Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 13, 2013

A few weeks after my first wife, Georgia, was called to heaven, I was cooking dinner for my son and myself. For a vegetable, I decided on frozen peas. As I was cutting open the bag, it slipped from my hands and crashed to the floor. The peas like marbles, rolled everywhere. I tried to use a broom but with each swipe the peas rolled across the kitchen, bounced off the wall on the other side and rolled in another direction.

My mental state at the time was fragile. Losing a spouse is an unbearable pain. I got on my hands and knees and pulled them into a pile to dispose of; I was half laughing and half crying as I collected them. I could see the humor in what happened, but it doesn’t take much for a person dealing with grief to break down.

For the next week, every time I was in the kitchen, I would find a pea that had escaped my first cleanup. In a corner, behind a table leg, in the frays at the end of a mat, or hidden under a heater, they kept turning up. Eight months later I pulled out the refrigerator to clean and found a dozen or so petrified peas hidden underneath.

At the time I found those few remaining peas, I was in a new relationship with a wonderful woman I met in a widow/widower support group. After we married, I was reminded of those peas under the refrigerator. I realized my life had been like that bag of frozen peas. It had shattered. My wife was gone. I was in a new city with a busy job and a son having trouble adjusting to his new surroundings and the loss of his mother. I was a wreck. I was just like that bag of spilled, frozen peas. My life had come apart and scattered.

When life gets us down; when everything we know comes apart; when we think we can never get through the tough times, remember, it is just like that bag of scattered, frozen peas. The peas can be collected and life can be put back together. We will find all the peas. First the easy peas come together in a pile. We pick them up and start to move on. Later we will find the harder peas. When we pull it all together, life will be whole again.

The life we know can be scattered at any time. We will move on, but how fast we collect our peas depends on each of us. Will we keep scattering them around by trying to pick them up all at once or will we pick them up one-by-one and put our life back together, one piece at a time?

Author - Michael T. Smith

morningstoryanddilbert:

You may need a happy Kleenex…

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

dilbert

This was the last litter of puppies we were going to allow our Cocker Spaniel to have. It had been a very long night for me. Precious, our only black cocker, was having a very difficult time with the delivery of her puppies.

I laid on the floor beside her large four-foot square cage, watching her every movement. Watching and waiting just in case we had to rush her to the veterinarian.

After six hours the puppies started to appear. The first born was a black and white party dog. The second and third puppies were tan and brown in color. The fourth and fifth were also spotted black and white. “One, two, three, four, five,” I counted to myself as I walked down the hallway to wake up Judy and tell her that everything was fine. As we walked back down the hallway and into the spare bedroom, I…

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Morning Story and Dilert

Vintage Dilbert
August 28, 2008

The stars shone bright in the blue-black sky that night as my twin-engine Beechcraft Baron airplane took off from the runway in Dunkirk, N.Y. Everything was in order, according to my instruments, and I settled in for the 20-minute flight back home to Erie, Pa.

I had just dropped my father off in Dunkirk, and now, all alone in the air, my thoughts drifted to the day we’d spent together. We’d flown down to North Carolina for the funeral of my sister-in-law’s father. He was a friend, but I still found it hard to pull myself away from work, even for a day.

I run a roofing business with my dad, brothers and sisters. It was doing pretty well when I started, but in the past few years it had expanded into dozens of locations across the country. Sure, I was happy that business was good, but there was a downside to our success.

We had so many clients in so many different places, it was hard to keep track of them all. I liked to have my hand in the day-to-day goings-on, to make sure every job was done right. But now I was constantly on the move, hurrying from site to site, reviewing details with employees I hardly knew.

Things had been different in my father’s day. Back then, most business was settled with a handshake and a promise. Dad never tried to cut corners to save money or get a job done quickly. He took the time to do his best, and he always treated his customers and employees with respect and generosity.

I want to be that way, I thought, but it’s tough to do business these days. I knew contractors who cut corners left and right and barely finished one job before starting another one. What can I do? I thought. If I’m not as aggressive as my competitors, they’ll walk all over me.

