The True Cost of Living While Insuring Yourself to Death

Big House

Big House (Photo credit: Stephen Downes)

Prompts for the PromptlessTrue Cost is a term for the often-overlooked, comprehensive expense of something, including the time-related and emotional costs.

(Example:  You can purchase a cat for money.  Let’s say $100.  That’s the basic cost.  The True Cost of the cat, though, is in the litter box, food bowl, cat carrier, food, vet bills, litter, the time spent on the cat, shirts that are torn by tiny kitten claws, the worry you experience when the cat is ill, and the grieving if the cat passes away before you.)

You can try to calculate the true cost of things, but I’m betting once you get started you’ll wish you hadn’t bothered.  I thought for this prompt it might be interesting to add up all the insurance premiums we’ve paid over the years.  Because, let’s face it, we like to insure ourselves and everything around us against every possible calamity imaginable.   There is home insurance, insurance for household contents, fire, theft, auto, health, illness, mortgage, accident, travel, property, professional and personal liability, LIFE….and of course alien abduction.  That last one we were never offered and so we don’t have it.  Now that I’ve admitted to being lax about purchasing that particular insurance, no doubt the aliens will be around later tonight to take us away without any fear of being sued.

Just making this list of all the types of insurance was traumatic enough, never mind calculating actual dollar amounts.  No point in making myself suicidal.

I also considered discussing the true cost of purchasing your own house.  We own a home which is mortgage free.  I always thought it would give me such a wonderful feeling of pride and contentment to be able to say that.  Now I realize the house actually owns us.  We are its caretakers.  It has NEEDS.  Once the mortgage is paid, the house feels free to start falling apart.  Appliances break down.  Floor coverings wear out.  Paint peels.  Furnaces die of old age.  Windows need replacing.

Being done with mortgage payments simply means there’s some extra cash left at the end of the month to put towards maintenance and upkeep and renovations.  Or in other words, keeping the damned place from falling down around you while you sleep.

I’m no accountant, but I think the cost of owning your own home is probably equal to your entire monthly take home pay plus about 15%.  You can own it free and clear for about five minutes.  Then you’ll have to dish out more money to keep it nice.

So, here’s my advice to all you people out there who are obsessed with knowing the true cost of something.  Stop worrying about it.  If you want something enough, (like pets or kids or ridiculously huge amounts of life insurance),  ultimately the true cost is just a number.  You will work hard to make your dreams happen, you will do whatever you have to do, even if it all seems at times to be hopelessly out of reach.  If its important enough to you, you will find a way.  And true cost be damned, you will be happy you did.

Nobody Likes This

nobody likes this


This reminds me of the suggestion to change my password to ‘incorrect‘ so that when I can’t remember it, the prompt will say ‘your password is incorrect’.

No, I don’t know why two such dissimilar things seem to me to be connected but there you go.

We spent an excellent weekend with kids and grandkids, and although I hate to say so and jinx it, the weather was BEAUTIFUL!  It’s actually still beautiful today.  We were sitting outside on lawn chairs beside our snow mountain watching the kids try to pummel it into submission, but it’s a pretty hard packed hill that will be around for a while yet.  There was also a dog catching snowballs.  Entertainment like that is hard to find.

When I got home from work today there were three messages with gorgeous artwork sitting on the pillows of my bed, and another one on top of my computer.  See how well these kids know me?  Those are the two places I would be certain to find stuff, that’s for sure.  And my fridge is completely papered over once again with delightful works of art.

I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend and a fun April Fools Day.   Think Spring.

Let’s Talk Turkey

“I hate turkeys. If you stand in the meat section at the grocery store long enough, you start to get mad at turkeys. There’s turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami. Some one needs to tell the turkey, ‘man, just be yourself.’ ” (Mitch Hedberg)

Our son was born when his sister was 18 months old. She wasn’t able to say his name, so she called him Tookie (rhymes with cookie). Pretty soon we were referring to him by that odd little nickname too. Until one day a friend asked me, in all seriousness, why we called our baby a turkey. Silly goose. So we stopped calling him that at once, or cold turkey if you prefer.

