Does It Mean Anything that Poverty, Perseverance, and Passion All Start with a P?


I spent the past two weeks working on this really long list of to-do’s on my website. Things that needed updating, revamping, recreating, and reimagining. Don’t you just love the word reimagine? It oozes the power of doing something fantastical twice.

Life should be reimagined regularly.

So anyway, I got all done with this long list of “work” that I had made up then ordered myself to do. (I’m a hard taskmaster sometimes. What was I doing, you wonder since everything looks the same to you? Mostly work on my archive pages and the Community Cookbook and the forum, designing in more functionality to the way things work.) I felt a bit lost when I finished. My entire purpose for being for the past two weeks was completed, although not really because I’m always working on my website in one way or another even if it’s simply the next day’s blog post, so I just made myself a new list.

I’m working if I’m making bread. I’m working if I’m playing with my goats or giving Pocahontas a licorice treat or trying to find where my hens are hiding their eggs today. I’m working if I’m taking a drive and looking for a new old outhouse to see if it has two seats or three. I’m working if I’m learning to knit and I’m working if I’m dying wool with Kool-Aid. I’m working if I’m cutting wildflowers on the creekbank and I’m working if I’m writing about it all.

I’m also relaxing if I’m making bread. Relaxing if I’m playing with my goats or giving my little donkey a treat or hunting for eggs. Relaxing if I’m taking a drive and scouting outhouses and relaxing if I’m knitting or dying wool or cutting wildflowers or just sitting down to write about it.

A longtime friend of mine, Mary Schramski, asked me if I would answer questions for a “successful women” series she’s posting on her blog. (She recently launched a wonderful blog called Writing Without Periods. She’s a novelist and writes the blog with another novelist, Jennifer Archer.) After I got done laughing at her and double-checking that she wasn’t also publishing interviews with some actual successful women like Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama, I agreed and she sent me the interview questions. One of the questions was: “What do you do in your free time?”

What free time???? What is this thing, free time, and where do you find it? I thought about this and realized I have no free time because I fill up my time. What would I do with free time? Stare at the ceiling? I fill up my time with work because work is my favorite thing to do–and my work is giving treats to Pocahontas, baking bread, cutting wildflowers, then sitting down with my words and photographs in daily hope of finding some valuable way to share it with others, so why would I want to quit that to stare at the ceiling??? What I do for fun and what I do for work runs together so smoothly, is so tightly intertwined, I can’t tell whether I’m working or playing.

Next week, I’m giving a speech to the local Rotary Club. This has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve done lately. What do I have to say to a roomful of business people? After thinking on it for awhile, I concluded that I would talk about following your passion in your work. Following my passion is what led me into writing books and eventually into writing this website. But can you follow your passion and be “successful”–isn’t that about making money? Which begs the question–can you afford to follow your passion? Can you afford not to–have you ever wondered that?

Following your passion is never easy. For one thing, there’s always one or twenty people standing by to tell you that it’ll never work. And then it usually involves some kind of financial hardship, at least in the beginning. But if you persevere, there’s usually also one or twenty people who will help you. (These are called angels. If you believe in yourself enough, they show up. Not right away–your determination has to be tested first–then they appear.) I’ve had many angels in my life, including all of you who have encouraged me and supported this site in a myriad of different ways as I follow my dream to make a living out of this farm. (Thank you!) I work on this website constantly in my ongoing determination to make improvements, to offer more and new resources, and to share the value I see around me in the exquisite triviality of a chicken or a fresh-baked loaf of bread. I have no “free” time and don’t hanker after any. I do hanker after making more money someday, and maybe that will happen, maybe it won’t. I hope that at the end of my life, I will have developed enough as a person that I won’t judge my life’s success on money but on whether through my words and photographs I contributed something of value to the world (and whether my children are good people) even if all I did was scrape by while I was at it. And I hope also that I can inspire someone else to roll their sleeves up and follow their dreams, too. (Or at least bake some bread.)

What is your passion?
And if you aren’t following it, why not?

P.S. Poverty is under-rated. It builds character and a sense of humor.

P.P.S. Have an Avocado Margarita.


