Tag Archives: Health

Seasonal Changes: Advent’s Coming!

Life and all that jazz have been happening at a full stop here this past month: My husband, whose immune system is weakened by chemotherapy at the moment, caught the flu at work, and was down for nearly 2 weeks; though I managed to avoid it a week, it finally caught up with me and within a few days had dropped into my lungs (it’s not Covid-19 – I already know what that feels like!). So this month, I’ve been out of action except for coughing and sleepless nights. Ergo, no blogging. I haven’t had enough brainpower to think about any topic for more than a few minutes. I’m now on the mend, with a vaccination cure for bronchitis on the go. Now that I slowly have more energy returning, I’ve come out of that “zone” – that tunnel vision that focuses only on the most elemental priorities, like health – and realized that October is nearly over. Advent is on the way! [I know that, for Americans at least, Thanksgiving is in focus before Advent, though we don’t have that as a traditional festive day here.]

The last few days have been Indian summer here, so we’ve been getting ready for winter and seasonal changes. I’m taking advantage of the sunny balcony to spray paint crafts. I’m starting to think about advent calendars, stocking stuffers, and Samichlaussäckli. I’ve gone through my crafts inventory for the annual Christmas market, where I sell things, and I’ve planned the annual baking day with a friend to make things for our families as well as for selling at the market.

I’ve talked about how minimalistic most Swiss households are decorated, so I won’t have much preparation where that’s concerned. But one thing I do begin to prepare now is the advent calendar. Our advent calendar the past few years has been a decorative ribbon strung along a wall, with small Christmas stockings hung with numbered wooden clothes pegs. I’ve made the stockings (pictured below), and they can double as silverware holders on a decorative table at Christmas – that’s assuming we can have guests around that time, Covid notwithstanding. I’ve also made matching wine slip-coasters (shown) and matching wine charms to go with each glass’s stocking.

It’s getting harder to find good advent gifts; we have everything we need. Larger gifts go under the tree or in a larger stocking, but what are small gifts – about the size of a lip balm? Somehow, every year, I manage to find 12 each that are practical or fun: mini toiletry items, erasers, pens, fun magnets or post-its, small liqueurs for my husband (though this year, that’s a no-go due to chemo), rings or earrings, sampler perfumes or aftershaves and, of course, one individually-wrapped chocolate in each (something like Ferrero Rocher or Raffaello– something that won’t leak, like Mon Cheri).

In the midst of all that, as my energy returns, I’ve been sculpting the ending of my current manuscript (science fiction). That takes a level of mental focus that has been fleeting this month, so I try to catch it when I can and have the grace with my health situation not to stress when I can’t. When I can’t write, I at least have the energy to do something crafty.

While writing this, my curiosity has been building, so now come the questions to you!

Do you have an Advent calendar? If so, what’s it like? Do you have gifts, or simply opening doors with an image hiding behind them? If you have one with gifts, did you make it yourself or buy a store-bought themed calendar? Did you grow up with a culture of Advent calendars where you live/lived as a child? I did not, so I’ve thoroughly embraced the Swiss tradition, adding my own twist of stockings (which are not common here, though the idea is catching on slowly).

I’d love to read your answers in the comments below!

Happy preparation for the coming seasons!


Filed under Articles, Cartoon, Family History, Musings

Loops of Life

Roller Coaster Loops

Everyone’s got them; no one necessarily wants them:  Those moments in life when things go topsy-turvy and send us into tailspins.  I call them “loops of life” – like a loop on a roller coaster… they come up fast; you may dread the thought of it more than the actual experience warrants; and it’s over before you know it.

Life has thrown me a loop lately, and as it has affected, and will likely affect, my rhythm of posting blogs here for the next couple weeks, I’d like to thank you in advance for a bit of patience.

In the summer, I found a growth in my neck; I knew it was the thyroid gland, as I’d had one in the same spot 30 years ago; by the time life got back into swing here after the summer holidays, it had grown further; long story short, they found three large, benign masses which have completely consumed my thyroid gland – miraculously, however, they seem to have taken over its function and are working perfectly fine.  But it’s getting harder to speak, swallow, breathe, etc.  So, in 10 days I’ll get to check into a luxury hotel, aka the hospital, and undergo a 4-hour surgery; the surgeon will take her time, especially as I’m a singer and the vocal cords / nerves are extremely important to me, as you can imagine!

