Weeks Don’t Get Any Better Than This

Inside The Belle Writer’s Studio.

Well, for the most part.

Our beloved Kansas City Royals lost the World Series on Wednesday night. After a 29 year wait to see them in another Series, it came down to a very heartbreaking Game 7, bottom of the 9th, two out, man-stranded-on-3rd base-90 feet-away-from- the- tying-run-loss. I’m not a sports nut (and Dale doesn’t like sports at all, but even he didn’t resist the hometown enthusiasm for the Royals), my history with baseball goes back to my grandparents who were die-hard Cubby fans in Chicago (this should tell you something about how resilient my family is when it comes to losing).

My mom was even at a Kansas City A’s game (before the A’s were moved to Oakland) on opening day when she realized she was pregnant with me. I have a lot of great memories of Royals baseball with my family at Kauffman Stadium. This team reignited my love for it. A lot of good things happened in the city because of this team and for that, we are grateful.

On a better note, Living Large the book is a few more steps closer to reality. I hope to have an announcement about that very soon.

Finally, the week is ending with Halloween, which means two things at Our Little House. It is our traditional first pot of chili night, which goes back to when my mom would warm our bellies before we headed out trick or treating.

October 31 is also what I call my Free Day. It is the day in 1998 when I was released from the confines of the corporate cube and given a new life that eventually lead me to my dream of writing from a cabin in the woods.

We may not have the security of a cushy 401K and I certainly could have been earning more had I stayed in that environment (and finances get more worrisome as we get older). But if I had stayed, I’m afraid the cost to me would have been more than money could buy: My health, happiness and peace of mind.

In honor of my Free Day, here is what it means to me:

For the past 16 years, over­all, my writ­ing life has been no trick, but a treat.

Being a writer is truly an adven­ture. In my research for sto­ries, I’ve had the oppor­tu­nity to put on a lab coat, booties and hair net to watch fer­til­ity spe­cial­ists begin the process of cre­at­ing human life in a petri-dish; Dale and I spent the night in Jesse James’ boy­hood home in hopes of catch­ing his ghost; we stayed in a report­edly haunted hotel and I found my heart rac­ing when we caught orbs on our camera.

Almost every­ day, I get to talk to inter­est­ing peo­ple such as the inves­ti­ga­tor who caught the BTK ser­ial killer in Wichita, and the sol­dier who fought to bring home Ratchet, the dog she res­cued while serv­ing in Iraq.

I rode along with a res­cue group (through their story as told to me) when they took more than a dozen of Michael Vick’s dogs from the hor­ror of that dog fight­ing oper­a­tion to a new life full of love.  I’ve been very lucky to fol­low the new lives of some of those dogs and other res­cues I’ve writ­ten about.

As an animal writer, I’ve seen some of the stories that ignite my passion go viral, sometimes initiating campaigns to help the victims in my story or create new laws in their honor, so we can avoid more victims of neglect and abuse.

On assign­ment, I’ve trav­eled from the won­ders of the Great Smoky Mountains where I was able to visu­al­ize where my pater­nal ances­tors once lived, to the city streets of south side Chicago.  There, I got to envision my grandfather fighting for worker’s rights as an early union organizer and imagined my mother, wearing a beret, playing in the school yard in her German Lutheran neighborhood.

My office is a cabin that over­looks the Ozark Mountains. Sixteen years ago, this office was just a dream; with its book­shelves to hold all of my pre­cious books (as well as some my mom held dear) and brightly painted walls — no drab gray pods!

My dogs accom­pany me to work every day. I take breaks when I need them, not when some­one else says I can. If I feel like leav­ing in the mid­dle of the day to take the dogs for a long walk on the road and come back to work in the mid­dle of the night, I do.

I drink cof­fee at my desk in non-corporate approved mugs that have say­ing such as “My jour­ney begins today,” my dog mug that states, “My love is uncon­di­tional,” my “Life is good” mug, and the Fleetwood Mac mug I picked up after attend­ing their con­cert in a VIP suite on another assignment.

I was born to be a writer, as soon as I could form words on paper, I was writ­ing sto­ries. It is, as a late childhood playmate wrote to me in an email, the thing I was meant to do.

The fact that it was what I was meant to do is a treat in itself, but I also seized the opportunity when my department was eliminated at my old job and that has been the real reward. How many peo­ple lan­guish in jobs they hate just because they never really found what they were meant to do?

Hanging on my walls all around me are pho­tos of some of the places we’ve trav­eled, def­i­nitely the good mem­o­ries that came from hav­ing a dis­pos­able income.

Also among those pho­tos, hanging directly across from my desk as a reminder, is a framed copy of my first paid pub­lished piece with the copy of the $25 check I received.

I cashed the check and paid about 4 times that to have the copy framed with the essay.

We may not be mak­ing our finan­cial goals. Retirement may be a far off dream we may never achieve. But that essay and the copy of the check that is with it con­tin­ues to serve as a reminder that money doesn’t always buy hap­pi­ness. I would much rather wake up think­ing of my life as a treat rather than dread­ing a com­mute and 40+ hours a week to a job I hate.

That is truly scary.


What Living Large dreams do you have? 

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