Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Promise fulfilled

One especially hot summer in Lubbock in the mid-1990s, Steve and I escaped for a quick trip to Denver for a special wedding.

Before the ceremony, the whole Damm family took me sight-seeing. One of our stops was Red Rocks Amphitheater. We walked around the empty space and admired the massive rocks and beautiful views. Steve and I vowed to return someday for a concert. (We never did. It was on our list, but we ran out of time.)


In the months after Steve died, I struggled to listen to music. I didn't want to listen to his favorite songs. I didn't want to listen to my favorite songs. I didn't want to listen to our favorite songs. I didn't want to listen to anything new that he might actually like but not be around to hear.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered the Avett Brothers. They weren't new in 2009 or 2010, but they were new to me.

Their lyrics were lovely but didn't trigger too many tears. The music was soothing. I eventually gave in and started singing along.

In time, Cooper and Katie started singing along, too. We've been fans for years now. We each have our favorite songs ("Smithsonian" for Katie, "I and Love and You" for me, "Pretty Girl from Michigan" for Cooper).


Jim and Betty rented a cabin in Colorado for the whole family to enjoy for a week this summer. In January, after we'd settled on the exact week, I started to consider what else Cooper, Katie and I needed to see in Colorado. (I've lived through running out of time. It changed how I plan our adventures. Each day is a gift not promised.) On a whim, I checked the Red Rocks concert schedule, hoping for a band that we might have heard of.

The Avett Brothers had just opened tickets -- that very day -- for a three-night stand at Red Rocks.

I bought three tickets and planned the rest of our journey around that Friday night concert.


Cooper, Katie and I sat on the 56th row on Friday, June 29. We stood for most every song. We sang. We danced. We admired the view. We looked at each other every now and then, in disbelief that we were actually at a concert in such a dreamy venue.

The concert fulfilled a promise that Steve and I made to each other -- not in the way we intended, but meaningful nonetheless. That night was an important reminder that beauty and poetry and music are sources of joy even in dark times.

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn't change by the man that's elected
If you're loved by someone, you're never rejected
Decided what to be and go be it
(Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise by the Avett Brothers)

After our journey all the way up to Red Rocks from the parking lot
Before the concert began, we felt a few raindrops then admired a gorgeous rainbow.

Pretty good venue for the kids' first concert

We're big fans of Colorado summers.

One of the two iconic rocks at the venue

The Avett Brothers played 25 songs. We loved every single one.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Stepping out in faith

I was asked to speak to our congregation today, during the 9:45 and 11 a.m. services, in support of our church's capital campaign. I was able to share a little of our story with the people of Grace Avenue United Methodist Church. 

Good morning. I am Tyra Damm, mom to 12-year-old Katie and 16-year-old Cooper. I am a teacher at Pearson Middle School. I am a freelance writer and editor. And I am a grateful member of Grace Avenue.

We have lived in Frisco, about two miles from here, since 2002. It took us more than a decade to call Grace Avenue home, but you all were praying for us all along.

My husband, Steve, and I were active members at our beloved Methodist church in Carrollton, where we owned our first home. That church is where our babies were baptized, where Steve sang in the choir, where he and I both served on more committees than I can count, as Methodists tend to do.

It was the church that rallied around us when Steve was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer, and it was the church that supported us when he passed away in 2009.

At the same time, you all were praying for us – both in the sense that you pray for this community and all of God’s children and in the sense that friends and neighbors who were members of Grace Avenue were praying specifically for Steve’s healing and our family’s grief.

Cooper, Katie and I continued to stay active in our old church. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the stability of that congregation. I loved worshipping in the same place that Steve had once worshipped, taking Communion around the same altar that Steve had stood for so many Sundays.

Yet over time, it became more difficult for me, as a single mom, to drive to and from Carrollton multiple days a week. Katie wanted to sing in choir and Cooper wanted to be active in the youth group, but distance and time were a burden. And I wanted them to have circles of friends from church and school that overlapped, like-minded friends who would hold one another accountable.

After more than a year of prayer and many tears, the three of us decided to start visiting Grace Avenue. We felt at home right away, not only because there were familiar faces in the congregation but because we quickly made new connections.

We Damms are all-in kind of people. When we joined in September 2016, so did Steve’s parents, Jim and Betty, longtime members of the United Methodist Church. They sing in the choir every Sunday. Katie was confirmed here. Cooper and Katie are active in youth. They attend Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. They serve on mission trips. Katie sings in the youth choir. I serve as a committee chair, as Methodists tend to do.

