When I lose my sh*t…

My life always has an interesting story, never stagnant, always something, whether it’s funny, annoying, productive or inspiring. Never stale, never boring. It occurred to me today that I should blog this stuff so that I can go back some day and read about the chaos that I live through every day and also remember the joys that I get to experience through this thing called motherhood and life.

So just to catch you up…my husband and I and our three children took in a foster child 7.5 months ago (in June). She’s great! She’s a beautiful little girl full of life, smart and is almost better behaved than our own children. Over the course of the past 7.5 months, we have had ups and downs and all sorts of crazy happenings with being foster parents. We’ve watched mom go through extreme lows (including drug addictions and attempted suicide) to normal highs (not with drugs, but with life and picking up those broken pieces and beginning to put them back together) to dad who was making a very minimal effort to show up for his weekly visits to not being reachable via phone or email at all and essentially hasn’t made an attempt to see his daughter since November (it’s February).

This little girl has been in the foster system for almost one full year this month! We have seen her blossom in ways that DCS didn’t think she could. When she came to us, she had been in the foster system for 4 months and we were her third placement. She was initially placed with an uncle who failed a drug test, then went to grandma and grandpa’s where things were a little more normal, or so they seemed. When the grandparents wouldn’t leave her side during DCS visits, it became evident that something was going on, including dad staying with the grandparents (which wasn’t allowed). There was domestic abuse happening in this home too, along with drugs. Sadly, she had to be taken from her grandparents’ care and brought to us.

She was having nightmares and couldn’t sleep by herself. Her grandma gave her a plate full of food at bedtime and a phone and tablet to comfort her until she fell asleep. She came to us with two large cavities, one of which required a baby root canal and a cap. At first, she slept in the same bed as our daughter until she had been with us for a couple of weeks and was comfortable enough to begin sleeping in a bed by herself. She has only had one nightmare in the 7.5 months she’s been with us and sleeps in a bed by herself EVERY NIGHT! She goes to bed with clean teeth, no snacks, no electronics. After just a couple of weeks, she began to relax and play and laugh like she hadn’t done in the 4 months before being placed with us.

So fast forward to now…mom has been clean for 6 months, she’s been succeeding in the umpteen million classes and programs she’s been placed in, has filed a no contact order against the father, and is beginning to get a glimpse of getting her life back. This is fantastic for her! She has now earned the opportunity to have semi-supervised visits with her daughter, only requiring a visit supervisor to be there on site for 15 min of each hour. Her daughter can ride with her to go places during their visit time and gets to do somewhat normal things again as long as they are following the guidelines and parameters given and she is being accountable to DCS and the visit supervisor.

What I didn’t realize about being a foster parent is that it would break me. I knew it would be difficult, but dang! not THIS difficult! I am a strong-willed mom who accomplishes most tasks I’m given – I survived cancer while raising 3 children, getting a master’s degree and working full time. I’ve got this “mom thing” down! Or so I thought. What I didn’t realize when I started this journey is that taking in another little human being to care for (even though she isn’t from my very own womb) is pretty much equivalent to birthing my own child. I am protective, I am loving, and I am not about to let others hurt her, manipulate her or us, or make plans for her that aren’t executed well and could bring potential harm to her.

The current caseworker is filling in for our regular caseworker while she is on maternity leave. The fill-in caseworker does well with managing the birth parents and progressing them through the system; however, he is overloaded with other children in the foster system and trying to manage everyone’s schedules and reunification plans for each of them as well.

So, here we are, mom is ready to start semi-supervised visits, but we don’t have a plan for who is picking up/dropping off, where we are supposed to pick up from, who the visit supervisor will be, contact info for the visit supervisor (because it’s supposed to be someone different than before), a booster seat for mom to be able to transport to/from visits and actually go out into public. Can you hear my stress level rising? I can!

We survived through the first day of semi-supervised visits thanks to the previous visit supervisor agreeing to fill in until after we have a team meeting with all of the key people involved, and for agreeing to pick the child up from daycare and transport her to mom’s apartment for us. We’ve had one semi-supervised visit and I already lost my sh*t! I freaked out because of the lack of communication and planning for this child and her visits with mom. The only people on board 100% with this new plan are the mom and the case manager. Everyone else feels the way I do…we need to have a meeting with everyone involved FIRST to make sure everyone is on the same page BEFORE launching this into action. However, instead…I’m sitting over here – eye twitching, stomach in knots, fighting off anxiety attacks, sending freak-out texts to the case manager, cradling the idea of cancelling the visits until we have a meeting.