But deep inside, I wondered if that was really true. I’d been raised on the Golden Rule, and even though I thought of myself as a good man, I had to ask myself if I was living up to my end of the bargain.

I stared over the plane’s nose at the dark horizon. Any minute now, I’d see the runway lights from the airfield in Erie. I radioed the tower and was cleared for landing.

I checked the instruments once more. The needle of the left fuel gauge was much lower than the right. In a plane like mine, it’s not uncommon for one engine to use more fuel than the other. Between the two, I knew I had enough fuel to get as far as Cleveland, let alone cover the few minutes of flying I had left.

But just as a safety precaution, I decided to use the cross-feed fuel mechanism, which would allow the left engine to share fuel with the right. No sooner had I leaned over to flick the switch than the plane gave a sickening lurch.

Instinctively, I grabbed the throttle and pulled, trying frantically to right the plane. I could tell by the way it listed that the left engine had died. I was losing altitude fast. If I stalled the plane, I would nosedive. Just fly the plane, I told myself, staring intently at the instrument panel before me. Just fly the plane.

I’d been at about 3,000 feet when the engine died. How long would it take for me to fall? As the plane hurtled through the darkness my mind was surprisingly clear, my hands steady on the controls.

I called the tower to report that I wasn’t going to make it, and my voice was as calm as it had been when I called for clearance. It felt like the plane was being supported under its wings, guided to the ground even, while I did nothing more than watch the scene unfold. I saw a blur in front of me. Was it a tree or a building? Before I knew it my plane was sitting on the ground.

I unbuckled my seat belt and opened the cockpit door, then walked down an alley and around a corner, knowing where to go as surely as if I were being led. Behind me, I heard two huge, booming explosions. I collapsed on the ground as the thought hit me: I should be dead!

Within minutes, emergency units arrived and whisked me to the hospital. My only injuries were a few bruises and a slight burn on my shoulder, none of which I’d felt in the landing.

Witnesses said I had been heading directly for a gas station. If I’d hit that, the resulting explosion could have wiped out several city blocks. But only moments before impact, the plane had swerved, catching its wing on a tree.

Instead of splitting up or skidding hundreds of feet as it should have, the plane came to rest in the empty lot of a welding shop, a space so small a stunt pilot couldn’t have landed there given a thousand tries. On one side of the crash site lived a family with seven children, on the other an elderly woman, and not 80 feet away there was the gas station.

As the full story got around, a hospital security guard asked to shake my hand. I’ve always wanted to meet someone who was touched by an angel, he said.

I considered the miraculous string of events that had saved my life, and decided that man just might be right. And I had a pretty good idea what God’s messengers were telling me. I didn’t have to worry; about my competitors or about staying on top of my business or about all those things I fretted over. As long as I was doing the best I could and treating people right, God would see me through the rough patches and guide me to safety.

When I went back to work a few days later, I decided to take things a little slower, to treat my employees as I’d want to be treated myself and to leave the rest to God.

So far, business has never been better and life has never been sweeter.

Author - John Farrell
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 31, 2007

It was a crisp fall morning in the Bronx, a bit cold but still nice enough to have the windows open before we left for school.

I was living off campus in a three-story brownstone, starting my first year at Fordham University. My roommates had already headed out and I was about to sit down to a quick breakfast.

I went back to my bedroom for a moment to get a book. By the time I returned, a squirrel had planted himself squarely in the middle of the kitchen table.

He must have climbed the fire escape and entered the open window. Judging from the puddle on the table, he had either sampled my orange juice or marked his new-found territory in a most vulgar manner. Now he was eating my toast.

“Shoo!” I commanded. The squirrel ignored me and continued stuffing rye bread in his cheeks.

“Shoo!” I repeated, this time waving my hands and approaching a bit closer…

He stopped rather deliberately, looking a bit peeved and swiveled his head slowly to peer at the interruption to his meal.

In all my country years of squirrel interaction, I’d never actually looked one in the eye. They usually scurried away rather meekly, fearful of a big, mighty human.

