Wood – A short story

“Wood”, he said, “That’s all it is.” Bran looked skeptically at the lumberjack wearing the weathered face of a 70-year-old, who was really only aged 45. Bran wasn’t sure whether his face looked like that because of hard work or his pessimism. It didn’t matter. It’s not like he was going to participate in a beauty contest. Looking straight into the face of bitterness called Nathan, he wasn’t expecting anything good to come out of this conversation. “I’d gladly chop it down for you, you know – that eyesore.” “It’s special to me and it’s on my property. Does it really bother you that much?” “Yes!”, Nathan said, sounding austere. “You know, being around this tree just makes me feel special. I don’t know; it’s a living being and it seems to be happy with me. Maybe I’m just sounding ridiculous…” Bran wanted to continue on the beauty of life and energy around us, but Nathan had no interest in his thoughts. He was dead-set on getting rid of that awful tree with its branches hanging over his driveway. “Yes, you are. I’m telling you, it’s just wood. How idiotic can you be to think for even a second that trees have feelings?” “Well”, Bran replied hesitatingly, “It was just a thought…” “And a stupid one at that! I want you to send that tree to your ridiculous tree-nirvana. You hear me?!” “If it really bothers you that much…” “Yes, it does, Bran. Yes, it does. Do you know how often I have to sweep your leaves off of my driveway and do you realize how much of my sunlight your tree is blocking?” “Okay, if it really bothers you that much, I guess you can go ahead. You can keep the wood. I’ll be inside if you need me.” Nathan didn’t say a word; not even ‘thanks’. He didn’t even seem grateful or relieved that the tree would be out of his way. Bran shrugged his shoulders and figured Nathan no longer needed him. He needed some time to unwind.

After a good night’s sleep, it was time to check on his neighbor’s progress. Nathan had been eager to leave Bran with nothing more than a stub that served solely as a reminder that his only tree was gone now. But at least he left his property clean. Bran was curious to see if Nathan was satisfied with the change. He himself sure wasn’t. There was nothing but death in the air and he would no longer be able to pick up that indescribable feeling of vastness and peace the tree used to radiate. Perhaps hoping for Nathan to express at least a glimpse of contentment was too much. Bran rang his doorbell anyway. It remained quiet inside for a while, but after about a minute and a half Nathan opened his front door. “What do you want?” He sounded defensive, as if Bran was going to spit venom. “I saw you finished the job. I was just curious to see if you’re satisfied.” “If I have any more complaints, I’ll let you know.” Bran couldn’t tell if Nathan was happy with the tree out of the way, but at least he wasn’t complaining anymore. “Anything else?” “No, everything’s good.” Hearing that, the 45-year-old slammed the door. Bran was now thoroughly convinced that his neighbor would never be happy. Having him as a neighbor for a little over 20 years, he had heard one complaint after another. Never did he smile, whistle, sing or say ‘hello’. And a ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ was evidently way too much for him. It really wouldn’t have made that much of a difference if Bran had simply kept his tree, but it was too late for regrets. He knew that the best thing he could do was to accept his mistake. He didn’t want to end up like his neighbor. He wanted to be happy. His tree wasn’t the most important thing in the world. That, by the way, tied in with the remark Nathan made a few years ago, “Yes, Bran, the world does revolve around me!”

But the world stopped revolving a few days later. Nathan’s aneurysm had ruptured, causing a stroke. Once again, death was in the air. This time around, however, it meant peace. It wasn’t the kind of peace Bran used to get from his tree, but the nagging noise that would fill the heads and hearts of everyone who’d be around Nathan was gone forever. Even the pebbles around Nathan’s driveway seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. The source of constant negativity was gone. This was a perfect time to plant a seed. Perhaps Nathan deserved some respect. Bran agreed with himself that the tree wouldn’t be on his property; it would be on Nathan’s.  Not to aggravate him, but to symbolically send him the kind of peace he had never experience in life. Maybe he’d see things more clearly in death. Or maybe he’d have another stroke wherever it is you go when you pass away. But Bran hoped that Nathan would one day finally recognize those little breaths of joy that he himself experienced around him all the time. Or just one little breath, really; his own.

Copyright ©2015 Didier Strijdonk

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The case for GMO-labeling: Biotech companies were wrong about the Bt-toxin

This is concerning almost all US corn. The problem is that while the Bt-toxin-producing gene found in GMO corn was at first said by the biotech companies to be safe for human consumption, because it wouldn’t bind with the intestinal walls of mammals, it actually is shown that it does bind with the intestinal walls of mice and even rhesus monkeys. This Bt-toxin ruptures the intestinal walls of insects and while it (most likely) doesn’t rupture ours, it might still affect us; especially since corn is in so many products and it does (rhesus monkeys are genetically very close to humans, so it’s highly probable to be a fact) bind with our intestinal walls.

