Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

I Can See The Birds March 4, 2015

They’re back. The winged beauties that fill the branches of trees throughout my backyard paradise during the spring, summer and fall months have arrived. I heard their chirps echo through the air this morning as I basked in a balmy 23-degree sunlight for a few minutes while I was outside. Pausing to smell the snowflakes

Perspective is a funny thing when it comes to weather around here. Though most people would consider 23-degrees far from balmy (and even Wisconsinites have been known to reach for the winter coats, hats and mittens when it first happens in October or November), it feels warm after another frigid winter like the one we’ve had. (Forget the winter coats, because it feels like spring!)

So my first thought when I heard the familiar banter between the sparrows and and finches was that it seems too early for them to be back. It may have been 23 degrees today, but it’s supposed to be mighty chilly again tomorrow. Not to mention the lingering inches of snow that still cover the ground.

But the second the those thoughts crossed my mind, I pushed them aside. Because in spite of my concern for their safety and well being, they are a sight for sore eyes. They are one of the first signs that spring is coming. Relief and renewal and rejuvenation are on their way. Soon the air will be warmer again, and dear baby Carter and I will resume our playtime silliness in the green grass of the backyard.

Only I know this year will be different. This year, spring means we are getting even closer to the arrival of little person no. 2, who is set to arrive in early June.

I’m not sure how that will change things for my outdoor plans, but I’m hopeful the bit of extra time mom will have at home with the new baby will mean a bit of extra time for all of us to enjoy the sunshine together.

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush,” suggested Wisconsin columnist Doug Larson. I don’t know much about wearing shoes. And I can’t whistle.

But I can see the birds. And I think that’s a pretty good sign of things to come.

 

Tiny Little Fingerprints January 7, 2015

It doesn’t happen often, but I think I spotted it today. The moment was fleeting, but it was there.

Every now and then, I think mom misses her old life. The one where she went to that place called work every day and talked with friends and customers and came home and made dinner and her and dad spent time together reminiscing and watching an occasional movie or playing a game. The one involving fancy business clothes and the lunch meetings at fancy restaurants. The one when there was more money coming in every month.

Cabin fever was the culprit when it happened today. I’m sure of that. With temperatures as frigidly cold as they have been, she has been working from home a little more than usual because negative degree temperatures are nothing dear baby Carter should have to face. Ground Up Thinking

And I’ve found something about days like this. The life of a mom. From the ground up, it’s not very glamorous.

Take today, for example. At one point this morning, mom had sleeves covered in some sort of baby food sludge. Carter had just managed to spill over the neatly folded basket of laundry onto the not-quite-dry kitchen floor into a heap of pants, shirts and pajamas. This happened about five minutes after he broke a measuring cup into hundreds of pieces all over the floor, which was already littered with the contents of several cabinets.

Mom scooped him into her arms to see if she could find something to occupy him long enough to allow her to reorganize the laundry. And that’s when it happened.

He grabbed her glasses off her face in a way only he can do and threw them on the floor. I saw it in that moment; one which I’m certain most moms have from time to time. I can’t even think of the best words to describe the feelings that I saw in the eyes of my dear forever mom. It doesn’t happen often, but it happened today.

And it didn’t last long. A few minutes went by before a sense of peace and order was restored, albeit brief. (It didn’t take long for Carter to create some other mess that would evoke fear and terror into the mind of any maid or housekeeper.)

Meanwhile, mom sat down to resume her work, and I noticed her take her glasses back off for a second. I watched as she examined her lenses, noting the tiny little fingerprints that were still very much plastered all over the place. I watched her smile the smile I’ve only seen since Carter was born. And I watched as she put the glasses back on without cleaning them.

She may have those moments from time to time. When she longs for the suits and lunches and all things business she left behind. When she wishes for the manicures and pedicures and massages that are for the most part a thing of the past. When she wants to be just her again.

But she’s a mom now. And that means she has tiny little fingerprints on her heart that can’t ever be washed away.

 

No Waste of Time January 4, 2015

It’s been a good run. My dear forever dad has been home from that place called work for what feels like ages. He gets a break each year when his work shuts down during the holidays. Though the time off is nothing new for us, something about this time seemed special somehow. Pausing to smell the snowflakes

I couldn’t really say why until today. It was kind of a mystery to me why this felt so different this time. We celebrated the holidays (mostly) as we always do. There was love and joy with family and friends. There were a few days when they left to go somewhere exciting where dogs weren’t allowed. I was fine with that because of all of the positive energy I felt from them upon their return. (That, and they were never gone too long on account of dear baby Carter’s napping schedule). And there was an unconventional New Year’s that was more about Carter’s first birthday than anything else. All of it was special in its own rite, but that’s not that unusual in itself around here.

