What I Learned About Life from a Black Onyx, Yahtzee, and My Grandma

When I was born, my grandma came to live with my mom and me. Grandma became the other mother in my life, the one who cared for me while Mom worked, the one who (quite often) disciplined me, and the one who read to me at night.

My grandma was a simple woman, with little to her name. Most of what she’d owned had been lost in a fire many years before I was born. The few possessions that remained were a couple of modest dresses, braces for her polio-stricken legs, a wheelchair, and a black onyx necklace usually found dangling from her neck.

Grandma’s necklace was her treasure. I never knew where it came from, whether a gift from her husband, or the only item salvaged from the fire. But I knew if it was important to Grandma, it had to be special.

Grandma was almost always happy, smiling when she baked bread, and singing as she chopped veggies for a huge pot of soup. Even when she dragged her limp legs across the kitchen linoleum, wiping up mud from a growing family, she was filled with joy. Grandma taught me to be happy. But it was through the many games we played that I learned about life.

Grandma loved a good game of Yahtzee. She’d spit in the dice cup (for luck), toss the dice clear across the table, and yell, “Yahtzee!” (Often when she didn’t have it.) Laughter filled the air. Whether Yahtzee, Scrabble, or a card game, and whether she won or lost, she had a smile on her face. It is now I’m beginning to understand, it wasn’t the game, but the moments. It wasn’t the winning or losing, but the memories. I wish I’d known that then.

Grandma slipped away when I was in my early teens. I watched her as she took her last breath. When she was gone, my mom and her siblings gathered the few belongings left in Grandma’s room. Together, they presented me with the black onyx necklace.

I cherished that necklace and wore it often, a little black stone resting near my heart. Today, it sits in a box in my bedside table. Every once in a while, I pull the box out, feel the smooth stone between my fingers, caressing it as I did when I was little.

The onyx is a constant reminder of Grandma, a simple woman who owned little, and gave much. A woman who relished in the moments of life, who treasured not possessions, but people. A woman who kept only what was important.

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I Don’t Like Tiny Houses

I don’t like tiny houses. You know, those little boxes that are popping up everywhere, 100 square feet, 300 square feet, topped with lofts you can’t even stand in. Those things drive me crazy. Sometimes, I wonder if they aren’t a fad, like bell-bottom jeans and glitter eyeshadow. One article I read even stated the tiny house movement was doomed to fail. (Read it here at www.hipdiggs.com)

I understand the concept of a tiny house. They save the owners money, on taxes, mortgage, and the actual building of the home. (Though if the family grows, wouldn’t they just need to build another bigger home?)

And the amount of stuff needed to place inside a tiny home is much less than a larger one. (Except for those few who managed to find storage in all kinds of crazy places in their homes. Not kidding. Watch a tiny home show and see how creative some people are in finding closets for their dozens of shoes, and shelves for their thousands of books.)

But all that aside, tiny houses, whether they save money or not, whether or not they are better for the planet, are not for me. I need space, room to breathe, to feel the air around me, to dance and move. To be.

I want a place for family and friends. And in a tiny home, I don’t think there is room for any of that.

My husband and I do not live in a tiny home. Our house is 1800 square feet, and while we may be criticized for living large for only two people, our home isn’t filled with a bunch of stuff. But what it is filled with is life.

There is room in our home for children to play, to bowl in the hallway, toss airplanes down the stairs. There is room for children to jump and dance, paint at the table, create in the study.

In our home, we have a place for guests to stay, a table to sit around, to visit, sip tea, drink wine, laugh, talk, and play games.

I appreciate the tiny house movement. I can’t predict whether it will stay, or whether it will fade away like many fads do. But I can guarantee this – I will never be a part of it.

What do you think about the tiny house movement?

As always, please feel free to share this article with others.

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Simple Jottings of a TBI Victim

If you’ve been following my blog, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably know my story. It’s been just over six years since my brain injury, and to celebrate, I am writing my memoir. It’s a story I want to share with others, to help not only TBI victims, but anyone who has experienced a traumatic event.

Words can make or break another human being. I hope my words help. I hope they heal. Here are a few lines from my book. May you find them useful in your own life:

“Sometimes a trauma offers this, a blessing tucked inside the suffering. Inside the suffering is where I found healing.”

“. . . the memories that remain, I think those are the ones I am supposed to keep.”

“. . . for the first time in my life, I knew I needed someone.”

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Never Give Up

July 14th marked the six year anniversary of my accident. It’s funny how simple things, like peaches and a water bottle, are the few memories that remain from that day. And for three years after, all I retain are snippets of time, little empty holes that others try to fill.

During those few years, I had to learn to fight. I fought for health, for life, for memories. I fought to read. I fought to write. And when doctors said I’d never improve, I fought harder still. Because if there is one simple lesson this accident taught me, it is this: If you don’t fight for yourself, no one else will.

Every aspect of our life is like that, filled with tiny battles we need to overcome. We encounter naysayers, in our jobs, our homes, our lives. Others criticize our dreams, crush our inventions, kill our creations.

Yet, we fight. We fight because we believe. Because we know with all our heart it’s what we need to do. We fight because if we don’t, if we let others get us down, if we let others suck our dreams away, then our life, too, is sucked away.

So never give up. Fight. With all your life.

Fight for love.

Fight for health.

Fight for crazy, ludicrous dreams that rest in your mind.

Fight with blood that courses through your veins.

Fight with every breath you have.

Never give up.

You are the warrior.


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