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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 26, 1998

It started last fall when we had a beaver move in the small stream beside our house. He immediately began taking down small trees  and within a couple of weeks our small stream turned into a small pond. Everyday he added more to his damn and to his house.

We’re sure you’ve all heard the saying, “busy as a beaver”, but we never really appreciated it until we saw the work that this beaver did over a very short period of time.

With the stream now damned and his house built, we thought that would be the last of the beaver’s busy activity as winter set in. But, to our amazement, he started chewing on a very large maple tree. And, we mean large. The tree is over 60 feet tall and is approximately five feet in diameter at the base. We were amazed at the challenge this beaver was attempting.

Over the winter, he would come out and chew a bit more. He had setbacks as we faced major winter storms and freezing weather. We thought that he will never chew through this tree. But sure enough, when the weather allowed, he kept coming back and would chew a bit more.

With spring finally arriving, we went down to see the beaver’s progress and sure enough the tree is going to come down soon!! Our beaver has now almost completely chewed around and through the entire tree.

The beaver’s original goal was survival – to build a home for the winter. Working every day with that particular focus in mind, he achieved that goal. But the large maple tree he started chewing on last fall was a future goal – he wanted the large tree for the spring, to provide new food and branches to continue damning in anticipation of the spring thaw. And, even with the setbacks he faced over the winter, he never gave up.

Our point in sharing our beaver experience with you is to remind you that sometimes we have a goal to just survive, but we also need to set goals for tomorrow. And sometimes, just surviving seems to occupy all of our time – working everyday, looking after our family, going to school and so forth. But, if we do just a little bit when times allows, keep focused on our future goal and not let setbacks discourage us, we will achieve it.

By Byron and Catherine Pulsifer
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 20, 2006

It had been a busier than usual week, and trying to cope with a stiff neck had made it worse. By Thursday afternoon I had used up my supply of energy and patience. All I wanted to do was to get home, put on a comfortable robe, fix a bowl of good hot soup and collapse with my feet up.

So when I pulled into the driveway and saw my daughter-in-law Wanda’s car, I groaned in despair. I had forgotten it was Bryan’s night.

Since his parents’ separation, I had tried to have my six-year-old grandson spend a few hours with me at least once a week. I always tried to make it a special time for him. We cooked his favorite meal – chicken and cranberry sauce – or went to his favorite hamburger place. Then either a movie or a walk through the park, and home for some fun together. We’d get down on the floor and have car races. Sometimes we’d make candy, or maybe read some silly or scary book. Bryan delighted in all these activities, and so did I. Usually.

Tonight there was no way I could handle it. I was going to have to postpone our evening together until next week. I hugged them both and then explained how badly I was feeling.

“Bryan, honey, I’m sorry,” I said. “Tonight your Grandma Joan isn’t up to any fun and games. Just a nice hot bowl of soup, a lazy hour of TV and then early to bed. We’ll have our night together some other time.”

Bryan’s smile faded, and I saw the disappointment in his eyes. “Dear Lord, forgive me,” I prayed, “but I’m really not up to it tonight. I need this night to relax and renew myself.”

Bryan was looking up at me solemnly. “I like soup, Grandma.”

My grandmother’s heart knew what he was really saying. In his own way, he was saying, “Please don’t send me away. Please let me stay.”

I heard Wanda say, “No, Bryan. Grandma Joan’s too tired tonight. Maybe next week.”

But in Bryan’s eyes, I saw the shadow, the uncertainty. Something else was changing. Maybe Grandma Joan wouldn’t want to have him come anymore. Not tonight, not next week, not ever.

I hesitated and then tried again. “Just soup and TV, Bryan. No car games on the floor for me tonight, no baking cookies, no books. I probably won’t be awake very long.”

“I like soup,” he repeated.

With a sigh of resignation, I gave in and placed my hand on his shoulder. “Then you are cordially invited to dine at my castle. The meal will be small, but the company will be delightful. Escort the Queen Mother in, please, Sir Bryan.”

It was worth it to see his eyes light up and hear him giggle as he made a mock bow and replied, “Okay, your Royal Highness.”

While I put the soup on the stove and changed into my robe, Bryan set up trays and turned on the television set.

I must have dozed off after the first few sips of soup. When I woke up, there was an afghan over my legs, the bowls and trays were gone. Bryan was sprawled on the floor, dividing his attention between a coloring book and a television show. I looked at my watch. Nine o’clock. Wanda would be coming to get Bryan soon. Poor boy, what a dull time he must have had.