So today when mom said it, a light bulb illuminated my heart. This is the longest stretch of time dad has been home with Carter since he was born. And that didn’t go unnoticed by him or Carter, believe me. In the last week and a half, Carter has perfected his pronunciation of “dada,” favors him for many parts of his daily routine, and chases after him all over the house.

As I’ve watched this all unfold, I thought it might start to bother my dear forever mom. As his primary caregiver, I thought maybe she’d be jealous of this behavior. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I knew it as her and dad reflected on the events of the last few weeks. From Carter’s birthday party to the family time in the snow yesterday to the time they spent together doing nothing at home today as another snow storm made its way through our area, it’s been a pretty great stretch.

That all ends tomorrow when everything goes back to reality. Work. From the ground up, it’s not one of my favorite things. But as tonight makes its way into tomorrow, I figure it’s better to embrace everything that has made this last couple of weeks so memorable. Because that is exactly why these kinds of breaks are important. Not only do they have the power to make reality a lot more bearable, but they remind us of what’s important in life. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget what it’s all about.

As British thinker John Lubbock once said “rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

In our case it was pausing to make snow angels as beautiful snowflakes painted the sky, but it’s all the same to me.

 

Winter. Is. Coming. October 4, 2014

I’ve heard people talking about it for days. It started with something so tiny that popped up all over people’s (not-so) Smartphones. A glimmer of something that glitters but is not gold around here. A snowflake showed up on the forecast for today, and people were not happy to see it.

Being that it is so early in October, most of us Wisconsinites aren’t quite ready for the snowy white stuff. Except for me, that is! I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that I have nothing to do with the cleanup of it, nor the navigation through it. I get to enjoy it for what it is. And to me it is beautiful. Playing in the snow

So (please don’t tell everyone else in the state of Wisconsin I said this, but) I was actually the slightest bit disappointed when the snowflake on the forecast didn’t happen in my neck of the woods. There were some minor snow showers in other parts of the state, and (believe me) people were pretty upset about it. But not here.

All the weather-related pandemonium of the last few days did get me to thinking, though, about the inevitable winter that awaits us. It’s just around the corner. It was a frigid 40 degrees today around here, and while that is nothing compared to the subzero temperatures of this past January and February, it felt pretty darned cold. That is what I don’t look forward to about winter.

But there are a lot of good things to think about too. Like (gasp!) the snow, for me at least. And the cuddling – I love the cuddling. And the Christmas music and the lights and the traditions and all the extra time with extended family during the holiday season. And this year will be extra special because dear baby Carter will turn one whole year old.

So yes, winter is indeed coming as sure as I know my name is Wiley. And while I might be in the minority of those around me, I am more than okay with that. Warmth. From the ground up, it’s found in more than the what the forecast says. It’s found in our lives, in our minds, and in our hearts.

 

A New Leaf August 28, 2014

There are a lot of people in my life who wouldn’t dare say or admit what I’m about to say. I even overheard part of an albeit disturbing conversation about it today. After the winter we had earlier this year, I can’t say I blame them. That doesn’t change the fact that they are indeed in denial. Yes, winter around here was much too long, spring barely made an appearance and summer was far too short. But tonight, as I soaked in the cool breeze coming in through the windows of my beloved forever home, it was confirmed. Fall is coming.Backyard Happiness

I could smell burning wood and hear the sounds of the night through the darkness, which is starting to fall much earlier these days. As I watched fireflies dance from one of my favorite spots in the grass of my backyard paradise, I could feel a chill rising up from the ground.

Soon there will be nothing left of summer and the long, warm nights outside will be replaced with bonfires and s’mores. Soon mom will inevitably go through her annual pie-baking phase, where she churns out more cherry and apple pies than any person could (or should) really ever eat. Soon the leaves will turn colors before eventually shedding from the trees.

Soon the leaves will turn colors before eventually shedding from the trees. For some reason, the essence of fall somehow came alive in the essence of those words in my mind. As I watched the branches of the trees sway in the breeze tonight, I was struck with the powerful message that accompanies the fall season. Just as spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, fall is a reminder that life goes on. Sometimes we need a reminder to move past something that has been holding us back. Sometimes we need to turn the page. Sometimes we need to think about finding a way to turn over a new leaf. For me, that is the essence of fall in a nutshell.