When we left our old church, I was worried. We were leaving a church family that knew our story. We were leaving people who would ask Cooper about his progress in Boy Scouts every Sunday and who would encourage Katie in her creative efforts. We were leaving people who had loved Steve. Would we ever find a church home that would replicate that sense of security?

As is often the case, my worries weren’t rooted in God’s promises.

Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

You, the people of Grace Avenue, are tangible reminders that God will be with me and my children. You have embraced us, encouraged us and made us feel at home. I am proud to support the 20 Next capital campaign because I know the power of your prayers from the first 20 years, and I am excited to live into God’s plan for us in the next 20 years.

We have the opportunity to work with and walk with God, to step up not in fear but in faith, to offer a church home to the souls we know by name and the souls we don’t yet know but who God surely knows.

Grace Avenue UMC, Frisco, Texas

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

49 Acts of Kindness makes the Washington Post

Big thanks to everyone who has helped us celebrate Steve's memory -- hundreds of you since 2011!

Click here for the link: How this mom turned her late husband's birthday into her favorite day of the year

Sunday, November 5, 2017

49 Acts of Kindness (10)

Thank you to friends who sent notes of kind acts performed anonymously! Your gifts and gestures make the world a kinder place. We need as much kindness as we can gather and grow.


From Christina in Frisco:

I wasn't sure what I was going to choose to do this year, until I went to Tom Thumb. I was greeted by the employee who frequently works in the produce section and at the meat counter. He is always so friendly and I knew he was the one. I had a $25 gift card in my purse and I passed it along to him, along with the flyer. 😊. Thinking of you and your beautiful family!


From Gaya in Frisco:

Here are the cute outfits that are a gift in honor of Steve Damm, to a newly adopted baby girl. Have the best life ever, sweet baby!


From Amy:

In line at Ben & Jerry's. Bought the woman's ice cream in front of us and gave her Steve's note. She was in complete shock and so thankful. We saw her later with her group of friends, and they passed along a "God bless" to the Damm family. 


From Jessi in Mountain View, Ark.:

We delivered thirty-five pounds of homegrown sausage and two butchered pigs to several Arkadelphia families with various blends of biological, adopted, and fostered kiddos.  A week-long endeavor; it was physically and emotionally exhausting.  But as I’ve sat here picking at my banged-up knuckles, I’ve smiled and thought of Steve.   Realizing that today is his day, it all feels perfect.  


From Sarah in Richardson:

John gave an extra big tip to a stressed barber, and I gave to a local music nonprofit in Steve's memory. We love you!

49 Acts of Kindness (9)

From Kristy in Frisco:

Hanna-Mary gave a gift card to her awesome swim coach to celebrate Steve’s birthday. #dammkind


From Julianne in Frisco:

The girls decided to give Steve's note to the waitress tonight at Benihana during Emerson's birthday dinner. They explained, and she was thrilled.

We bought dinner for the man behind us at dinner tonight at a new restaurant in Frisco. He was surprised and very appreciative.


From Valerie, visiting NYC:

I know this is arriving late but it was done yesterday on my trip to NYC to visit Sam. There is a diner I enjoy called Applejack Diner and it rained here earlier in the week and my hair was crazier than usual. The hostess commented that she loved how my hair was pulled back and asked how I did that. I told her I use a tooth comb headband that I get at CVS (Duane Reade) in NYC. She took down the details. I left and when to 2 Duane Reade’s and 1 Walgreens to find the particular set. They are hard to find and I found them on the third stop - only one set. I bought it and took it to her yesterday. She immediately asked me to show her how to put it on and did. She was ecstatic and simply could not believe that a stranger would do such a thing. I am pretty sure she hugged me no less than 20 times! We are strangers no more! Meet my new friend, Regina! I hope this small thing honors your dear Steve! Xxoo!#49ActsofKindness #DammKind


From Suzanne in Frisco:

Kids worked on Christmas cards for a sweet boy Jacob who has cancer and is celebrating early since he will not make it to this Christmas and wants cards.


From Tifani in Rockwall:

Baked cookies for our weekly Meals on Wheels recipients for a special weekend treat. Thank you for inviting us to be a part of Steve's birthday celebration!


From Caroline in Plano:

I treated my best friend to a pedicure. A few weeks ago her husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He's had surgery and thankfully his prognosis is good. The last few weeks have been crazy and stressful for her. They have 6 kids and she is trying to keep things normal for them. I wanted to do something "normal" for her.
Thinking of you all today, and of my late mother, who shares Steve's birthday. #dammkind

Saturday, November 4, 2017

49 Acts of Kindness (8)

From the Watland/Woody family in Frisco:

W/Ws had fun remembering Steve today. Jakob bought lunch for a friend, and the rest of us left a tip for the person bussing tables at Panera.


