Friday, February 6, 2015

Essay at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Although my essay may seem far fetched, the events really did happen. That's why to this day I remember the conversations I had with the Nicaraguan nurses so vividly. I sometimes wonder what became of them, and, what became of the babies left at the side of the road in Nicaragua.

Here's the link to my essay:   Essay

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Life is a Cabaret, Shaw Festival, Niagara on the Lake

                        Lovely Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, late afternoon in October.

Really odd thing happened when we went back to the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. Guess what the odd thing was?  Well, there we were waiting in line to cross the border into Canada, when the customs officer told my husband to go to Immigration. Yes!  Seems there was some problem with his status.

This did not look good. Turns out that years and years and even more years ago there was an issue with a work permit my husband had. I think it had to do with the date on the permit. Anyhow, even although he was allowed in to Canada to work, for some reason the glitch remained on file. Weird! We had been umpteen times into Canada over the years, without one single problem. Until October of 2014, that is. They did allow my husband to enter Canada and we did manage to attend the Shaw Festival.

Do you another odd thing about this latest trip? We found the ending, and indeed the stage setting of the musical, Cabaret, somewhat confusing.   We had never seen the whole of the musical before, so we hadn't a clue how the original ended.  It was odd that the narrator mimed the final words and the director of the music hall was the one who was speaking them.

The trip was a spur of the moment event, and I only read the reviews after seeing the musical. It's hard to tell if the critics were just plain jealous of the director, or whether his changes to the script and stage setting were indeed really bad choices.

We still enjoyed the performance. And, an added attraction was watching the other attendees. This was a special matinee for senior citizens and for people under 39. Some were so elderly, they could hardly walk. They took teeny tiny steps and I was concerned they'd fall. But, good for them, getting spruced up and venturing out to the theatre.  There several young girls who I also was worried they might fall. They were wearing shoes with really high heels. Can't imagine how they didn't trip and fall!

Life is indeed a cabaret. Between the fuss at the border,the unusual interpretation of 'Cabaret', and watching people who looked as if they were about to fall, it without a doubt was an unusual week-end.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween - Singing a wee song, getting nuts and tangerines

Where we live they're celebrating Halloween tonight. Yep. Today is the 30th of October and kids will be oot and aboot, dressed up, looking for candy. Don't ask me why we rarely celebrate Halloween on the actual day. I do know that tomorrow it's supposed to rain, so, regardless, tonight should be better overall. 

It's fun looking at the decorations people have.

Now, that's a BIG spider! It doesn't look real, fortunately.

This front yard is covered with skeletons and gory-looking objects. I was scared just walking by in broad daylight!

I wonder what happened to Stupid and I'm with Stupid?  Ha ha.

These are more of the scary things in the front yard. You wonder who placed all these odd things. And why.

When I was growing up in Scotland we didn't have decorations for Halloween. Nope. In fact, we didn't even get candy when we went to the neighbours' houses. We usually were give nuts, tangerines, and maybe a sixpenny bit. Yay!  We certainly did  NOT yell out, "Trick or Treat". We knocked on the door and asked if there was anything for Halloween. The people would invite us in and, guess what we had to do? We had to sing a wee song, recite a poem, or even do a wee dance. Then were give our loot and off we'd go pleased and fair chuffed with our pile of goodies. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

I love accurate approximations. Ha ha.

The following is one of several articles of mine which were published at Powder Room Graffiti, an online magazine. It is now known as In the Powder Room. Unfortunately, the new owners appear to have deleted or lost the original articles. So glad, I have copies! The articles were to be short and precise. It was a good challenge writing them, as a well as a useful learning experience.

Nothing to it by Sandra Staas (Mon Aug 02, 2010)

I'm an approximate type of person. I believe in approximations of numbers, of not being accurately accurate. Numbers bother me.

I'll never get a job as a carpenter nor a bank cashier, that's for sure. I wouldn't hire me. Imagine a client asking for their bank account balance. I'd be answering, ‘Well, more or less, $2,500. Sort of, that is, give or take a few dollars, I think.' I'd be cutting wood after measuring it using my fingers and get a rough idea of how long the piece should be. If you cut it big enough then you can always trim it, that's my philosophy. How much has to be trimmed? Just a teeny wee bit, that's all.