Since beginning this process, I’ve heard from so many people who are having (or have had) the same problem; it’s comforting to know I’m by no means alone in this, and others have come through it well and whole.  I may not post regularly for the next fortnight or so – but keep your eyes open!

Before the surgery, we’re going away for a much needed week’s holiday in Lugano, and are looking forward to it!  Our cats are looking forward to being spoilt by a live-in flat sitter, too, so it’s a win-win!


Filed under Articles, Musings

New Year’s Resolutions

new-years-resolutions-3It’s that time of the year again, when people talk about “New Year’s Resolutions”, as if the turning of the yearly calendar will somehow magically give them the impetus to make changes.  Rarely does it work that way, however.

A work colleague of my husband once upon a time trained to be a competitive  cyclist, and he said that once one makes the decision to give up in a race – for whatever reason – it makes it all the more difficult to persevere thereafter… once resolve caves, winning it back is harder work than ever before.  The same can be said of life, and resolutions.  If our daily goals don’t match our long-term goals, those long-term goals will never be reached; if we give up or cave in, we’ll find daily excuses why we can’t reach for the goal “yet”, and we’ll have a growing sense of guilt that makes us less willing to face the challenge.

Resolutions at the beginning of the year are usually related to a desire to better oneself; but resolve is something that’s built on a day-to-day basis, and should be a process.  If you set a mental goal – such as going to the gym twice a week  – which is not in agreement with your heart’s desires, then it won’t happen; our mind and heart need to get aligned in order for us to reach any target.

So I say, rather than making a resolution, become resolved.  Take baby steps to reach a goal; those steps might be to go on a walk once a week, or to take the stairs instead of the lift, or to purchase an exercise bike and put it somewhere in your home that’s a motivating place (e.g. near a window with a nice view), and then resolve to build up your stamina gradually with an initial time limit, stretching it as you feel you want to rise to the challenge.  If your goal is to write more, then decide on a specific amount, and take those baby steps – make space in your schedule, or learn how to utilize “limbo” moments toward your goal; carry a notebook and pen, and use them.  If your goal is to appreciate those around you more, then begin to focus on the positives, not the negatives; learn to compliment more and criticize less.

Whatever you want to see change in your life, go for it!  If you fail today, pick yourself back up, dust off your knees, and try again tomorrow.  Anything worth reaching is worth the effort, and every new day is full of opportunities.

Have a wonderful year, and may you look back on 2017 with satisfaction, knowing you’ve grown in positive ways!


Filed under Articles, Cartoon, Musings

Musings on Adapting

frog-serenityAs I write this, it’s 4:30 a.m. and I’ve just had a relatively peaceful 3-hour nap in my recliner (minus the minutes spent being walked on by one of our cats until she got settled, minus the minutes spent coughing).  “A nap at night?” I hear you ask.  Yep.  Due to the fact that I’ve been sick for nearly a month with another respiratory tract infection ranging from upper to lower, naps are all I get right now; 3 hours is actually good!  I’m very grateful for the comfortable recliner we were finally able to find this year here in Switzerland, because at the moment I can’t sleep horizontally (I start coughing if I try)!  I won’t go into the arm-long list of medicines/respirators I have to remember every day/night; it’s just that the best healer, rest, seems to elude me.  I try to look on the bright side, and so I am grateful that I can still breathe (mostly) on my own; I can still walk, think, talk and climb our stairs; I’m not dependent on someone else for my mobility; and though I have no sense of taste or smell at the moment (which makes my cooking an adventure for everyone else!), I can still hear and see and feel.  I’m not telling you all of this to garner sympathy – not at all!  If you’ve been around this blog for a bit, or have gone looking through my cupboards of past posts (make yourself at home!), you’ll know that this isn’t my first, nor is it likely my last, battle with health issues; some are minor, such as this, and some have been major.  But no matter how challenging it may be for me, I know that it’s nothing compared to the hurdles faced by those with chronic diseases, incapacitating disabilities, or bodies that formed incompletely (thus creating their own unique issues).

