Monthly Archives: October 2016

Out With A Bang!

butch-cassidyMy dog, Rainbow is fifteen years old, She is still chugging along but her body is breaking down. Since I’m the one who will eventually choose when to put her down, I have set some criteria to guide me. I have a $5,000 limit on medical bills. Anything costing more, I allegedly won’t authorize. Incontinence and an inability to walk unaided are deal breakers. What I didn’t take into account was the cost of various procedures I’ve had done to Rainbow this year. My husband and I have spent nearly $2,000 on her health problems. Do I say no if some $3,000 intervention is required in the coming months or even next year? My family and I grapple with how long we let her live. The good news is that when her time comes, I will be able to choose to put her down in comfort with family around her.

So why on earth, can’t we do the same thing for our human family members, even in right-to-die states? I read a harrowing article recently about a woman with ALS, who chose to die. She found it difficult to find a doctor to guide her and her family through the process. Even though they eventually found one, her death consisted of the family breaking open tablets of meds and making a cement-like cocktail, which she could barely drink. There was no time for songs and prayers, just a desperate race to help her get it down. After she passed, the house was smoky with the powder from the pills. My dog will have a more humane end to her life than this poor woman. Why do I think about this stuff? Because my mom has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the past seven years and I can’t help but worry about my own future.

My mother has lived in my brother’s loving home with twenty-four hour care, for the last three years. Thankfully she has the resources to pay for this care, which also makes her living with my brother and his family manageable for them. If I were to end up like my mom, I will not be in the same financial situation and have the kind of care that she enjoys. Many of my friends are dealing with parents with dementia and like me, worry about getting this disease and becoming long-term burdens to their children. Most of them are in their fifties and are beginning to think about downsizing sooner rather than later. Some are not even sure they want to stick around until the end.

One friend’s husband has requested that when he can no longer care for himself he be put in a dinghy and set out to sea. Another has asked me to be her “plug-puller” because she knows her family won’t do it. I cannot imagine myself clutching her living will in one hand and lunging for the plug with the other, while her sobbing family is trying to tackle me before I can do it. One of my kids has asked me to sign a contract saying he can pull the plug in the event I follow in my mother’s footsteps.

All of these scenarios got me fantasizing about starting a business called Out With A Bang! The idea is that terminal people could plan their deaths. Depending on their desires, they could host a big party beforehand, say goodbye, and then die in a preplanned manner. I’ve actually floated this idea to friends and family on both coasts and was surprised that not only was no one horrified; they thought it was an interesting idea.

I was explaining my concept to one of my sister-in-laws whose mother also has Alzheimer’s. When I told her of the various packages I came up with: Swimming with Sharks (no cage), Skydiving (no parachute), or the Thelma & Louise (convertible included), she didn’t like those choices.
“I wouldn’t want to go that way.”
“How about the Sleeping Beauty? We’d have a big party in castle with all your family and friends; You’d be decked out in a beautiful gown. At the end of the celebration, we’d lay you down in a gorgeous bed with beautiful flowers where you’d say your final goodbyes. You’d get a kiss from your prince, take a bite of the poisoned apple, and off you go! It would be Sleeping Beauty in reverse!”
“Ooh, I like that!”

Just in case you’re thinking I’m crazy, I’m not. There are already businesses that offer end-of-life parties and alternative funerals. There have been articles in the news about terminally ill people planning for their deaths by writing last letters to family and friends and drafting their own obituaries. Some cemeteries are now allowing you to be buried with your pets. Betsy Davis, a young ALS sufferer, recently threw her own end-of-life party, no crying allowed! Everyone celebrated, divided up her things, and then she went up the hill and had her last cocktail. If you think about it, we come into the world somewhat unceremoniously, why not leave ceremoniously? Why not go out with a bang?


Saving The Earth, One Toilet Paper Roll At A Time


You don't need a bidet to clean up after using the toilet, just a bottle of water!

