“Que sera sera” versus Heart Smart

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is MYOCARDITIS, which means inflammation of the heart muscle. Here are my thoughts on the subject of heart health, though not specifically inflammation of same.

Image by S. Hermann and F Richter — Pixabay

In August of 1929 my husband’s grandmother visited her doctor, possibly because of a stomach problem and the pain it was giving her. While she was in the office she had an attack of acute indigestion and passed away right there. Interestingly enough, her husband had also died of “acute indigestion” some years earlier.

Back in the late 1800s John Holdeman, one of the leaders in our church, died of “acute intestinal distress.” If you’d examine death certificates, you’d find that a lot of people prior to 1940 died of some variety of “indigestion” which caused increasingly sharp pains in the chest, followed by collapse and death. Today the diagnosis would be “heart attack,” or myocardial infarction.

Conversely, my long-lost great-great Aunt Henrietta died in 1907 at the age of 55, and her death was attributed to chronic heart disease.

Prior to 1800 doctors had only their ears to tell them what a patient’s heart was doing, or not doing. The first stethoscope, invented by Frenchman Rene Laennec in 1816, primitive though it was, amplified the heartbeat. Subsequent improvements, including the two ear-bud version developed in 1851 by Irish doctor Arthur Leared, have given doctors a much better idea of what’s going on inside us.

This device enabled Gr-gr-Aunt Henrietta’s doctors to tell that her heart beat was not as it should be. But only the last seventy years, give or take, have tests been developed to record the flow of blood through the arteries and reveal that some are blocked.

What we call a heart attack today is a circulation problem. When blood flow to the heart is blocked because of a buildup in the arteries carry blood through the heart, feelings of pressure and chest pains result. Today’s patient stands a good chance of surviving because of CPR and bypass surgeries.

Cardiac arrest, on the other hand, is when the heart suddenly stops beating for some reason. Some signal prompting the heart’s rhythm doesn’t get through – or an air bubble in the blood stream hits the heart and stops it. Medics call this an electrical problem, and bring out the shock paddles. If someone is nearby to do CPR, the heart can be restarted. A pacemakers is installed to kick in if the body’s signal gets lost in transit, and the person may live many more years.

Perhaps this article is long enough, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about health issues of various sorts, and about fatalistic ideas like “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.” Someone recently commented about the COVID threat, that, “If I get it, I do. When my time is up, it’s up.” I’m sure she’s taken every possible precaution, and once you have, you can rest in “What will be, will be.” I also hear people offer comfort when they hear of a death by saying, “It was his/her time to go.” I don’t disagree, but as a general rule we’ll do everything we can to extend our time on this earth.

Circa 1900 people probably had a more fatalistic approach to health. “We’ll live as long as God/ Allah/ the gods/ fate allows us to live.” But amazing medical advances have given a lot of us longer lives than we would have had if we’d just let nature take its course. These days, if you’d go to a doctor with severe chest pains, and he’d say, “You may live or you may die. Whatever will be, will be,” you’d soon be looking for another doctor. One who’d do bypass surgery so your time wouldn’t be up quite so soon.

Three Tinkles of the Bell

Yesterday I heard three little warning tinkles that provoked some serious thoughts.

What If…

Yesterday morning Marla, the FlyLady, posted a list of practical things everyone should do to be prepared for an emergency. I went over this list of simple, obvious things like being sure you have at least half a tank of gas in your car, some cash handy, a few essentials in a flight bag.

— If there’s a big exit, such as happens in the US when a hurricane’s about to hit, cars may be bumper-to-bumper on the freeway for awhile, so be prepared. If the power’s out, gas pumps won’t work, so don’t let your tank run so low. In fact, many things won’t work if the power’s out: debit machines, ATMs, etc.

— Plan ahead and have your precious stuff near the door or where you can grab it in your rush to evacuate. Keep all precious documents in a safely deposit box, copies at home, duplicate keys and flash-drives a friend or relative’s home. Etc.

