Monday, April 14, 2014

Look Up at the Sky and Laugh

To be exact, today is both “Look Up at the Sky Day” and “Moment of Laughter Day.”
Of course Stretch has a great telescope, so he’s all ready to look up at the sky today.  I enjoy star gazing as well, but I usually do my sky watching with the naked eye or a good pair of binoculars, so I haven’t reached his level of expertise in identifying space objects.
The constellation I’m best at finding is Orion. In the winter, it’s easy to spot the three stars that make up Orion’s belt in the sky across from my balcony, and then I can trace a path up to Betelgeuse on Orion’s shoulder. Recently I discovered something new about this constellation—it also contains a monkey’s head!
Our readers know my affinity for monkeys, so of course I found this news exciting. The down side is that it takes something along the lines of the Hubble telescope to be able to get a view of this monkey head nebula. You can see it on the Hubble website where I found this picture and information:
To celebrate its 24th year in orbit, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has released a beautiful new image of part of NGC 2174, also known as the Monkey Head Nebula. This colourful region is filled with young stars embedded within bright wisps of cosmic gas and dust.
NGC 2174 lies about 6400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion.
The detail shown in this image lies within NGC 2174, a nebula which gets its more common name, the Monkey Head Nebula, from its curiously familiar shape when viewed in wide-field images.
Considering how I seem to get along with live monkeys (anyone who has been to a zoo with me will tell you stories about the antics they pull whenever I stop to talk to them or try to snap a quick photo), I think the Moment of Laughter that goes along with Look Up at the Sky Day can be attributed to the fact that there’s a hidden monkey laughing at me from my favorite constellation.
Stretch says he doesn’t see what the problem is with viewing the monkey head nebula, he can see it quite clearly through his telescope.

And he has an appropriate joke to give everyone a Moment of Laughter today:
Why did the monkey like the banana?
Because it had appeal!
Stretch says you’re invited to come have some chocolate covered bananas and gaze through his telescope tonight.
“Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God. Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the very nature of God.”  Sai Baba

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Golfer's Day

Today is Golfer’s Day, and we were going to dedicate this post to our avid golfing friends Ron and Wanda, thinking for sure they would be on the golf course in North Carolina today. However, Stretch made our dentist visit the other day look like so much fun that Wanda decided to have dental surgery today instead. (Wanda: Stretch says he thinks you should just tie a string between your tooth and the golf ball and give the ball a good whack and take care of two things at once.)

I don’t play golf but lately I’m becoming an avid spectator of the sport on television. Perhaps it’s because it’s such a relaxing game to follow, and when you’ve been dealing with health issues while trying to keep a certain bear from causing chaos wherever you go, a fast-paced game like hockey or basketball sometimes gets too intense. (Besides I confess that I can never follow where the puck is in hockey!). 

When it’s still in the low 50’s outside with a cold breeze blowing and the trees barely starting to bloom, I really enjoy seeing the lush landscape of a golf course in some warm sunny state, and watching golfers stroll leisurely from hole to hole, taking more time to examine the lay of a putt than I took outlining my master’s thesis.

Lest you think we’re becoming refined here, I should admit that at times I also find the game of golf highly amusing, such as when they’re debating the rules over “loose impediments” or “movable obstructions.” These two situations occur when someone hits their ball in a location outside the green where things like sticks, stones, rocks or even boulders make it difficult for the player to hit the ball cleanly back onto the course. Whether that player can pick up a stick, toss away a pebble, or lift a heavy rock that’s sitting in front of the ball often becomes an issue for intense debate among the rules committee.

With all the things going on in this world and the challenges many of us face each day, the time these people spend discussing whether a player can pick up the stick his ball is resting against without being charged a penalty stroke often strikes me as absurd.  And the results are sometimes unintentionally comical, as happened a few weeks ago when a player was allowed to move a pretty large rock away from an area directly in front of his ball. He lifted it and then dropped it almost immediately and there was a mad dash away from the area. Apparently the rock was shielding a nest of fire ants! (Did I say golf wasn’t exciting?)

