Sunday, February 27, 2011

Big picture

Most of living with grief requires baby steps -- minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. That's a difficult reality for the likes of me, who has trouble turning off planning mode.

These baby steps, though, protect me from the big picture. When I tell myself that we will get through today without Steve by right here in the house (which I clarify because, yes, he is always with us but that's not what I'm writing about here), well, we get through today. It's what we do -- not in a rote or robotic way but mostly with joy and cheer.

Monday through Friday, the three of us wake up, eat breakfast, pack for school. Cooper and Katie go to school, and I exercise, work, run errands, take care of the house, volunteer, meet friends for coffee and more. Then they come home, and we attend to homework, appointments, playing, dinner, bath time, story time and bed. I work some more, watch TV, read, play Words with Friends on my iPhone.


The weekends are predictable in their own way: birthday parties, soccer games, church, Sunday school, piano lessons, an occasional play or museum visit, grocery shopping.


(In fact, today Katie mused on the drive home from piano: "You know what life is? It's a lot of sitting, walking, watching, playing, standing and having fun. And eating and drinking.")

Steve's absence is present during all of these motions. The triggers surround us -- as they should be. Steve's sink in the master bathroom is still "Daddy's sink" -- complete with his last toothbrush. Photos in every room of the house. Warm memories at every turn.

Still, there are moments when I allow myself to think "big picture," like today on the drive home from church.

This isn't a temporary condition. (At least not on earth.) Steve isn't away somewhere, hiding out, plotting his return.

In those moments, when it hits me all over again, tears well in my chest and fall from my eyes. I'll think, "Why on earth, Tyra, are you realizing this all over again? You live with this every day."

Then I remember how we live, often taking baby steps to get through each day, and remember the protection that provides. And I, the kind of planner who probably annoys others, give thanks for the occasional blind spot of the big picture.

And, of course, I give thanks for these two incredible children.

Before church this morning

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Save the Date: May 14

I've got exciting news! Frisco is hosting a Head for the Cure 5K, with proceeds benefitting the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

I've been asked to organize a team in memory of Steve. What a great opportunity to:
1. Raise money to fight brain tumors
2. Pull together folks who love Steve and want to honor his memory
3. Continue the tradition of the Run for Steve team
4. Support families currently praying for a cure

Here are the details on the race.

What: Head for the Cure 5K North Texas
When: 8 a.m. Saturday, May 14
Where: Frisco Square (at Main Street and the Dallas North Tollway in Frisco)
Cost: $22 if you're a member of Run for Steve ($32 if you register after April 23)

What can you do?
1. Register for the 5K. Not a runner? That's OK! You can walk it. There will be lots of walkers. Click here to register. Be sure to choose the team option, and choose the Run for Steve Damm team.

2. Can't be there for the race but want to help? You can donate money to Head for the Cure. Click here for the Run for Steve fundraising page.

I'm really excited about this race and hope that we have a great, big Run for Steve team. (Katie would ask that it be a "hunormous" team.)

We will wear the gray Run for Steve shirts from 2009. If you don't have one, no worries -- you'll have an opportunity soon to order your own.

E-mail me with questions. And check out the Facebook page on the Frisco race. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coming spring

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn."
-- Hal Borland 

I noticed these tulip sprouts in our front beds today. The timing is perfect.

I'm fighting a cold and am unusually tired. Being sick -- even just a little bit -- without Steve makes me feel a little sorry for myself. Yes, I can brew my own tea and pour my own juice and heat soup on my own. And, yes, I could let someone else do it for me. But I what I really want is Steve here to do one or all of those things, to call and check on me from the office, to send a silly text or e-mail to make me laugh.

These sprouts, springing from bulbs I planted on Steve's 41st birthday, are sweet reminders of the seasons of life and God's generosity and a much bigger world outside my own.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Last summer Cooper attended Camp Erin, a weekend camp for children who have experienced the death of a loved one. Last night we attended a Camp Erin reunion for the 2010 campers and their families.

Cooper and Katie played on the playground, we ate dinner and s'mores, we watched a slideshow from camp, and we visited with other families.

We were also invited to make bracelets in memory of our loved ones.