It might not be the most popular truth around the state right now, but that doesn’t change the truth. Fall is coming. Fast. And while yes, it brings cooler air and shorter days, it also brings encouragement. It also brings hope. From those bonfires to extra cuddle time to those leaves that need turning, I would agree with Irish songstress Enya that we have a lot to look forward to.

“The spring, summer, is quite a hectic time for people in their lives,” she said, “but then it comes to autumn, and to winter, and you can’t but help think back to the year that was, and then hopefully look forward to the year that is approaching.”

 

I’ll Be A Flashlight June 30, 2014

It’s not the first time it has happened, and I know it won’t be the last. Albeit briefly, we lost power for a bit tonight. For a few precious minutes it was darkness in my dear forever home, and I’m not going to lie. I loved it.

Please do not misunderstand. I love technology (when used for the right reasons) just as much as the next pup. But for me, sometimes there is nothing better than when there aren’t any screens in sight around here. I’m not kidding when I say it was brief either. We’re talking five to ten minutes. But I also do not kid when I say how special those five to ten minutes are to me when they happen. Happiness

Because these things do happen around here from time to time. Not so much last summer, but throughout the early summertime the years prior there was a lot of similar storms that tore through the area with all of their might. And (again) while I do not endorse the damage I know can happen in light of such events, I do wholeheartedly support the emotional connections that can happen when there is no electricity in a home.

Feeling Sleepy On the JobThe first time it happened with me around was a night my people will not forget any time soon. I remember it vividly since it involved flooding and a lot of activity in the neighborhood. I was in awe of how well everyone  banded together to make sure everyone in the neighborhood who needed power had it. Though there was no need for such a partnership tonight, I observed my own sunshine amidst the overcast clouds.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that it came from dear baby Carter, who today turned six months old. Oh, how I do love his little self and all it embodies. I love his smile and all it means. I love him and all the love he brings to others.

I was reminded today of the importance of light and the bearing it can give to others. I forget that sometimes, but it’s easy to be reminded of such things when the power goes out and there is no light in my dear forever home. Albeit for a brief period of time, I’ve noticed that time and time again it doesn’t matter how many lights may be lit within my special place. Because there is light enough within my people to keep the light of joy shining brightly around here. And if it dims, I will be the flashlight that brings things back into focus.

 

The End of The Tunnel April 27, 2014

I’m sure it looks different for everyone. In its various forms, the darkness has a way of encompassing us sometimes. Be it in a job we hate. Or a project that never ends. Maybe in a toxic relationship. Or, in the case of this four-legged life lover, the foe otherwise known as winter. It was awfully nasty this year, despite the bundle of joy it delivered into the lives of my family. (Thank goodness for that!)

Seriously though. Between the record low temperatures, and the snow sneezes that kept coming down on us every couple of days, it was a pretty epically horrendous winter in Wisconsin. And that’s coming from someone who knows winter in Wisconsin. Not to mention someone who makes a point of not complaining about things. I seek to find the good in all people, places and things, and all this talk about terrible weather has certainly not been filled with much (if any) of my usual silver-lining perspective.

Until now. Because the other day it was 70 degrees for the first time in seven months. It was gorgeous outside. And I got to spend time reveling in it all with my beloved family in my backyard paradise. That’s when I realized something I guess I’ve always known but never really paid attention to about that light at the end of the tunnel.

It is so very important because it keeps us going. It motivates us to be better. To do better. To live better. Because it’s always there, guiding the way. But maybe more importantly, the wait is always worth it. Sometimes the longer the struggle, the higher the mountain, the darker the times – the more sincere the joy is when you reach the end. When you reach the light.

That’s certainly how I felt the other day as my whole family laughed together and I wagged and they laughed and none of us knew which came first. I know it looks different for everyone. It happens at different times and varying frequencies for all of us. And I don’t think it’s ever the same twice. Except maybe it is in that one crucial way. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to focus to see it.

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Being First Responders March 21, 2014

It happens every year. In fall, Wisconsinites dust of hats, mittens, scarves and winter coats when the temperature first falls below 50 degrees. Then, half a year later comes spring and you’d better believe all of those things have been discarded as soon as the temperature reaches a balmy 40 degrees.

I witnessed the insanity first paw today as I watched many of the usual suspects walking through the neighborhood. Dog jackets have long since been discarded, but now almost no people were in coats. In 40 degree weather. I was especially surprised to see this was the case among the fire fighters and emergency response teams who visited down the street today.