From Judie in Fort Worth:

It was my honor to donate a cooking class for 8 at a charity auction tonight. It was for Opening Doors For Women In Need, and it brought in $500 for this great organization. Steve's legacy lives on.


From Tyra, Cooper and Katie:

I delivered donuts for the Hosp Elementary staff Friday morning.


From the Wisners in Plano:

We took a drink and some friendship bracelets to someone dear to us who’s had a rough go lately.

Gave a hefty gas card for an unsuspecting person getting gas.


From Suzanne in Frisco:

Cookies for the athletic trainers out at the Warren football field today.


From Ann in Frisco:

Travis and I bought dinner for the person behind us at the Whataburger drive-through. We also donated a meal for a family in need at Sprouts. #dammkind


From Emily in Frisco:

I got a diffuser for one of the staff bathrooms.


From Novia in Frisco:

Stopped at Tom Thumb tonight with my sister who happened to visit me for the weekend 😊

49 Acts of Kindness (7)

From the Woodbury family in Howe:

We gave a nativity set to someone who lost theirs in a fire.


From Kelly (of Frisco) in Montego Bay:

Extra large bonus tip for our driver in Jamaica #49actsofkindess


From Sarah:

She donated a copy of her picture book Sarah's Song to the Frisco Public Library.


From Madison:

$49 donation made in Steve's name to Gigi's Playhouse Houston - a down syndrome achievement center *educate, inspire, believe*#alwaysbekind #dammkind #nothingdownaboutit #thejoyofelliott


From the Fox family in Frisco:

Gift cards for the firemen and pumpkin bread for a friend!


From Jill:

Chad and I donated to The Samaritan Inn Of McKinney. Rachel bought a donut and coffee for a security guard working the night shift and returned shopping carts for people after they loaded their groceries in the parking lot. #dammkind


From Liz in Frisco:

Donation to The Warm Place, pumpkin bread to a dear friend and extra tip at dinner!


From Tyra, Cooper and Katie:

We bought Andy's custard for friends (at home with an adorable baby with a cold). While in line, we paid for the family behind us, too.

49 Acts of Kindness (6)

From Kathy in Carrollton:

I paid for the groceries of the person ahead of me at the grocery checkout and gave them one of the 49 Acts of Kindness cards. I also gave my favorite checkout clerk at the grocery store a gift card and told the management about the good job she does.


From Katy (of Prosper) in Lubbock:

Dropped off fresh cookies to the Texas Tech police station and thanked them for their service.#dammkind


And then we heard from officers on duty in Lubbock:

On behalf of the Texas Tech Police Department we wanted to extend our deepest condolences for your loss. We also wanted to thank you for one of the 49 Acts of Kindness we received at the PD today. It is always uplifting to see and participate in paying it forward. We wish you all the best and appreciate the support. Attached is a picture of one of our officers and dispatchers as we had seen the visual representations of some of the acts of kindness that have been paid forward on the blog. Thank you again.

Tabitha F.


From Sherry in Frisco:

Two baskets of candy delivered to Sunrise assisted living. Nearly all gone by time I left☺️Also called a dear friend whose husband is battling cancer and talked for about an hour. Time well spent.


From Jana in Frisco:

Flowers for our sweet neighbors! #dammkind


From Rachel:

We delivered these to our neighbors across the street. They were so surprised and grateful. We had fun. Thanks for such a great day and happy birthday to Steve!


From Janet in Frisco:

The kids and I paid for 4 cars in the drive thru at McDonald's this afternoon. The cashier gave them each a 49 Acts of Kindness Card 


From Aunt Marilyn in Charlottesville, Va.:

I left a batch of chocolate chip cookies in my mailbox at the office and at home for the carriers with the 49 Acts of Kindness card on each. Then I made donations to our local food bank, the SPCA and Alex's Lemonade Stand in Steve's memory. We miss you Steve! #dammkind

49 Acts of Kindness (5)

Some of the ways that Cooper, Katie and I have celebrated so far this week:

I sent a note and small gift to a friend I don't see often enough.


We paid for someone to attend the Pearson production Night of the Living Dead.


Cooper and Katie gave Starbucks gift cards to their teachers and directors.


We paid for strangers' admission to the Reedy-Lone Star football game.


We baked Steve's favorite cookies -- Cowboy Cookies -- and delivered them to neighbors and friends.


We gave some shopping money to a family that is going through a rough time.


We delivered cookies and an orchid to a family who has been taking care of others.


We left a more-generous-than-usual tip with our server at Mi Cocina (a Damm-family favorite since 1997).