Profit from the Pain

Ingenuity is defined as being cleverly inventive or resourceful. Cleverly  is the key word here. Many of us can come up with resourceful ideas, but how many of them are clever? Such as taking a bad situation and suddenly seeing dollar signs?

“Oh geez. Gradma’s dead. That’s just awful. I’m really going to – hey … wait just one minute! I think I see some profit here!”


“Man, I hate picking up after this dog. If I made a dollar for every time this thing had to take a … huh. I may be onto something.”

Greg and Mike Herro, and Rusty and Dean VandenBiesen saw an opportunity to turn sadness into salary. In 2001 they started LifeGem, a company that takes a small portion of the cremated ashes from your loved one and somehow turns it into jewelry. And for no small fee. A tenth of a carat stone will cost you $2,500 with others costing as much as $20,000 dollars. (Don’t believe me? Click HERE to visit their website.)

This whole idea is bizarre. While it may be comforting to wear a ring with the cremated remains of someone dear to you inside, let’s face it, it’s also downright creepy. And socially awkward.

“Ohhh! What an interesting ring! What kind of stone is that?”

“My Aunt Linda.”

“My Aunt Linda? Huh. I’ve never heard of that.”

“No. It’s my Aunt Linda, literally.”

Another uncomfortable aspect of this whole dead person jewelry thing is LifeGem’s website. Their rather crass description that the jewelry “will bring you comfort day by day“, the bright purple sentence in the middle of the screen where you can “request your free information kit here!” as though you are ordering some newfangled hair dryer. Then heart wrenching testimonials, followed by disturbing ones. (One woman wrote, “”Ma” arrived safe and sound last night, and you’re right! She is a beauty! It gives me peace to have her home and in such sparkly condition.”) And of course, the constant reminders to NOT send the ENTIRE cremated remains of your family member to LifeGem. They only need a few ashes to complete your several thousand dollar order.

On a lighter note, Jim Coniglione of Long Island, New York decided to get paid for picking up poop. His business, Scoopy Doo Dog Waste Removal, will remove any dog (or Canadian geese) waste from your yard for a fee. Scoopy Doo Dog Waste Removal has trained technicians (rumor has it Scoopy Doo Dog Waste Removal training is brutal, much like the training required to become a Navy SEAL ) who will properly handle and dispose of all canine (and bird) excrement.

There was no information stating how Mr. Coniglione had the epiphany of picking up poop for profit, but it probably was inspired by something like this:

Jim: It’s your turn to take the dog out.

Jim’s son: Nah-uh! It’s your turn.

Jim: Hey, you’re the one who wanted a dog so bad.

Jim’s son: I didn’t know it would poop so much. I wish there was, like, some machine that scooped up its poop. Or some people who come over and clean the yard for us. Like a butler or something.

Whatever gave Mr. Coniglione the idea to start a professional yard cleaning service has now turned into a thriving business that spans from Long Island to Albany, New York. Well done Jim! (Click HERE if you want to see some major pooper scoopers.)

Lastly, a growing movement has turned trash into cash. Known as Dumpster Divers or Freegans, these curiosities root through dumpsters for discarded food and other items. While the majority of Dumpster Divers brave the darkness of trash cans for food that supermarkets have thrown away and is still (in their minds) considered edible, others find clothing, furniture, and other objects that they then sell. (Thinking twice about purchasing that Hollister sweatshirt you saw on eBay? I would too.)

While many consider Dumpster Diving to be unhygienic, dangerous and downright nauseating, seasoned Dumpster Divers claim that tearing apart trash bags is addictive and provides a thrill, much like bungee jumping. Many state they are helping the environment by eliminating these objects from making there way to landfills. Others make profits by cleaning their finds and selling them on eBay and garage sales. To learn how you too can dive into a dumpster and forage for some items to sell, click HERE.

Ingenuity allowed LifeGem, Scoopy Doo Dog Waste Removal and Dumpster Divers to find a way to make money from a bleak situation. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger … and if it does kill you, LifeGem can turn you into a piece of jewelry.




How to Have Fun with Telemarketers.

Chimney cleaners. Chronic disease organizations. Electric company suppliers. Cancer societies. Extended automobile warranties. College alumni fundraisers. Companies making vague promises to lower interest rates on loans you don’t even have. They call constantly; often at the most irritating times. Sound familiar?

You hang up as soon as you recognize the crackling pause after saying hello (the telltale indication it’s a telemarketing call). But this does not work. Stubbornly, they will call back the next day … and the next … and the next. Requesting they no longer call your number is laughable. These people are trained in the art of loopholes and tenacity. They have no scruples.

Giving money – no matter how small – to charities seeking donations in hopes the’ll leave you alone only provides respite for a brief period of time. Plus – many of these organizations sell your number to other charities, which means your “please go away” donation just opened up an avalanche of more pesky non-profit calls.

The National Do Not Call List is ineffective. Businesses  have found ways to circumvent the rules. Non-profits are excluded from the Do Not Call List, as well as political surveys.

How do we cope with such intrusiveness? If we can’t beat them, we must join them. In order to protect our sanity, I offer you The Underground Writer’s “How to Have Fun with Telemarketers”:

1. Inform the telemarketer (or charity) they have called just as Family Story Time is starting. You will need to have a children’s book by the phone at all times in order to make this work. Place the phone on speaker before you start reading the book out loud.

“I hope Pete The Cat is okay with you, it’s the book my son chose. Otherwise, we have Frog and Toad or Ferdinand The Bull.

