Tag Archives: athletes

Better Than Smelling Salts

Smelling salts were used to restore little ladies who fainted from wearing their stays or corsets too tight, or from being in love, or embarrassed beyond belief, or shocked to the very core. At least that’s what the English novels indicated. But that was in another era when ladies were not as strong and resilient as they are now (that probably is a debatable issue which we are not going into at this time.) As a matter of fact, I can’t picture Great-Aunt Delia being less than strong and resilient herself. Yet she’s the one who owned the smelling salts decanter that is now part of my bottle collection. She would really crow, I guess, if she’d known that now it’s young athletic men who are using smelling salts.

My Daddy’s aunt Delia Sweet could, it seemed to me, “hold her own” in any given situation. Of course I never personally knew her since she died before I was born. But the stories about her were quite vivid, one involving her feeding her several cats on stewed rats which she caught herself. Doesn’t sound like someone who needs smelling salts.

In setting up my bottle collection in a new house, a new kitchen, on a new shelf, I became curious. As I placed the little smelling salts decanter in the middle of bottles which had held other less interesting commodities like shoe polish, mayonnaise, and mouthwash, I wondered what were smelling salts anyway?

Smelling salts, also known as hartshorn or sal volatile, are used for arousing consciousness. In the 17th century it was discovered that shavings from the horns of harts gave off gas (ammonia) which irritated the lungs and throat when smelled, thus arousing consciousness. (Anybody used ammonia lately in cleaning? It sure is a startling sensation when the scent goes up your nose!) As early as the 13th century some form of smelling salts were used. In fact, smelling salts are referred to in a play by Aristophanes, a comic playwright of ancient Athens.

I thought the use of smelling salts was all something of the past. But no. I went online and learned the up-to-date facts, a few of which I’ll give you. Viewers of football or hockey games may observe players at the very beginning of a game being tossed small cylinders which they pop open and sniff, then discard the packaging. It is smelling salts, actually ammonia mixed with medical alcohol. When sniffed, the ammonia opens blood vessels in the nasal passage causing a rush of oxygen to the brain.

Sniffing smelling salts is all quite legal and safe, at least when practiced in moderation. But boxers are not allowed to use the stuff. Anyone with a possibility of a concussion should not be revived and sent back into a fray. At the same time, an injured athlete of any sport should not be given smelling salts. Head injuries could be exacerbated by the sudden jerks smelling salts would produce. In other words, it’s something to use in mild situations, to give a boost. Trainers, supposedly, do not give football players additional sniffs of smelling salts during a game. For one thing, ammonia is foul smelling, and for another, it would lose its affect with repeated doses.

In 1924 England one could purchase smelling salts in the form of something called “Vaporal.” Ladies carried them in their reticules. Vaporal came in dainty little boxes of twelve silk-covered glass capsules. Today athletes receive cute little glass cylinders of smelling salts wrapped in cotton, then cardboard. They snap the package in the middle, the ammonia spills into the cotton, the athlete sniffs it, then, according to one reporter, begins to jerk and almost dance. It is an obvious reaction that is noticeable on national television.

Now that I’ve given you all this useless information, useless unless you’re prone to faint over the daily news, I want to make a couple of observations.

Smelling salts aren’t even salt. But I think, judging by my decanter and old Victorian pictures, that clerks at the apothecary did sometimes pour that ammonia over coarse salt (like ice cream salt) for looks and maybe preservation. I’d definitely rather get my “salt” from a nice hot bag of fresh buttered popcorn!

Another observation. To achieve a surge of energy, I recommend you read God’s love letter to man, the Bible, at least one portion every day. Repeated doses never hurt! And for a big weekly surge of power, go to church on Sunday, or anytime!

Trust me. It works. And you don’t have to be burdened with those weird little glass capsules. Or with a fancy glass decanter. (I can’t picture my aunt De getting that decanter to her nose if she were prone. Maybe she used it for my tiny grandmother, her sister. That could account for the very solemn look on Grandmother’s pictured face.)



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Thoughts on the Olympics

I’m not entirely sure why I’m so enthralled every four years when the winter Olympics play out. The competition amongst the young athletes is so invigorating and I love to become acquainted with the setting too–the snowy mountains, the palatial buildings, the side stories. My loyalty is pumped up to a high level as I pull for our very own contenders. And I just love to see the snow from the safety of my own living room! I cannot imagine myself every slicing up one side of a huge “pipe” and landing just barely on the lip to swoop back down and up again. But it’s fun to watch someone who is so daring! So–I’m a vicarious athlete!

My favorite venue is figure skating but I enjoy the fantastic skiiers, the crazy bobsledders, and the fast, so fast, speed skaters.I love to see those who have worked for years win their medals. And I can cry for those who worked so hard and ended up way down the list. I can get wrapped up in watching each one’s moves as the commentator describes their tiny, but costly mistakes or applauds their landings from four tumbles in the air to standing firm and skiing on down the slope.

But one of the best parts is the story of each Olympian. Some are truly Cinderella stories as kids from a humble background began working out as first graders or third graders and developed a dream. Behind each one is someone who particularly pushed them to stay focused on that dream, someone who kept telling them they could, someone who inspired and always, always stood behind them. Such a one was Katie Uhlaender whose Dad understood her passion for slicing down an icy, twisting track at 80 miles an hour, headfirst in the skeleton venue. You can read her story leading up to the Olympics in my favorite magazine, Guideposts, their February edition. Read how when her dad died, she thought she could no longer compete and then how she had a comeback.

So, for whatever reason this 71-year-old woman really gets “turned on” by the Olympics. I love the challenging, victorious music, I love the excitement of competition, I love to hear stories of the Olylmpian heroes, including those who didn’t win the gold as they’d so hoped. For instance, there was the brother who won bronze instead of gold but whose tears were not because of winning less than hoped but because his beloved brother had recently died. Or what about the brother whose great victory (I think he won Gold) was shared with his brother there in Russia in a passionate bear hug? That brother was the one who pushed him from the sidelines, the same brother who can’t himself compete because he has cerebral palsy.

No, I’m no athlete, never was and never will be (unless in heaven God puts me on a snowboard and sprinkles me with special power) BUT–watching these athletes do their very best makes me want to do the best with whatever I am “into.” If I’m knitting, I want to make every stitch right where it’s supposed to be! If I’m cooking, I want to turn out delectable dishes! If I’m being a friend, I want to do my best to be the friend God wants me to be. That’s what it’s all about!

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