Sep 29, 2008

The economy and my goals - scary LifeStuff!

I have to admit that I don't get to follow the news much, as whenever I have a child-free or husband-free moment, as well as no domesticated task to tend to, it is spent on working my transcription business and working on my patent and all the future tasks coming 'round the bend involving this new venture.

I had listened to a couple of friends and family members express how scared they were last week about the economy. Since I've felt a sense of fear for the future of my children since the big September 11, I didn't realize all this was going down. After the third person mentioned it, I decided to take a break and turn on the news. I can hardly tear myself away from it. I was unaware just how serious this was.

I'm worried. Not only am I worried about all of us because of what I'm watching and hearing, I'm worried about our livelihoods, my transcription business, and being able to move forward on my invention. Have I really waited almost 2 years from concept/prototype to being within weeks away from a final provisional patent application that I may not be able to move forward?

This brings with it many more questions dependent upon what I heard throughout the day...."Companies can't get loans to pay their employees." clients will pay their employees before me if that is the case (and understandably so).....What happens if my current clients are unable to pay me? What happens if I'm in turn unable to pay the girls depending on me to support their families?......"You may go to the bank for a withdrawal and nothing comes out."....Despite my money being in an FDIC bank, will I be able to take out a large lump sum in two months IF I'm able to even find a manufacturer willing to work with me in this economy? Might I lose out on the 12 months of my provisional protection coverage because I can't even get a professionally manufactured version made? Will I even be able to apply for the utility when the 12-month period expires? "It is wrong to call this a bailout deal, as it is actually an investment deal, and this is a good thing...." I'm so confused and tired of thinking in all these different directions.

For the first time, my carefully laid plan seems so weak, as does the future I have chosen for myself.

At the very least, no matter what goes down, my family and I will remain a family, and we will persevere, albeit possibly with a saddened or disappointed mommy and wife.

I'm lucky in that I know how to survive when the chips are down, thanks to my mother and grandmother. I come from a long line of women who have triumphed through some extremely trying times due to their strength, and I know I can weather any storm -- it is the storm that comes with strict rules, stipulations, and deadlines that is bothering me at the moment combined with the uncertainty as to whether or not I can meet them, especially knowing that I could have met them all last week. The unknown scares the heck out of me.

How 'bout you? What scares you most right now about this situation?

Sep 26, 2008

WAHM-Frustration Meltdowns can be productive too...

Compared to yesterday, today was an extremely productive day. I've both accomplished a little bit of everything and fully accomplished a few things.

My PPA is reviewed and marked up with edits (lotsa typos) and questions for clarification (Can you hear the "cha-ching" that I did with each pen stroke? I don't think I should be charged for editing typos - do you? lol. Lawyers are expensive!) Of course, now there is a whole weekend to pass before they are received by the attorney, but they are there.

I think temporary frustration meltdowns and feel-sorry-for-yourself days are not only completely normal but completely healthy to have. I believe that you can be twice as productive as soon as the moment passes as well. As problem-solving mothers, the whole time we're sulking, we are thinking of a solution or a way to combat the problem the next time around.

Not only do I tend to clean and organize while I'm sulking about being pulled away from the task I would rather be tending to, I get some minor things accomplished that I don't even really notice until the end of the day, such as art project time with the kids as I simultaneously clean out the fridge here and there and remove old artwork cluttering the doors, as well as outdoor play time with the kids as I play a little and also somehow simultaneously fertilize and prune the landscaping. Each accomplishment is a plus, no matter how little. Granted, I was up 'til 3 a.m. finishing the work that can only be tended to after they go to bed, but I enjoy having an excuse to also spend that extra time with them, so instead of viewing DH being called away to work as imposing on my time, I turned out appreciating the extra time with my babies.

Try to remember to make yourself a little list, even if a mental list, of all of the minor tasks you completed when you feel as though you are accomplishing "nothing." Feeding and bathing the kids counts as something! We do so much in a day that we tend to overlook the everyday mundane and trivial tasks we complete. They are all accomplishments! The trivial, everyday, and mundane tasks will need to be dealt with on another day anyway, and now it won't be the day you get to tend to the more pressing and important tasks! There always turns out to be a positive somehow!

Do you feel that you can never catch up? Is each task, no matter how small, somehow a victory?