But this squirrel’s stare was as cold as his tail was fluffy. I was suddenly reminded, ‘I was no longer in Kansas, Toto.’ I was nose-to-nose with a New York City tree dwelling rodent. ‘A rat in the hood.’

“Shoo!” I said again, not sure what else to say. I did not speak squirrel, especially NYC-squirrel.

Without losing eye contact, he tossed the toast to the side and turned methodically, squaring his body to face me.

I sensed a showdown.

In our back woods, my dad once cut down a tree that a squirrel was residing in. The squirrel leaped from the falling tree and ran for what he thought was another tree.

It was my dad’s leg. He got about hip high before he realized trees don’t usually wear jeans, gave my dad the squirrel equivalent of the “What have I done? !” and leaped again.

Happy ending — my dad lived, the squirrel relocated and the balance of power between Man and Mini-fur-things was maintained.

In the city, however, the pecking order had seemed to switch. With his cheeks full of bread, this furry urban pint sized bully waddled toward me, swinging his hips like a gunslinger.

He stopped at the edge of the table, still glaring, and made a weird chirping sound. It sounded something like, “Bring it on.”

No way, I thought, am I getting dissed by an arrogant metro-rodent. I laughed and said, “You are SO out of your league, tree-freak.”

I know he understood because he tapped his chest twice and chirped again.

Then he drew in a deep breath, as deep as he could take with a mouth full of stolen rye.

Suddenly, he leapt from the table and ran straight at me, chirping nonstop at the top of his little lungs, spewing bits of toast everywhere.

Surprised and stumbling, I backpedaled into the hallway as fast as I could.

He was inches from me when I slammed the bathroom door in his face, knocking still more bread bits from his cheek.

He scratched viciously at the door, calling me all sorts of bad names in squirrel-talk.

Finally the chattering stopped. I waited a few more minutes, looking about for a weapon with which to defend myself.

I thought about tossing a towel over him. Not my towel, of course.

That could be risky if he escaped, so I passed on the idea.

I grabbed my roommate’s toothbrush to defend myself and peeked out the door.

The little fur-pig was scarfing down the rest of my breakfast.

He glowered back at me, trying to chirp, but was too full to say much.

Instead, in a gesture of squirrelly rebellion, he pushed over my glass of juice, as if to say, “Let this be a warning.”

I thought I could slink down the hallway to my room, get my keys and leave.

He saw me try to escape and jumped to the floor again, running toward me, amazingly quick for a chubby chunk of fur.

I was forced to retreat back into the bathroom.

This went on for nearly forty minutes. That corpulent rodent held rule over my house, keeping me trapped in the bathroom, while he trashed the kitchen.

I was now quite late for class. Finally, he was gone.

The first facet of an event is the experience itself. The rest, the sizzle to the steak as it were, is in the telling.

I suppose I could have lied to my professor and invented a believable story to explain my tardiness.

In hindsight that would have served me better than the peals of laughter that met my telling of the showdown with that little urban bulldozing fur-ball.

And to the person who left the stuffed squirrel in my seat in class the next day — I WILL find you.

By Annie Mannix
Campus Chronicles
101 Humorous and Uplifting Stories about Life on Campus
http://www.chickensoup.com/
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 25, 2015

There was a tiny little mouse that decided it was time to live in a house.

He checked the entire neighborhood, through the thickened weeds; to find a place of his his own, one that would fit his needs.

When all at once he saw a home; with an old man who lived there all alone.

He stopped by garbage cans and such, to tell his friends he’d be out of touch; with many sad and teary goodbyes, he left the streets as he let out a sigh.

He settled into the place he called home, and decided to be friends …with the old man who lived alone.

The first night he spent there, he looked all around to see what he’d find, and here’s what he found …

Some pictures of a loving wife, and some kids that he had given life; he saw a letter left in the drawer, And when he read it, this is what he saw …

“My dear, dear husband, I soon will be gone, but please be strong and try to go on; I hope that our children will be kind to you, I hate to leave you darlin’, but my life on earth is through.”