Another tinkle chimed in the news yesterday. After several days of record-breaking heat, topping at 49.6C – which is just over 121 F – a fire started and rapidly destroyed 90% of Lytton, a town in the interior of British Columbia. Horrible! Our sympathies to the folks without homes, and in that terrible heat wave. Thankfully the people of Lytton had enough time to get out. How would it be to have JUST ENOUGH time to jump in the car and go?

The next tinkle came when a friend, in the course of our visit, talked about the possibility of fire. On such a windy day as it was yesterday, which made our outdoors like a blast furnace, fire is a terrifying prospect. In fact, we heard that our son-in-law and grandson, members of the local volunteer Fire Dept, were out fighting a fire about 30 km from here. It’s not hard to imagine fires raging in the northern forests, but we’re not as immune as we’d like to think, either.

I’m not anticipating disaster but these tinkles remind me there are some things I could and should do to be prepared. If the need arose for sudden flight, we’d likely grab our two cats, our cell phones and my purse if we could, and dash for the car. Everything else would stay behind, come what may. So which of our belongings are really precious and what can we do to ensure their safety? For those of us who are pack-rats, these are questions worth pondering.

Blissful Retreat

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was BLISS. And Frank Prem writes about wanting to attend their annual Rainforest Writing Retreat. What a blissful thought!

Actually the thought of any retreat where you can kick back and relax with friends/fellow writers sounds great, especially when their official website invites you to “Escape reality with your fellow writers in Australia’s lush mountain rainforest at O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park!”

Yes, BLISS! Just a continent and a small fortune away. Sigh. Frank laments that he can’t go either now, because of new COVID restrictions in their area.

RETREATS: An Absence of Real-World Temptations

Twenty-five years ago I knew a lady in Montreal who went on several retreats. Not the blissful kind, though. Over time she paid out what amounted to a small fortune to spend time at a holistic health retreat in the country, where she did nothing but NOT EAT. For $70 a day she was given a tiny room with a bed, a dresser and not much space to move, where she spend several weeks at a time just resting, supposedly cleansing her body of toxins, reading, meditating, praying. She could walk around, but there was no encouragement to exercise; folks were there to purify their bodies.

She felt this effort brought her closer to God, but she also had practical motives: lose weight and quit smoking. Someday I’ll write more about her episodes, but suffice it to say, the plan didn’t work in the long run. Living only on water and juices, of course she lost weight. Back in the real world food and nicotine tempted her as always. Coming home after a retreat one time, she ordered an extra-large pizza — and ate the whole thing. Then her body was suddenly overloaded and she suffered. In all that enforced deprivation, she’d let self-discipline slip away.

So I shall forgo rainforest retreats until my ship comes in. Even being in a gorgeous, low-stress setting, surrounded by all those good vibes, won’t guarantee that a person would spend the time in her seat writing every day once she’s home again. The enthusiasm and inspiration would be a boost any writer would enjoy and you’d come away with fresh inspiration. However, it still takes self-discipline to keep pounding the keyboard when those temptations to skip off and play come beckoning. 🙂

Pixabay image

A Look At Book Reviews

Reader Reviews: A Collage of Lively Opinions

Image by Ben Kerckx at Pixabay

Do you write book reviews?
Do you read book reviews?
How much do reviews affect your choice of stories?
Have you ever been prompted to read a book just because the reviews were all over the map and you wanted to find out for yourself if it’s good or not?

Browsing on Amazon recently, I stopped to read the listing for a new western, then the reviews. And what a mixed bag!
“Childish time waster…start-to-finish nonsense…simplistic…lumbering text.”
While other reviewers said, “Good quick read…thrilling characters…

“Well-written traditional western…hero with high standards.”