People sometimes ask me for my recipes. I tell them, some butter, some sugar, flour, eggs, milk. They have their pens ready, their little notebook open as they await the accurate measurements. Out of luck! I haven't a clue how much butter or sugar or flour or milk. Now, eggs I can manage. It's usually one. Hmm. Sometimes it's two, could be three. Maybe it depends on how much milk I use. How much milk do I use? Now we're going in circles. As long as it tastes good, that's what counts. No pun intended.

Occasionally I have to fill out forms. Those boring ones that include a question about how much you weigh. Who the hell's business is it how much I weigh? On a good day I can weigh not so much. On a bad day I can look like Winnie the Pooh. If my clothes are tight then I know it's time to cut back on the fabulously farty fresh fruit diet of red wine and chocolate strawberries. I don't need to weigh myself. And I'm quite happy with being approximately at an acceptable weight.

I've seen people measure the distance between the flowers they're planting. Are they mad? They're down on their hands and knees, tape measure held taut as they carefully measure the exact length between each plant. They're the ones who probably know precisely how much gas they still have in their car, and what the exact time of day it is, down to the second.

I've never grasped the concept of what zero means either, and therefore I've also never grasped what 1,000,000 means. So many zeros! But if zero means nothing, how can placing a one in front of so many of them make it a great big number? I totally do not understand.

And if figuring out what zero is all about isn't bad enough, what about negative numbers? What numbskull thought them up? Does anyone really know what a negative number means? Something tells me that that silly little zero is involved yet again. Two-faced wimp. Happy and sad at the same time. Causer of untold misery to the masses who strive to be positive. Nobody wants to be negative. Not even a number.

Yes indeed, down with accuracy. Live life dangerously without inhibitions of statistics or those pesky preposterous zeros that are just too difficult to comprehend. Long live approximations. Revitalize your life with more or lesses.

There's nothing to it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Signs that things are looking better?

I wrote a post a few years ago about the nearby village.  It's a really cute village, complete with large, expensive Victorian homes. I often wonder who lives in these gigantic homes. I think many times it's just a couple. Why they need so much space is a mystery. Even if their children are still living at home, the houses are still far too big. Some are as big as hotels!  

Anyhow, even the wealthy are not immune to the waxing and waning of the stock market. I guess. For a while there were lots of For Sale signs all over the village. Shopkeepers were bailing out, and even residents were moving away. Taxes are indeed high in this oh so special village and the cost of renting a store is exorbitant as well. 

Nowadays, there are some new entrepreneurs who have taken up shop in the stores that went out of business.  

Out walking the other day I noticed lots of interesting signs. Guess shopkeepers are just dying to get customers? No matter, I did like the funny little fellow in the photo above.

I wonder who this Fred is?  Do you know anyone called Fred? I wonder why everyone needs a Fred? 

Ha ha. At first I thought the price for all the items was $20. Wonder how many items are actually $20? 

Not too sure what the celebration is about, but I like the sign. Hope lots of people turned up.

Some truck is coming to the bookshop? Wonder if that's the same date as the celebration for the place above?

I should have signed up! We ladies must stick together.

This is a happy sign. I wonder if the balloons come already blown up? I don't mind blowing up a balloon, but I get scared if I burst it!  I really do.

Gollee. That's a HUGE cupcake!

I guess things are looking better in the nearby village. There are businesses in what were once empty stores. Not sure how many paying customers they get, however. The places that are always busy are the usual Starbucks and Bruegger's Bagels. People go there after browsing around the stores. The sidewalks are always busy as mothers stroll by with their children, as Middle School students run along yelling loudly. There are also lots of people out and about walking their dogs. Then, there are people like me who walk about taking photos and wonder about how the Village has changed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wine and even more Wine

You know what's lovely about visiting vineyards surrounding Niagara on the Lake? You've guessed it! Buying some interesting bottles of wine!

Now, to be sure, you can sample the wines before purchasing, but my poor wee brain wouldn't function properly, not properly enough in order to be able to drive, that is.

People came by on their bikes. People came by on tour buses. There were even people arriving in taxis.