You don’t need a bidet to clean up after using the toilet, just a bottle of water! You can buy a fun four pack of Jiffy Butt Cleaner at!

My new motto is “Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should!” It has become my guiding principle when making any purchases and has saved me time, money and clutter. I’ve been using it quite successfully in my personal interactions as well.

I have always thought that if something was being sold I had every right to buy and use it. I never thought about the item’s effect on my health, the environment, and others because I assumed that the manufacturers did all of the research and testing to make sure their products are good for our world and us. Clearly I was a bit naive.

As I pass the half-century mark, I’m finally getting a clue. While I’m realizing that some of my family’s purchases were a bit ecologically irresponsible such as a Chevy Suburban to tote our four kids around, a home bigger than we probably need, and lots of food and toys that come in decadent packaging, it was our toilet paper consumption that really hit home.

Around Father’s Day, I was writing about bringing back the handkerchief and my research revealed that Americans not only use too many tissues and paper towels but toilet paper as well. I honestly never thought of these items as coming from trees, so I began my quest to reduce my family’s paper footprint.

Removing paper towels from the kitchen was painless; everyone began using dish towels, and cloth napkins helped cut down on our paper napkin usage. It would turn out that my beloved, squeezably soft Charmin was probably the worst toilet paper we could use. The average American uses 57 sheets of a 325 to 500 sheet roll per day. It takes 15 million trees to make the 36 billion rolls that Americans use each year. We are literally wiping our butts with our forests and then flushing them down the toilet. I decided to keep track of my toilet paper usage to figure out how many trees I was killing.

I don’t have any extraordinary toileting issues so I was horrified when I seemed to be closing in on one a roll a day! I was so appalled that I immediately stopped my experiment. I realized that I was wadding up way too much toilet paper for one visit to the bathroom. In addition to taking care of my personal needs, I was ripping off fresh sheets to wipe off the sink, blow my nose and capture bugs. I immediately switched to a less soft but more ecologically friendly brand and, men cover your eyes, began using my old perineal cleansing bottle. It’s essentially a portable bidet! You can give your bottom a little squirt without having to rub yourself raw with dry paper. I’ve put together a fun package of them which you can purchase online.

After my toilet paper experiment I found myself applying this principle of responsible consumption to my purchases of food, clothes, and household items. If you want to try it, ask yourself:
1. Is this good for me?
2. Is this good for the environment?
3. Is this good for others?

Now that Halloween is just around the corner, let’s apply the principle to the items you might be tempted to purchase in a place like the pop-up shop, Spirit Halloween. Say you’re looking to buy some of those gruesome, bloody Halloween decorations. Ask yourself:

Are they good for you? Clearly, the decorations will give you pleasure, if you are buying them.

Are they good for the environment? No, neither the making of those rubber rats or the disposing of them. But if you use these items year after year and pass them on to your children and grandchildren, than it’s probably okay.

Are they good for others? Probably not. Not only do they scare little kids, there are plenty of people in our communities who have lost loved ones, some violently. I can’t imagine how horrible it is for them to drive around at Halloween and look at these grisly displays.

Lets try this formula with another controversial purchase, bottled water:

Is it good for you? Maybe, it’s convenient and sometimes delicious but where is it sourced? Some say, as much as 40% of bottled water is tap water.

Is it good for the environment? No, the US throws tens of billions of bottles into landfills each year and there is a huge ecological cost to producing new bottles.

Is it good for others? No, especially if you live in a place like Weed, California. A logging company owns the town’s water supply and they sell the water to the Crystal Geyser folks. Crystal Geyser bottles it and sells it to places as far away as Japan. The people in Weed have been told to find a new water source!

As far as the bottled water situation is concerned, I’d add a fourth criterion: Is it silly? Aside from cities like Flint, most of America’s water supply is safe. In a place like Western Springs where I live, with a reverse osmosis system, we literally have bottled water running through our taps. I can’t believe someone hasn’t already started bottling and selling it! I can hear the jingle in my head: Western Springs coming to you Straight from the Prairie State!