Since I’ve started paying more attention to book reviews, I’ve marveled at the variety of adjectives used to describe a story — sometimes the same story!
implausible
poorly edited
unbelievable
far-fetched
ludicrous
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
acceptable
okay
satisfying
slow to start, but the pace picks up
adequate
good escapism
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
compelling
suspenseful
lovely
superb
touching

Some people wax eloquent with their descriptions:
“The inconsistencies are continual and grating…”
“Dialogue vaguely reminiscent of the Trixie Beldon series”
“The execution of the story was more like slaughter.”
I’m not sure what to make of a “western” reviewer’s point-in-favour, though: “Clean fighting by hand instead of shooting and wasting bullets.”

Sometimes a crossing of the Atlantic works, and sometimes it doesn’t. One of the British readers’ most frequent complaints is about American/Canadian writers who didn’t do their homework.
“Complete lack of research into English spoken in the UK.”
“Full of Americanisms.”
But the next reviewer, obviously not up on those differences, says:
“Brilliant read. Cannot wait for the next book!”

For me, the age of the main character makes a difference. If she’s a teen, I expect some immaturity, emotional explosions and moody, self-centered behavior. We’ve all been there. But when the character is thirty-one, has been in the work force for over ten years, and still behaves like a volatile teen, I note that in my review.

The situation of the main character appeals more to some readers, even if the character herself is kind of blah. One reader says, “I like the way a senior woman starts out on a new adventure.”
Other reviewers say that the story drags:
“Glad it was over. Not very interesting.”
“Reads like a travel brochure.”
“If you suffer from insomnia, read this book.”

I believe that some reviewers think more of encouraging the writer, and leave reviews that focus on the positives and skip over glaring faults like poor research, inconsistent behaviour or plot holes. Other reviewers are obviously writing to inform potential buyers.

A writer who wants good reviews must keep up-to-date notes on characters and changes made. Reviewers often note it when a writer hasn’t kept her facts straight:
“In the first chapter we read that her father died two years ago and she still misses him. In Chapter five we learn that he died almost ten years ago.

“In the first book of the series, her nephew was Peter. In the second book his name was Richard. But in the third book he was back to Peter again!”

Sometimes I wonder about the motive of the reviewer. After the majority of reviewers found the above book slow and the MC rather a dim bulb, along comes this enthusiastic:
“Fascinating and poignant story with lovely characters who made you want to know them as friends.”
Was this submitted by the writer’s best friend or beloved niece? Is this her honest opinion, or has someone been paid to write this review?

Now I’d like to hear what you think of reviews and how much you pay attention to them?

The Letter I: Uniquely Ours

Rye Regular

I’m not sure there’s another language where the I is pronounced like we English pronounce ours. (Though we must make allowances for the Cockney OY.) There are some dialects that pronounce AYE like our I, but I don’t know of any other language where it stands alone.

However, most of our words that start with I come from Latin, carried across the English Cannel by Roman soldiers, or coming into English via the French adaptation of a Latin word.

Even our simple word INK comes from the French encre, adapted from the Latin encaustum, meaning burned in. The Romans in turn borrowed it from the Greek word encaustos, which is where we get our word CAUSTIC

Actually, many of our IMPORTANT, INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE, and INTRIGUING words start with an I. Im- heads off a number, Imm- some more, and In- starts off a host of words.

Some of these are combos, while others maybe once were, but have become detached from their roots:
We have INERT, but no ERT; INVITE but no VITE.
INVOKE still shows its roots; the –voke comes from vocation.
INVESTIGATE comes from In + vestige, or trace. So you’re looking for traces of the facts when you investigate something.

Rye Regular

Awhile back I started reading a book about the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire, through the Middle Ages, up until the Enlightenment. It was heavy slogging but one thing was clear: the history of Europe has been a long stream of invasion and bloody conquest.

Constant waves of invaders came from the east, the steppes, the Ural mountains: the Franks, the Goths, the Gauls, the Vandals, and a host of others. A lot of these had their turn sacking poor Rome, and then moved on to various other conquests, including the British Isles. Plus there was the era when a good part of Europe was overrun by Muslim armies. Land grab, power grab: this is the history of mankind.