The Reif Estate winery is one of the vineyards we visited. It states on their bag, 'honestly great wines'. Odd. I'd believe them if they just stated, 'great wines'.

Inniskillin is another vineyard we strolled around. I like the design on their bag. 

Pillittteri Estate Winery was on our itinerary as well. Is that a cannon I see?

Gollee.  Sipping on wine from the Reif Estate will enable you to 'start living the Reifstyle'. Fancy that. 

All this wine and cheese, and rosy cheeks of chubby people imbibing delectable wines is well... all in a day's work. 

Maybe the next time we visit the vineyards we should take a taxi? Not have to worry about drinking and driving? That's an idea. Then we could sample the wines with abandon. But, it's also nice to share a bottle of wine back in the hotel room, isn't it? And then, bring some bottles back home. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

A little knowledge is dangerous, don't you think?

I had an echocardiogram the other day. First time ever. I  requested that a copy of the results be mailed to me, and since nothing arrived in the mail I even called twice to request a copy yet again. Still no results arrived.

Fast forward to Monday, several days later, when I get a telephone call. Some girl in the doctor's office tells me that I have to see a cardiologist as my mitral valve has moderate regurgitation and my tricuspid valve has mild regurgitation. The valves are not working properly and there is a backflow of blood into the heart.

Yikes and double yikes!

I immediately have several questions, but she cuts me off and sets up an appointment with a cardiologist for Friday of the same week.

The rest of Monday, the whole of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I research and research heart valve disease. Apparently, a heart murmur is an important indication of having a leaky valve. But, nobody has ever told me that I have a heart murmur!

Apparently moderate regurgitation is quite serious. A lot depends on how the heart responds. It could become enlarged, and you can go into heart failure. As the disease progresses you could end up needing a repair of the valve. And that would entail open heart surgery!  I read about minimally invasive valve repair surgery and even research the best cardiologists. I wonder about the size of my heart, about my lungs, about possible calcifications as so many complications and conditions can be involved with mitral valve regurgitation, when the valve does not close properly.

Friday arrives and I meet with a cardiologist to hear the worst.

Guess what? The cardiologist asks me why I had the echocardiogram. Good question. My doctor ordered it because I have high blood pressure and high blood pressure can affect the heart.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Flowers and the Homosapien, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario

Decided to make a trip to Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. We've been going there for around 25 years now. Each time we arrive it's like a breath of fresh air. Why's that?  Because of all the beautiful flowers! Whoever the gardener is, he or she, does a splendid job.

You can't help but take pretty photos!  Even on a cloudy day, the flowers simply leap out at you with their vibrant colours.

There's a great variety of displays all along the main thoroughfare. They remind me of all the people you see here in Niagara on the Lake and Niagara Falls. So many different nationalities, different languages can be seen and heard as you stroll along admiring the flowers.

Wouldn't it be terrific if all of us, regardless of nationality or language, could get along without going to war, without torturing others?  Wouldn't it be for the best if all of us, throughout the world put on a display of empathy and compassion as beautiful as the flowers in Niagara on the Lake? Together, we could make the homo sapien something to be finally respected

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Is Your Privacy Private?

I never used to think much about my privacy. In the 'old' days here in the suburbs, hairdressers would ask all sort of questions.

"You're not from around here, are you?" If they weren't chewing gum, they'd be licking their lips and looking at themselves in the mirror, hand on hip as if posing for a magazine cover.

Before I could answer, they'd add, "Are you married, or anything?"

I would nod my head as best I could  while they'd be pushing it down deep into my chest as they chopped away at my hair.

"Where did you meet your husband? Where does he work?" The questions were endless, and at times I felt as if the whole salon were listening with bated breath as the hairdresser extricated the intriguing details of my life.

Sometimes I thought I would make up stories. Maybe even allude to the fact that I'm a spy or an eccentric millionaire. But I never did. I always told the truth.

In the 'new' days, there are so many more issues of privacy that have to be reckoned with.

You give your credit card number over the phone and the person at the other end repeats out loud every number. Who can hear her? Who else is there? Dunno.  Similar things happen when you check in at a doctor's office or pick up a prescription at the local pharmacy.

