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.”

 

Seeing Through the Fog December 4, 2013

I can’t see a thing. This has been among my first thoughts of the day for three days in a row now. The days have begun like any other, except for when mom lets me outside in the morning. It’s been so unbelievably foggy, I feel completely blind. It’s a good thing I know my way around my backyard paradise so well.Seeing Through the Fog

Being encompassed by a dense fog like this reminds me of what it feels like to be overwhelmed. The fog can seem to close in from every direction. And you can’t see. You’re blinded by the realm of possibility. It doesn’t happen to me often as I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty simple life. From (albeit dreaded) regular visits to the veterinarian to the food in my bowl every day, my parents take really good care of me. There is no reason to feel overwhelmed.

Thank goodness for that because I don’t think I’m much of a fighter. I’ve always thought of myself as more a peacekeeper than anything else. But when I think of the fighters I’ve known in my life, one face comes to mind every time. Tiger. Now he was a fighter. I remember watching in disgust as he violently fought with other dogs for anything from a bone to a loaf of bread. He was always one step ahead of me when it came to finding the best food scraps in the neighborhood and I hated him for it.

That was, until I found out what he was really fighting for. He was providing for a small litter of puppies after the family lost their birth mom. Just like I had lost mine, only my deadbeat dad had left long before I was born. Tiger wasn’t like that. He stood by his family and fought for them in every sense of the word.

He was away hunting for food one day when the fog closed in on me. He’d left me to watch over the little ones before, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. But it was. That was the day one of the dogs Tiger had made an enemy decided to seek revenge. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed in my life. I was blinded by all the devastating ways I knew the story could end. But I couldn’t let that stop me. I needed to see through the fog. I needed to persevere.

So I used the only weapons I knew I had in my arsenal capable of defeating this strange dog with the crazy eyes. My brain and my heart. And (with a little help of a feline friend of mine), I won that particular battle. The puppies were safe. I was safe. Looking back I know it is because I decided to see through the fog to the heart of the matter. Maybe I’m more of a fighter than I thought I was.

 

Big Bang Theory November 27, 2013

It starts with an idea. When it comes to ideas, mine was about as simple as it gets. It came to be almost a year ago in one of the smallest and most intricate packages you can imagine. A snowflake. I watched it fall from the sky and I knew. Joy. In a moment there it was. And I wanted to share it. With you.

From the ground up, I share my observations of the world around me. I try to see the good in all people, places and things; to not just find and identify the silver lining, but to embrace it. So when something happens like it did today, I can’t wait to share it.

I heard an angel laughing today. There I was, sitting there in my living room pretty much minding my own business, when it happened. Laughter. Lots and lots and lots of laughter. My forever mom and her friend Jessica were laughing too, but that’s no matter. All I heard was baby Alexis. And it was a beautiful sound.

I didn’t do anything particularly entertaining. I didn’t have to. She just kept laughing. And my heart kept smiling. If only it was this easy to share joy with the world, I thought. But that sounds awfully negative, and that’s not who I am. I believe in making dreams come true, and this is no exception. It can be that easy to share joy with the world. But I need your help.

I’m not a big believer in science. But there is one scientific theory I can stand behind – experiments. So today I ask for your help with an experiment I’ve been wanting to try since that first snowflake fell down from the sky all those months ago. How many people can I share joy with today? I, Wiley Schmidt, on the eve of the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for joy. And from the ground up, I have ten seconds of it to share. Consider it yours.

It starts with an idea. And mine is about as simple as it gets – share my perspective on joy with the world. Please consider sharing this piece of joy from the ground up with someone and encourage them to do the same. Joy. In a moment here it is. Who will you share it with?

 

Dodging Bullets November 25, 2013

I’ve dodged my fair share of bullets in my five years of doggie life. Not literally (obviously) but figuratively. Emotionally. Mentally. Spiritually. I’ve been attacked in all of these ways and yet I have remained intact.

I made it safely out of a sticky situation in the road with some cars the day I got separated from my birth mom and brothers. I survived an attack by another dog at the dog park. My mom persevered through the struggle to adopt me (it wasn’t an easy process because I’d already been returned once before). These are all things I’ve lived through. I’d go as far as to call them my life’s biggest close calls.Dodging Bullets

But I’m not sure anything lived up to the moment I experienced today on the car trip to the groomer. Because today it wasn’t just my life in danger. It was my forever mom’s life. And the future little person’s life. And it was terrifying.

