Life Hack Wary


Over the past year I have seen Facebook virtually explode with “life hack”, craft, and food blogs. I have been watching and waiting. Some entries are mind blowing brilliant BUT they can’t all be. To keep viewers you have to make multiple posts daily. At some point you see a dud or two go by and shake your head. Lately the frequency of duds on my news feed has made me not just wary but concerned for their followers.

The first round of pages that started showing up on Facebook was a mix of fan pages for well known shows and pop up newcomers. The ideas ranged from brilliant to so-so. With the need to make multiple posts they can not all be winners but there were enough winners to keep the “likes” coming in.

Now I see new pages starting up with a few brilliant ideas followed by round after round of ideas just thrown in to keep things popping up on your news feed. For the most part they are just harmless annoyances. Every once in a while I see one that really makes me shake my head and think “someone got paid to test this out, film it and make this post”.

Today was not the normal day. I saw two different ideas on my feed that made me stop and go “what the what?!”

One idea was from a very reputable fan page while the other was from one of the newer pop up newcomers. Both are items that need more explanation then a quick video with catchy music however that was all either had. As one was a craft idea so I quickly took to my artsy fan page, theartfulseamstress. There I shared the video and gave a few tips help guide interested friends and fans.

So why am I so freaked out by the video? The craft idea is about using bleach and a bleach pen to create one of a kind cloth napkins and a table runner. The video does not provide a time duration to leave the bleach on but suggests to use cotton. Here is a HUGE tip not mentioned by the video: bleach is a caustic chemical. As such it will eat through most fabrics given enough time. That time duration differs for each fabric. The more delicate the quicker the bleach will erode it.

Then why do we use bleach in our laundry? Well we don’t use straight bleach we dilute it. This project however doesn’t say to dilute it. Nor does it say that really the user should be using gloves and to be careful where you choose to create this project.

Two of my college friends may just kill me for sharing this story but use it as a cautionary tale. They were trying to create a cool but inexpensive present (we were poor college kids). The idea was to create a unique tie-dyed shirt in reverse. Several of us were huge fans of tie-dyed items. It was a marvelous gift idea. They bought several 100% cotton t-shirts and a bottle of bleach.

After trying multiple times to create the project and failing, they brought me the remains of the cotton t-shirts they used. As I worked in fabric they wanted to know where they went wrong. When I told them they felt silly but I was glad they didn’t do themselves harm.

As a young costumer, I once had to go to the hospital with chemical burns from bleach fumes in my nostrils and down my throat. You can easily google the effects of bleach fumes. Here is one article to note:  Are Bleach Fumes Dangerous?

With these tips and cautionary tales, I hope you will be as wary as I am with all the new life hacks, crafts, and cooking trends. Sure some look like duds right from the get-go but others pull you in and make you think “oooh even I could do that!” Trust me I have been there and done that quite a few times. Sometimes it takes more then just common sense to make us take a step back and think that maybe, just maybe, this cool idea is not the greatest one.

Here are several good rules of thumb when assessing a life hack, craft project, or food trend:

  • If it is asking me to add chemicals and dyes to food that I can not pronounce it might not be that healthy for me. When I say healthy I mean maybe it could cause digestion issues. All of these rainbow dyed recipes look cool but to much of any one thing is never a good idea. Rent-a-Dad can attest with some stories about interesting colored pee our nephews had.
  • If I need a license or permit to buy something maybe I should leave it to the professionals.Rent-a-Dad will always tell you that’s a good idea for anyone as our neighbors once almost set our house on fire.
  • If it involves chemicals of any kind do a little research on the chemicals before just buying them.Doing the research will at least give insight on what protective gear, if any, is needed to use the product.
  • Think your project through from start to finish and when in doubt see what your friends think.

A little research is never a bad thing. Polling friends and getting their insight is also a good idea. If you decide to create something crazy having a friend with you can either make the event more memorable or at least provide you with a ride to the hospital! Sometimes both! One year Rent-a-Dad lost an argument with a box cutter while trying to create planters for my mom out of plastic cheese-ball tubs. I provided the ride to the hospital. The planters did turn out well after a bit of soap and paint!

Enjoy the ideas that go by on your Facebook feed. Create when the whim strikes. Be a little wary at times, and use caution, because not all ideas are for the best. And more then anything have fun!

Fostering Privacy


There are so many topics I could use when this phrase comes up: “when we began the process of fostering…” In part that is because of all the assumptions and preconceived ideas associated with fostering. Some of the notions we had were spot on while others not so much. When it comes to confidentiality and how it applies to each case, our ideas of implied privacy were not too far off.

Our society is at a stage where there is a struggle between private and public knowledge. Half of society wants to post every little emotion and be followed by a million people. The other half is wondering where any kind of implied privacy has disappeared to. Because of that we can no longer assume something is so; it needs to be defined, labeled, and made crystal clear. That is certainly true for every aspect of the foster care system.

We thought one could assume that each child is due his/her privacy especially since the system is clear on how foster parents must handle it. Foster parents are required to sign contracts for a multitude of reasons, one being that we must not discuss personal aspects of a case. When tackling that bit of privacy we also thought there was an unstated rule for not sharing information of any kind on social media. Soon after becoming foster parents that unstated rule became an official policy. The policy (in Tennessee) is not as strict as one would assume. Yet it is also meant to protect all parties involved, which sometimes feels laughable.

On social media foster parents are allowed to share that we have a placement, the age and possibly gender. We can not share specifics like a full name or the names of the parents. An approved nickname may be used. While we can share family photos that the placement may be in, most still need prior approval. This is also the case for status updates that concern the foster child. Approval can be done at the discretion of the caseworker if the child is very young otherwise it must also involve the consent of the child and the child’s family team. Sometimes policies and rules, like these, may seem to be excessive however it is as much for the protection of the placement as it is for the foster family.

Privacy is a wonderful thing. So much with the foster system seems invasive and as if there is no such thing as privacy. It feels like ones movements and actions are scrutinized, not just the foster child but also the foster family. People are treated like mechanical things that need to be kept tabs on with a high level of accountability. On paper it all makes perfect sense because of the foster children who have being taken advantage of by the system, the foster family, or the birth family. In practice it certainly feels as if there is no such thing as privacy.

While foster families must keep close tabs on their social media posts, birth families are still allowed to post whatever they feel. This can be hard as they are allowed to post pictures from court sanctioned visits while foster families may not be allowed to post a family photo. To make matters more interesting (in the state of Tennessee) foster children are not permitted to have Facebook or other social media accounts.

There are a lot of blurry and confusing lines in the foster system. Privacy is one of those. On one hand we are due a certain amount of privacy but on the other we need to be aware that as a foster parent privacy is only an allusion.