Saturday, February 21, 2015

No dance, but lots of love

When Katie was 3 and a half, Steve was starting to decline. The tumor was growing, and he was getting weaker. 

We made the decision that winter that he and Katie should go to the Frisco Daddy-Daughter Dance, even though she was not yet 4, the minimum age suggested for the dance. Her best friend Noe and our dear friend Layne were partners in crime, ignoring the age suggestion and dressing up for an afternoon of music, dancing and lots of sugar.

It was, in fact, Steve's final February. I will always be thankful that we made the decision to bend the rules. 

Every year since, Katie has asked to attend the dance. Each year she asks her Uncle Greg or her Papa or her Uncle Jim to take her. We buy a dress. We fix her hair. She wears a corsage. She's treated to a lovely afternoon.

And as much as she loves spending time with the special men in her life, she struggles. Watching all those girls with their daddies makes her too sad.

This year Katie decided that she would skip the dance altogether. When we talked about it in December, she told me she would prefer a special family day instead.

Today is the Frisco Daddy-Daughter Dance. I'm pretty certain Katie doesn't even remember. I'm not reminding her, and she's never on Facebook to see the flood of photos from our friends who are attending. (I love, by the way, seeing all the photos!)
Katie and Cooper at the Perot this morning
Katie, studying cells in the Bio Lab at the Perot
Lunch in Trinity Groves
We have had a special family day. First a haircut for handsome Cooper. Then a few hours at the Perot Museum for the new Sherlock Holmes exhibit. (Cooper and Katie are writing an article about the exhibit for the Briefing edition of The Dallas Morning News.) After the science fun, we ventured across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge for lunch at Kitchen LTO at Trinity Groves. Then we headed north for a little shopping -- new scarf for Katie, new shoes for Cooper, new (used) books for my classroom.

Now we're home, and Katie is working on an art project. We're going to read a chapter or two from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We'll probably watch a movie before bed.

I know that Katie knows she's loved. She feels confident and secure. She's the most spiritual, faithful, poetic soul I know. I am proud of her mature decision to sidestep sorrow, and I am thankful that I get to love on her her, spend time with her and learn from her. 

Can you imagine how proud Steve Damm is of Katie? How proud he is of Cooper? My tears today are for Steve, who has missed so much of their precious lives, and for Cooper and Katie, who didn't get near enough time with him. 

We were blessed with plenty of love, though.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
-- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


From the summer of 1992 to the summer of 2009, I could count on this: Steve Damm would tell me all the time that I was beautiful.

I didn't always believe it, but even when I was doubtful, his words made me confident. This dreamy, smart, creative, hilarious man thought that I -- all freckled, bespectacled and curly-haired -- was beautiful.

It's been five and a half years since Steve could say those words to me, and there are some days that, good gracious, I wish I could hear them from him again. Like today, when the effects of whatever upper respiratory virus I have, combined with the aftereffects of my nighttime so-you-can-sleep medicine, make me look, well, less-than-close-to-beautiful.

But what I really know, what I can still count on in 2015 is this: Steve Damm wasn't always talking about my outward appearance. And, more importantly, we are all beautiful.

We are intricate, complex creatures capable of amazing work. We care for one another. We create music and art and poetry. We laugh and dance, sing and run. We've launched rockets and satellites into space. We question minutiae and the meaning of life.

We think so much of this world that we continue to create children, then we work to make life better for those children.

For a while, I was worried that without Steve Damm telling me, "You're beautiful," I would eventually start to forget. Maybe he had told me so many times that my bucket was full, but over the years, without him adding to the bucket, it would run empty.

I've since discovered that my confidence isn't rooted solely in Steve's words. My confidence comes from knowing that we are all beautiful. We are all blessed with another day on earth. Each one of us has a purpose and someone who needs us.

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well."
  (Psalm 139:14)

Steve and Tyra, New Year's Eve, at the dawn of 1993

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hands of God

Cooper and Katie this morning on Steve's bench at Holy Covenant UMC
(Temperature: 25 degrees!)

Katie set a goal four weeks ago to raise enough money to purchase one water buffalo for a family in need.

She designed a bookmark -- a drawing of animals on one side and poem on the other -- and sold them for $1 each. In three weeks, she sold almost 600 bookmarks and earned $921 from generous friends. As she says, that's enough to buy three water buffalo, three flocks of chicks and three sets of honeybees.

Today she was recognized in front of our church congregation for her efforts in raising money for Heifer International. Her total represents more than 10% of the total funds raised by our church during Advent.

A Heifer representative attended both services today to thank Holy Covenant for the donations and to thank Katie in person. Our new missions committee chair, Joy Lasley, also thanked Katie and gave her a pair of gloves -- "to protect the hands of God." Joy reminded us that we are ALL the hands of God and challenged us to help others in 2015.