It was snowing – the first somewhat significant snowfall in Wisconsin this winter – and it was beautiful. I love everything about snow. I love the stillness it brings, and the method in which it is delivered. Except for today. Today it was danger personified. One minute we were safe. The next the car felt slippery and out of control. I thought for sure we were going to hit something.

My heart raced. My body shook. Time stood still. (Apparently it’s this way for people too). Then the moment passed. The car was back under control like nothing had happened. I didn’t stop shaking. My heart kept a steadily fast pace. But we were okay. We were safe. All three of us were safe.

I’ve had my fair share of what you could refer to as close calls. This one was different. Because it wasn’t about me. It was about my forever person and my future little person. I’ve got plans for us – big plans – and in that moment nothing was more important than that.

“It’s our challenges and obstacles that give us layers of depth and make us interesting,” suggested American actress and TV personality Ellen DeGeneres. ” Are they fun when they happen? No. But they are what make us unique.”

The snow taught me yet another beautiful lesson today. It’s one I’m sure I already knew, but I certainly welcome the reminder. My people are more important to me than myself. Their safety, their happiness, their joy comes before my own. I don’t care how many bullets I need to dodge to protect that truth.

 

You Tell Me November 24, 2013

Some people call me needy. I prefer loving. Compassionate. Loyal. There’s only one problem: I care what people think. There, I said it. And “needy” doesn’t exactly sound like a positive thing.

Yet I will be the first to admit I am a self-proclaimed doggie Olympic gold medalist at attention-seeking behavior. I cuddle into the tiniest crevice next to (all right, sometimes on top of) whomever will have me. I prefer to be a co-pilot on car rides rather than slum it in the back seat. Above all, I won’t rest until I’ve made someone smile. Counting Blessings

Sure, this external locus of control on self-esteem has its downsides. (Complete and utter failure come to mind). But the joy I feel in the moments I’m sharing joy with others more than makes up for that.

I thought of this today as I watched as my forever people bustled around the house. Today dad finally finished his long list of daddy nesting projects around the house. In his eyes, the house is officially ready for our new little person. Meanwhile, something called a car seat travel system got assembled, a diaper bag was put together, and baby clothes were washed and neatly folded away. I felt blessed to be a bystander in these moments. I watched it all unfold from the comfort of my doggie bed in the kitchen. And, in doing so, I became the richest doggie alive.

For 339 days, I have shared my thoughts with the world. My 365-day mission to share my unique perspective on joy (from the ground up) has almost come full circle. And today I realized perhaps one of the most important things I’ve come to know from my experience is myself. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve learned a lot about the way I think, the way I perceive the world around me, and the ways in which my “needy” title is actually a good thing.

“If you want to feel rich, count the gifts you have that money can’t buy.” I don’t actually know who said these words, but I do know how they make me feel. I’ve stumbled upon great fortune during this journey of self discovery. Some people call me needy. I prefer to see myself as an ambassador of great fortune to all who will take it. Joy. From the ground up, that is my gift to give. You tell me whether it’s worth taking.

 

Crazy Stupid Love November 20, 2013

Light of foot is not a phrase I would use to explain us canines. Between chasing and galloping and jumping and pawing at various stimuli, we aren’t that great at sneaking up on anything. Other than enabling us to do these things, our paws aren’t good for much. We can’t eat with them. We lack the opposable thumbs required to do things that hands are capable of.

And sometimes it drives me crazy. I’m not one to complain about things, but when there is an itch behind my ear that I can’t scratch I find myself longing for the hands I lack. I try with all my might sometimes to get at it, but I just can’t reach. Or my nails are to long. Or too short. All of these things are ultimately out of my control. And it’s exhausting.

But I realized something today. There I was, scratching away, and it happened. Mom interceded and the next thing you know, the itch was gone. She simply used her hands to scratch around the vicinity I was focusing on and everything was suddenly all was right with my world again. I felt overcome with crazy stupid love for my mom, not just because I wasn’t itchy anymore but because she loved me enough to help me in my time of need.Just a little closer

In that moment I was reminded that everyone feels this way sometimes. With that goal that’s just out of reach. With that deadline that’s impossible to meet. Or maybe in that relationship that doesn’t quite fit. It can drive a person crazy feeling simultaneously so close and so far away from something.