But that’s not all; according to a study, Bt-toxin is found in the blood of:
-93 percent of pregnant women tested
-80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies, and
-67 percent of non-pregnant women

Remember, this Bt-toxin-producing gene is in almost all US corn, which is used in countless processed foods and used for feeding most livestock. It could be in your blood and you have no idea what it does to your body. Thank the biotech companies for saying it’s safe, while independent research shows it does what biotech companies told us it wouldn’t do. It’s our health and the biotech companies simply don’t care.

Now think about all the other GMOs that biotech companies claimed to be safe. We can’t be sure they are. Independent research has shown in multiple cases that GMOs aren’t as innocent as biotech companies want us to believe. And this is why I believe that we should stop making and growing GMOs.

Oh, and that Bt-toxin-producing gene? It made corn root worms that it was supposed to kill resistant. So now we’re left with an invention that not only fails to do what it was intended to do (kill corn root worms), but also may cause damage to our bodies.

So unless we wish to blindly trust biotech companies on their claims that have proven to be false in the past and let ourselves be experimented on, we have to push for GMO-labeling.

Source: http://www.realfarmacy.com/eating-turn-gut-living-pesticide-factory/

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Book Launch – Animal Short Stories for the Heart and Mind

I just published my first book, a children’s book containing 25 animal short stories for ages 6 and up, this December 3rd, 2014. I am super excited and can’t wait to start donating money to WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) in the name of this book.

I decided to donate $2.50 to WWF for every book sold through the CreateSpace website between December 3rd and December 10th, 2014! It’s in the spirit of the book and it feels great. Furthermore, parents will be able to tell their children that their book helps nature and are therefore setting a good example. And for December 11 until December 16th 2014, I am donating $5 to WWF for every book sold!

The book contains a foreword from both the animal kingdom and the author and a lesson summary of all the things that can be learned from the stories. It may not be a school book, but I felt it was right to make sure something can be learned from each and every story. I feel kids love entertainment, but are open to education as well; especially if you present it to them in the right way.

The book can be purchased at: https://www.createspace.com/5105096
The Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/animalshortstoriesfortheheartandmind

I started writing the short stories for my wife, Stephanie, back in 2013. I had 9 stories in total by Valentine’s Day and I had written 16 more by her birthday and made pencil drawings for all the stories. It seemed perfect to make into a book, so I colored the drawings in digitally with GIMP 2.8 and made a lesson summary. I made the front cover about a week before launch and did all editing, proof-reading etc. myself, which was a lot of work, but definitely worth it.

But enough talk about the book; it’s time to give you a little sneak-peek! Here’s my favorite stories, followed by 3 samples from the lesson summary:

Title page for one of my short stories from my book "Animal Short Stories for the Heart and Mind"

Title page for one of my short stories from my book “Animal Short Stories for the Heart and Mind”

A bunny lived in a backyard in a rabbit-cage, all alone. A boy would come to see her daily and greet her in a cheery tone. She had much love in her heart so small, she could not keep it in at all. So one day when she walked freely in the garden, she went on a trip to share the love she had.

She hopped into a nearby forest, knowing there were animals to hug. But whenever she’d come near them, their shoulders they would shrug. Her love they did not accept, but she’d still give them a warm embrace. She knew that in that special place, of love, there still had to be a trace. And thus she shared all that she had within.

Having hugged every animal in the forest, she decided to go into town. Little could this bunny have even known, that she was going to be in for a big letdown. That day, she heard the birds, but they didn’t come to greet her on the ground. The cats too said neither ‘hi’, nor ‘goodbye’ and this her did astound. And while she knew a dog that would always hug her, the ones she met didn’t even turn their heads. Even children didn’t touch her fur. They would only point at her, not recognizing the love she spreads.

“The world needs love!”, she screamed out loud, but the world wouldn’t listen to her shout. In disappointment, she wanted to go home, but she had forgotten the way back. “Help me!”, her heart screamed out to someone she’d later meet; someone for whom her heart would forever beat. She recalled a lighthouse she had seen once in a beautiful dream. She saw it and approached it, for a good idea this sure did seem; after all, this is where she was once saved by her soul mate.

At the beach she then arrived, where her heart would be revived. She sat down and stared attentively at the sea. She had dreamed of this miraculous place, but why could this be? She tried to figure it out and then came a monkey. She noticed him and she could tell something about him made her feel well. She said ‘hi’ and into his eyes she gazed. For some reason, by him she was amazed. She asked for a hug and got magic in return.