Our thanksgiving was the 11th of October, which gives us Canadians a much longer break between turkeys before Christmas rolls around and we get back into stuffing mode. I do love turkey and would roast one more often if they weren’t so incredibly huge. The leftovers seem to go on and on forever if you’re foolish enough to invite too few people over to share it.

My mom always put her turkey in the roaster upside down so that the breast meat would not dry out. Looks bizarre, but works like a charm. She also made a crock pot full of stuffing on the side. My mother-in-law always roasts plump sausages in with the bird. The juices from that combination makes the best gravy ever.

Okay, all this turkey talk is making me hungry, and our next turkey feast is still a month away.

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” ~Erma Bombeck

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends.

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Mastering Words

With five grandchildren to choose from, it’s not an easy decision to pick the absolute funniest thing that any one of them has said. I’ll just share the one my dad loved to hear me tell.

A bit of background info first – his favourite book was “Catcher in the Rye”, where there are delightfully expressive expletives on every page. He never swore himself, but he could appreciate the use of swear words to get a message across. A joke that made him laugh was the story of an old man who gathered his four sons around him to make a sorrowful confession.

“I’m sorry to tell you this boys, but your mother and I were never married.” Sons one through three express surprise, disbelief and dismay. Son number four, having nothing new to add says “Well, I don’t know about the rest of you bastards, but I’m tired and I’m going to bed.”

I took my granddaughter (then age 3) to a playground once where she was happily climbing on the wooden construction that had ladders and ropes and tunnels and stairs. An older boy (perhaps around 5) began to pop up in front of her to block her way, and jump from behind things to try to scare her. Since she didn’t seem to be too annoyed by him I didn’t intervene. But I guess he did it one too many times, because suddenly she turned around and stomped over to me, put her hands on her hips and exclaimed “That boy is being a little MASTER.” There was no mistaking the tone and the inflection and what she really meant to say.

The expression became one of my dad’s favourites, and thus a family joke. Whenever someone was being bothersome or irritating he would ask them to please stop being a little master.

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A Month Without Internet?

When you have no internet, you can put together a puzzle on a flowered table cloth while drinkiing rum, under the watchful eye of a ceramic dog. Not saying I recommend it really, but anything to pass the time.

Could I survive a month without the internet? Are you kidding?? Already been there, done that, and lived to tell about it! Yay me!! Now ask me how I LIKED it……

The answer is – not so much. It was more than a month – six weeks in fact (but who’s counting….) spent at our family cottage a couple of summers ago. The only electricity there is supplied by a gas-powered generator, but most of the time it’s off all day and only used when the sun goes down. We can plug things in to recharge batteries, but my laptop was new then and I was afraid a power surge might fry something, so I left it at home. Besides, I’d done this holiday lots before for a couple of weeks at a time with no computer, so how hard could three times that amount of time actually be? You know, before I started singing ‘they’re coming to take me away..haha…”

Well. The first couple of weeks were easy because I was just too busy to think about it. We had kids and grandkids and dogs and crafts and campfires and a gazillion life jacket buckles to do up and undo. Then one family left, taking the majority of the kids and dogs, so we had a bit of a wind-down (where yes, the internet did cross my mind). Then family number two departed and I suddenly had all kinds of time on my hands. But no worries yet, there were books to read, rays to catch, puzzles to put together, paintings to finish, rum and cokes to consume.

Towards the end of the holiday I admit I started dreaming about my e-mail. And brilliantly witty status updates for Facebook. And my poor neglected blog. I would finish sentences to my husband with things like LOL, or BRB, or TTYL inside my head. I feared it was only a matter of time before I blurted them out loud. Thank Gawd for the DS and Princess Peach! She kept me sane until the game died a horrible death from over use.

So! I don’t really want to talk about this anymore. I’m getting a little creeped out remembering those weeks of internet deprivation. Let’s just say I embraced my lap top on my return (no really, I hugged and kissed it!) and promised to never go away and leave it all alone again.

