Krysta Chapman is a freelance copywriter in Charleston, SC with a passion for food photography and writing compelling copy + content for small businesses around the country. In addition to her work as a copywriter, Krysta is the proud author of a children's book, The Unexpected Adventures of Zoe Martinez: The Long, Unwanted Walk to School. When she's not hammering away on the laptop you can find her at the beach with her two water-loving kids, binge-watching HGTV while daydreaming of flipping a house or indulging in delicious food and cocktails with her husband. She believes in three truths: Traveling is the best form of education, sarcasm is a necessary evil and there's always room for tacos.
The Scariest Game In the Whole Wide World: Elementary Germ Roulette
Germy, germy, germs, germs.
The infection-causing, body-invading on freaking everything microorganisms.
Germs: Even the name sounds creepy crawly, doesn't it?
As a mother to a 6-year-old and 3-month-old, I'm intimately aware of the battle of the bugs and my daily effort to keep my home as sick-free as possible for my brand new babe – a tough feat for anyone with a child in elementary school, no doubt.
It's not that I don't expect our daughter – the elder one rubbing elbows in the germy hamster ball that is school on a daily basis – to get sick from time to time. I get it. It happens, and, to an extent it's necessary.
Stockpiling those antibodies helps to eventually – hopefully – build a solid defense against the common cold, among other things. Studies have shown that kids who grow up in germaphobic households actually end up more sick in the long run. It's important to build an immunity; it's important to not live in a sterile environment 24/7.
So, yeah, in a way, I welcome the germs.
But it's more about the way they get so freely shared that gets me going.
A cough directly in the face of another … slimy snot sneezed all over the hands that touch EVERYTHING … and handwashing? Um, good luck with that.
It seems to be the mission in life of all 3-to-10-year-old kids around the world to infect and spread those gnarly "seeds of disease" to everyone and anyone in their path.
Well, consider it mission completed.
I suppose it's just the nature of the beast when kids huddle in groups together. In fact, any parent of a day-care kid could already tell you this was going to be the case. Little Tommy never had a cold a day in his life until Mom and Dad popped him into day care at 3 years old. From then on? A bright red, snot-dripping nose literally every single time you saw him.
But here's the real kicker: It's not really even their fault, is it?
Sure, it's on every surface imaginable: the tables, toys and door handles. And, of course, they hug and tumble and play together as only kids can so innocently do. But they can't see the germs, same as they could see mud on their hands, prompting a tiny lightbulb "ah ha" to go wash their hands. After all, they're kids.
But you? The parent, caretaker, adult in their life – this is on you my friend. Teach them to "dab" when they sneeze, cough into their shoulder and, for the love of everything holy, make them wash their hands. With soap.
No, I don't expect you to chase after them with antibacterial spray or nestle them inside a germ-free bubble until college. Just stick to the basics, and we'll all be a little less snotty for it.
Oh, and because life is what happens when you're busy making plans – I'm currently sporting a 100-degree fever.
The germs have invaded, and I have lost. Ironic, isn't it?
Nuttier Than a Fruitcake: The Holiday Gift No One Wants
Sure, grab a bottle of bubbly or show up with a Poinsettia in hand, but do us all a favor: Put down the fruitcake and back away slowly.
Listen folks, the holidays are right around the corner – and with it parties, celebrations and invites to share in the yuletide joy. Showing up empty-handed? Not in a million years. But let's get one thing straight: No one wants the damn fruitcake. Not now, not ever. In fact, folklore says it was originally a gift left for the dead in ancient Egypt, and I'm willing to bet not a single mummy ever came back from the grave to sneak a piece then either.
It doesn't matter which way you slice it, a fruitcake is easily one of the most hated gifts in the United States, and yet, year after year, holiday guests show up bearing this fruity, nutty token of appreciation nevertheless.
The fruitcake originally gained popularity during the Roman times with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and barley mash – you know, after the mummies stopped waking from the dead to eat it and all. Over the years, the ingredients evolved or changed. Some added marzipan or royal icing and others played with the ratio of flour and eggs. What emerged for Americans is what is known today for being dense, sweet and packed with dried fruit, nuts and spices.
It's also known for having one heck of a shelf life, too – one that comedians can't seem to help poking fun at. In fact, to prove his point that fruitcakes last forever, in 2003 "The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno sampled a fruitcake baked all the way back in 1878. Even Leno's predecessor on "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson, deemed the fruitcake a holiday abomination:
"The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other."