My point is this:  I’ve gotten adept at adapting.  I’ve learned over the years to have grace and patience with myself when things don’t go according to plan; when schedules get tossed out on their ears; when I can’t do things at my usual break-neck speed; when goals get deferred by circumstances beyond my control.  I’m not the kind of person who can just sit around doing nothing – even when my energy is rock-bottom, I’ll still find things to do.  When I don’t have the energy to write or even take care of household chores, at least I have the capacity to read, or listen to audio books while I do crafts (at the moment, I’m crocheting pencil toppers for Christmas boxes next year – I make them when I have time, so that by then I’ll have 100 or more).  If anyone knows any great audio books, please let me know!  I’ve had a new laptop for a few days now, just waiting to be set up; no matter how much I’d love to have the energy to tackle transferring data and programs, I’m realistic enough to wait.  The fact that I could get it is a reminder that I wore out the other one – i.e. I got a lot of writing done on that poor thing over the years that it served me well!  It’s also a reminder that my husband provides well, for which I am amazingly grateful… I don’t have to hold down a nine-to-five job regardless of my health!

Life is about adapting; it’s about change, seasons coming and going, and cycles.  Flexibility and attitudes make the path smoother or rockier, depending on which we choose.  I choose to be grateful, and I hope that I can encourage others to do likewise.


Filed under Articles, Musings

Standing Up for Sitting Down

No, this is not an article about the pros and cons of the position you take while writing; but as a writer, I am fully aware that my job is mostly a sitting one… it’s hard to walk around writing or typing and not fall down the stairs.  But there are a lot of pseudo-scientific articles circulating recently about how sitting is the worst thing for your body.  I have news for you:  Stress about worrying if you’re sitting too much is far worse for your body than your actual physical posture.  Sit comfortably, sit straight and relaxed, and write creatively; take occasional breaks by getting up, moving around, stretching, and getting a hot cup of tea for the next round of writing!  For a good dose of sarcasm on the topic, click on the image below!



Filed under Humor, Links to External Articles

Accidental Discoveries in History: HEALTH / MEDICINE

Pill bottle spilledThose individuals who have “Eureka” moments are those who are prepared for that moment of discovery:  They begin with an inquisitive mind, which nurtures creative thinking, which is supported by collecting background information, educating themselves; to that they add the right tools, and an open mind that looks at the possibilities in what others might see as “mistakes.”  Most inventions are the results of exploration, experimentation, blood, sweat and tears, and lots of sleepless nights.  But there are some moments of serendipity, those “Hmm.  That’s strange…” discoveries that are not lightly tossed aside but seen for their potential.  It’s taking the lemons life has thrown their way, tossing in a wet rag and a few copper and zinc coins, and coming up with a battery.

Here’s a line-up of a few of those wet rag-tossers of health and medical discoveries, with others to follow over the next few posts:

 “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas A. Edison


Who:  Alexander Fleming, Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate.

When: 1928

Why: He didn’t clean up his work station before leaving one day in 1928.  When he returned he noticed a strange fungus on some of his cultures, but it wasn’t growing near certain cultures.  His “bad science” mistake led to the discovery of the first, most important, and still-widely used antibiotic.


Who:  Wilson Greatbatch, American Engineer and absent-minded professor.

When: 1960

Why:  In 1958 he was trying to make a circuit to help record heartbeat sounds.  When he reached into a box of resistors he accidentally pulled out a 1-megaohm resistor instead of a 10,000 ohm resistor.  It pulsed to a familiar rhythm – a perfect heartbeat.  Actually, the first pacemakers go back as far as 1899; but Greatbatch’s invention was the first successfully implanted cardiac pacemaker.


Who: William Perkin, 18-year-old English chemist, eventually Sir William Perkin.

When: 1856

Why: He was trying to cure malaria, attempting to produce artificial quinine; his experiment produced a murky blob; but the more he looked at it, he realised the beautiful possibilities… he’d instead made the first-ever synthetic dye.  He’d inadvertently become the poster boy for money-generating science, making it interesting for the curious-minded; he’s known as the founder of science-based industry.  One of those curious minds just happened to be a German bacteriologist named Paul Ehrlich, who used that murky blog, now known as mauveine, to pioneer chemotherapy and immunology.


Who: Nicholas Terrett and Peter Ellis (the names on the patent); more generally, a group of pharmaceutical chemists working at Pfizer’s Sandwich, Kent, research facility in England.

When: 1996

Why: Originally attempting to develop a drug to treat Angina Pectoris – chest pains – they failed in their primary aim, but its side effects were startling, and now famous.


Who: Good question.  It seems to have developed independently on several occasions, from the 12th century onwards.  Laughing gas was discovered in 1772 by Joseph Priestly, English scientist.

When: Good Question.