"Date of birth?" The person with the large glasses gazing at a computer screen doesn't even look at you as she asks this personal question. You speak softly so that people nearby don't hear.  Heck, one's date of birth is a security question at many online accounts.  Do you REALLY want to broadcast your date of birth? Since the person with the large glasses gazing at a computer screen seems to be hard of hearing she asks you to repeat your date of birth. You look around to see if anyone is paying attention and then raise your voice a teeny bit, just to be on the safe side. Then, you just know what happens. She repeats your date of birth in this huge sonorous voice as she enters the information into the computer.

What about those so-called social websites where you're supposed to list the names of schools you attended?  The name of your high school is a security question online sites asks for. Then, there are the internet groups which discuss the good old days when you were a child. They post photos of the area you come from. Oh, you lived on such and such a street as a child?  Really? Me too. Maybe you knew my grannie?  Oops. The name of the street you grew up on is yet another security question that online banks often ask.

With knowledge of your credit card number, your date of birth, the name of your high school, and the street you grew up on anyone with nefarious expectations can quite possibly enjoy surfing through your bank accounts.

But, nobody would really do that, would they? Dunno. They could, if they wanted to.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

ut Allergies and other articles I wrote for Powder Room Graffiti

The article I wrote about allergies was well - received at the Helium website. I got an email some months ago telling me they would be closing the website. Just today I decided to try and find out more about the status of Helium. Anyhow, I did find my old article. It's now at a website called Living Healthy 360. Who knew? I didn't! Here's the link:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Allergies? Get a Dog and Take up Smoking!!

A few years ago I wrote a short post about allergies:

I really can't stand the fatigue, the chills, the stuffed up nose, the pain around the eyes. Oh, woe is me!  I could even fall asleep standing up.

I was first told I had allergies back in 1984 when a doctor looked up my nostrils. Brave him! I'm so glad he did, however, for he did come up with a diagnosis. Prior to that, I had no clue why I was constantly sneezing, why my nose was always stuffed up, why I was cold, and why I felt weak. It was almost as bad as having the flu.

Well, that doctor back in 1984 sent me off for tests. Turns out I'm allergic to everything except for dog and tobacco!

I know, I hear you.  "Get a dog and take up smoking!"

Ha ha. If only it were that easy to get rid of allergies.

I was prescribed two little bottles of the antigens which were to give relief, whole relief and nothing but relief! I placed drops underneath my tongue for FIVE years before finally giving up.

I'm an expert on anti-histamines and decongestants. I really am. Yikes! I keep hoping I'll 'grow out' of the allergies, but I'm not. They always turn up at least four times a year without fail.

Want to know what I'm taking for my allergy symptoms? An antihistamine.

I was told to take antihistamines BEFORE I get the symptoms. Maybe I should. But, since I'm allergic to almost everything, I'd be taking antihistamines every day of the year. Do they work? Sometimes I think they do. But then, just when you feel relief, the very next day the symptoms return! Since I've been down that road all those years I know one's body gets accustomed to the medication, so I just change it. The above one is the generic form of Claritin. When it no longer works I then take the generic form of Allegra. The pharmacy people tell me the generic brands are just as good as the brand names. And, they're a lot cheaper.

I also take a decongestant when desperation sets it. This is the decongestant Sudafed, or maybe it's the generic form of it. Believe it or not it WORKS!! Yes, after just one day I can breathe better. But I don't think it's good to be taking this on a daily basis over a long period of time as it increases your blood pressure. I only take it when I'm desperate. Really desperate. Desperate enough because no air is going up my nostrils.

A nasal spray. Does it work? In the beginning it does. You're supposed to only take this nasal spray for three days. Any longer - and who knows what might happen?!  Maybe your nose will fall off! Oh no!  The problem is that, although it works, the three days are up before you know it and you have to stop taking it. Guess what happens then? The symptoms come right back!

Trying to avoid allergies altogether, I've been taking Quercetin.

It's supposed to be a natural anti-inflammatory.

I also take Turmeric, another natural anti-inflammatory.

And I take a saline nasal spray.

Nothing prevents the allergy symptoms. The best thing that has happened is the possible reduction of the severity of the symptoms.  

Och well. Any lessening of allergy symptoms is most welcome.  And, maybe I could get myself a wee dog. Not sure about taking up smoking, however.