But maybe we're just doing it wrong.
In other countries, the cake is welcomed, sometimes throughout the entire year and certainly at celebrations of birthdays, weddings and the holidays. I'm beginning to think that perhaps their fruitcake doesn't taste like a spiced brick, however. In the United Kingdom, traditional fruitcakes are rich and moist, adorned with icing, powdered sugar or fresh berries. In the Bahamas, the entire cake, including the candied fruit and raisins inside, soak in dark rum while fresh out of the oven.
So maybe it's not the fruitcake itself that's the problem but our reject variation that has families hesitant to invite Great Aunt Hilda – and her bag full of sugary paperweights – to the annual family get-together.
Want my advice? Skip the fruitcake this season and opt for a nice bottle of vino or a cheese plate. Chances are, we all still have one propping open a door somewhere anyway.
How Oral Hygiene Has (Thankfully) Evolved Over the Years
I know that we all like to think that humans are the most evolved species in the world, and, in most cases, I would agree. Yet, if you stop to look back on some of the bright ideas from the past, especially in regards to medicine and hygiene, we might just have to hand back our title.
Let's take oral hygiene for instance. Sure, today we seem to have it down to a science: Brush twice a day and don't forget to floss – but what about the methods used thousands of years ago? Do you know how they kept their smiles shining bright? Let me fill you in: chalk, burned eggshells, crushed oyster shells, yes, the ashes of ox hooves.
The ashes of ox hooves??? No thank you – not in a million years. But hey, at least they were trying, I guess.
Adding insult to injury, most people didn't even brush their teeth on a consistent basis until after World War II. Apparently, soldiers away at war realized we were a disgusting bunch and brought the practice of brushing regularly home when the hostilities ended.
So there's that.
What about the toothbrush, you ask? Good question. Much like animals gnaw on sticks for their teeth cleaning routines, some of the first "toothbrushes" were actually thin twigs used as "chew sticks." They probably didn't do a whole lot of actual cleaning.
Sometime around the 1500s, toothbrushes were made from animal bones along with quills, boar bristles and feathers. In the late 1700s, William Addis – a prisoner in London – decided that enough was enough and sweet-talked a guard into slipping him some pig bristles to accompany the bones he had managed to salvage from dinner. Interestingly, when Addis was released, he went on to form a company that has gone well beyond oral hygiene and still operates today. Good on him.
In 1857, H.N. Wadsworth became the first American to patent a toothbrush, though mass production of those valuable pearlywhite polishers didn't start until almost 30 years later. Delaying the defunking of our mouths even more, it wasn't until the 1930s – and the invention of nylon – that the toothbrushes we know, love and cherish today were introduced.
With all this in mind, you have to be pretty amazed at how far we've come from the foul-smelling mouths and wooden teeth that preceded the current-day state of oral hygiene. These days, there's dozens of ways to treat our mouths, and it's definitely not just about the choppers, either. Gums, tongues and the entire mouth are expected to be freshly cleaned, polished and hinting of mint. Now, exactly 58 years after the first electric toothbrush dazzled the American market, we are inundated with endless ways to maintain our oral health.
And while it's not the same as chalk, bones or shells, we are still endlessly seeking products that will make our teeth shine. From white strips to baking soda to activated charcoal, who knows what people will think of our methods another 2,000 years from now.
I'd like to think they'd say we were onto something. At the very least, our teeth aren't wooden. So again, there's that.
Menopause Monologues: Two Thoughts to Every Story
Full disclosure: I was already out of my parents' house by the time my own mother started menopause, but that didn't stop me from hearing horror stories of hot flashes, weight gain, difficulty sleeping and, oh yes, mood swings. These stories were usually recounted over phone calls with Mom since Dad wouldn't dare speak ill of his wife "going through the change" – though I do remember a story of my dad waking in the middle of the night with snow piling up against their open bedroom window. Turns out Mom had a midnight hot flash, and despite the blizzard outside needed "air." In reality, most men are smart enough – or likely scared enough – to keep their opinions over raging hormones and fluctuating body temps to themselves. Smart move, gentlemen.
But what about those thoughts? Perspectives? Experiences watching this battle of the female body rage inside their brides? After speaking to several couples, here's my truth-betold take on the conversations going on inside the male and female brains when faced with some of the more common symptoms of menopause.