  1. KateS says:

    Poverty is Over rated – they say it builds character.
    But really, who wants to be a character??? :dancingmonster:

    My passion is dogs. :woof: Always has been, always will be.
    I’ve finally started down that path and I’m never going back.
    Service dog training in my future. I’m building skills now.

  2. Jan Morrison says:

    my passion is waking up myself and others. I do it with my psychotherapy practice, my writing, and my own life as ungoing experiment. Why wake up? It’s so cozy under the quilt, so warm, so sleepy… But the world, even with bills and people idling their cars and my mean rooster (yes – I have one too) is in need of presence – everyone has to wake up – clean their rooms and go for a walk in my HUGE big camp for adults and kids alike.
    and when your work is your passion does it still get to be called work? Yes indeedy.

  3. Kacey says:

    Great blog post. It takes guts to follow your passion, wondering if you’ll succeed for fail. Believing in yourself when others don’t. My passion is photography. My passions have always been creative outlets. Photography, writing, knitting, blogging. But photography seems to consume me.

  4. ulli says:

    I so agree with your assessment of success and following your passion. I have always told my 2 boys that success is not the dollar amount on your paycheck, it’s if you are happy with what you’re doing and in your life. Happiness = success. It doesn’t matter what one does. We need people that do all kinds of things–from auto mechanic to butcher to writer to retail manager to farmer to executive–we need everyone to make this country run and work. We also told them to find their passion and follow it, to be honest, kind and upstanding, and they will be happy in whatever they do. A day of work will never seem like a drudge. Poverty does build character and shapes one for the future.

    My passion? Passions change as we go through the seasons of life. I was a stay-at-home mom, now a stay-at-home wife raising and training our dogs, who will soon be back in the work force as DH is making some changes in his work life to follow his passion. I’m very excited about it. Married almost 35 years I’m happy to support him in any way I can. He’s such a hard worker and this change, if it happens, will be very good for him. I love to write (used to freelance for decorating mags and our little newspaper but not anymore), I do all hand crafts and keep something on the needles and in the works in the sewing room always. Hearth and home–my passions at this point in my life.

  5. Lynda Dunham-Watkins says:

    My passions have always been in creativity whether in writing, art,sewing, building, etc. Seems my only passion now is sculpting and writing about sculpting, no such thing as ‘free time’. Great post.

  6. Mim says:

    my passion: to be living the simple life..of course it comes with hard work but it sure is enjoyable.. I am only a few years from it…I retire in 2012. :ladybug:

  7. Diane says:

    Funny you mention passion. Doing what you love instead of doing what you dont love. Learn to live life in another way in order to live doing what you love. I am at a cross roads right now. I know what I want to do. I am working on getting there. I hope in a few years to be able to wake up and not have to go to a job I do not like. But rather walk down the stairs and work on a current job.
    My dh also has a dream that one day he will achieve. It also will take lots of hard work. What we both want will mold into each other one day. At least that is the plan. lol.

    It is people like you who make me realize that is it possible to live the life you dream. Thank you.

  8. CindyP says:

    Thank you, Suzanne, for this post. I needed that little pep talk… as Corporate America is failing (which was once my passion), I’m finding myself and my new passion. I know what it is, but getting that business plan in motion is difficult, as Corporate America was a much more profitable business and I still have those bills based on that! 😥 But I have to keep picking myself backup…and your post hit on it today….THANK YOU!! :happyflower:

  9. quietstorm says:

    Suzanne you are most certainly a success…. everyday you contribute something of value thru your words and pictures to EACH and EVERY one of us who read your blog, whether its a smile, a laugh, a sigh at a beautiful picture, a great recipe to add to our family collection, or just knowing that someone else’s life gets just as crazy as our own sometimes! and your kids…. You did good… it shows in every post and picture too….