Sep 25, 2008

WAHM/Patenting-Temporarily being shelved - AGAIN.

Yes, I'm having a whiny day. I feel I have a right to feel whiny every once in a while. I am constantly working on so many different projects and working in so many different roles, and I feel that I could get it done if I had some help around here. Don't get me wrong, my husband does do some dishes, and he even does a little laundry and makes beds - he surface cleans here and there - but working around being a mother to a toddler, whom we refer to as my butt barnacle for obvious reasons, my two older kids' schedules, and my husband's unpredictable schedule just about brings me to tears some days.

Today I wanted nothing more than to break out my provisional patent edits that I received last week to review them. I've had one 6-hour period of time on one of our rare coinciding weekends in which I could really get into it. He could be with the kids, and I could get down to business. Believe me when I tell you it needs "getting into." It is so technical and so in depth, that it is sometimes hard to believe it is my invention being described. I even had a dictionary on hand to learn the literal meanings of certain words. (Did you know that furniture means any piece of useful equipment?)

Every time I pick it up, during brief openings seized during my working hours with lighter work loads and nap times, and start getting into one paragraph and making a notation that may or may not reveal itself in another paragraph within this 15-page document (not counting the numerous drawings that require simultaneous review due to the descriptions referring to enumerated components), I have to stop, only to find myself starting all over again later.

My 2-year-old is the cutest most loveable child, but he also happens to not want to sit silently at any point throughout a day. There is no getting away with a "uh-huh" and a nodd of my eyes must literally avert from my task at hand to prove to him that he has been heard and that I have seen what has him excited. This then MUST be followed with a comment. lol. It isn't like I'm all work and no play. I spend hours with him each day. We learn ABCs, colors, shapes, play games, do puzzles, etc. I just need someone to give me some time here to get this finished!

Hubbie has been called into work. He can't understand why I am near tears. This is my priority at the moment, and it really should only be a priority task for a day, not 2 weeks! Can I find a sitter right now to ease my stress and anxiety - nope - they are all in school! He works my weekends, and I work his weekends, but when he is here, I should be able to have the whole day to accomplish what I want, but it never works out that way. Somebody always needs something, and this even includes HIS employer, as well as him, the kids, my clients, my subcontractors, etc. A lot of it is my fault - I slacked off in some departments to make life easier for a period of time only to find that doing such a thing really isn't me, and now there are projects that are 10 times bigger to face and to fix. I'll explain later.

Okay, I feel I've been heard, despite the fact I have no readers yet! lol. Off to go pay my subcontractors and feel down about shelving the ONE task I would really actually enjoy doing at the moment. Sigh.

Inventor Moms

An unspoken prerequisite of being a mother is problem solving skills. Moms problem solve every single day. Let’s also not forget that there are many wonderful inventor dads out there as well though too! Inventor moms seem to target the problems other moms face, so they therefore become more well known amongst other mothers, the women who happen to be making the majority of purchases for their households.

I have a folder chockfull of ideas that I have written down for inventions that I would like to bring to market – products that solve problems, issues, or frustrations I have experienced as a mother and problems that friends experienced before I had children of my own. The one problem I faced in my dream of seeing my ideas available on the shelves for purchase by others is the daunting expense of it all. Not only is the patenting process extremely expensive, prototyping and just getting set up for manufacturing can be double to triple the expense of a patent. It just depends on your idea.

Being a mother running a service-based business around the needs of my family and my husband’s erratic and unpredictable schedule, I knew that I was unwilling to risk it all, my home, my credit rating, etc. to take a chance. There had to be a way to achieve my dreams while minimizing the risks for my family and their futures.

While I pondered how I could get from point A, an idea in a folder, to point B, a product on the shelves, I started saving money. As I researched each idea and figured out what help I would need in designing a prototype, the manufacturing, etc., there just wasn’t anything reasonable. By the time my latest idea, the one I am pursuing a patent on currently came to me, I had enough money to move ahead on this idea. Since I was able to prototype this idea myself, this alone made this idea my starter idea and saved me upwards of around $30,000 for some and more for other ideas paying specialists and engineers to help me.