All at once the phone rang loud, the old man answered it and he sounded very proud …”No son, it’s fine … I have places to go, besides, around Christmas, I’m afraid of the snow; Billy, you have a good holiday and please tell the kids Grandpa’s gifts are on their way.”

He hung up the phone and dried away a tear, he looked up toward the Heaven’s and said, “I miss you so, my dear.”

He went to a chair and put on the TV, and changed the channels for something to see; when all at once, he saw me standing there, I thought he’d try to chase me but all he did was stare.

He said, “Hi you little critter … welcome to my home! now I feel much better for I am not alone.”

Well, that was a while ago when all this came about, and now I’m feeling awful … they just carried his body out.

I have such wonderful memories, he was such a gentle old man; I remember the dinners that we’d share, as he fed me right out of his hand.

I never saw his children … Well … not until today; as they went through the entire house and carted things away.

I must go back into the streets where friends of mine still roam; but I’ll miss the old man who lived here, for He made his house my home.

Author Unknown - Please comment if you know the author
 so credit can be given
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 25, 2005

“Happy birthday, Jane!”

Inwardly, I groaned. Couldn’t our too-efficient receptionist have forgotten to consult her calendar just this once?

“Thanks, Carol.” I tried to inject enthusiasm into my tone as I zoomed into my office. The less said about this momentous occasion, the better.

However, by leaning forward at her desk, Carol could look through the open doorway right toward my desk. She did this, beaming a huge smile at me. “Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty! Planning a big celebration tonight?”

“Nah. Just family.”

My mother would probably bring over a cake, and my sole hope for the day was that it would be her heavenly chocolate, full of fruit and nuts and spices.

My daughter, Kathy, had the night off from the movie theater where she worked part-time – “shoveling popcorn,” as she put it – and my son, Stewart, would have finished his paper route long before I got home.

We would sit down together to something quick and simple, maybe the tacos the kids liked. No romantic candlelit dinners for this birthday girl.

Carol’s smile widened, if that was possible. “It’s nice with just family.”

Faker that I was, I agreed. Then I grabbed my coffee mug and scurried off.

Unfortunately, to get to the kitchen, I had to pass through the art department. One of the designers looked up and chortled, “Over the hill now, huh, Jane?”

“Rub it in, Bill,” I grumbled. Still on the sunny side of thirty, Bill just grinned.

Another designer, Dottie, was a little more perceptive and with good reason. At about forty-five, she was even more shopworn than I was.

“You know what the French say, don’t you?” She peered up at me slyly through her auburn bangs. “They don’t think a woman is even worth noticing till she’s forty.”

I grimaced. “I don’t know any Frenchmen.”

Back in my office, my desk was turned so that my back was to the raw January day outside; it didn’t matter, I was more than capable of making my own gloom.

As I slurped coffee, I summarized in my head: I had achieved no real career, just a low-paying job as a small-time copywriter. I had salted away no savings.

I had provided my children with none of the things that all their friends had: No cell phones, laptops, palm pilots, mp3 players or even vacations. They never complained, but I worried.

Worst of all, for one who had spent her childhood playing Cinderella, I had failed – both in my marriage and during the three years since it had ended – to find true love.

Yes, I was having a pity party and I invited no one. I was silently sulking; it seemed life had passed me by.

Just then, I was startled out of my lamenting when I heard an unfamiliar voice speak my name in a questioning tone.

I looked up. “Yes?” A man was standing in my doorway holding some sort of huge, shapeless mass covered in tissue paper.

“Flowers for you.”

He stepped forward, deposited what he claimed to be flowers on the corner of my desk and disappeared.

Carol took his place in the doorway and demanded, “Did somebody send you flowers?”

“I guess so,” I replied, dazed.

“Some secret admirer you forgot to tell me about?”

I tried a shaky laugh. “I doubt that.”

“Well, aren’t you going to look at them?”

“Well… yeah.” As I ripped away the tissue, I wondered if Carol could possibly be right. Had I somehow impressed one of the few men who had taken me out?

My rational side butted in to remind me that wasn’t likely. Maybe the people in the office or a kind client had taken pity on me.