Why did I freak out so bad? This all is happening after not being communicated to about the fully supervised visits being extended from 2 hours to 3 hours a couple of months ago. Well guess what? The times everyone else agreed on for us to pick her up don’t work with our schedule. Um, don’t you think that since we are to provide transportation for her that we should be included in a meeting when times and dates of visits are changing?!?!?! This is why I lose my sh*t! Um yes, it’s happened more than once!

So, when you get on board to be a foster parent, I’m warning you that the train is rocky and rusty and feels like you will be on a long ride. While this ride is long, it’s rewarding, and it makes me happy to know that we are making a positive difference in this child’s life. Does it terrify me to think about her being reunited with her birth mom? Yes, to the point where I lose my sh*t. But I know that she has 8 hours a day at a safe place called school with friends and “siblings” like my children who she can trust and she knows well. She knows that our home is safe and she is always welcome in it. And she now knows what it looks like and feels like to have a family that loves her, loves God and has her best interest in mind. She has a family that will fight for her and who will lose their sh*t when things aren’t going according to the safest plan. So is it worth it? YES!

Fast Reaction

Taco Bell

I have yet to take the Crisis Management course through IMC, but I can imagine that this recent story will be one of the topics discussed among the class. A Taco Bell employee posted a photo of himself licking a stack of taco shells onto his Facebook account. My personal thoughts after reading the article are that Taco Bell could have reacted in a better way, mostly by providing a better statement. “We’re currently dealing with it,” Cathy Marx, the manager of the Taco Bell in Ridgecrest., Calif. told CNBC in a brief interview. “We’re dealing with it”?!?!?!? That’s it??? You better be dealing with it! The public wants to know if you fired the employee first and foremeost. Not only that, but how does the manager or spokesperson plan to recover? Is it best to just brush something like this under the rug and hope and pray that the media doesn’t get ahold of it and it go viral? I don’t think so! To me, it sounds like Taco Bell should be looking into store manager as well as the actual employee to better prepare him for being an effective leader for his staff, as well as coaching him on how to respond to a crisis.

Twitter – the 1-Stop Shop?

After reading a few months back that Twitter had began promoting businesses within its Tweet deck, I was a little annoyed. But, to be honest, I haven’t found the paid advertisements to be nearly as annoying or intrusive as those that you find on Facebook, both online and on your mobile device. Pinterest is pretty much just one HUGE mobile billboard, which is ok because that’s what its original intentions were and it has worked well. However, Twitter just announced that you can buy and sell items now directly from your Twitter feed using Ribbon. It lets merchants offer an in-stream payment option on Twitter. And for the first time, consumers can find a product or service for sale through Twitter and complete the purchase without ever having to leave the news feed.  Thankfully Twitter has limited the number of characters per Tweet to 140, so companies cannot begin to inundate our feeds with lengthy product descriptions/advertisements. Or will they be able to? What’s next with Twitter? Do you think they will change the character limit to allow businesses to put more text into their advertisements? Perhaps if this Ribbon idea takes off and is successful, that could be the case.

Beneath the text and link in the tweet, customers will see a picture and description of the product and can then proceed to click through and enter their personal information and credit card details to make a purchase. Mashable.com provided a sample of what Ribbon looks like within the Twitter feed:

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Yes, I am in a Master’s Degree program working toward my marketing degree, and am all for promoting businesses and products. But, when I am using Facebook and Twitter, I am on there for mostly social and interactive reasons, and to see what’s going on in the world, not to browse for products. My personal thoughts on this type of marketing is that it is for a platform that is intended to promote products. What are your thoughts?

Your Facebook Posts Reveal More Than You Know

Did you know that clicking a ‘Like’ button on Facebook could determine whether you’re gay or straight, liberal or conservative, intelligent or not so much — even if you didn’t intend to?  Researchers ran tens of thousands of Facebook profiles and questionnaires through a computer algorithm to find the obvious traits, as well as the not-so-obvious connections. The results of the research have been posted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this past Monday. If you would like to sample the method for yourself, you can check it out at YouAreWhatYouLike.

Some of the results are pretty obvious, meaning if you ‘like’ a page called “I’m Proud to be a Christian”, it’s pretty obvious that you are a Christian. The computer model puts “Sometimes I Just Lay in Bed and Think About Life” into the category for homosexual females, while “Thinking of Something and Laughing Alone” is linked to heterosexual females.