My husband wanted nothing more than to support me, but the whole risk of it all scared him silly. Once I was able to discuss my estimates with him and explain to him that the expense would be somewhere around the amount of a new car, a new car that never appreciates in value and actually depreciates the moment you drive it off the lot, with no potential for return whatsoever, he caved. It was simple, sacrifice a couple of new cars over the next, oh, 15 years to compensate for the loss should it fail. It wasn’t that he would tell me no, but it was important that he have as little anxiety about the process as possible. He knows that only 1% of inventions actually make enough money to cover the costs of getting it on the market – not good odds.

The whole process that I’ve been through so far led to me to the realization that someday my children may be working for a living, a slave to something that doesn’t make them happy, only to discover in their late 20s or somewhere in their 30s or 40s they want to take a chance on a dream, a dream that often doesn’t reveal itself to people until they have some time and experience under their belts…..I am starting a dream fund for each of them, just as I did for myself. If you don’t have one now, start one for yourself. Somewhere along the line start one for each of your children. How many people go to college for one field of study because they think it is what they want to only discover they want to change, and how many change a few years to halfway through the job they landed as a result? Too many. Too many people wind up locked into a job and life they can only wish they could change. Something in the dream fund is better than nothing, and it is a start! Neither you nor they will ever be failures because they gave it a shot! If my product idea failed, I know I could lie on my deathbed with no regrets because I gave it my best! Sooo much better than wondering “What if I had only…..”

Do you feel your dreams are just out of reach, or are they attainable?

Sep 21, 2008

Random-What does this mean?

Does this mean my clothes aren't really clean and I need a new washer?

Sep 20, 2008

School Fundraising

So today my daughter really wanted to try her hand at fundraising, and here I was really excited that this year they were accepting donations in lieu of fundraising. I was prepared to donate $100 - $50/school-aged kid, which is more than the kids can earn the school via the fundraiser, but they can’t have both my time and my donation. Fitting in the time for a fundraiser is hard work around here, especially considering the goods are delivered in November when the sun goes down around 5:30 p.m., I have a little one napping ‘til around that time or later, and I’m the sole caregiver most nights. We have one hour a day to distribute deliveries, which can take weeks to accomplish due to those who placed the orders keeping various schedules and never being home.

When I was a kid, fundraising wasn’t an issue for me until I was technically old enough to handle peddling the stuff on my own, around the age of 12, which I gladly did time and time again, and I could go ‘til the sun went down for days on end in an attempt to win the grand prize the top seller was eligible for. It definitely was never an issue for my parents. My parents had only to help me pick up the order. Delivery was, again, my responsibility. Granted times are different now, as far as feeling comfortable letting even a 12-year-old go door-to-door, but a 12-year-old can handle all the steps in between independently.

Apparently things are different now. Earnings for each school are based on the individual sales of each school within the district, so now you have the poor-selling neighborhood schools upset about how unfair the new equipment the top-selling neighborhood school was able to earn. They feel like the district “step-child.”

I feel bad for my kids in this department. The fundraisers always clearly indicate children should NOT go door-to-door and that parents should hit up family, friends, and coworkers out of “safety for the children.” These people get sick of being hit up year after year after year, especially when it’s coming from multiple sources at the same time. I actually feel mostly guilty knowing that all of my neighbors living on fixed incomes repeatedly buy from my children simply because they feel obligated and because they like us. For us, it is further compounded by the fact that I have no coworkers being a WAHM and by the fact that DH only has 13 coworkers whose children are all selling items at the same time.

Let’s face it – the school hardly makes any money and everyone feels they’ve been had when they pay $10 for 6 tiny chocolate-covered peanut butter bears (I think at last check the school received 5%). Even if you stick them to the roof of your mouth to let them melt as slowly as you can, it still doesn’t seem to be worth $10 ($0.50 for the school).

They take these kids into an assembly and get them completely psyched out of their little minds about possibly winning an X-Box 360 when they all wind up with that same plastic crap they buy with tickets at places like Chuck E Cheese’s that never gets touched again after its extraction from the prize box. The worst of it is that they include even the kindergartners who don’t even have a clue and never hear anything beyond “Win this prize and that prize!” Suddenly, by not aiding them in their attempt to win the master prize, even if it is because you have limited contacts and live in a small neighborhood where 16 other children are also selling the same items, you become the bad guy and they feel sad and a little like a failure the day the grand prizes are awarded to those few lucky children who have parents working in large companies.