They were running into a house a few homes down when I thought of it. Penny. My beloved cat friend (contrary to popular belief it is possible for dogs and cats to get along) from down the road. Though I’m happy she’s likely been keeping toasty warm inside the home she shares with her person Rose, I’ve missed her bushy little face around my front door step all winter. I was just wondering when I might see her again when the first responders came.

That’s when it hit me. Hard. They were going to Penny’s house. Where her person Rose lives. I remember one of the last times I saw Penny before winter went into full swing she mentioned her dear person was having some health problems. My view was limited since it is several houses down the road, but tonight my heart is heavy for Rose and Penny.

So rather than drive myself crazy thinking of possible negative scenarios, I’ve decided instead to flip the coin. To focus on the positive.

It’s an important job those first responders do (even if they aren’t sensible with their outerwear at this time of year). They are there when someone needs them most. They take care of those in need. They save lives. And as I watched them do their magic today I realized how important it is that we all be first responders from time to time. On the Clock

Certainly the majority of us lack the formal training in CPR and medicine that an emergency medical technician has worked hard to obtain. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for someone when they need it most. That doesn’t mean we can’t take care of those in need. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lives out there for saving.

I don’t know what happened down the road today. But I do know this. Today I took an oath to become a first responder in the lives of those around me. Because there is something worth saving in every negative situation.

 

Whatever It Takes February 8, 2014

It only costs a dollar. But it is capable of miracles.

The winter blues have claws deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of many in my neck of the woods these days. If it’s not frigidly cold, it’s snowing. If it’s not snowing, it’s frigidly cold. And I am in good company of many Wisconsinites who still find joy in the snow diamonds falling from the sky. But even I can admit it’s been an especially tough winter. I love my backyard paradise, but it is taking a great deal to get me out there recently.Nap time

So I find my joy in other things. Snuggle time with Carter. Quiet time in another room when Carter is screaming. And (this is new) time alone with dad. Mom has been spending the majority of her time taking care of Carter (as it should be), which has freed dad up for some quality time with me.

Tonight our quality time involved cooking a special dinner for mom. Since I’ve won more of his affection lately he’s been especially generous with treats of all kinds, so I was incredibly attentive as he bustled around the kitchen. (They don’t call me the doggie vacuum for nothing). He was making a comfort food staple – macaroni and cheese. And not the gourmet kind with the roux and six different varieties of cheese (which he does also know how to make). The kind you can get for a dollar. Complete with the orange powder.

Generally I’m not that big a fan of the less is more idea. Us canines tend to indulge in whatever comes our way. But tonight less worked wonders on the winter blues. Joy. From the ground up, it happened in the Schmidt house today in spite of those nasty winter blues. And it didn’t take much.

“Your success and happiness lies in you,” Helen Keller suggested. “Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

That’s the thing about joy – sometimes it takes a little effort to find it amidst the blues. But once you do it almost always is worth the search. Especially when it only costs a dollar.

 

When You’re Down January 26, 2014

Please don’t laugh. It was a big time adventure for mom and I today. She took me with her to an especially exciting destination on what was her first venture out of the house in almost a week. The grocery store! It doesn’t mean much for me, other than a brief car ride to and from, with a quick nap on the driver’s seat in between.On the Road Again

But it was more than that. I was mom’s copilot again. Amidst the last several weeks since baby Carter’s arrival, I’ve missed alone time with her. So that made what some might call a routine drive into something kind of special for me. And then it happened.

I looked around and noticed some serious changes since my last car ride around the holidays. It was all holly and jolly with twinkle lights and Christmas wreaths and joy. From the ground up, the holiday season was everywhere.

Not anymore. Today was a dreary day in Wisconsin. I don’t even think it hit the anticipated high of 26 degrees. And we face more frigid temperatures (with wind chills estimated in the -50 degree range) in the days to come. The sky was grey. And there are no twinkle lights left to bring any holly or jolly. To be honest, it is a pretty depressing sight to be seen.

So there are no more twinkle lights. We just need to make our own. I know it’s silly, but I found such joy in my car ride today. Because I’m not in the business of all things sad. As mom went inside the grocery store and I cuddled into a cozy ball, I fought to find a silver lining in these doldrums that surround us.

I know its tough not to let such things take a negative effect on emotions. But thinking about the negative inspires positivity for me. That is what joy from the ground up is all about. When you’re down, there is no where to go but up. Or on a car ride to nowhere. That always does the trick.