The news this past year has been disturbing to many of us, and leads us to wonder if INSIDIOUS INVADERS are at work behind the scenes. Not wielding swords and charging forth, but playing from the shadows, slinging ink and using social media, hacking, spying. Fueling discord, attacking authority, wishing to bring down the society we have now and replace it with something “better.” But who is really behind the turmoil and mud-slinging we’re seeing today? People may not be such willing puppets if they could see who’s really pulling the strings.

I believe it would be a good thing for us all to read George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, and refresh our minds as to the possible consequences of “throwing off the yoke of oppression and bringing in a new social order.” If we lose our guiding star in these chaotic times, some power will step in and take control – and they may not be so nice to live under, either.

Our Poor, Neglected H

And now for one of the most misunderstood letters in the English language…

Rye Regular

Accused of being HIGH-BROW or even HAUGHTY, the use of an H is at least controversial. Some groups of English speakers do an automatic delete, and for sure the French do. We can’t blame the use of H and TH on the Norman invaders. Lately I heard a Cockney speaker explaining that if you want to sound like them, “Get rid of the H’s. Don’t need ’em.” Ditto with the TH’s. “Oo needs an H? Ged along royt wew wivoud ’em, we can.”

The other linguistic foible is to stick them in where they don’t belong. “H’Irvin h’Armstrong was here today. He wanted to h’ask you h’if you’d gotten his message?”

But H is here to stay, because we need to HALF– so many things, and because it starts out so many short everyday words we can’t do without:
HURT + HEAL
HOLD + HURL
HELP + HINDER
HIM + HER

Doing some research on the origins of our letter H, I discovered that our H words are mostly Germanic in origin, that their roots go back to a common Indo-European language, and they mostly began with a k or kh sound.
Here, Who, How < kho
Hind (deer) < Kemi
Hip < kheup
Heart < kadia or kerd
Hearth < kherthaz
Help < kelp

The Japanese are fond of their H, giving us words like HONCHO and HAIKU, and who knows how many more if the current linguistic melange continues.

Rye Regular

Dorothy Sayers, in her book, THE FIVE RED HERRINGS, waxed merry with various accents and dropped or added aitches in a realistic way. The book was published in 1931 and she died in 1957, so I’m hoping I’ll be okay reprinting this bit.

Investigating the suspicious death of Mr Campbell, Inspector Macpherson called on Mr. Gowan. When the haughty English butler opened the door, the Inspector asked to speak to the gentleman.
“Mr Gowan is h’out. He’s gone to London.”
In his Broad Scots accent, the inspector explains…
“I will tell ye, wi’oot circumlocution, that there is mair than a suspeecion that the puir gentleman was murdered.”
“So I h’understand.”
“Your name is Halcock, is’t no?”
The butler corrected him. “H’alcock,” he said, reprovingly.
“H, a, double l?”
“There is no h’aitch in the name, young man. H’ay is the first letter, and there is h’only one h’ell.”

Then the Inspector goes on to question Hammond, Mr Gowan’s chauffeur, described as a small, perky man, mongrel in speech, but betraying a strong streak of the fundamental cockney.

“Did ye drive Mr. Gowan onywhere on Monday last?”
“Drove ‘im ter Dumfries. Mr. Alcock comes down when I was ‘avin’ me supper, and says Mr. Gowan wanted the saloon round at 8 o’clock ter tike ‘im ter Dumfries. And I says, ‘Right-oh!’ I says, ‘an’ I can pick up them there pitchers at the same time.’ That’s what I says and that’s what I done.”

As I understand Cockney, this would have sounded like, ” ‘At’s Royt. Drove ‘im ter Dumfries. Mr. Alcock comes down when Oy was ‘avin’ me suppah and says Mr. Gowan wanted the saloon round at oyt o’clock… ‘at’s wha’ Oy says and ‘at’s wha I dun.”

(The WordPress Spell-checker doesn’t like this colloquial post. There are red lines everywhere!)