Both the monkey and the bunny felt an incredible wave of love in their hearts. They now knew they had known each other in a previous life. “You”, the monkey thought, “I want to make you my wife!” And the bunny, she felt the same. They both felt the burning flame; the warmth of love in their hearts. And so, “I think I love you”, the monkey said, afraid she didn’t feel the same. But she sure did and they stayed at the beach for hours, which seemed to them like mere minutes.

“You and I, we’re not the same”, the bunny remarked. “Well, does it matter?”, the monkey asked. The bunny replied, “No it doesn’t, for we have love, but what if there’s a monkey waiting for you?” “There isn’t”, answered the monkey, “there isn’t one for me in the woods.” “Then promise me you’ll stay with me”, the bunny said and this the monkey did.

“I am lost, though, and I need to find my home”, the bunny stated. Then the monkey answered, “Do you see that light coming from the lighthouse, Bunny? That will lead us back home.” “You’re right, Monkey!”, she exclaimed, “I could see it from my house.”

Now reunited in this life, these soul mates were together and went home; happily ever after.

Appreciation
No matter how much you have and how good people are to you, if you don’t appreciate things, nothing will make you happy. Appreciating the big things is easy, but it is only when you embrace the small, everyday things, that you’ll find it a breeze to stay happy. The ultimate form of appreciation is that for simply being alive. Every breath you take can bring happiness into your life.
The Duck

Bullying
Growing up, you may be bullied for who you are, but don’t let this discourage you from following your dreams. Bullies are never truly happy and often bully you for having something they don’t have, which can be a feeling, skill, friendship, love or possession. Don’t let them take anything away from you and try not to let them get to you. Ask others to be there for you, but most importantly, stay who you are.
The Dolphin, The Mole, The Chicken

Dreams
We all have dreams we want to chase. You may have wild fantasies or just a small, realistic wish. Whatever your dream is, if chasing it makes you happy, then do it. Some wild dreams will come true, while others may not. Unless you try to achieve your goals, you will never know. And if you can’t get what you wish, you learn from trying to get it.
The Hedgehog

The book is available now for $14.95 and $2.50 of that will be donated to WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) per book sold between December 3rd and December 10th if you buy it here:
https://www.createspace.com/5105096

Don’t forget to drop by the book’s Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/animalshortstoriesfortheheartandmind

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Banana Pancakes and Peanut Butter Waffles

For the past couple of days, I’ve eaten banana pancakes  and have even tried a banana & peanut butter waffle. They’re healthy, filling and they taste great! Whichever one you choose, it’s a wonderful way to start your day. And as an added bonus, why not add some oats? Sounds a lot better than oatmeal, doesn’t it?

The banana pancake is rather easy to make, although flipping it is a little tricky. I recommend using either a non-stick pan or coconut oil (it doesn’t really taste like anything and since you’re going healthy, you might prefer a healthy oil). When the edges start to look like they’re done, but the top is still raw, pry under the pancake all the way round with your spatula to make sure it’s not stuck to the pan. When you’re ready to flip, move the pancake to the side and flip it over with 2 hands. It may break, but in my experience, this is a better bet than using your spatula. However, safety first, so if you’re afraid you might burn your fingers, go for the spatula.

Pancake ingredients (thoroughly mixed with a fork):
2 eggs
1 grated banana (preferably without brown spots on peel for best ripeness; don’t add peel
Optional: 1/3 cup (advised) to ½ cup of oats (my preference, but the maximum)
Approx. calories: 250, 350 or 400 (no oats – 1/3 cup oats, 1/2 cup oats)
The banana & peanut butter waffle is a little easier, since you won’t have to worry about flipping it. However, you will have to heat up 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to make the mixing of the ingredients a little easier. Admittedly, I used cold peanut butter on my first go and while it makes the mixing harder and the batter less consistent, it works. I do, however, advise warming up the peanut butter.

Waffle ingredients (thoroughly mixed):
2 eggs
1 grated banana (preferably without brown spots on peel for best ripeness; don’t add peel)
2 tablespoons of warm peanut butter (hard to mix when cold)
Optional: 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oats
Important: If you add oatmeal, divide batter into 2 batches to prevent overflow
Approx. calories: 450, 550 or 600 calories (no oats – 1/3 cup – ½ cup)
Whether you like banana, want healthy breakfast or are looking for a post-workout meal, the pancake is a terrific option. Granted, it doesn’t taste exactly like pancakes, but it will be sweet and so adding sugar won’t be necessary. The waffle is a good alternative, but only if you like peanut butter. And no matter which one you prefer, I honestly can’t think of a better way to eat those oats!

P.S. Because peanut butter obviously isn’t the best thickening agent and I’m trying to avoid sugar and flour, I might do an update on the “banana waffle” (I hope to make it taste more like banana) later.  Besides the added calories, the taste is just, well… peanut-buttery. While I will experiment some more with the waffle ingredients, suggestions are welcome.

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