    Does inspiring some one to make biscuits count???? :sun:

  10. LauraP says:

    Excellent points — life’s glorious when you pursue your passions. Not always easy, and there’s drudgery among the roses, but even scooping poop in the barn feels more like an investment than work because it’s a task that supports goals I’m passionate about. My passions? This farm, self-sufficiency, and the bigger tapestry of healthy communities, sustainable living on a practical budget. . . I’ve been so immersed in the doing, though, and am just burning to get back to writing about how all these ordinary amazing people I know are living the life. (And writing about other things, too, obviously a passion has been neglected in the service of another.) And then there’s photography, fiber arts, writing, and watching my grown children make great lives for themselves. Free time? What’s that? Boredom? Never. Poverty? By whose definition?

  11. Kathryn says:

    I have so many!

    Family first. I adore Himself, the children, the son-in-law, the daughter-in-law, the s.o, and the grandgirlies. My mother. These are the people who shape my life, who encourage me to find my art, my outlet. Everything I do has pieces of them there because they are as much a part of me as my ability to hold a brush, a scissors.

    Mother. Such a wonderful lady, who is facing an ultimate challenge with grace and dignity. Still getting out and about, still interested in everything! Still loving. Still my mother.

    Theatre. Himself and I are founding members of our local Community Theatre. We have watched it grow from 12 people at an organizational meeting just 12 years ago, to well over 150 members with a permanent theatre home, a five play season, over 350 season ticket holders, and national recognition.

    Our house. I just love this place. Whether crammed to the walls with friends and family, or just the two of us sitting outside watching the sun set, this house embraces everyone. Well, except for one bathroom that just refuses to behave and is going to find itself kicked to the curb before summer’s end if it doesn’t straighten up and drain right!

    Life. I am of an age where occasionaly there is a scare. Seven years ago, there was a scare. Today, I look at each day as a gift, no matter how timeworn the phrase, and can’t wait to see what it brings.

  12. Kate says:

    My passion is living in different places. We are traveling full time (for 4 years) in our motorhome and stay in different small towns anywhere from one to six months. It’s an amazing chance to learn how people live in other parts of the country. We have been moving around New Mexico for the last 3 years or so and find it to be a place unto itself.

    We’re currently at Ghost Ranch, a red rock paradise in Northern New Mexico, quite unlike anywhere else we’ve ever experienced.

    My other passion is photography, which I post on my blog (, and will perhaps be selling soon.


  13. wildcat says:

    My husband and I are empty-nesters in our 40’s. Our goal is to get completely out of debt and sell our home, hopefully all within the next couple of years. Our dream is to be freed up so that we can become missionaries and be able to live on a small stipend. We don’t know yet whether we will end up overseas or within the US, but we want to be available to go wherever we feel called to go.

    PS – I am hoping that we get called to Appalachia, so that I can move home to WV, where I grew up and where my family still lives! :yes:

  14. Sheryl (Runningtrails) says:

    Fabulous post!! AMEN sister!! Doing what you love and making yourself happy in life is the only way! Collecting material possessions is pointless, empty, rewardless and shallow. Jumping off that treadmill was the best thing we have ever done!

    “Things” and money do not buy happiness. What’s poverty anyway? A rating of your net worth or your happiness? Who determines who is poor and who is not? Will owning more things and a bigger house make you happy? How many winter coats does one person really need? A bigger house is just more space to clean. Is there ever an end to it? How many starving people could be fed with the difference between a Jaguar and a new Cavalier? Would the owner still get from place to place?

    Socrates said, “A man with wealth should not be praised until it is seen how he spends it.” – Well said!

    Remember: You can’t take ANY of it with you. When I am 80 I want to look back and be happy with my life, not feel as though I had wasted it slaving away the first 60 years, just so I can actually enjoy the last 20, when I’m too old to do so, anyway.

    This is a great pet peeve of mine and I could write an entire blog post on the subject (Hmmm…maybe I will, maybe). Growing a lawn and spending time and money on grass is another one. (What a waste of time, space and money!) I think the two go hand-in-hand. Both are wasteful status symbols in a society that is crumbling. Who need it?

    We are so rich in the things that matter, the IMPORTANT things, the only things that count!

    Great post!!! Fantastic viewpoint!

    (This applies to everything except shoes. One can never have enough shoes… 🙂 – however, I buy them all at garage sales for pennies – brand new, too!)