2. Pretend you and your spouse are in the middle of a heated argument and get the caller involved.

“Boy, am I glad YOU called! Listen to this. My husband? He NEVER takes the garbage out. So, like, yesterday I put it on the back porch because I didn’t want it stinking up the kitchen -”

“Um … Mrs -”

“Wait. I’m not finished. So I put it on the back porch and some sort of animal gets into it. Now there’s garbage EVERYWHERE and he’s telling ME I need to clean it up! Since I put the garbage on the porch. But here’s the thing -“

3. Act thrilled that someone has called your home. This requires asking questions about the caller, and diverting their questions.

“Why, hello Maria from The National Protect Indigent Feline Association! Where are you calling from?”

“Indiana. Would you be willing to pledge just twenty-five-”

“Indiana? What part?”

“The middle part. Would you be willing to pledge just -”

“I’ve never been to Indiana. What’s it like?”

“It’s fine. Mrs. Underground Writer, there are thousands of homeless -”

“Know someplace I’ve never been? Alaska. Yup. Never been. Can’t say I necessarily WANT to go since I hate the cold…”

4. Invite the caller for dinner (since they always seem to call during meals). Literally: Put the phone on speaker and plop the receiver in the middle of the table and announce how you never have dinner guests. Then, act as though they are actually present.

“I hope you’re not a vegetarian. We’re having steak.”


“We’re so happy you can join us!”

5. Start singing – Broadway show tunes seem to freak telemarketers out quickest.

6. Have a child who plays an instrument? Wonderful! Have them play a song or two.

“Before I answer your question as to whether or not I’m happy with my electric supplier, my daughter wants you to hear her practice Hot Cross Buns on her clarinet.”

7. Ask their opinion on your new curtains. But they can’t see your new curtains? Exactly. Describe in great detail what these curtains look like: color, pattern, how they match the color on your walls. What we’re aiming for here is, boring. Much like their call.

8. Put your toddler on the phone – preferably one who is just learning to imitate animal sounds.

“Mrs. Peters? My name is Jason and I am calling from the Lower Your Credit -”

“Ohhhh, Jason! I am so glad you called. My two year old just learned to make all the sounds on Old McDonald’s farm! Listen…”

“Mooooo! Oink! Oink! Oink! Baaaaa!!!”


“Neigh! Mooooo! Quack!”

9. Seek medical advice. Persistent ache in your lower back? Lump somewhere? Hey, they called you.

10. In all seriousness, be polite. Thank them for calling, and ask that they remove your name and number from their calling list. Then inform them that you trace all calls, and you now know where they live and what kind of car they drive. And you hope they have a very nice day.

An Urgent Plea

Dear At – Home – Party – Consultants,

In all honesty, I do not need a potato peeler, onion dicer or pizza stone. Nor do I need an overpriced whisk and cheese grater. Buying a $60.00 nine inch bread knife would not make me feel pampered. It would make me feel swindled. Let’s also remember, I hate to cook (click HERE for proof). In other words, please stop inviting me to your Pampered Chef parties. Besides, all of that talk of kitchen gadgets would make me feel guilty – like I should be whipping up something gourmet for my family.

Soy candles are wonderful. I burn one a year. Therefore, I have no need for two or more. I also fear fire, and candles remind me of flames. (I would have made a horrible cave woman.) I also can’t help but feel a bit disgruntled by the inevitable jolly woman who would sit next to me and announce how she must have the $75 wall sconce and $25 votive holder.  While I am grateful you were thoughtful enough to include me on your PartyLite or Scentsy party invitation list, I ask that you no longer add my name.

Tupperware parties tend to get a bit too rowdy for my taste. All of that screaming over 8 oz containers and three piece plastic mixing bowl sets. The demonstration on the Zest and Press gadget always makes a few ladies faint. Forgive my weakness, but I simply do not have the fortitude to purchase a $33 plastic water pitcher to only have it break several days later (true story). Perhaps the decline in Tupperware quality is because Tupperware items are no longer manufactured in the United States. In any event, if you are thinking of inviting me to your next Tupperware gathering, please don’t.

Scrapbooking is downright intimidating. I do not have the patience or gumption to sort through my drawer full of photographs. This is why I never attend Creative Memories parties. Creative Memories consultants, please do not take this personally. Should I wake up one morning with the burning desire to crop pictures and write captions for them, I will contact you. I promise. Besides, I have heard rumors of brawls breaking out at scrapbooking parties – usually when high school photographs are unveiled. (“Wait! I thought you looked familiar! You were the one who I sat next to in Mr. Gibson’s math class. You used to make fun of my perm!”)

Homemade cards are wonderful. I admire the talent and creativity whenever I receive one. Yet, I  do not stamp and would rather spend time reading Hallmark cards in the store than making my own. If I am to stamp anything, it is a Bingo sheet with a dauber. Bingo is interactive and fun. Sometimes you win things. In fact, the next time I receive a Stampin’ Up party invitation, I may visit my nearest Catholic church hall for a competitive game of Bingo instead.  My sincerest apologies Stampin’ Up ladies.

Your cooperation in ceasing to invite me to these types of parties is much appreciated. I wish you well in your at-home party endeavors!

Warmest Regards,

The Underground Writer

Special thanks to Adam J. Holland of the Unorthodox Epicure (click HERE to check out his humorous and often touching essays) for assisting with this piece. And always – my beloved husband (Mr. Underground Writer) for his editing suggestions.