Cooper's memory bracelet

Katie working on one of three bracelets

Katie was too young to attend last year. This summer she'll meet the age requirement, and she's ready to go. (We do have to apply first, then get accepted -- details that Katie views as mere formalities.) Cooper hopes he can go again, too. I am thankful that they don't hide from their grief.

And I am thankful that Steve's love lives on in these two -- my sweet Valentines.

Katie and Cooper before school this morning

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Daddy Daughter Dance

Katie shows off her corsage from Papa this afternoon.

Katie has a strict rule about her Daddy Daughter Dance escorts: Her date must be a daddy.

In 2009, her one and only Daddy took her to the dance. It was one of the final days he was able to walk without assistance. (I will be forever thankful that Katie and Steve had that special afternoon together. And that our dear friend Layne chaperoned the entire afternoon.)

In 2010, sweet Uncle Greg was her date. Katie had specifically requested him just a few weeks after Steve died, months before the dance. (She has a bit of my planning gene.)

Jim loves his Katie.

This year, she asked Papa to take her. Jim arrived with a wrist corsage for his only granddaughter, posed for photos and then took her to friend Ella's house for a pre-dance get-together with about a dozen other kindergarteners (including Noe, who has been with Katie for every dance).

Then they drove to the conference center, where Jim estimates there were more than 1,000 other girls and their grown-up dates. After, Jim and Katie went out for dinner then came home to give Cooper, Betty and me all the details.

"It was awesome," Katie says.


We again enlisted help for Katie's hair. I can manage a side braid or a bow but not much beyond that. Erin, my and Katie's hairdresser, came to the rescue -- but not without some Katie-style drama.

Erin had envisioned curls for Katie. Katie was apprehensive, but we persuaded her to try.

Erin painstakingly curled small section after small section. Shirley Temple ringlets were all around Katie's head -- just the first part of the process. Katie did not like this -- at all. She burst into tears and was inconsolable for a while. Nearby clients, sitting with foil on their hair, held their breath. Cooper stayed buried in his book, trying to ignore the unfolding scene.

No one has ever cried under Erin's able care -- until today.

As quickly as she could, Erin shook out Katie's curls to reveal a lovely look. And Katie was pleased.
By the end of the appointment, Katie was on board with her glamorous 'do.


On the drive home from the salon, just before Katie got dressed for the dance, she asked: "Why do they call it a daddy-daughter dance when there are some people going who can't go with their dad because he died?"

Yes, this is the kind of question that breaks my heart and makes me cry while I'm driving. It's also the kind of matter-of-fact question that Katie asks almost every day.

Sweet girl, filled with her Daddy's love

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Julie, Allison and I spent three days in the Cayo District of Belize this weekend. (Aunt Ami was in Frisco to take care of Cooper and Katie.)

I have many details to share (some of which will be in my Briefing columns this week). I have hundreds of photos (and if you come to my house, I might force you to look at all of them).

What I want to share now, even though it sounds boastful when I don't mean it to, is this: Steve Damm must be very proud of me.

At the top of El Castillo (with a view of Guatemala behind me)

With Allie and Julie, I covered six miles in a canoe on a very shallow river. I climbed to the top of El Castillo at Xunantunich, a Mayan ruin. I hiked through the jungle to reach the mouth of a hidden cave and then hiked through the cave, braving slick surfaces and spiders and centipedes and bats (both alive and dead). I zip-lined through the jungle, covering 2,700 feet on nine runs.

Julie, Tyra and Allison pause just before a hike through the jungle to reach Actun Chapat. (My hat was originally Steve's. He wore it in California and Florida and all around Frisco.)

I am not usually such an adventurous traveler. I usually stick to museums and beaches. Our ranch trip last summer was my most active vacation until Belize.

What convinced me to seek something different? Well, one was the gentle prodding of my traveling companions. What made me say yes, though, was knowing that Steve would have loved these activities, would have loved exploring a foreign country. He would have hollered his signature "yee haw!" on every zip line. He would have stood at the top of the Mayan pyramid, with his hand on his chest and tears in his eyes, sighing with wonder and contentment.

He would be proud that I tried and that I succeeded (without injury, save a bruise or two). And that gives me a great boost of confidence as I continue taking care of our children and our home and myself.