Living Large in Our Little House Book Excerpt: Working to Live, Not Living to Work

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Living Large in Our Little House”: I was able to being that journey to my writing cabin in the woods on one of my favorite holidays-Halloween-in 1998, a day I will forever recognize as my “Free Day,” the day I was emancipated from a corporate life I hated to pursue a profession I love.

Photo by Kevin Pieper, for Mother Earth News

Photo by Kevin Pieper, for Mother Earth News


To me, 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 hairnet 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 his ghost; we stayed in a reportedly haunted hotel, and I found my heart racing when we captured unexplained balls of light with our camera.

I’ve had the chance to write about animals, one of my deepest passions. I wrote about the pit-bull rescue that took more than a dozen of Michael Vick’s dogs from the horror of that dog-fighting operation and gave them a new life full of love. I followed the new lives of some of those dogs as they transitioned from the terrible abuse they suffered as fighting dogs to their new lives as beloved family members. I’ve also written about their deaths in old age, as they passed into the next world not surrounded by abuse and violence, but by the love of their adopted families.

Almost every day, I talk to interesting people on the phones, such as the investigator who caught the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) serial killer in Wichita, Kansas; and the soldier who fought to bring home Ratchet, the dog she rescued while serving in Iraq.

Being self employed has given me the freedom to have adventures outside of my home office. On assignment for stories on family history, I’ve traveled from the wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains, where I was able to visualize where my paternal ancestors may have originated, to the city streets of South Side Chicago, where my maternal family lived until the Great Depression drove them to my great-grandfather’s farm.

I’ve seen where my maternal grandfather most likely worked and where he later helped organize labor unions so that workers (including himself) could work in better, safer conditions and give their families better lives. I also stood in front of the German Lutheran school that my mother attended. It is no longer a private school and Lutheran church but is now a church that serves the African American community in the neighborhood. Still, the concrete marker engraved with the school’s original name remains.

My dogs accompany me to the Belle Writer’s Studio 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 in the woods and returning to work in the middle of the night, I do so. I drink coffee at my desk in mugs that don’t have to be approved by anyone but me. (Yes, only corporate approved mugs could be used at our desks at one of my jobs.) They include one that says, “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 seeing their concert from a VIP suite on another assignment.

Years ago, this writer’s cabin in the woods, my Belle Writer’s Studio, was just a dream with its shelves that hold all of the books I hold dear (including some of my mother’s) and its brightly painted yellow walls. I had enough gray to last a lifetime, and I want to be surrounded by upbeat, happy colors. My cabin doesn’t match perfectly what I envisioned two decades ago-it doesn’t have that “divorce boat” in front of it-but it’s perfect for me.

It all boils down to being able to do what I love to do, where I want to do it. Many people spend the prime of their lives at jobs that they hate, sometimes at the expense of their mental and physical health. Living Large is about working to live, not living to work. Fro many in the tiny house movement, that means working from our land.

Read other people’s stories of working from their tiny homes, as well as many tips of Living Large in my book, “Living Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet With Six Dogs, a Husband And One Remote…Plus, More Stories of How You Can, Too.”



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