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!”

or

“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.

 

 

What Do YOU Advocate For?

Save the Children. Save the Planet. Save the Whales. Greenpeace. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Habitat for Humanity. D.A.R.E.

Chances are, you have heard of one – if not all – of the aforementioned advocacy groups. These groups use various forms of advocacy to influence public opinion to hopefully bring about change. Some actions used by advocacy groups to gain support and further their cause are mailings, fundraising, phone calls, and radio/television commercials (who doesn’t remember the infamous 1987 Partnership for a Drug Free American commercial: ” I learned it from watching  you, Dad!”)

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“I learned it from you, all right? I learned if from watching you!”

Yet, what about lesser known advocacy groups? The ones who don’t have the manpower to make annoying phone calls during dinnertime? Who haven’t partnered with large scale grocery stores that ask for a donation after you have recovered from the shock of your grocery bill? These groups are just as devoted and passionate about their cause as say, Doctors without Boarders or the SPCA. But they are just too small a fish in this great sea of thousands of advocacy whales (which, apparently, are being saved).

This is when The Underground Writer steps in to offer these start-up groups some assistance. After much internet perusing, I have decided to shine the spotlight on 5 groups that are lesser known … and for a reason.

1. Americans for Common Cents

Don’t I mean “sense”? No, actually, I don’t and for several reasons. Americans for Common Cents (Click HERE if you don’t believe me) is an advocacy group for the penny. Who knew the penny needed an advocate! Have no fear, you little copper coin, because there is a whole group of penny lovers devoted to your preservation. Consideration has been given to stop producing the penny since it costs more money to produce each penny than they are actually worth (2.4 cents per penny, according to the Citizens to Retire the U.S Penny – a group advocating to STOP penny production). For many, this seems logical. All one has to do is dig deep into their winter coat pockets, couch cushions or car seats to extract errant pennies. Pennies can be found easily most anywhere. But for others? A coalition to stop the killing of the penny’s creation was necessary. Hence, Americans for Common Cents was born.

2. Save the Pigeon: New York City Pigeon Rescue Central

Established in 2004, Save the Pigeon: New York City Pigeon Rescue Central was established to, well, save pigeons. Volunteers (or Pigeon People as they call themselves on their website) care for wounded or sick pigeons. To quote their Facebook page, “New York City pigeons have a very hard time … New York City makes no provision for their care.” For shame, NYC!  With all of that real estate, I would think a pigeon hospital would be a viable option. Complete with little pigeon ambulances. If you, too, wish to be a Pigeon Person, click HERE.

3. Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees

Not only is this group hugging trees, they are hugging plastic as well. Per “Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees,” plastic bags take up less landfill space than paper bags because plastic bags weigh less. (Never mind that paper bags are biodegradable and plastic … isn’t.) To quote this fascinating advocacy group: “Our mission is to let people know how good plastic is for the environment.” Clearly in its beginning stages, “Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees” was established as recently as August 2014. Should you want to help support the cause of furthering the use of plastic and not trees, click HERE.

4. The Flat Earth Society

Ferdinand Magellan schmellan! Who says the earth is round? Not the Flat Earth Society, that’s for sure! After a rocky history that included several presidents and one big house fire, the Flat Earth Society was resurrected in 2004. In October, 2009, the society opened its big flat doors to new members. (Should you want to join, but you MUST think the earth is flat.) Their mission? “To promote and initiate discussion of flat earth theory and to encourage free thinking and debate.” If you have always had an inkling that the Earth is not shaped like a globe but instead, a pancake, and want to advocate for this belief, click HERE.

5. Save Pink Bathrooms

About to swing a sledgehammer to that nightmare of a grungy pink bathroom in your 1960s-era ranch with plans of replacing the stained, cracked tile with something modern? Well, don’t let Pam of Save The Pink Bathroom know! According to this group, fifty year old pink tile is something to be savored. Whether it is considered a part of the home’s history (to quote their website: “Pink bathrooms are a wonderful part of our home design heritage”) or now en vogue, this group encourages you to put that sledgehammer away. Supporters of pink bathrooms can sign a pledge to preserve these bathrooms, and can also purchase a “I Saved a Pink Bathroom” t-shirt that announces their bathroom altruism by clicking on THIS LINK.

Perhaps in a year or two … or twenty, Americans for Common Cents, Save the Pigeons, Use Plastic – Not Trees, The Flat Earth Society and Save Pink Bathrooms will be large scale endeavors that are as prominent as the American Heart Association. Stranger things have happened.