  15. Mary says:

    :purpleflower: Great post Suzanne! You are RICH in so many ways, money could never buy that. And successful! Have a great weekend!! :sun: Oh, my passions are my child, cooking, gardening, antiques, riding horses and swimming in the ocean, and old houses!! :ladybug:

  16. Lisa T. says:

    Perfect timing Suzanne. Just the kick in the pants I needed. I’ve set a goal. I will finish what I’ve started in eight weeks. Promise.


  17. Debbie in Memphis says:

    What a beautiful post!! Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us and letting us live your passion for a little while every day.

  18. Nancy in Atlanta says:

    Wow – what a fantastic way to start the day. I’ve had many passions, but haven’t always acted on them. I’m off to a new start now – at 65 I’m thinking of all the new things I can try and old things I can do again…mover’s agent comes today to look at the past I’m taking with me, and in 3 weeks I’m trekking to Iowa to begin a new life there. I’m looking forward to being close to my daughter again but, best of all, I have a new passion to look forward to. I will have my first grandchild – a boy child – in December and I think of all the things I can teach him and read to him and watch him do and learn. :fairy: :snoopy: :snoopy:

  19. Pete says:

    Hmmm. My view of success is very simplistic, and has absolutely nothing to do with finances, material things, or any of that rot. Anyone who has contributed more than they took away from life has been successful, in my view. Each individual gets to define how to make his or her contribution, perhaps by following a passion.

    My passion? To face every situation with enthusiasm and grace. If that is not possible, then it is my task to rethink the situation – is it one I should remove myself from or simply change my attitude toward it? It’s a choice that is made daily around here!

    Choices. We all have them. Living with the results of the choices we make can be either great fun or heartbreaking. But most often that is also a decision we make…

  20. Bev says:

    Don’t you find that your free time is also work and pleasure for you Suzanne? Come on….feeding a goat cookies or a donkey licorice is not exactly a mandatory farm chore. 😆 . Much of my free time is spent doing things for pleasure. After attending college, being a newlywed, working full time and raising a new baby (all in the same two year span, many simultaneously), I gained a gigantic appreciation for doing something for just ME.
    My dream is to finish my schooling and become a nurse practitioner and opening my own clinic…plans are already in the works. :shimmy:

  21. monica says:

    Okay Suzanne, I promise I will open my job email account. It seems like as soon as I turn it in and take a breath, it is back in the inbox with a rejection letter. I don’t have to live in poverty if I follow some of what you are doing. I can go to the grocery store and buy the few things I need with my head up. We don’t get foodstamps–we still have our pride and our home. We will have a humble and homemade christmas if I can’t find a job, but we will have awesome food.

  22. trish says:

    What if your 47 and you are still wondering what your passion is?
    I have been struggling with this question my whole life. I am envious of everyone on here, who already seem to know what there life and passion should be about!!

    • Michelle says:

      Trish I’m with you, I haven’t a clue! I have no idea what I want to “do” (sorry about the rhyme, I may not have “passion” but at least I have a sense of humor about it).

  23. cgReno says:

    Thank you for “reimagining” and a beautifully written philosophy about living. I have lived a life of reimagining, it just didnt have a title until today! As one of the above posts said, “Amen”.
    “Free time” for me falls in the same category as “Extra money”? I guess I simply dont understand the concept. Passion for me is about daily living, watching the lovely birds that come to my feeders,seeing my sleepy faced dogs, finding the frog that resides in my planter, actually growing a tomato! I have great passion for the everyday magic of living…………….

  24. Barbara says:

    Dear Suzanne,
    Been following your blog for a while but this is the first time I’ve commented. Mostly because my husband and I had this very conversation for the 3865th time yesterday. I write for Harlequin, too, and I’m there with you, sister! While I feel very lucky to be following my passion for writing, I too, fight the not feeling successful thingy. But I found your post inspiring. Yeah, we have to look at the organic whole instead of that one little piece of the pie chart. Good reminder. I love to read about your chickens and Pocahontas and the river. Thanks for the blog. It makes me happy to read it. :wave:

  25. vlemonds says:

    I think you should just read this blog post to the Rotary Club. 🙂

    I’m not sure what my passion is anymore….