Joy asked Katie why she wanted to raise money. Her answer: "A lot of people have all of what they need and most of what they want. And some people don't even half of what they need. I want to help people get what they need."

During both services, my big-hearted 9-year-old child received a standing ovation. 

Katie, who served as acolyte at the 8:30 service, wore the gloves this morning as she lit candles on the altar. 

And what song did our pianist play as she lit the candles? "Creation Will Be at Peace," one of Steve's favorite anthems. (You can listen to the version from his memorial service here.)

All my tears this morning represented a full heart.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas: Plenty of joy and a side of sorrow

Steve was particular about Christmas music. We were constantly in search of a CD of acceptable music. I'm not sure that he ever found one he liked. (You didn't want to get him started on Mannheim Steamroller. He was staunchly anti-Mannheim Steamroller.)

Katie seems to have inherited his musical taste. She's a constant critic while we listen to the Holly station on Sirius-XM.

"This song is about a greedy child. I don't like it."

"There aren't enough songs about Christ."

"I don't like it when someone new sings an old song."

"When are they going to play a CLASSIC Christmas song?"

Mary Blige started singing "My Favorite Things" as we pulled into the driveway today. "I like this song, but I have no idea why they think it's a Christmas song. This singer is OK, but I like The Sound of Music lady much better."

Steve would be proud.


We visited Santa on Monday. He's been our Santa since Cooper was six months old. We've followed him from Frisco to Allen to Fairview. (And we'll always go, no matter how any particular child feels about the realness of Santa.)

This time was particularly poignant for me. There was no crowd, and Santa had time to chat.

From his chair he craned his neck up at Cooper. "Oh, my! You've gotten so tall!" Then he looked at me. "Momma, what do you think? At least six inches since last year?" (He's close. Cooper just doesn't stop growing.)

He visited with each child. (Cooper wants two DVDs for Christmas. Katie wants Disney Tsum Tsum stuffed animals and a live animal for another family through Heifer International.) He was as kind and gentle as he's been every year since 2001.

In that moment I thought of the constants in our lives since 2001. Our family. Our church. Our Santa.

And I thought of how much I miss Steve and how much he would have loved to see 6-foot Cooper perched on the chair next to Santa -- such a contrast to the tubby little six-month-old balanced in Santa's arms 13 years ago.

Santa and six-month-old Cooper, December 2001
Santa and six-month-old Katie, December 2005
13-year-old Cooper, Santa and 9-year-old Katie, December 2014

It was a rainy, cold, dreary night. We were exhausted from a day of driving, worry and questions with no answers.

Steve and I gathered in a dark and sterile room at Baylor Frisco, staring at an image of his brain. There was a spot that shouldn't be there. It was the first obvious, tangible answer to the question: Why was Steve having slurred speech and awful headaches and frequent hiccups and difficulty swallowing liquids?

Dec. 11, 2007.

I hate that Steve's building diagnosis was during Christmas.

There's been a heaviness to the season ever since. Some of my writerly qualities are a curse. I remember vivid details -- songs, scents, sermons, conversations. I can replay those moments and feel like I'm there, in the middle of Steve's great suffering.

I love that Steve's building diagnosis was during Christmas.

All of that suffering was buffered by an outpouring of love. Gifts were purchased and wrapped for our babies. Meals were delivered. We were wrapped in warm hugs and sincere prayers.

God's promise of peace was realized over and over again right here in our tiny corner of Frisco, Texas.

God's promise is realized over and over again in everyday moments all over the world -- because people choose kindness, because they choose generosity, because they choose forgiveness, because they choose love.

For every moment that my mind drifts back to MRIs and emergency room visits, to fear and anxiety, I try to remember hugs and laughter, kindness and peace.

For every moment of sorrow, there's overwhelming joy.

Steve, 2-year-old Katie, Tyra, a very young Santa, 6-year-old Cooper, days before Steve's first MRI 
Tyra, Cooper and Katie, Dec. 7, 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

46 Acts of Kindness (13)

From Dean in Sulphur Springs:

This morning I went to Coffee Off the Square here in Sulphur Springs to remember my friend Steve on his birthday. I ordered my Americano and laid the flyer for today's event and $60 cash on the counter. I told the barista that it was Steve's birthday, a little of his story, and how we were going to celebrate his memory today. She started to tear up and promised to share his story with everyone who came in as the money was applied to their bill in his memory.
Thanks again, Tyra, for allowing me to honor Steve and his life and legacy. Blessings to you, Cooper, and Katie.


From Melissa in Helotes:

Carys and I went to Target and picked out PJs, craft supplies, small toys, snacks, party favors, etc. to fill Birthday Bags in Steve's honor for the Fairweather Family Lodge.  