Why: In the 1800s, inhaling either nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or ether was considered a form of recreation; “ether frolics”, or “laughing parties” were popular, and several scientists, doctors and dentists noticed that people in such an affected state didn’t feel any pain, even when they injured themselves in the process.  Crawford Long, William Morton, Charles Jackson and Horace Wells observed such events (and probably took part in them too), and they began using the compounds during their dental and medical procedures.


Who: Wilhelm Röntgen, German physicist

When: 1895

Why: In a series of coincidental observations while experimenting with what Röntgen temporarily called “X-rays”, using the mathematical designation for an unknown factor, he began to discover materials that both stopped, and allowed penetration of, these rays.  At one point the material was a piece of lead, and the first radiographic image was made; but at that point he decided to continue his experiments in secret in case he was wrong; he didn’t want to risk his professional reputation on reports of skeleton photography.  Even though the term X-ray is used in English, in German they are called “Röntgenbilder”, or Röntgen-images.


Who: Dr. Albert Hofmann, Swiss Chemist, at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland

When: 1938 (first synthesized); 1943 (discovered for its hallucination-inducing properties)

Why: As part of a large research project for finding useful ergot alkaloid derivatives.  Hofmann was re-synthesizing LSD-25 for a study, and took 0.25 milligrams, but became dizzy and had to stop working.  He asked his lab assistant to escort him home; they had to go by bike, and when he got home he lay down, sinking into a pleasant “intoxicated like condition” with an extremely vivid dreamlike stream of images (after an attack of paranoid anxiety that left him thinking he was going insane).  It lasted about 2 hours, and then faded. 19 April, 1943, is now known as Bicycle Day, celebrated as the birthday of LSD.


Who: Dr. Alan Scott, and Edward Schantz

When: late 1960s

Why:  Using small doses of the most acutely toxic substance known, Botulinum toxin (as one does), they applied it to treat “crossed eyes” eyelid spasms and other eye-muscle disorders; a noticeable side-effect was that wrinkles disappeared, as the muscles beneath the skin were paralyzed.  Canadian husband and wife ophthalmologist and dermatologist physicians, JD and JA Carruthers, were the first to publish a study on BTX-A for the treatment of frown lines in 1992.  The result?  Expressionless faces that become distorted and deformed with time, thanks to Botox addiction. I think the inventors of this “treatment” should be locked away in padded cells, personally.

Smallpox Vaccination

Who: Edward Jenner, a British scientist and surgeon

When: 1796

Why:  Jenner had a brainstorm that ultimately led to the development of the first vaccine: A young milkmaid had told him how people who contracted cowpox, a harmless disease easily picked up during contact with cows, never got smallpox, a deadly scourge.  With this in mind Jenner took samples from the open cowpox sores on the hands of a young dairymaid named Sarah Nelmes and inoculated eight-year-old James Phipps with the secretion he had extracted from Nelmes’ sores.  The boy developed a slight fever and a few sores but remained for the most part unscathed. A few months later Jenner gave the boy another injection, this one containing smallpox. James failed to develop the disease and the idea behind the modern vaccine was born.


Who: Canadian doctor Frederick Banting and Professor John MacLeod of the University of Toronto; Nobel Prize winners of 1923.

When: 1923

Why: In 1889 two German
physicians, Joseph von Mering and Oscar Minkowski, removed the pancreas from a healthy dog in order to study the role of the pancreas in digestion. Several days after the dog’s pancreas was removed, the doctors happened to notice a swarm of flies feeding on a puddle of the dog’s urine. On testing the urine, the doctors realized that the dog was secreting sugar in its urine, a sign of diabetes. Because the dog had been healthy prior to the surgery, the doctors knew that they had created its diabetic condition by removing its pancreas and thus understood for the first time the relationship between the pancreas and diabetes.  After further testing they concluded that a healthy pancreas must secrete a substance that controls the metabolism of sugar in the body. Though other scientists attempted to identify the substance released by the pancreas, it was Banting and MacLeod who discovered that the mysterious substance was insulin.

Pap smear

Who: Dr. George Nicholas Papanicolaou

When: 1923

Why: In 1923 he was studying the vaginal fluid in women to observe cellular changes over the course of a menstrual cycle; one of his subjects just happened to have uterine cancer, and when he discovered the abnormal cells, plainly seen under the microscope, he quickly realized that doctors could administer a simple test to gather a sample of vaginal fluid and test it for early signs of uterine and other cancers.



Filed under Articles, History, Lists, Quotes, Research