The bouquet that emerged from the tissue paper was an enormous sheaf of spring flowers: irises, daisies, carnations – quite a contrast with the scene outside my window. I was stunned. These were expensive. “Who?” I thought out loud.

“Well, see who they’re from,” practical Carol ordered.

I fumbled for the card. The tiny envelope bore my name in the unfamiliar handwriting of someone at a florist shop, so I pulled out the card.

“Dear Mom.” I smiled as I recognized the self-conscious, curlicue letters I had watched develop for seventeen years:

“Today, life begins – right mom?
Happy Birthday, Mom. Thanks for being my mom.
Love,
Kathy.”

My eyes stung. Of course. Who else could it have been but Kathy?

Kathy, who had lent me her favorite top because she thought I had nothing suitable to wear to a party.

Kathy, who had offered to split weekend nights out with me so someone would always be home with Stewart.

Kathy, who had once found me sitting alone in the dark, sat down with me and whispered, “Mom, what’s wrong?”

Kathy, who loved me more than life itself. Tears began to stream.

I reached out and started touching petals. Each festive pastel made a memory spring forth and I thought with tender dismay that my hardworking daughter could ill afford such an extravagant gesture.

Dottie appeared next to Carol. “Oooh, flowers! Who from?”

I blinked against my tears and said proudly, “My daughter.”

“Aaaw,” Carol cooed. “That’s so sweet.”

I could tell it was more of an effort for Dottie. “That’s very nice.”

My only answer was the radiant smile a woman is supposed to wear on her birthday. I just couldn’t hide the fact that I had all along, love that counts.

My two children were my love and my joy. They were two wonderful reasons to get up every morning and look forward to each day.

My beautiful daughter Kathy had just reminded me once more that life was not passing me by; it was home waiting on me.

A wonderful return on my years of investment. I no longer felt old. I felt loved and I felt blessed. Very blessed.

Happy Returns By Jane Robertson 
From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Mothers and Daughters
http://www.chickensoup.com

 

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 24, 1994

In my high school, one of the most popular cliques was a group of ten or so preppy, sporty, attractive girls who splatter-painted white Juicy Couture jumpsuits that said “Seniors ’08” in their senior year and wore them around school every other Friday.

They were dubbed The Jumps at graduation. When I heard this I almost died with laughter and then practically dissolved into tears.

“Oh no,” I thought, “I had witnessed a stereotypical high school experience; With clique names and everything. Oh the shame.”

I was under the impression that traditions like this would be replaced in college by “real” groups of friends who enjoyed each other’s company and bonded in healthy friendship and happiness forever and ever.

My first week at College was a whirlwind of sleepless “New Student Week” excitement. I made good friends with my peer advisor, a girl named Michelle.

I was drawn to her awesome theatrical resume, and since theatre was my major, I decided to interview her about it.

Apparently, she was the most accomplished sophomore in the theatre program, having worked on thirteen theatrical productions in her freshman year on the production and management end of things.

I stared wide-eyed as she explained her achievements and all the opportunities she had been exposed to and taken advantage of in the theatre culture on campus. She had a ton of hilarious and cool friends.

She got great grades. She knew what classes to take. I had gone to College to be her. She was my college role model, the big sister I never had.

I decided right then and there, the first day of New Student Week, to become Michelle as soon as humanly possible.

I developed a plan. I would study her brilliance with precision and subtle persistence, never letting on that my desire was to become just like her; instead I would flatter her enough and be “cool” enough that she would think I was the logical choice for a mentee/apprentice.

One night, Michelle introduced me to her friend Jim who was producing a show with a student theatre group that I wanted to join.

We talked about the show he was producing and how interested I was in participating. Michelle bragged about me, “This girl is the next big thing; she’s awesome.”

Later that night, I received an e-mail from Jim asking me to assistant produce the show.

I had six heart attacks and screamed and woke my roommate. I couldn’t believe it! Me? Getting to assistant produce as a freshman in my first few weeks of school?

I could hardly breathe. Things were starting for me. I’d make connections in the student theatre network and do more productions and then I’d be on my way to being just like Michelle. I patted myself on the back.