  26. Lola-Dawn says:

    I don’t measure success with $; rather with time spent wholeheartedly doing creative things that I enjoy. Consequently, I work for a non-profit organization and am content. I’m also a member of a Rotary Club, and I think the Rotarians will enjoy what you have to say about following your passion!

  27. sondra says:

    I so enjoy your WORK! My passion is living life. I love to make things, give things, see things, do things, eat things, etc. It isn’t the things I love but how the things connect to people. So, I guess my real passion is connecting with people!

  28. The Retired One says:

    Very wise words.
    Oh, and I was the first woman President in my Rotary club.
    They will love what you say to them…and you will find out that many of the members started their own businesses as a passion…they will completely “get” you and what you say in your speech to them….
    Congratulations for being admired enough to be asked to speak at their club.
    It really is an honor.

  29. Yvonne says:

    I’m with Trish and Michelle….clueless. I still don’t know what “I want to be when I grow up” and I’ll be 47 soon.

  30. Mary says:

    You are one of the most Sensational women I know. Keep following your passion!

  31. Lisa says:

    Wow…add me to the list of almost-47 (July 31!) year olds who have no clue what our passion is. This has bothered me tremendously for a long time, and I’m no closer to an answer.

    I worked for years in a corporate environment, but voluntarily “retired” 3 years ago to be a full-time wife and homemaker. I love my “job”, but strongly feel that there’s something out there that I’m supposed to be doing.

    You’ve inspired me to at least think about, and hopefully, get off my butt and do something about it.

  32. Kelley says:

    I am going to print this out and pass it along to my daughter who will be going off to college next year. thanks!

  33. Mary Olson says:

    Funny, I was just thinking about his whole doing what you love versus sticking with a job that pays well while I was out walking my dog. I didn’t come up with a good answer. My job isn’t so bad, it just doesn’t fit me anymore. But giving up said job would mean I couldn’t afford to do the things I love anymore. So for now, I’m sticking with a job that makes me miserable 40 hours a week, but that pays for my horses.

  34. ShadowWoods says:

    Suzanne, I always seem to post my comments at the tail-end of the list. This time, it’s not for lack of time, rather it’s that I’ve spent the last several days pondering and re-reading your post. I’ve read it aloud to friends and emailed it to colleagues. It’s brought both laughter and tears to me and others. It’s one of your most somber, yet inspiring posts. It tickles the heart and mind, yet forces one to reflect. It challenges us to think about what really matters most. In your clear, intelligent and neighbor-next-door writing style, you’ve managed to inspire your followers to take assessment of where they are and where they are headed. Thank you for inspiring us to be passionate about life!

  35. BobbiSue says:

    Suzanne, you ask if we should ever NOT follow our pasion. My answer is a resounding NOOOOOO! From the time I was a small child, I knew I wanted to grow up, go to college, and work in the social sserves field. No, I didn’t call it that then. ALl I knew is that is was the type work I’d be happy doing. Daddy had another idea about what I wanted. He was an old fashioned guy and thought what I wanted to do was “snooping”. I put myself through 2 years of college and started lookin’ foe work. No, I didn’t ge to be a Social Worker but what I chose was much more fullfilling. I love working with people and the jobs I chose were always where I would have direct one-on-one connection with the clients. It hasn’t always been easy but we made it through OK. I can’t go downtown without seeing some of the folks I worked with. I worked mostly with theunderdogs… the abused, the homeless, the mentally ill. It wasn’t all fun and games bu I am content. Come 20 January 2010, I will have been retired three years. I miss my work but decided to retire with my husband of 31 years come Jan 18th. Life is too shor and we must decide what is important to us, whether it be our work, our spouse, our faith whatever. Do I feel upset that I couldn’t further my education and get a bettr paying job? No. I did the same work my bosses did except I didn’t have the diploma on the wall or get paid the money they did. So the question was “Should we evr forgt our passion?” Not on your life. Always follow your dream. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. True, you may be playing second fiddle to your boss, but think! You’re still playing in the band! You’re STILL FOLLOWING YOUR DREAM! Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

    PS: Sorry if I make spelling mistakes. It is very difficult to see the print on the shaded field. have a blessed day to all!

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