For the average person who's never dealt with the rapid changes of body temperatures inside their body, it may seem improbable that it can even be so swift and unrelentless. And yet it is.
WOMAN (FANNING HERSELF): "Oh, God. Here it comes; where's the fan? I need ice. I need an ice bath. It's like a volcano inside my body! This is the one that'll do me in."
Five minutes later: "Where's my sweater? Did he turn up the air? It's freezing in here!"
MAN: "Why is she flapping her hands so much? What's happening? Is she cold? Hot? Do I ask? Oh, she's sweating. Oh, God, here it comes. I should get her a fan – and a sweater. Mental note: DO NOT touch the thermostat."
It's not pleasant and certainly no one wants to talk about it. One day you're eating big bowls of pasta and meatballs, and the next day, you ARE the meatball. Hormonal changes slow down the metabolism and, in turn, make maintaining a healthy weight harder than ever before. Awesome, right?
WOMAN (WATCHING HUSBAND EATING DOUGHNUTS): "Oh, I remember those days. I could eat anything I wanted – ANYTHING! Those were the days. Stupid menopause. Stupid hormones. Stupid metabolism. Stupid still-slim husband."
MAN: "She's staring at me. Should I offer her a bite? Nope. No way I'm getting caught in that trap. Mental note: Buy flowers and tell her she's beautiful."
LOSS OF FOCUS
Lost keys? Forgetfulness? Easily distracted? Go ahead and blame it on the menopause because, once again, low levels of estrogen – and likely higher stress levels – are the culprit during this transitional time period. AKA, you are NOT going crazy.
WOMAN: "Where did I leave my glasses? I just had them."
MAN: "I wonder if she knows they're on her head? I bet that's what she's looking for."
Just like hot flashes, a mood swing can roll in like a tornado without warning. Coupled with the hormone fluctuations, additional menopause factors, such as fatigue, lack of sleep and even anxiety, can send women on a roller coaster of emotions. Word of advice – from both men and women – DO NOT POKE THE BEAR!
WOMAN: "Birds singing. Sun shining. What a beautiful day."
One tiny bump in the road later…
"God save the next person who speaks to me!"
MAN: "Mental note: Buy more flowers."
An Open Letter To a New Generation of Fellow Oculi
Things just aren't like they used to be, kids.
Sure, back then we didn't have any of these fancy-schmancy lasers, but we made due. We needed less help back then, too, if you ask me – less small-print reading, more in-life experiences. Not every event we saw or feeling that was felt was broadcast for the world to know. It was a simpler time I suppose.
These days, I'm straining and struggling to keep up with everything I see. White lights, bright screens and a feed of endlessly flowing text smaller than anyone should have to wince at.
Frankly, I'm tired. Overworked. Out of focus. And underappreciated.
Look at all we do. We paint the picture of life.
It's through our lenses' that our friend, the brain, computes our data, connects the dots and understands what is literally right before us. From the moment we open to the second we close, we're documenting the images that make up the beloved memories that are so important – at least as I understand them to be. Without us, everyone in the High Five Sensory Band is playing overtime, and, trust me, there's no time-and-a-half for their efforts.
Not to mention that we really hit the mark with a perfectly executed roll, when appropriate, for sarcastic emphasis.
Lastly, let me ask you this: Have you ever been yelled at by "HR" – the Headache Responsibility team? Here they come, asking questions and pointing fingers, wanting to know who's in charge of the between-the-eye cluster headaches and soul-sucking migraines. It's not me I tell you. It's the electronics: cellphones, laptops, large screen TVs – enough is enough.
Bloodshot, blurry and dry as the desert: I'm not trying to make a spectacle of myself, but, I'm telling you, it doesn't have to be like this.
Sure, we can't all be perfect 20/20s — and yes, some of us need a little lens loving to get through the day — but the way I see it, there's more glass covering you young kids than ever before.
I'm calling for an intervention — a "Retina Revolution" if you will! It's time to put down the iPads, turn off the boob tube and lift our fellow eyeballs to the excitement all around us.
Let's get out and see what the world has in store for us. Look high; look low; take it all in. I know it's hard to believe, but there's this whole beautiful thing called "life" that goes well past the dimensions of an electronic screen. This is what life should look like, my young pupils.
So there it is; I've said my piece. You can choose to remain wide open, but, if you ask me, I'm done with the excessive winking, blinking and wincing.