Bryan looked up with a smile. Then, to my surprise, he ran over and gave me a big hug. “I love you, Grandma,” he said, his arms still around my neck. “Haven’t we had a nice time together?”

His big smile and happy eyes told me that this time he meant exactly what he was saying.  And, to my surprise, I knew he was right. We really had had a nice time together.

That was the key word – together. We had done nothing exciting or special. I had slept in the chair. Bryan had colored and watched TV.  But we were together.

That night I realized something important.  Bryan’s visits don’t have to be a marathon of activity. The important thing is that he knows I love him and want him. He knows he has a place in my life, which is reserved particularly for him. A time that is just for us to be together.

Bryan still comes once a week. We still bake chicken or eat out, make cookies or go for a walk in the park. But every now and then we enjoy our favorite together time, our special feast of love – soup night.

By Joan Cinelli 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 24, 2004

I grew up on a farm in the mountains of northwest Arkansas. As children, my brother and I roamed every inch of the little mountain facing my parents’ house. We knew where every giant boulder and animal burrow was on that little piece of mountain bordering my dad’s farm.

One day, my grandpa came to visit from his home several miles away. We sat on the front porch swing looking at the mountain, and he began to tell me a story. It was a delightful tale about him and me living in a little cabin on the mountain.

 “Can you see it?” he asked. “It’s right there by that big acorn tree. See it?”

Of course I saw it. What eight-year-old child wouldn’t see what her imagination wanted her to see?

 “We’re gonna live in that cabin. We’ll catch a wild cow for our milk and pick wild strawberries for our supper,” Grandpa continued. “I bet the squirrels will bring us nuts to eat. We’ll search the bushes for wild chickens and turkeys. The chickens will give us eggs, and we’ll cook us a turkey over the big ol’ fireplace. Yep, we’ll do that some day.”

From that day on, every time I saw my grandpa, I asked when we would go to live in that little log cabin on the mountain. Then he’d once more spin the story of how the two of us would live in the cabin with the wildflowers and wild animals around us.

Time raced on; I grew into my teens and gradually forgot Grandpa’s story. After graduating high school, I still saw Grandpa and loved him dearly, but not like that little girl did. I grew out of the fantasy of the log cabin and wild cows.

Before long, I married and set up my own house. One day, the phone rang. When I heard my daddy’s sorrowful voice, I knew my grandpa had left us. He had been in his garden behind his house and died there, his heart forever stopped.

I grieved alongside my mother for my dear grandpa, remembering his promises of the cabin in the woods with all its animals and flowers. It seemed I could once again hear his voice telling me the fantasy we shared. I felt my childhood memories being buried with him.

Less than a year later, I went to visit my parents’ farm. Mama and I sat on the front porch admiring the green foliage of the mountain. It had been ten months since Grandpa had passed away, but the longing to hear his voice one more time was still fresh in my soul.

I told Mama about the story Grandpa had always told me, of the cabin in the woods, the wild cow, the chickens and turkey. “Mama,” I said after I had finished my story, “would you mind if I went for a walk by myself?”

“Of course not,” was her reply.

 I changed into old jeans and put on my walking shoes. Mama cautioned me to be careful and went on with her chores.

The walk was invigorating. Spring had come to the country, and everything was getting green. Little Johnny-jump-ups were springing up all over the pastures. New calves were following their mamas begging for milk. At the foot of the mountain, I stopped. Where did Grandpa say that acorn tree was?

“Straight up from the house,” I thought I heard him say.

I began my journey up the little mountain. It was steeper than I remembered, and I was out of shape. I trudged on, determined to find that tree.

Suddenly the ground leveled out. I was amazed to see what was before me. Soft green moss covered a small, flat clearing. Dogwood trees, smothered in pastel blooms, surrounded it. Off to the side stood a tall oak tree — Grandpa’s acorn tree! Scattered among the tufts of moss were vibrant colors of wild wood violets. Green rock ferns and pearly snowdrops were scattered about as well. I could hardly catch my breath.

I don’t know how long I stood there — several minutes, I suppose. Finally I came to my senses and sat down on the moss. In all my childhood wanderings on the mountain, I had never seen this magically beautiful place. Was this what Grandpa meant when he pointed out our special spot on the mountainside all those years ago? Did he know this was here?

A squirrel darted in front of me. He had a nut in his mouth. I watched as he scampered up the oak tree. No, I didn’t see a wild cow or chickens. But in my heart, I knew they were there somewhere.

I decided to go tell Mama what I had found. She would want to see it, too. Before I left I took one more look. It was the most beautiful place I could have ever imagined.