It is also really hard to get excited about foodstuff fundraising after being stuck with hundreds of dollars worth of overpriced frozen/keep-refrigerated food when DH picked up the fundraiser orders and set them under a table in the family room that had become the catchall/temporary holding place of everything during a kitchen remodel for me to discover 11 days later! I noticed them one day as I sat trying to locate some of my ovenware to make dinner one night and said “What’s in those boxes under here?”

I was only comfortable letting my daughter sell alone on our street where we know everyone, so when she was done, she came back to get me.

What I didn’t know as we walked out the door, and as I mustered up the most enthusiasm I could about doing it, was that she had invited 2 other children to join us. They had both been selling with her on our street as well, which I discovered when reviewing my daughter’s order form and she turned up with 2 checks and yet no matching orders for them. It took a couple of minutes to figure out which girl took what order and which payment went where. Both of these other girls are 6 years old and spend much time with us at our house. My daughter is almost 9.

So as we proceed down the street passing each of the other girls’ homes so they can pick up their packets on the way, and as I’m trying to just forget about the provisional patent application draft waiting for my review on my desk, all of the regular work I’m facing tonight, and that we will be having a very late dinner, one girl’s mom calls her back to the house after giving her permission to join us indicating her dad wanted her home. We reached the point where we are walking slowly in front of her house to find out if she would still be able to come along when suddenly, speeding down the driveway and straight past us on a mission at warp speed with noses down, helmets on, and all the exertion they could muster, (everything minus the evil laugh), they just rip on by and keep going heading to the last house on the street that we had not yet hit…..not a word to us – nothing.

I’m scratchin’ my head wondering what on earth that was all about. It soon became obvious dad had turned it into a competition and had decided I must have no intention of being fair. How odd. My husband is competitive, but only when he is playing a game or a sport, and never with the kids’ activities. We round the corner and there they stand soliciting an outdoor dinner party, all the while looking over their shoulders at us as if to say “Ha, ha!” We just picked the next street and continued on, never to see them again. In the end, it worked out better for us, I assigned each girl to a side of the street, which is hit or miss for both, but it also meant faster coverage. When I told DH today’s story about my daughter’s friend’s father, he said “Okay, Bob (name changed), Game on Beeyatch.”

Lessons learned in fundraising so far:

1. It is actually a plus to take 2 kids at once on opposite sides of the street – it saves time;

2. Make sure you record the street number and name, even though there is no room to do so, because you will NEVER find these people by name again when the items are delivered;

3. Pickup of the goods usually happens during the time your youngest is napping and you are home alone with him/her;

4. NEVER just assume that if your spouse happens to be home that day that he will remember there were food items in those boxes or that he will even open the boxes to double check the orders, let alone realize items need refrigeration.

5. Don’t knock on your neighbor’s door after dark to make a delivery, especially the old ones who live alone – it scares the crap out of them.

6. It could take up to 6 years before your child comes to the realization that being a top seller is near impossible for most kids and decides on his own that he/she does not want to participate – maybe longer.

7. Be prepared to foot the bill for those who "will pay upon arrival" until then.

7. If you don’t have a story like mine today to share with your competitive husband, make one up, as now I don’t have to fundraise tomorrow because DH made it his personal mission to womp Bob in sales!

Sep 19, 2008

WAHM-Funny Video

So what's it like working at home? Here's a sample!


Me woman! (I talk caveman for my husband frequently - he seems to understand me better this way).

What else is there to say? It means there is no stopping me and there is no limit to my capabilities. It means I am a master of multitasking and am spread real thin. It means that I don't always make the best decisions and that I have faults. It means I put everyone before myself (trying to change that) and that I am hardest on myself. It means some nights I plop down onto the couch with a sigh and not enough energy to drag myself into bed feeling defeated.

Feel free to join me on my adventures through life and all of its "stuff" as I continue to struggle running a service-based business, being a work-at-home mother to 3 children, and a wife, as well as a wannabe inventor/entrepeneur in that elusive thing called "spare time." I'll discuss the fun and the varied challenges I've faced being involved in so much, which may not be "as much" as some of you (hey, we all have different threshholds), my frustrations in general, and what things have worked for me, as well as those that have not worked for me. I also welcome hearing about the "things" that have worked for others and the "things" that have not as well!

My life is far from perfect, and I can admit that. There is humor to be found in each lesson I've learned along the way!