"FFL is a home that assists homeless women suffering with mental illness and their children. It serves as a place that nurtures development and provides a safe environment for these families to stabilize, grow, and remain together." 

Each month, FFL hosts a birthday party honoring any child with a birthday. Every child receives a goody bag at the party and the birthday child is given a few small presents. This is the 2nd year we've done this as our RAK, and this year Carys decided that every gift bag should be uniquely decorated, no two are alike!  We have enough goodies for about a dozen and a half bags that will be delivered tomorrow. 

Steve's face in Heaven must be sore from smiling all day today. :)


From Nicole in Frisco:

Tonight we went out to eat and bought dinner for a sweet elderly couple. We had the waitress bring the card over to them. They came to our table and thanked and hugged us. The woman was teary and said no one has ever done anything like that for them before. Made our night. Then I bought 2 guys beers at the Stars game. They were thrilled.


From Angela in Frisco:

Today I gave a special note and gift to my sons preschool teachers that work so hard with my feisty little guy, and do it with such a kind heart!! I am so grateful for Ms Dawna and Ms Joanna at Apple Creek and for the most amazing director, Karen! Thank you for everything!


From Christina in Frisco:

We purchased food gift bags at Kroger in Steve's honor and stapled the flyer to the bags. Thinking of you, neighbors! ❤️


From Nancy:

I spent yesterday remembering Steve just a little more than usual. His smile and kindness sparkled me through the day as I smiled and greeted the many boat workers here at LMC who get ignored by so many. Their faces told me they were surprised that I spoke but they quickly smiled and responded with hello. For the overworked clerks at Winn Dixie I gave special thank yous for their help. So easy to be kind. Thank you Steve.


From Liz in Frisco:

Liam was excited to bless his sweet bus driver Miss Catherine in honor of Steve. We thanked her for bringing all of the students from Hosp, Pioneer and Frisco High to and from school safely each day. Happy birthday Steve!


From Ron in Chicago:

7 sport coats, 4 suits, 12 dress shirts, 6 pairs of shoes hauled down to the neighborhood food pantry. They have a room where folks picking up food can also get an item or two of clothing. Donations that can be worn to a job interview make everyone especially giddy :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

46 Acts of Kindness (12)

Some kind folks gave our family gifts -- totally unexpected and totally appreciated.

Gaya painted this lovely sign for our home.

An anonymous friend from Hosp left roses on my desk.

Tim and cutie-pie son Drew gave all three of us gift cards.

Plus the front office at Hosp turned into a breakfast buffet, with pastries and coffee.


Cyndi in Frisco made a donation in Steve's memory to Operation Once in a Lifetime.


From Theresa in Carrollton:

Remembered Steve today and shared an act of kindness with my co-workers - lunch for all from Jimmy Johns.


From Brad in Missouri City:

Just dropped off a couple dozen donuts and kolaches to the Missouri City Police Department, and a couple dozen to the Missouri City Fire Department. Miss you Steve!


From the traveling Garrett:

Picked up the tab tonight at dinner.


From Jennifer in Plano:

Paying it forward at Chick fil A this morning. (And my order was wrong and I smiled anyway.)


From Tamarah in Frisco:

I purchased two of these shirts in honor of my former boot camp friend, Kara, who is fighting Ovarian cancer. One of the shirts will go to another friend who is an Ovarian cancer survivor.

From Parul in Carrollton:

Coffee for my coworkers for Steve's birthday!


From a friend in Frisco:

Today I drove to Plano to give a dress/costume to friend's daughter, which she needed for a performance on Saturday. I donated a book and gave chew toys to my neighbor/friend who recently rescued a dog from a shelter. I got Starbucks cards for my special husband, and also for a cross guard at our school, which I'm going to give him tomorrow morning.
My daughter gave some friendship bracelets to some of her friends.


From Amy in Dallas:

I voted for myself, and my muppers. But the do(ugh)nuts were for the volunteers, in celebration of Steve's 46th.


From Traci in Frisco:

I love this day! 46 Acts of Kindness!! Banana bread for all of Ashlee's teachers.


From Patty:

Donated a 2 year subscription of Zoobooks to Vogel Alcove Children's Center in Dallas. They teach and take care of homeless children. 


From Shubha in Frisco:

I just made another donation to one of my childhood friend's organization that helps underprivileged kids by buying them school supplies in India.

46 Acts of Kindness (11)

Some of today's Acts of Kindness from Cooper, Katie and Tyra:

Cooper labeled and packaged cookies for the 25 students in his GT language arts class, plus his amazing teacher, Vikki Bowling.

Katie wrote and illustrated notes for every student in our class, plus lots of teachers and administrators.