It didn’t take me as long to get back to the house. I burst into the kitchen babbling about the clearing on the side of the mountain. Mama calmed me down enough so she could understand what I was talking about. Daddy heard the conversation and tried to convince me there was no such place up there. He knew the mountain and had never seen anything like that.

On my insistence, he and Mama decided to go see the amazing place I was raving about. Once again I climbed the mountain straight up from the house. Before I knew it, we were at the top.

“We must have missed it,” I told my dad.

He just nodded and we retraced our steps. We searched for over an hour for that little place on the mountain. We never found it. I was devastated.

On the way back home, Mama put her arms around my shoulders.

“Sissy,” she said, “you know what you saw, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I know what I saw and I know it’s there somewhere. We just missed it.”

“No, sweetie, it’s not there anymore. You saw God’s garden. Only special people can see that. Your grandpa loved you so much, and he knew you were grieving inside. Hold that memory in your heart.”

I’m fifty-two years old now. Every time I go back to Mama’s house and sit on the porch, I remember the secret garden Grandpa told me about. But I no longer go out and look for it. No, I know just where it is.

By Bertha M. Sutliff    From Chicken Soup for the Soul: 
Stories of Faith Changing Lives One Story At A Time

 

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 21, 2003

Oscar was named after the Sesame Street character who lives in a garbage can because that is where we first became acquainted.  I was working at a pizza-delivery chain and had been assigned garbage duty.  While tossing bags into a dumpster, I heard a faint meow.  I began digging through the trash, and several layers down I found a cat – bruised and thin.  I wasn’t sure if the cat had crawled into the Dumpster to scavenge for food or if he had been put there purposely.  Our establishment sat directly behind an apartment complex, and unsupervised and abandoned pets were common.

Back on solid ground, it became evident that the cat had an injured leg.  He couldn’t put any weight on his right hindquarters.  The situation created a dilemma for me.  Finances were tight, and I was moving back home to my parents’ house – with two cats already in tow.  Dad barely tolerated the two established felines.  His reaction to another injured stray was sure to be less than receptive.

I took the stray to the vet, hoping to patch him up.  After shots and X-rays, the vet discovered the cat had a cracked pelvis.  I posted notices, hoping someone would claim the cat or adopt him.

Meanwhile, the response at home was swift and firm: No more cats!  Dad insisted I take the cat to the Humane Society immediately.  I protested that the cat would be put to sleep.  Luckily, my mother intervened.  She agreed the injury would make the cat unadoptable, so we would keep him long enough for his hip to heal.  Then he would have to go – no arguments.

Oscar must have somehow understood his situation.  He seemed to study the other two cats and their interactions with my father.  We suspect he bribed Tanner, our golden retriever, with table scraps in exchange for etiquette lessons.  When the other cats were aloof, Oscar was attentive.  He came when his name was called, and he would roll over on his back to have his belly scratched.  As his injury began to heal, he would jump on the ottoman by my father’s favorite chair, and, eventually, into his lap.  Initially, Dad pushed Oscar away, but persistence paid off.  Soon, Oscar and a muttering Dad shared the chair.

At mealtimes, Oscar would come to sit with us.  Positioned on the floor by my father’s chair, every so often Oscar would reach up with one paw and tap Dad on the knee.  At first, this provoked great irritation and colorful expletives expressed in harsh tones.  Oscar, however, refused to be put off.  Repetitive knee-taps soon led to semi-covert handouts of choice morsels.

Oscar greeted my father at the top of the stairs every morning and waited for him at the door every evening.  My father sometimes ignored Oscar, and, at other times, stepped over him, complaining the whole time.  Oscar mastered opening doors by sticking his paw underneath the door and rocking it back and forth until it opened.  Soon, he was sleeping in the master bedroom at the foot of the bed.  My father was completely disgusted, but couldn’t stop the cat from sneaking onto the bed while they were sleeping.  Eventually, Dad gave up.

Before long, Oscar, aspiring to his own place at the table during meals, began jumping up into my lap.  He was allowed to stay as long as his head remained below table level.  Of course, an occasional paw would appear as a reminder of his presence.

Three months passed, and the vet pronounced Oscar healthy and healed.  I was heartbroken.  How could I take this loving soul away from what had become his home, from the people he trusted?  Sick at heart, I brought Oscar home and told my parents what should have been good news: Oscar was a healthy cat with a healed hip.  “I’ll take him to the Humane Society like I promised,” I said dully.