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Twenty Ten

I have a brand new addiction for 2010.  It’s an amazon kindle.  Absolutely fabulous.  I could go on and on and on, but it’s easy enough to look up.  Google kindle.  Reading has become a whole new exciting experience.  I want to down load everything!

We had a lovely Christmas, btw.  Family makes Christmas.  We are truly blessed.  It takes being on the verge of ancient to really appreciate that.  When you’re young and healthy and busy you spend way too much time obsessing about stuff that in the long run doesn’t really matter.  Wanting everything to be perfect and then it turns out that the imperfections are what you remember and cherish.


Our five gorgeous grandchildren.  Kind of scary how fast they’re growing up.






And baby M. makes six.  She won’t remember this Christmas, but that little face will be unforgettable for all of us, no matter what the future brings.

I’m on book number three since Christmas.  Not that I didn’t read before, but now it’s just such electronic FUN!  I’ll have to start book blogging again!  You have been warned!  And that’s not just another idle threat, I swear.


July 21


I have managed to turn a three-week holiday into 4 blogs, and a two-year portion of my life into two blogs, so now I’d like to cram a four-year stay in Inuvik into ONE blog.  Just for the hell of it.

When we landed at the airport in Inuvik in the summer of 1977, K. was a beautiful happy one and a half year old, and D., spirited and full of life as always would soon be celebrating birthday number three.  We were met by W.’s new supervisor who made a big fuss over D. (because that’s always what she demanded and got) and then he asked us how old our other little girl was.  Both of us looked at K. with his angelic smile and long blonde curls and decided he was well past due for that first hair cut.

Our new home was an end unit in government row housing.  There must have been a dozen or more four-plexes one after the other, all painted different colors, all in various states of disrepair.  Right away we dubbed it rainbow valley.  We had been told we’d be moving into the NEW row housing (which was on the other side of town and much more modern), so here already was disappointment number one.  These places were old and small and there were doors everywhere.  In fact I counted the number of doors that first day – there were 12 – 14 if you count the double doors at the front and back entrances.  And that didn’t include closet doors.  There was a small entrance way with a storage room to the left, and the kitchen on the right.   All the major appliances were jammed into this space, including the washer and dryer and there was a kitchen table and six chairs.  We would joke later that I could do 90 percent of my housework standing in one strategic spot in the kitchen.  The kitchen cupboards were painted lime green and the floor was checkerboard white and turquoise tiles.  The walls were yellow.  It made me a little dizzy.  The living room had a dark blue carpet, mint green walls, and three pieces of overstuffed furniture covered in a wild orange, rust, green and yellow-flowered pattern.  Only two of the pieces matched, although the third one came close.  The drapes were gold.  There were radiators all over the place,  but because of the time of year the heat of course wasn’t on, so the banging and clanging involved in the heating process was something we wouldn’t be aware of for a couple more months.   There was a door to a hallway, another door to another hallway to yet another door which led to the outside on the other side of the unit.  All green.  Then  came the stairway (some kind of pukey green carpet on that) leading up to a small landing with doors in every direction – three bedrooms and a linen closet and the bathroom.  More freakin’ green everywhere.  To this day the sight of anything painted green makes me slightly nauseous.  We were promised that all kinds of renovations were scheduled for our unit, and we actually believed that.  Man, it took us a long time to clue in to the demented ways of the territorial government housing people.  But we did learn, eventually. In a couple of years they did paint the whole place white and we got a rust colored carpet that went with our gross furniture, and I got rid of the lime green cupboards on my own.   It was not exactly the accommodations we had been lead to expect, but each child had a bedroom, one of which was large enough to convert half of it into a great play area.  I always felt a little claustrophobic on the main floor, but I never once forgot to empty the dryer.  And after we removed about six doors and stored them in our crawl space under the house, we seemed to have a whole lot more room.

K. & D. with popsicles on the chesterfield from hell.

Just for fun, here’s a picture of my grandchildren.  Can we all say deja vu??