So before Stretch and Tiny hit the miniature links today, I thought I should make sure they’re aware of a couple specific rules pertaining to loose impediments and movable obstructions so they don’t incur any penalty strokes. According to the USGA, “If a ball lies in a hazard, the player must not touch or move any loose impediment lying in or touching the same hazard.” And just in case you were wondering, it clarifies that a banana skin is a loose impediment.
Yes, but can I move the monkey? And what happens if I get the monkey to move the banana?

However, “if a ball lies in or on a movable obstruction, the ball may be lifted and the obstruction removed.”
So is there a footnote saying whether I'm allowed to call Wildlife Services for help?
We hope you have a great Golfing Day whether you go out to play or stay inside to watch the start of the Master’s Tournament.

"I guess there is nothing that will get your mind off everything like golf. I have never been depressed enough to take up the game, but they say you get so sore at yourself, you forget to hate your enemies." Will Rogers

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Draw a Picture of a Bird Day

After all the commotion Stretch has been causing the past few days, I thought it might be a good idea to have a quiet day at home today. And as it turns out, this is a perfect day to do that because it’s “Draw a Picture of a Bird Day.” At least that’s what my calendar of unusual holidays says, and after some research I discovered that this is a day when we’re all supposed to share our drawings of birds on the Internet.

I know what you’re thinking. I don’t do well at crafts. In fact, the only thing I’m good at with crafts is being horribly bad at them. But quite a few of my friends are into art, and I’ve also read that drawing and painting are supposed to be excellent therapy for those dealing with health issues. So I figured, why not give it a try?

Stretch: “It’s not too late to call Donna. Maybe she would agree to do a bird drawing for you to use in the blog!”

Me: “No, it’s okay, I actually found a website that showed you how to do a simple drawing of a bird step by step. Here’s my finished piece, displayed proudly on the Internet in the spirit of the day:

For some reason Stretch just shook his head and went off to his studio to do his own drawing. Let’s check in and see how his work compares to mine. I’m sure the little fellow must have a cute drawing to share with us:

Well, what can I say except that I think he chose a very appropriate bird for his work of art. Besides their reputation for being a bit egotistical, I’ve read that peacocks may keep harems of females and that they are widely admired by humans.

And in the spirit of the proud peacock, Stretch has a few words to add:
Thank you for the drawing pencils, Janet, the colors are very vibrant.
And Sandra, if you decide to start any art therapy sessions at the Monter Center, I’m available for consultation. 

Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly; devils fall because of their gravity. G. K. Chesterton

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Outer Limits--the Reality Show

How many of you remember that old television series “The Outer Limits?” At the start of each show, an announcer would say, “For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to – The Outer Limits.”

I loved that show. I had no idea that one day I would be living it. It all started when this 3” bear came into my life. Let me tell you what happened the last several days and see if you don’t agree that I’m living in a weird sci fi show.

Episode One: Friday was my regularly scheduled Herceptin treatment. Most people go there, get hooked up to their IV, sit quietly for the duration and then leave. I walk in with Stretch and we step into the Outer Limits. First, he finds his girlfriend Jane to give her the early Easter gift he brought her since we won’t see her again until after the holiday.

While they’re canoodling, the poor nurse who’s been assigned to us comes in to see what’s going on and Stretch falls instantly in love again. So when Jane goes off to attend to her patients, Stretch presents Maria with an Easter plant and the two of them get cozy. By the time he finishes flirting with nurses, my 30 minute session is complete and I slink out of there, returning control of the treatment center to the nurses.

Episode Two: Yesterday our friend Karen had arranged a miniatures show in a hotel not too far from us and of course invited her dear friend Stretch. She asked him to bring his reading glasses so he could help her at her booth but he conveniently forgot them. She offered to let him borrow hers, but they weren’t a good fit, so she suggested he should just go do some shopping and then enjoy the free refreshments she provided. (I have a sneaky suspicion they planned this!)