As I turned to put Oscar in the carrier for the trip, my father spoke, uttering three magic words: “Not my cat!”

Oscar is home to stay.  He now has his own chair at the table and sleeps – where else? – in the master bedroom between my mother and father.  He is their official “grand-kitten” and living proof that deep within the most unlikely heart, there is a cat lover in all of us.

By Kathleen Kennedy

 

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 23, 2002

She was just an old golden retriever.  Her name was Brandy, and for eleven years she was the sole companion of an elderly woman who lived in a bungalow colony in the country.  Neighbors often saw the two of them together in the garden.  The woman would be hunched over picking flowers and there was that old dog, close at her heels or lying in the middle of the grass watching her pull weeds.  When the woman died, some relatives came and collected anything they thought was valuable and put a “For Sale” sign on the front lawn.  Then they locked the dog out and drove away.

Some of the neighbors left food out for Brandy, but mostly the dog stayed near the house that she knew and waited for her owner to come back.  A young mother who lived next door noticed the old retriever, but she had never been around animals before and while she thought the dog was friendly enough, she didn’t feel it was any of her concern.

However, when the dog wandered into her yard and began playing with eighteen-month-old Adam, she wanted to shoo the dirty thing away.  Adam was her only child and the light of her life.  But he was having so much fun feeding Brandy cookies she decided to let her stay.  After that, whenever Adam had cookies Brandy came by to visit.

One afternoon, the boy’s mother left Adam in the soft grassy yard to play while she answered the phone.  When she returned he was gone.  Just gone.  The mother was frantic. Neighbors came over to help in the search.  Police arrived and looked for three hours before calling in the state police and helicopters to do an extensive aerial search.  But no one could find the child, and as the sun set over the horizon, whispers of abduction, injury or even death crept into conversations.

The search had been going on for six hours when a neighbor, who’d just returned home, wondered where Brandy was.  Adam’s mother, hysterical with worry, didn’t understand why anyone was asking about the old dog at a time like this.

When someone suggested she might be with Adam, a trooper recalled hearing a dog barking deep in the woods when they were doing a foot search.  Suddenly, everybody started calling for Brandy.

They heard faint barking and followed the sound until they found the toddler, standing up fast asleep, pressed against the trunk of a tree.  That old dog was holding him there with one shoulder as one of her own legs dangled over a thirty-five-foot drop to a stream below.

Brandy had followed Adam when he wandered off.  When she saw danger, she’d pushed him out of harm’s way and held him safe for all those hours, even as the child struggled to get free.

As soon as the rescue team picked up Adam, the old dog collapsed.  A trooper carried Adam back home, while his mother, sobbing with relief, carried Brandy.  She was so grateful to the old golden retriever that Brandy spent the rest of her days with them.  Brandy lived to the ripe old age of seventeen.

But this story doesn’t end with just one life saved.  In Brandy’s honor, Adam’s mother, Sara Whalen, founded Pets Alive, a rescue sanctuary in New York that takes in unwanted animals, including those designated to be euthanized because they are old, blind, incontinent or perhaps not cute enough to be adopted.  While she can’t save them all, Sara feels comforted that she can help at least some of them.  She knows that if someone had put that old retriever to sleep, she could have easily lost the light of her life: her son.

Today, thirty years later, there are more than three hundred animals in her care, including birds, potbellied pigs, old horses retired from the carriage business and unadoptable pets from rescue groups across the country.  The woman who used to think an old, abandoned dog wasn’t any of her concern found that every life has value and has become a beacon for thousands of animals in need.

By Audrey Thomasson
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 21, 2001

Kleenex Alert!!!