I was on a cloud for another couple of days until one night I received a text from Michelle: “What r u up 2 tonite?”

My heart skipped. Could she actually be asking me to hang out with her? Impossible. She had older friends. They wouldn’t actually want to hang out with me.

“Come over 2 my apartment at 10.”

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. I knew that Michelle was going to be my mentor but I couldn’t imagine that she was going to be my friend, too. I was going to be in her group of friends!

She was my “in” to social success, as well as academic success. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I felt like I’d pulled in the big fish and now it was taking me for a joy ride around the water.

I spent about thirty minutes choosing what to wear. I tried to look casual and put-together at the same time. I left twenty minutes early so I wouldn’t get lost. I rehearsed a few things to say and a few jokes.

I smiled in my pocket mirror. I did breathing exercises to calm my heart. I felt three years younger than I actually was, so unprepared and unqualified.

I knocked on the apartment door and they let me in excitedly. There were mixers all over the counter and one of Michelle’s friends held two bottles of liquor in each hand.

“Oh my God, she’s here, our little freshman!” he said.

“Welcome to Wednesdays,” Michelle laughed.

I walked in, smiling and tentative. I felt naked. All six of them were staring at me…no, they were probing. Sometimes you can just feel when you are being judged.

But I kept my composure and laughed along with them as they told jokes and gossiped about everyone they knew, about who said what stupid thing and who did what unbelievable thing.

They asked what drink I would like and read me the list of mixers. I didn’t plan on drinking but I asked for an apple-tini because it was the first thing that came to mind. I held it all night.

Finally, when they were drunk and I thought they wouldn’t notice, I went to the bathroom and dumped out my drink in the sink.

But they caught me and when I returned they said, “Oh, the old dump-it-in-the-sink trick. Did you guys see that?”

They kept asking me, drunkenly, “So who are you, Hannah? Give us the dish. We want to hear all your dirty secrets.”

I’d try to change the subject, not because I had dirty secrets, but because I was worried that if we got into it, they’d see how really innocent I was and I’d feel even more naked than I already felt.

But what caught my attention most was their continual mention of the word “Wednesdays.” It became more than just a day of the week when they talked about it. It was like a name.

I asked them what “Wednesdays” were. Michelle laughed and looked at Jim and said, “You explain.”

Jim told me that last year they had all started drinking together on Wednesdays. Once everybody sort of knew about it, they started calling themselves Wednesdays.

He told me they were trying to find a new member, so they wanted me to come tonight. Then another guy leaned forward and said, “This is an audition.”

They laughed it off like they’d been joking, but even with all that popcorn-fluff I could feel that kernel of truth at the bottom of the bowl.

I kept smiling, but said that I should probably leave.

I lay in my bed that night trying to think what they reminded me of. I was stumped. I couldn’t figure out what had gone so wrong.

I tried to put together the pieces: they were judgmental, gossiping, humorous but rude, conceited and exclusive. They had a name….

It hit me then exactly who they were; they were The Jumps.

And my heart sank as I realized what I had done. I had set myself up for this to happen. I thought being “cool” was what I wanted. But this was not what I wanted.

I’d thought college would be nothing like high school. But then I realized we bring who we are to college…or anywhere else we go.

What we put in us, stays with us. If we are not careful, we can absorb negative social traits in our desire to belong.

I no longer desired for Michelle to be my mentor, my connection to the in crowd or even my friend. I wish she hadn’t invited me to that night.

Michelle never invited me again. She spoke to me cordially on occasion, but I mostly tried to avoid her.

She set up a lunch date to check on me out of obligation and then cancelled the day of the lunch. I was relieved.

I have a new group of friends now. I don’t feel naked in front of them. I don’t have to drink an apple-tini, pretend to be cool or gossip about everyone I know.

They are not perfect, but being with them feels like sticking my hand into fresh soil. It feels tangible, authentic, and organic. I can be me. It feels like how I thought college would feel. It feels like home.

Hannah Greene
From Campus Chronicles
Chicken Soup for the Soul
http://www.chickensoup.com

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