Hey, you PR folks at the Monter Center. Check out this spread!
Anyway, he blazed a trail through the seller’s booths on the way to the refreshment stand, leaving my budget in a pile of ashes. Then he spotted another friend, Diane and went to say hi.
When I finally managed to get hold of him, we got a hand truck for his shopping bags and headed for the exit.

Cue the music from that other weird show, the Twilight Zone. The last booth by the doors was manned by a miniature artist who crafts food. Before I could grab hold of the little fellow he had dived hungrily at the plates of food displayed and made friends with Sharon and Brian. After chatting with them, they said Stretch looked hungry and scolded me for not getting him some lunch sooner.
 They sent him home with sandwich plates for him and Tiny.

Episode Three: I cracked a tooth recently (losing teeth as well as my mind!) and had an early dentist appointment today to get a crown put on. When several of Stretch’s friends heard about this, they very helpfully suggested to Stretch that he shouldn’t get jealous that I was getting a crown, even though he’s “the Emperor” and star of the blog. So of course he then decided he wanted a crown. Can you guess what happened next? I took Stretch along to see what “getting a crown” entails. Only of course as soon as I walked into the office the Outer Limits took control again. First, it turned out that the dentist had a bear dentist in his office. Stretch took one look at that and decided he didn’t want a crown after all and I figured sanity would return. 

But then the nurse grabbed hold of him as he was running out, and the dentist presented him with his crown.

Which he is now showing off proudly to Tiny.

If they ever decide to revive the Outer Limits, tell them you know how they can make it into a reality show and save money on props. . .

Life is not always what one wants it to be, but to make the best of it as it is, is the only way to be happy. Jennie Jerome Churchill

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Green Acres 2014 with Oliver Wendell Stretch

April is Garden Month and next week is also Garden Week. Stretch and Tiny are just as ready for spring after the relentless winter as the rest of us, so they decided there’s nothing like a little digging in the dirt and watching new life spring up to soothe the frostbitten soul.
I suggested they consult the Old Farmer’s Almanac for some planting advice, although Stretch mumbled something about the Young Farmer’s Almanac would be more appropriate for him and Tiny. 

They found a section with a guide to having a successful planting season and first checked their equipment against the list of Must-Have Garden Tools to make sure they had what they needed.

Then Stretch and I visited the local garden center so he could check out the organic seed packets and decide what he wanted to grow this year.

He came home with a chest filled with seed packets and was all set to begin planting.

So I started to read him the next set of instructions in the Farmer’s Almanac:

"As soon as your soil can be worked, stir it well and let it sit for several days.
Then top-dress the soil with a 1-inch thick layer of compost over the entire garden area.
Using a spading fork, loosen the soil in the bed. Mix in compound.
Smooth out the soil with a rake, getting rid of stones and debris.
Make rows for vegetable seeds with a hoe.
Transplant seedlings using a hard cultivator or trowel."

Stretch: Sounds like a lot of work! I thought we could just toss the seeds in the dirt!

Tiny: When do I get to drive the tractor?

Things only got more complicated as I read on to the next set of instructions on how deep to plant the seeds:

"The depth of your fingernail on your index finger for lettuce, Spanish onions and radishes.
The depth of your first knuckle for cabbage, carrots, beets, cucumbers and squash.
The depth of your second knuckle for bush or pole beans and corn.
For tomatoes, plant deeper, as they root along the stem."

Stretch:  What are they talking about? What knuckles? What fingernails? I’ve got paws and claws!

I could see his point! Fortunately, we knew exactly where to go for help. Stretch called his Personal Landscaper Judy Stern and explained his dilemma. As always, she was glad to lend a hand and personally plowed, hoed, and seeded his garden.
Thank you Judy! I think the little guys can take it from here. The final instruction is just “Water Well!”

Hey! Watch where you’re aiming that hose!

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. Margaret Atwood