left this morning to run errands (which must not be any fun at all since I’m almost never invited along for them) and didn’t return until mid-afternoon. I was certain she forgot by that point and (to be honest) I was the slightest bit heartbroken. I understand that forgetfulness can happen during pregnancy, but I didn’t want to believe it. She couldn’t possibly forget our tradition.

Thank goodness dad reminded her. It’s never been his cup of tea, but he knows it’s important to us and he didn’t want the day to go by without us honoring our tradition. He fought for me again, which I realized today he does so often in so many different ways.

It started with a collar. And it ends with a tie. (Thanks to dad’s gentle reminder), mom and I had a fabulous time as we always do, and (in addition to all sorts of dog treats) I got a couple of doggie neck ties. There was a time in my life I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from, and now people love me enough to fight for me and take me to pet fairs and buy me neck ties (of all crazy things). Collars, neck ties, and dog treats aside, I would say that makes me one of the very richest doggies in the whole wide world.