The results were analyzed to produce correlations in more than a dozen categories, including five different personality attributes (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional stability), which were the attributes analyzed on the “You Are What You Like” website. The other categories included IQ, religion, politics, sexual orientation, age, gender, race, relationship status, alcohol and drug use, tobacco use, life satisfaction, number of friends — and even whether a Facebook user’s parents had separated by the time the user was 21. Wow!

youarewhatyoulikeGraphic courtesy of YouAreWhatYouLike.com

The researchers’ computer model provided the best match at predicting black-vs.-white and male-vs.-female (95 and 93 percent accuracy, respectively).  The computer model could also correctly distinguish between Republicans and Democrats 85 percent of the time and between Muslims and Christians 82 percent of the time. The accuracy rates for predicting sexual orientation were 88 percent for males and 75 percent for females. You would think that reaching a result of homosexuality was easily determined by clicking the ‘like’ button for “Gay Marriage.” However, less than five percent of the gay users were fans of such an obvious page. For example, the computer model correlated the fan pages for Kathy Griffin and “Wicked, The Musical” with homosexual males, while matching heterosexual males to the pages for Bruce Lee and WWE wrestling.

Perhaps this will create a technophobia for many of you, or even so much as a Facebookophobia specifically due to the feeling of being violated by a computer program possibly determining your race, ethnicity or sexual preference. This type of program makes me ask about the ethics and privacy of doing something like this. Only about half of the survey takers (which was around 8 million total takers) gave their approval for their results to be matched with Facebook ‘likes’ on an anonymous basis, and of those, about 58,000 profiles were used for matching.  If your Facebook profile privacy settings are set to ‘public’, any of your page ‘like’ information could be sharing very private details with all sorts of researchers and marketers. Think about how marketers could use that private information to market to you. How would you feel if you were a heterosexual male who had clicked that you liked Kathy Griffin because you thought she was pretty, and in return received numerous ads on your Facebook page for homosexual products and events? And then your wife sits down at the computer as soon as you get up to get a snack…how do you explain that to her?

Personally, I think this is going too far and invading the privacy of social media users. What are your thoughts? Have marketers and researchers taken this too far? Is this unethical marketing?

Liker or Hater?

hater-app-442x640How many times have we all wished that Facebook had a ‘Dislike’ button? When someone posts a status update about their dog dying, the person not feeling well or something else bad happening in their life, why can we only click ‘Like’?  Emerging media are measured in many different ways, one of which is irritation.  Irritation measures how annoying, confusing, messy or deceptive a website is for consumers. It is known to mostly influence attitude toward the web, but also influences how entertaining, informative, and satisfactory consumers find a website to be. If a website is considered to be annoying, consumers are probably less likely to be informed or entertained by it. If consumers feel irritated by a website, a Dislike button would probably be requested for that website too.

Measures of Behavior, Usage and Gratification have been proposed as a way to measure the effectiveness of interactive marketing communications. These types of scales examine how arousing, absorbing, enjoyable and entertaining consumers find their online experience. Social media sites are a type of website that consumers use as a form of entertainment.

Facebook does allow a user to comment on a post, which in a scenario such as any of the ones listed above, it’s probably more appropriate to post a comment with your empathy or sorrow. But there is not an option to ‘Dislike’ anything on Facebook, Twitter or any of the other social media sites. You want to use that button for the occasional upsetting moments, but there are also those people that just gripe about everything under the sun…you know…Haters, those people that get up each morning and drink their Haterade.

Well, guess what? They now have a new social media app called ‘Hater‘. The app was revealed this past Friday at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology event. The creator of Hater, Jake Banks, believes the language of “likes” used on other services such as Facebook forces us to be overly positive and restricts our ability to be ourselves. That’s why he decided to develop an alternative social networking app called Hater, which is intended for sharing all the things you don’t like. The app looks a lot like Instagram. It allows you to take a picture or upload a photo from your phone, share it to the Hater community with a caption, view a feed of other posts from the Hater community and offer feedback.

Banks says Hater doesn’t just want people to be negative for the sake of being negative. He plans to roll out a feature in the future called Hate For Good, which will let users “create awareness” for things that need changing simply by sharing the fact that they dislike it.

