August 17th, 2009

Letter to our dog

Dear Jake,

I am writing this letter to let you know how loved you were. It is part memoriam and part therapy, to subdue my guilty conscience for neglecting you when Olivia and Ian came into this world.

I don’t have many memories from your first seven years of life. You were raised by your daddy who was single at the time. But, oh what a life you had.

My first memory of you is you trying to get into the bed when your daddy and I were dating. Your daddy was against it, but I couldn’t resist. I let you make your place between us, under the covers, head on the pillow.

You swam in the ocean daily, went to work with daddy and traveled far and wide. He was happy to share his left over steak and never hesitated to stop at Wendy’s to get you a BK Broiler. He was careful not to feed it to you before hanging out the window to cool. I chastised him for feeding you this way, but now I am glad you had that experience. Dog food looks awful.

When your daddy asked me to marry him, I was really concerned about how well you would get along with your new siblings. Kitties seemed to be more of a menu item than companions. You proved me right the first night. You cornered them immediately. I will never forget Tangy’s face upon your first introduction. Fear of you ruled their lives until the very end. They won’t admit it, but I am sure they miss you. Although, I am sure they don’t miss the baby gate that separated you guys for the last seven years.

Because you always lived in apartments, daddy took you to the park many times a day. That all changed when we had a house, the backyard became your playground. And you hated using it for your bathroom, tiptoeing around the edge so you wouldn’t step in the previous deposit. How I wish daddy would have kept up with that better.

Then I went ahead and had babies. What an evil woman I was. Poor guy. Your life changed so drastically. Within one year you had two kitties and one little girl to contend with. We had to keep you from sleeping with us to make room for her. She discovered you and poked and prodded you endlessly. Your growls let it be known, you were already too old for this.

We got you a puppy so you could have a friend and so he might teach you kitties can be fun. Instead, he chewed the house up, jumped on you, ate your food and took more attention from you. What a trooper you were. I can only think you were relieved, when we had to ship him off. He nearly broke your back he got so big. And he got into too much trouble. That was something you never were.

You figured out shortly after I moved in, that I was the one to follow for treats and attention. You never stopped trying for more attention. I’d go outside, you’d go outside. I’d come in, you’d come in. You had to learn how to tap the door to come in, because I would forget you were behind me.

Then Ian came along. You tolerated him much better. Was it his endless treat giving? Or the fact he would wait for you at the door and let you in? He seemed to respect your space. But, never hesitated to give you a pat whenever you passed by.

I hope you can forgive me for all the times I yelled at you for being underfoot, for stepping on you one million times, for forgetting your dinner during the hectic family times, for loving my cats, and for even bringing the kids into your life.

Thank you for never hurting those kids even when they bothered you, for barking every time a delivery truck went down the street and at every noise you heard in the house – especially when the babies were sleeping, for cleaning the floor on an hourly basis, for sometimes cleaning the table, even when you weren’t asked, for not eating the cats even though you wanted to, and for making me feel safe when your daddy was away.

In the end, your days at daddy’s office were few. And once I was able to let you back into the bedroom, you needed to be lifted to comfort. You missed making it outside one too many times. These moments were beyond heartbreaking. We knew your time had come.

Your life has changed once more. Ours is left with an empty couch, yours is filled with endless love. I had to move the furniture around, just so I didn’t have to look at your daily spot. Olivia took the news better than I thought. Ian threw you a ball yesterday, calling for you and asking where you were. I had our favorite breakfast, but you weren’t there to finish the crust from the peanut butter toast.

I miss you. We miss you. You wanted to go, we could see it in your eyes. I hope you heard all these things I wrote that I whispered in your ear the last moments. And I hope you are happy there, chasing the cats in heaven to your heart’s delight.

Our family will never be the same.

Mommy

August 11th, 2009

The Provisional Patent

An idea is like a secret. You bubble over with excitement and containing it is a challenge.

Sure, sharing your invention with others is a good way of gauging the feasibility of a product, but it can also be the death of your promising idea. No friend means harm, but you never know who their friends know. Your idea could be in someone else’s hands within minutes. Thankfully, BEFORE sharing my idea of the SmartZip™ Sleeper, a lawyer told me I should seriously consider filing for a provisional patent.

Because my husband will drive 30 miles to save 20 cents on a bottle of ketchup, I was forced to find a bargain. As most people know, patents are pricey. For this reason, a lot of good ideas are never fully realized. A provisional patent costs considerably less and gives you one year from the filing date to protect your idea. No-one can touch your idea (in the US) until that filing date expires. But, at that point you must file a non-provisional (utility) patent to keep your invention safe. A utility patent could run you upwards of $15,000. So a provisional patent is the way to go when you can’t afford the non-provisional patent upfront.

The best part is that you don’t need an attorney to file a provisional patent. Not sure if there are other services like it, but LegalZoom was my saving grace. They are an online service that assists with all sorts of legal applications. Their website lists a menu of services with clear costs and projected savings.

The website suggests ordering a patent search along with or before applying for a provisional patent. They conduct a comprehensive search for a prior patent, any artwork, or written idea that resembles yours. I received a nicely bindered book of their findings. My favorite result was of a baby sleeper that zipped up the backside.

It was designed in 1950, by a man who OBVIOUSLY never changed a diaper.

The second favorite was of a baby sleeper that had an option of attaching the legs together.

It’s function was to keep an infant from climbing out of it’s crib.

Not sure if the inventor was a mom, but I feel bad for the kid who won’t be able to get comfortable while sleeping. Can you imagine?

Besides giving me some comical relief, my search report gave me the confidence to go forward with investing in my idea.

Applying for a provisional patent seemed like a simple questionnaire. They asked questions, and I explained my invention. The site wasn’t clear, but, I was under the impression, this questionnaire would be transformed by THEM into the actual legal document for filing. What a surprise when their first response to my application was more like a bad review of a college term paper. It apparently severly lacked information needed to draft the legal document myself. The biggest obstacle in writing it was learning the legal terms and writing style. But their reviews gave me lots of complimentary footnotes, along with helpful criticism for improvement. They even forwarded similar patents for language comparison.

Because I had a career in architecture, my drafting skills came in handy when drawing the diagram for my product and saved me some money. (I didn’t need to order the design option for the application) They then transformed the sketches into a patent worthy drawing.

I cannot say enough positive things about LegalZoom. They led me through, step by step, with patience and respect. Unfortunately, at the time, LegalZoom only offered the provisional patent application. So, I was forced to consult a patent attorney for my non-provisional (utility) patent at three months prior to it’s expiration. But because my provisional filing was so comprehensive, the lawyer fees for filing the utility patent cost me considerably less.

I will admit, going through an online service was a lot more work than I anticipated. My process took three reviews by LegalZoom and many months of intermittent all-nighters. It is by no means the route for the faint of heart. But the hard work paid off. For just over $1,000, my idea was safe. And once my non-provisional was filed, I had an overall savings of $10,000.

And that’s a secret worth sharing.

August 4th, 2009

Mr. Golden Sun

I have come to the conclusion that family vacations are in no way a vacation for me. Packing diapers and sippy cups, bottles, swim diapers and baby tylenol, bathing suits, beach towels, beach toys…… Spending two days packing, two days traveling, for five days in the sun?

Five glorious days in the sun.

This is our second year renting a house on the beach. This year was Pawleys Island, SC.

I can walk down to the beach in my pj’s with my coffee,

and watch my kids in awe of life.

Moments of serenity that are worth all the effort to get there. What was I complaining about again? Forgive me.