But that’s why we have people around us to help us in our times of need. To be our support system when that relationship doesn’t go as we wish it had. Or to help us finish that project on deadline. And (perhaps most importantly) to keep us motivated.

“Love is friendship that has caught fire,” suggested American newspaper columnist Ann Landers. “It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”

Let’s face it. Nobody’s perfect. And, in the case of us canines, one of our weaknesses is a set of four fairly useless paws. So it’s a good thing I’m blessed with people who help me through. I have loyalty and love and understanding. I have friendship caught on fire. That’s nothing I’d want to catch with my paws anyway. I’d much rather catch all of that with my heart.

 

Rescue Me November 17, 2013

I didn’t believe her at first. She was new and exciting and her past didn’t matter to me. What mattered was she was my new mom, my forever person, and I loved her from the start.

RescuedI loved her that first day she and dad came to visit me at the Oshkosh Humane Society. We shared a special moment when she knelt down to pet me and I did my best to grab on with my paw (as only us canines can do) to show her she was the one for me.  I was devastated when they left without me that day. The days that followed were some of my lowest of the low. A whole two weeks went by before I saw her again, and that’s when I knew it to be true. My forever person had found me. I was being rescued.

Recovery. Liberation. Deliverance. Rescue means different things to different people, all tied together by the common denominator of strong emotional responses. Joy. From the ground up, that’s what rescue means to me. So it never occurred to me that perhaps more than one heart was rescued that day. At least not until later, as I learned my adoption followed a string of unfortunate events in the lives of my forever people.

In May 2009, mom’s job at the local newspaper was eliminated along with the jobs of about half of the staff. Two weeks later, her dad died. It was sudden and terrible, and I won’t share all the details, other than that it came as a complete shock to her small immediate family. And alas, she had a new full-time job-helping her mom meet the attorneys, doing calculations with the CPA, and acting like the grown up who had it all together. In reality, she was the 24-year-old kid who found herself turning to the wrong ways of coping.

I’m no psychologist, but I would say she was still a little depressed when I met her a little more than a year later. And I immediately set about changing that in the only way I knew how. Loving. And, in doing so, I know I made her feel more alive. So ultimately I’m not sure who really rescued who. What I do know is I never would have thought more than one heart could be rescued in the same day. Yet I know it to be (at least partially) true. Mom didn’t just rescue me that day. I rescued her.

This post was inspired by Janine Allen’s “I Rescued a Human Today.”

Read it here: http://rescuemedog.org/dog-blog/i-rescued-a-human-today-by-janine-allen/

 

A Little Touch October 22, 2013

It doesn’t take much. A pat on the head. A scratch behind the ear by the collar. An extra treat (or three). I really am a fool for the little things in life. Especially where love is concerned.

But I can’t say it’s been an easy lesson for me to learn. When I was a puppy, I learned the “how high” way of life. I jumped higher, ran faster, and dreamed bigger than any other dog I knew. It was a point of pride even, that I always had a fire lit inside me to be better. And I’m not saying that is a bad thing.How High?

To this day I startle people with how high I can jump. I can launch myself straight up into the air three or four feet. I even have this trick I learned to do with my mom where she pats her thighs and says “up” and I jump securely into her arms. These things bring me great joy that I can’t help but share with others. But bigger isn’t always better. Not everyone likes to be welcomed into my forever home with me jumping into their arms. And I’m okay with that.

I realized this tonight in the midst of a special moment I shared with mom. It was nothing new for the two of us – she was scratching behind my ear by my collar (an especially itchy spot of mine) and I did it. I wrapped my paw around her hand while she scratched. I do it all the time, but tonight it seemed to strike an emotional chord with her I haven’t noticed before. She seemed touched by my touch. It seems like such a little insignificant way to show I appreciate her scratches, yet it meant a lot to her. Certainly it meant more to her than how high I can jump on the visitors to my forever home.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things,” suggested American thinker Robert Brault. It sounds so simple, but it doesn’t take much. To show someone you care. To make someone smile. To be an ambassador for joy. I don’t need to jump five feet in the air to show how enthusiastic I am to welcome a visitor to our home. That’s not what joy from the ground up is all about. It’s about the simple little things, like the moments I shared with mom today. And a couple extra treats every now and then don’t hurt either.