Inuvik itself was an awesome place to live.  There were a couple of big grocery stores, a hotel (with a restaurant!) schools, a library, churches, an arena, a pet shop of all things, an actual craft store, a bakery, board walks, a hospital.  It was practically civilized!  We had roads to drive on!  And we bought a little blue Volkswagen that I was thrilled to drive around all over the place.  Our utilities were now provided by the utilidor – a network of above ground pipes enclosed in slippery steel.  We warned D. to never go up on top of them because it was dangerous and she could fall off.  She used to go out onto our back porch and scream at the kids who climbed onto them and over them to get down before they killed themselves.  Such a sweet child.  W. had dabbled in wildlife photography when we moved north, and here his skills in that department soared.  We actually began a small business and sold many of them.  Can’t say we made a fortune, but it was a lot of fun.  This is also where he decided to be Joe Inuk and create his own dog team.  Which to his credit he actually did.  He got a bunch of pups and built himself a sled and trained himself and his dogs so well that he actually once took his mother for a dog sled ride.

We made some of the best friends we would ever have during our stay there.  At that time there was a Canadian Forces base in Inuvik, and I was asked to join their lady’s baseball team.  I had a uniform and everything and they stuck me out in right field where I would cause a minimum of trouble.  I was pretty good at bat, but the worst fielder in the league I think.   We got our black lab while we lived in Inuvik – Wintoba’s Alaskan Crusader.  Good grief.  We called him Toban.  This is also where I started to draw and paint.  After a lot of experimenting I decided acrylics were my favourite medium.   It was another self-taught endeavor and my efforts surprised everybody, including myself.  I had an artist friend look at my stuff and he told me to just carry on, don’t ever take lessons.  If I did, I might lose that natural originality and je ne sais quois.  That’s artistic gobbledygook for ‘even though your stuff is totally wrong in every way, there’s something about it I like.’  I did lot’s of arctic scenery and pictures of Inuit people and children and even some of animals, although those always ended up having way too elaborate expressions on their faces to be believable.  I painted pictures for everyone in both our families for Christmas gifts.  I would never consider now doing such a crazy thing, and burdening poor unsuspecting people with artwork that they might find not even close to their personal taste.  My mother and my MIL turned out to be my biggest fans – MIL still has two of my paintings – one of a man driving a dog team and the other of a hunter’s shack – hanging in her living room!  I don’t know whether to be flattered or depressed by that fact.

We got two paid-out vacations a year, which were originally supposed to be to your place of hire (which would have been Toronto) but they changed that to mean the closest large city, which in our case turned out to be Edmonton.  So twice a year we forked out the extra cash and flew from there to Ontario.  We had learned that our trips home helped to keep us all happy and sane.  People were able to fly up and visit us a lot more easily here as well.  Most memorable visits were from W.’s parents, and my sister and her husband.  They both still talk about W. going out on the back porch with a big hunk of frozen caribou to saw off a slab for a roast for supper.

Many people remarked over these four years about how well our two kids got along with each other.  I guess we were just blessed in that respect because they really never had any huge disagreements about anything for very long.  D. continued to be a live wire who entertained, and K. kind of kept her grounded.  He continued to be a loveable happy child, easy to get along with and as deep and focussed as D. was flighty.  I guess it’s true that opposites attract.  They used to play together for hours.  They also had lots of little friends and now got to go to birthday parties and on play dates.  We started them in skating in the winter and took them on lots of camping trips up into the MacKenzie delta in the summer.  For over a year I babysat two little girls for a friend while she worked at her government job.  When D. went off to kindergarten, K. and April went to preschool together, and Lori went down for her nap.  I was practically a free woman for a couple of hours every day.

We used to go down the main street on the boardwalks with the kids on their new tricycles, D. with little Lori standing on her back runner, and K. and April taking turns on his bike, either driving or riding and me with the dog on a leash.  Our own little parade.

W. still went away on trips, but they were usually short and became few and far between.  This part of the NWT was very different from being above the tree line, and for four years he didn’t get lost once.  Hallelujah.