Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

I laughed most of the way through The Big Tiny.  Dee Williams, a superhero of the tiny house movement, is a very funny and big-hearted lady. While at the doctor’s office waiting for one of her many appointments for her recently-diagnosed congestive heart failure, forty-one year-old Dee finds a magazine article about tiny-house designer Jay Shafer, and she’s instantly hooked. She knows immediately that she not only wants to downsize to a tiny house, but that she wants to build it. She flies to Iowa to meet Tiny House Man, as she affectionately refers to him, and sets the plan into motion.

This is so much more than a book about a tiny house and the woman who accidentally glues her hair to it during construction. This is about a woman who faints at the supermarket and wakes up in the hospital with the realization that she’s dying a bit faster than she thought. It’s also about the zany cast of lovable friends and family that her giant heart encompasses. And RooDee, her loyal, bed-stealing pooch, who faithfully follows Dee through her tiny house journey.

If you’re a fan of self-help literature you are likely familiar with the idea that if you are unhappy as an adult you should think about what your eight-year-old self desired and do exactly that. Most recently Gretchen Rubin talks about this in The Happiness Project (great read!) And if you’ve ever tried this method - if you’ve ever found your adult self gleefully riding your bicycle through puddles - you know that it yields amazing results. Simply, it works. Dee takes one look at the tiny house photo, which ‘reminds [her] of everything [she] wanted as an eight-year old,’ and sets out to build the hidey-spot she always dreamed of. She is also feeling the effects of the rat race as well, and is hopeful that having a smaller house with smaller responsibilities will give her more time to enjoy life so that she’s not doing crazy crap like panicking if she ‘actually called [her] mother or simply wished [she] had.’

There are plenty of mishaps along the way, as well as a surprising amount of community building when Dee starts constructing the tiny house in a friend’s driveway. People can’t help but stop and ask questions, offer to lift heavy things or ask if she can repair their own roof in exchange for some cedar shingles.

While building the tiny house and turning it into a home Dee is also learning to live with congestive heart failure. Rather than feeling sorry for her, however, you will be laughing wildly as she learns to sleep with a loud oxygen machine by first taking it outside and then leaving it in her friend’s garage with an extra-long tube attachment. And when a neighbor asks ‘what kind of machinery [Dee is] running so feverishly at night,’ and Dee doesn’t correct him when he guesses it‘s an air compressor for her nail gun, you will praise her strength.

Dee’s clever word play is a bit over the top but so is her outlook on life. So when she writes ‘that the moonlight is poking through a giant sphincter of black clouds,’ or that her previous house looked like ‘a boozy, broken-down prizefighter’ that was ‘squinting at the street, growling, ‘I could have been a contender’ every time someone walked by” I do not roll my eyes. Instead I laugh uproariously.

Dee’s corny gab and sitting-down-for-coffee-with-a-crazy-friend writing style is the gingerbread-cedar-shingles icing on this tiny house memoir. And the memoir itself, about Dee building a nest, plopping it down in a friend’s backyard, and embracing family and life is a perfect nod to asking your eight-year-old self what you most covet and going out there in your superhero undies and doing it.

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