 

**”I learned if from watching you, Dad!” photograph is property of Google Images.*

Crazed Woman in Cereal Aisle

Selling a house. The death of someone you love. Separation from a spouse. Mental health professionals consider these among the most stressful life events. While I’m not a mental health professional, they all sound about right to me. However, I think one more trigger should be included: grocery shopping.

Sadly, I’m not joking. I find my weekly trip to the grocery store mentally exhausting, physically demanding and financially grievous. I envy those of you who do not share in these grocery store afflictions. And for those of you who actually enjoy grocery shopping? Well, I applaud you.

My food shopping journey sours quickly; usually before I have even placed an item in my cart. I always (and I mean always) manage to pick a shopping cart that has a noisy, vibrating wheel that makes it sound as though I’m clicking castanets as I push the cart down the aisle. These wobbly-wheeled carts also tend to veer to the side, so I have been known to crash into another shopper on more than one occasion.

As my cart shimmies its way down the aisle, I begin to feel overwhelmed. Does anyone else find the immense selection of items mind boggling? Take canned tomatoes, for example. There are whole, crushed, stewed, diced, paste and sauce. These tomatoes are available with seasoning or without. Low sodium, organic, and not organic. There are literally dozens of brand names, and the inevitable store brand that is competing against those fancier name brands. (Are the brand names really that much better than the store brands?) As if these weren’t enough choices, then there are canned tomatoes from San Marzano, which implies the location these tomatoes were grown should be considered. To make matters worse, some of the canned tomatoes are on sale but (wait!) their amount is slightly less than the other brands. I finally close my eyes and randomly grab a can and proceed on.

The tuna fish selection is next. For the love of God, why are there so many choices of tuna fish? Chunk light, solid white, chunk white, and Albacore. Fish in pouches, fish in cans. There is gourmet, premium and organic. Then come the brands: Bumble Bee (what marketing weirdo thought of that name?), Chicken of the Sea (another marketing weirdo), StarKist, Natures Promise, Genova, Wild Planet. Just as I think I’ve finally narrowed down my choices, I realize some have that dolphin safe emblem while others do not. I can’t forget about the dolphins! And please don’t get me started on mercury levels. As I spend ten minutes deliberating over tuna fish cans, inevitably someone driving one of those motorized scooters will approach. I move my cart out of their way and proceed to wait as the person driving the motorized scooter also ponders their tuna fish choices.

It is usually around this point that my three year old son spills the snack I have given him to keep him occupied. Goldfish crackers cover the floor, making the other shoppers jump out of the way. Some smile patiently while others give me the evil eye as they walk over the goldfish, their shoes making a crunching sound. I try and pick up as many goldfish as I can – shoving them in my pockets. (Later on I forget to empty the crackers from my pockets and the pants go in the wash. I then open my washer door to find a goldfish paste is coating the barrel of my washing machine.)

I rush through the frozen food aisle that is as warm as a tundra. As I pick out frozen waffles for my children’s breakfast I feel a pang of guilt that I’m not making them waffles from scratch. At that moment an Extreme Couponer passes with her binder bulging with coupons. I haven’t brought any coupons, let alone an amount that would require an actual binder to house them. I can’t decide if I hate or admire the Extreme Couponer, so I push my gyrating cart past her and avoid eye contact when she looks up from her binder to see what is making that horrific clacking noise.

By the time I reach the checkout, my cart is so full I have to lean into it in order to move the cart forward. I resemble an orderly in the hospital who is pushing an obese patient through the hall. Occasionally I grunt as I brace my feet to keep the cart from veering to the side. As I stand in line, my son frantically tries to grab every packet of gum from the display next to us. After I unload the food from my cart onto the belt, I realize I forgot several important items. I also realize I have left my reusable grocery bags in my car, which means I will have to use those flimsy plastic bags the store provides. The environmentalist within me cringes.

The shopping journey is nearing its end and I want to rejoice – except the bagger has thrown my canned items into the same bag as my tomatoes and apples, bruising them before they have even made it home. The cashier announces my total and I let out a sigh. Despite my best efforts, I have managed to spend more money than I had budgeted. I also wonder if, perhaps, I would have saved more money had I gone to one of the other five grocery stores that are within a 1 mile radius from this one.

Upon returning home, my arms ache from keeping the food laden grocery cart straight and not veering to the side. It  also seems as though a literal hole has been burnt in my wallet from how much these groceries cost. At that moment my phone rings. It is a friend calling. She is weeping and proceeds to tell me she and her husband are separating. “I feel your pain,” I commiserate, “I just came home from grocery shopping.”