Several years ago, a physician from southern France contacted me.  His granddaughter had taken ill with a disease that baffled the physicians there.  He called after reading several of my articles on disorders of the autonomic nervous system.  His granddaughter’s symptoms seemed to match those I had described, and he asked me if I could help.  I readily agreed, and for many months, I collaborated with the child’s French physicians by telephone and by fax, directing their diagnostic testing.  At last we came to a diagnosis, and I prescribed a course of therapy.  During the next several weeks, the child made a seemingly miraculous recovery.  Her grandparents expressed their heartfelt thanks and told me to let them know should I ever come to France.
In the summer of 1996, I was invited to speak at a large international scientific meeting that was held in Nice, France.  I sent word to the physician I had helped years before.  Upon my arrival at the hotel, I received a message to contact him.  I called him, and we arranged a night to meet for dinner.
On the appointed day, we met and then drove north to his home in the beautiful southern French countryside.  It was humbling to learn his home was older than the United States.  During the drive he told me that his wife had metastatic breast cancer and was not well, but she insisted upon meeting me.  When introduced to her, I saw that despite her severe illness, she was still a beautiful woman with a noble bearing.
I was thereafter treated to one of the most wonderful meals I have ever eaten, complemented by the most exquisite of wines.  After dinner, we sat in a seventeenth-century salon, sipping cognac and chatting.  Our conversation must have seemed odd to the young man and woman who served us because it came out in a free-flowing mixture of English, French and Spanish.  After a time the woman asked, “My husband tells me you are Jewish, no?”
“Yes,” I said, “I am a Jew.”
They asked me to tell them about Judaism, especially the holidays.  I did my best to explain and was astounded by how little they knew of Judaism.  She seemed to be particularly interested in Hannukah.
Once I had finished answering her questions, she suddenly looked me in the eye and said, “I have something I want to give to you.”  She disappeared and returned several moments later with a package wrapped in cloth.  She sat, her tired eyes looking into mine, and she began to speak slowly.
“When I was a little girl of eight years, during the Second World War, the authorities came to our village to round up all the Jews.  My best friend at that time was a girl of my age named Jeanette.  One morning when I came to play, I saw her family being forced at gunpoint into a truck.  I ran home and told my mother what had happened and asked where Jeanette was going.  ‘Don’t worry,’ she said, ‘Jeanette will be back soon.’  I ran back to Jeanette’s house only to find that she was gone and that the other villagers were looting her home of valuables, except for the Judaic items, which were thrown into the street.  As I approached, I saw an item from her house lying in the dirt.  I picked it up and recognized it as an object that Jeanette and her family would light around Christmas time.  In my little girl’s mind I said, ‘I will take this home and keep it for Jeanette until she comes back,’ but she and her family never returned.”
She paused and took a slow sip of brandy.  “Since that time I have kept it.  I hid it from my parents and didn’t tell a soul of its existence.  Indeed, over the last fifty years the only person who knew of it was my husband.  When I found out what really happened to the Jews, and how many of the people I knew had collaborated with the Nazis, I could not bear to look at it.  Yet I kept it, hidden, waiting for something, although I wasn’t sure what.  Now I know what I was waiting for.  It was you, a Jew, who helped cure our granddaughter, and it is to you I entrust this.”
Her trembling hands set the package on my lap.  I slowly unwrapped the cloth from around it.  Inside was a menorah, but one unlike any I had seen before.  Made of solid brass, it had eight cups for holding oil and wicks and a ninth cup centered above the others.  It had a ring attached to the top, and the woman mentioned that she remembered that Jeanette’s family would hang it in the hallway of their home.  It looked quite old to me; later, several people told me that it is probably at least one hundred years old.  As I held it and thought about what it represented, I began to cry.  All I could manage to say was a garbled “merci.”  As I left, her last words to me were “Il faudra voir la lumière encore une fois” – it should once again see light.
I later learned that she died less than one month after our meeting.  This Hannukah, the menorah will once again see light.  And as I and my family light it, we will say a special prayer in honor of those whose memories it represents.  We will not let its lights go out again.

By Blair P. Grubb, M.D.
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 18, 2015

I was giving myself a bad time of it the other day. It was one of those moments when you question your life. I kept wondering if I had done enough to learn, to grow, to help others, and to make this world a better place. I was being a tough judge on myself too. It was then, however, that God in His infinite wisdom gave me peace by awakening in my mind an old story that I had read many years before.

The story begins when a young man taking a lone hiking trip loses his way and finds himself stranded without water in a desolate treeless valley. He is saved, though, when a widowed shepherd finds him and leads him to a spring. The man learns that the shepherd after losing his wife had decided to restore the ruined landscape by single-handedly planting a forest, tree by tree, with only a curling pole and acorns that he had collected from many miles away.

Many years later the man returns and finds a growing forest in the valley and the shepherd, now a bee keeper still at work cultivating and nurturing the woodland. The man continues to visit the valley each year and watches as over four decades the tree planter turns the valley into a Garden of Eden. In the end the man helps his friend to get the government to protect the forest and many people move there. He also visits him one last time as the now very old tree planter peacefully passes away.

Thinking of that story made me realize that each of us is a tree planter too. We plant trees of goodness with every loving thought we think, every kind word we share, and every caring act we do. We plant these trees each and everyday of our lives. We should waste no time judging ourselves then while there are more trees to plant. And at the end of our lives when we face our Heavenly Father, we can smile and see where a forest has grown.

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