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Don’t let cold and flu season keep you down

A week ago in this space, I wrote about a frightening new disease outbreak in China, as well as ways people can protect themselves from illnesses in general.

I touched on easy, and supposedly effective, steps we can follow, such as thorough and frequent hand washing, the importance of eating a healthy diet to boost immunity and avoiding contact with others who are sick. Today, I feel like that column was a bit of a premonition, since I spent the latter part of last week battling a stuffy head, sore throat, cough and stubborn fever.

Perhaps I should have written about home remedies for the common cold or flu instead!

Isn’t it funny how simple things, especially those that we remember from our childhoods, bring us comfort when we are sick?

Although I had very little appetite on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, one of the most soothing things I consumed during that time was a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars soup. For whatever reason, when I was small I didn’t really care for regular chicken noodle soup, so my mom bought me Chicken & Stars instead. This past week, I was reminded of how its warm and somewhat salty goodness always made me feel better when I was ill. Mom isn’t around to serve me that soup anymore, so my husband, Mike, made a special stop at the store to pick it up for me.

On another occasion while I rested and waited to recover, Mike served me a different bowl of soup alongside a grilled cheese sandwich. The gooey goodness of the melted cheese was quite appealing as I dipped those wedge-shaped sandwich pieces into my soup. I couldn’t quite finish that meal, but I enjoyed every bite of it that I was able to eat.

From 7-Up to plain saltines, Mike provided me with several old favorites from either his childhood or mine. I did take some fever reducers and some other cough, cold and flu medications, but I think these old familiar comfort foods and a nice warm blanket were actually the best medicines I could have had.

It didn’t hurt, either, that I had such a good caretaker. Thanks, Mike, for being patient and kind while I was laid up.

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It’s certainly not uncommon for people in the Ohio Valley to come down with colds, coughs and other maladies at this time of year. I’m sure I wasn’t suffering alone last week. But it’s important that we don’t let cold and flu season keep us down.

There’s quite a bit to do in our area at this time of year, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

On Saturday, the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing held its Black History Month activities, kicking off February with storytelling, tours, treats and more.

But just because the museum’s observation of this annual event is over doesn’t mean you can’t visit the facility to learn more on a different date. Regular museum hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and on Saturdays by appointment only. You can call 740-968-2080 or 740-391-3135 to schedule an appointment.

In the eastern part of Belmont County, the Great Stone Viaduct Society will host its annual lecture series from 6-7:30 p.m. on eight consecutive Wednesdays, beginning this week. The events will be held at the Bellaire Public Library and will focus on various local history topics. Admission is free.

Tuesday is for Toddlers at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville. Craft activities, storytime and more begin each week at 11 a.m. in the Center Court.

The Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby begins at noon Feb. 15 at Boscov’s Court in the mall, and a Faith Walk to support East Richland Christian School takes place at the mall on Feb. 29.

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Speaking of Feb. 29, this year is what is known as a “leap year.” A leap year has 366 days instead of 365, with Leap Day falling on Feb. 29 which is inserted into the calendar every four years.

Leap years result because it takes our planet about 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds to orbit the sun. That means an actual year is about 365 1/4 days long. Inserting an extra day in the calendar every four years makes up for the extra 1/4 day each year. Otherwise our calendar would lose about 24 days each century.

This method of calendar upkeep dates to Roman times, and several related traditions have developed over the ensuing 2,000 years. In some cultures, Leap Day provided an opportunity for women to propose marriage to men, rather than the other way around. In other cultures, it is considered an unlucky day, similar to a Friday the 13th. Finally, those born on a leap day must adapt in order to celebrate their birthdays in common years. Since Feb. 29 only comes around every four years, many of these people celebrate on Feb. 28 or March 1 instead.

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