 

Let The Worry Go October 18, 2013

It’s nothing new. Most of us are quite accustomed to it, in fact. Cold Wisconsin winter is no longer a possibility. It’s knocking at our proverbial back door.

I realized it tonight while I was outside in the 40-something evening air. It took my little doggie breath away. In the spring, people would be flinging aside their winter jackets for shorts and flip flops in this weather. Today on the other hand had people layering up with jackets and scarves. Ah, the magic of perspective.

We’ve gotten a bit spoiled with above-average highs in my part of the world, so I think it’s taking some people by surprise. It definitely woke me up enough so that my doggie thoughts started racing with concern. My little person is going to be born in the midst of the coldest time of year around here. January. And that crib contraption will not allow me any amount of nighttime snuggling. Then how on Earth will I keep this precious little person warm?It Looks Warm

That’s when I discovered it. Baby Alexis’ mom Jessica’s gift to my little person. It’s like a tiny cloud. A baby blankie. With a little picture of me on it! Well, not actually a picture of me, but the resemblance is uncanny. I was overcome with relief that even if I can’t keep the baby warm, a little piece of my heart can through that blankie. It wasn’t all that long ago I was gifted my birthday blankie, which I hold dear to my heart as a symbol of connection between my past and present. Well, in this blankie I see my future. And it looks warm.

“Instead of fretting about getting everything done, why not simply accept that  being alive means having things to do?” challenges American sociologist Martha Beck. “Then drop into full engagement with  whatever you’re doing, and let the worry go.”

It’s nothing new to us Wisconsinites. Winter is coming, and with it comes chilly nights. We should be used to it by now. I guess the real problem is the recurring worry I have about the care and protection of the baby. But life has taught me the importance of living in the moment, and that philosophy doesn’t leave much room for concern. Especially when there is cuddling involved.

Related posts

My Bittersweet Birthday Blankie – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/05/21/my-bittersweet-birthday-blankie/

 

It Goes On October 15, 2013

I’ve heard it all before. If only I’d seen it coming. I should have planned for that. Hindsight is 20/20. Regrets. Somehow knowing everyone has them doesn’t make the ones we have any less real. I know the great and thoughtful “they” say misery loves company. In this case I’m not so sure.

Deep ThinkingTonight I stared up at the clear night sky dreaming about my future as a big brother. I’m going to love him or her as big as the sky, that much I know. And we’re going to be best friends forever (obviously). But I know my purpose in the life of this little purpose will be bigger than that. I’ve learned a lot in my five people years of life and I can’t wait to share everything. People can learn a lot from how us canines process things, after all.

Like regrets, for example. I have them. And I remember the day of my biggest one like it was yesterday. The day I was separated from my mom and brothers comes to mind instantly. There we were in the middle of oncoming traffic and I ran. I didn’t look back. I’ll never know what happened behind me that day. And it would haunt me to this day if I let it. If I let it. I think that’s the key to all of this regret business.

I doubt I’m the only one who’s biggest regret somehow involves the loss of a loved one. Be it a conversation that was cut off, misconstrued, or never even happened at all, many of us have experienced a sudden loss and wished there was something we could change about those last precious moments together. And we all know (all too well) there is nothing we can do. We can’t repeat the past, but we can live the present.

And in my present I chose to learn from my experience. I learned to hold loved ones close because you never know when that last embrace might be. But living life in constant fear of impending doom won’t get us anywhere either any more than regret will bring them back. Instead, seize the day regardless of the circumstances.

If you’re fortunate enough to be surrounded with loved ones, let them know what they mean to you. That’s something I want to teach my little person. But (perhaps more importantly), I want him or her to know that it’s not the end of the world if the worst does happen. You might not be able to hold that person close right now, but it doesn’t mean you can’t hold them forever in your heart. In lessons like this, sometimes we learn that in life’s greatest regrets lie some of life’s greatest opportunities for personal growth.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life,” as great American poet Robert Frost put it, “it goes on.” More often than not, we don’t see it coming. We didn’t plan for that. And that darned hindsight thing taps us on the shoulder. But somehow, no matter how grim the regret may seem, life does go on.

Related posts:

To read the whole story of my biggest regret – The Day Forever Changed http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/09/01/the-day-forever-changed/