She gave pencils to everyone in her GT class, plus an extra three to Mrs. Starnes "because she was running low."

I gave energy bars to fellow teachers. We always need a little extra energy. =)

Cooper and Katie walked through our Kroger and gave Sonic gift cards to six strangers.

Drove through Starbucks without ordering -- just paid for the car behind us. (Always feels slightly mischievous in a good way.)


From Kerri in Chicago:

A very unsuspecting man at Starbucks got a pay it forward in honor of Steve. I think he was a bit confused, but the barista very happily explained.

Also, Randy, my 'friend' who lives on the streets near my train stop and has been trying really hard to get things in order this year had a burrito dinner in honor of Steve. Randy had the same burrito dinner last year on this day, and like fate I bumped into him on my way home tonight. He asked me to pray for him for the first time tonight since I met him 1.7 years ago. I will pray that next year on this day, he won't need an act of kindness to get a meal, but will have gotten back on his feet.


From Janet in Frisco:

Katie and I paid for the car behind us at McDonald's. :)


From Julie in Sanger:

I made a donation to MD Anderson to honor Steve - in the area of patient assistance. Acts of Kindness is such a wonderful legacy. What a blessing for so many people! :)


From Aunt Marilyn in Charlottesville, Va.:

In memory of my nephew Steve Damm, I took a neighbor who doesn't drive to the polls to vote, and later I took over cleaning the office bathroom for my office mate who needs a hip replacement and is having a lot of trouble moving. Happy Birthday Steve - we love and miss you!


From Laura in Edmond, Okla.:

Made a donation via to an elementary class in Oklahoma that is raising funds to purchase much-needed sports equipment. Shoutout to Hogan Thomas, whose own act of kindness kickstarted this effort. Kids need to play!


From Ann in Frisco:

Made a donation to MD Anderson in honor of Steve.


From Melissa in Cupertino, Calif.:

Let my friend have my car for 3 days while his is getting fixed.

Paid for an Uber to get an injured man to medical care.


From Raechel in Frisco:

Paid for the people behind us in line at Starbucks and left them a "Steve Card". I'm sure they appreciated it on this cold and rainy night. Happy Birthday Steve!


From Nicole in White Rock, B.C.

Gracie pushed the recycle bin up the driveway of our elderly neighbors. We put the note poking out of it.

46 Acts of Kindness (10)

From Denise in Colorado Springs:

Today we honored an amazing woman whom volunteers endless hours to her community and never wants recognizing. She struggles financially and will now get some pampering for herself at a local spa! Spreading some Damm love in Colorado!!!


From Anna in Frisco/Lewisville:

I paid for a family's meal at Pie Five in honor of Steve :)


From Laura in Frisco:

Will just gave his OT a cupcake. He loves his best friend Coop!


From John in Richardson:

This one goes out to all the kits and pups at Take Me Home Pet Rescue. The volunteers there do great work to give some of the saddest cases a shot at happy new lives. We're glad to help out in Steve's honor.


From Rae in Carrollton:

I just wanted to tell you I called and set up a lunch date today with Senior from church for next week!  Been wanting  to get together with Pearl forever and Acts of Kindness motivated me on this rainy day!!! 


From Tisha in Frisco:

Bought Starbucks on this cold day for car in line in Oklahoma today!


From Rachel in Frisco:

Today my daughter's school was collecting money to donate to a school they have adopted. We donated extra money in honor of Steve.


From Aunt Melane in Anna:

I made "Emergency" Goodie Bags for the administration office staff. I filled them with ibuprofen,Tide pens, nail files. Altoids, bandaids, lotion and KAZOOS. Maybe one day, all of the administrators will get together and play some kazoo music (Steve would approve).  

And from her Facebook page:


From Swati in Houston:

I donated to Community Connections for their Christmas gift drive, in honor of Steve who I feel so lucky to have known. 


From Melinda in Frisco:

I was in Wal-Mart, and this elderly couple was going crazy looking for wax paper. They finally found an employee who told them they didn't have any. I found that odd, and sure enough, I found it, far away from where it should be. I (finally) found the couple and showed them where it was. It was such a little thing, but they were so happy.

Baked cookies for cup-de-sac peeps thanking them for being such great neighbors.

Got hand sanitizer to place at some of the dog walking stations (postponed due to rain, but hopefully will be out tomorrow:)


From Kristy in Frisco:

Hanna-Mary surprised her awesome swim coach, Katy, with a Smoothie King gift card. This is one of my favorite days of the year. Thank you Katie, Cooper and Tyra for modeling how to always "make lemonade out of lemons." Happy Birthday Steve!


From Stacey in Charlotte, N.C.:

Meg and I made donations to the Autism Society and Austin Pets Alive!, respectively, in celebration of Steve's life.