An Old-Timer Eyeball With a Vision For the Future
PS: Oh, and please stop staring directly at the sun. It's the fastest way to burn out my friends.
Fitness Fads to Make Your Head Spin
Back in January, I was tasked with finding new and exciting ways to break a sweat throughout our beloved Charleston area. I may or may not have pitched the concept for my own selfish benefit of snapping my workout rut – but, alas, I was assigned the piece, so I laced up my sneaks and set out to find five different studios and gyms to kick my butt.
WHAT DID I FIND?
Well among other things, I found I was incredibly out of shape and not even worthy of sitting on the slowest spin bike known to man. These sweat-inducing workouts – which consisted of barre workouts, spinning, rowing, HIIT and hot yoga – did their job, and frankly none of them were too "out of the box" or crazy to commit to long-term. Difficult? Yes. Exhausting. You bet. But just another outlandish fad? No way.
It did get me thinking, however, about what other things are out there that some would consider "ridiculous trends" or too far out in left field. While I'm not here to judge, I am here to do my homework – it comes with the job description, folks. I've selected a few of the more interesting crazes to hit the fitness circuit – and you might be surprised at how some people spend their time trying to get that perfect, sculpted bod.
Don't get me wrong, I love both yoga and animals – but together? I think I'll pass. There's no shortage of oddness here – from people holding bunnies on their bellies to goats perched upon the backs of yogis positioned in Downward Dog. Still the quirkiest version of animal yoga has the brave (take that with a grain of salt) souls who attempt yoga on the backs of horses.
Just Google it.
I have so many questions about this. For starters: why? What's so bad about a good old-fashioned yoga mat? What about the poor horse's back? And who was the first to say, "Yep, this feels right!" It's a rare sight and thankfully not anything I've caught wind of in the Holy City, but still you have to wonder. Now beer yoga is popping up at breweries across town and you can always count me in for that.
Just leave the fur-balls at home.
I know: If Kim Kardashian did it, then it MUST be emulated. Well, she's done a lot of… interesting … things in her life, but it doesn't mean it's worthwhile. These steel-boned corsets – reminiscent of the torture dress apparel worn by women in the late 16th century – aim to provide the allusive hourglass shape.
Still, it has nothing to do with actual weight loss or fat reduction – and it definitely doesn't build muscle. If you feel like putting your torso through the squeeze for 10 hours a day, seven days a week for up to eight weeks, to obtain only temporary results, then by all means, go for it! Even Kardashian follows a strict fitness and nutrition regimen, so don't get fooled into thinking there's a magic wrap to make all your curvy dreams come true.
Can we all just … not? This is one infomercial that didn't have me reaching for my wallet at 2 a.m. I'm not sure what turns me off more – the ridiculous movement or the assumption that holding a shaking weight will make muscles. And that's if I don't even start with the alarming nature of the whole thing.
Still, after it debuted in 2009, it only took one calendar year to reach over $40 million in revenue. So while I may not be a big fan of the "As Seen On TV" product, there were more than enough people who jumped right on board that bandwagon.
I'll admit right off the bat that my husband and I tried this back in 2010. Were we hoping it would sculpt our abs as we binge-watched our favorite series? Of course not – well OK, maybe. Really we gave it a go because it was free – and free is always worth trying.
The results were (not surprisingly) less than impressive. It did not in fact give us washboard abs or trim our love handles, but it was fun. The controllable settings varied from unnoticeable – like a cellphone alert – to strong surges of zaps that aimed to make your abdominal muscles contract – aka "workout."
The real fun came competing with my husband for who could withstand the more intense vibrations for longer periods of time. While we certainly passed more than a few hours giving it a go, I can firmly conclude that only laughs, not muscles, were achieved throughout our 30-day free trial.
Back to the company it went.
Some of you may be wondering: "What about crazy boot camps like P90X, workouts such as CrossFit or classes that make you dance around like a chicken without a head – ala Zumba? Shouldn't those be included?" In a word: no.
Sure, they gather one heck of a following, and some of the moves or workouts would put me flat on my back, but that in and of itself doesn't make it crazy. In the end, they work! They achieve their main objective to get your heart rate up, your body moving and the sweat pouring – and I think they've proven that they have staying power for the long run.
As for me? My sneakers are laced and I'm donning my favorite pair of yoga pants, but just writing this brought back memories of sore muscles and pathetic, breathless panting.