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How many people hate politics, traffic jams, duck faces? Perhaps you can try to change those things, but let’s be honest…I don’t think anyone is going to change Kim Kardashian from doing her duck face. The app could have potential for creating awareness of businesses that have treated customers badly or perhaps for products that are bad, but overall, I think the idea of the app will only encourage an already very negative culture. Can’t Mark Zuckerburg just create a ‘Dislike’ button? Is that too much to ask?

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Who Hasn’t Done the Harlem Shake?

Everywhere I look, someone is posting a video of the Harlem Shake on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube! I have seen Jimmy John’s employees shaking it, middle school children shaking it in prep for the upcoming ISTEP, the Simpsons, you name it! These videos have gone viral. The “Harlem Shake” song came out of nowhere and went from being unknown to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart Feb. 20. Billboard just added YouTube views to the way it ranks the Top 100 songs.The videos are entertaining and it’s interesting to see each one’s different creative aspects.  People are even going so far as to organize a rendition of the Harlem Shake on an airplane! Yep! ‘Shakes on a Plane!’ 🙂


NPR reports that while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hasn’t mentioned any specific violations from the clip that was shared across Internet and social media sites, they said they’ll be looking into whether or not the amount of passengers jumping around in the aisle — around the 15-second mark of the video — is in violation of the plane’s mid-flight safety regulations, even though the video’s creator had permission by the flight staff and other passengers to do the video. Perhaps the sky is the limit on the Harlem Shake? This makes me wonder, what is considered taking a trend too far?

Creating this kind of buzz fits into the parameters of “buzz marketing”, but getting the FAA or other criminal investigative organizations involved in a simple video creation seems a bit out of control. Creating buzz is relatively inexpensive (most of these videos are created by individuals just wanting to join in on the fun, using their own cameras and equipment); they are unique, where each encounter looks like a spontaneous event and is highly desirable to the 20-something’s; and is the rise of the Internet – carrying an unknown/unheard of song to the top of the music charts. Personally, these videos are what I would consider to be the newest version of a flash mob. I’m sitting here wondering what’s next? The Harlem Shake was fun for a minute, but I’m over it now…

Fashion of the Future?

Can you picture yourself walking down the street wearing a coat that could detect when your body is cold and automatically turn up the heat? Or eyeglasses (or even sunglasses) that could navigate you as you walk down the street wearing your stylish WARM coat to the hippest spot in town? And a watch that can read your text messages to you? These ideas may seem futuresque, but these new ideas for technology are closer to reality than you might think!

ImageWell, I wrote about Apple’s new idea for the watch a couple of weeks ago. This week, I want to tell you about what is next on the radar.  Google Inc., the world’s largest Internet company, has been testing augmented-reality eyeglasses that feature cameras and use voice recognition. The idea behind creating these fashion gadgets is to integrate technology into our everyday basics. Just thinking about these possibilities makes me want to buy a pair of jeans that would adjust to my thigh and waist size each day to always guarantee the “perfect fit”. Wouldn’t every woman love to own a pair of those???

So what does all of this new technology do besides create more techy gizmos and gadgets?  Well, developers say that it will create a more seamless experience with technology that involves fewer devices to carry around and less time digging through your purse or pockets.  But it also creates buzz. It includes the ABC’s of buzz marketing: Alphas – the prime influencers (Google’s execs that are raving about the Google Glasses), Bees – the messengers (all of the bloggers and news media relaying the message), and Consumers – all of us (looking for a new product that will set us apart from friends and neighbors). You could probably even say that Google has made some pretty good use of “crowdsourcing” – the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people. Google has done this and done it well by only offering the Google Glass to only a few select  individuals to participate in the Google Glass Explorer program, which you had to pre-order during the Google I/O 2012 conference last June or make it through the recently announced #IfIHadGlass application process. By doing this, those individuals feel like they have something the rest of the world wants to be a part of, but can’t until at least late 2013.  This allows those individuals to go out and tell the world about their privilege.

There are still numerous challenges to overcome before these types of techno-fashion gadgets will be readily available such as improving battery life, scaling the technology down and making the products affordable. The other task for companies to overcome is to convince consumers that digital devices and fashion can coexist.

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Currently, these wearable technologies exist in the sports and health markets. For example, goggles made by Oakley help to assist snowboarders with a display that integrates GPS capabilities, Bluetooth and sensors that gauge jump analytics such as distance, height and airtime. These goggles also have smartphone connectivity and the ability to locate and track friends on the mountain via an app. WOW! These are awesome! And could help so much in emergency situations on a mountain! Genius!

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