Sunday, October 30, 2011

43 acts of kindness update

Cooper, Katie and I are blown away by the response so far to 43 acts of kindness! We can't wait to celebrate Steve's 43rd birthday by sharing love and kindness with the folks all around us.

1. I created an event on Facebook (you can find it by clicking here), and already 160 people have committed to performing an act of kindness this Friday in memory of Steve! Thank you so much for embracing our idea. (You can read the original post here.)

2. Our friend Kelly Cox suggested that we make available a card that you can print to attach to a gift or to leave behind on Friday. You can click here for the printable card.

3. Please remember to email me Friday after you've performed your act of kindness. Send a note about what you did and a photo if you have it. (Cellphone photos are great.) I can't wait to share with everyone the love you all are sharing.

4. Feel free to share the idea with your circle of friends -- through your own blog, email, Facebook, word of mouth.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Save the date: 43 acts of kindness

Steve's 43rd birthday is next Friday, Nov. 4. Cooper, Katie and I have talked about how we want to celebrate, and we need your help.

We're hoping that a few of you will pitch in and perform acts of kindness wherever you are. Our goal is 43 acts of kindness throughout the day, Nov. 4, in memory of Steve.

Here are some of ideas we've talked about, though I know you all can come up with even better ideas, specific to your community or situation.

  • Walk through your neighborhood early in the morning, pick up newspapers thrown on lawns and place on front steps instead
  • Tape a few quarters to a vending machine to help buy someone else's snack or drink
  • Buy coffee for the car behind you at Starbucks
  • Rake and bag leaves for a neighbor
  • Let someone (or a couple of someones) go in front of you in the grocery store line
  • Find a busy location at lunch and hold the door open for a few minutes
  • Bake a batch of cookies and take them to your church or school or office receptionist
  • Leave a thank-you note for your mail carrier
  • Leave encouraging, cheerful notes in unexpected places
  • Clean up litter on your street or at a nearby park
  • When eating out, double your usual tip
  • Clean out your closet and donate gently used items to a clothes closet

There are many more ideas here and here and here.

After you've performed your act of kindness on Nov. 4, please send me a note ( and include a photo if you'd like. I'd love to document the 43 acts of kindness on the blog. (I won't include your name unless you ask me to.)

Thank you!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


For lots of little reasons, this has been a greater-than-usual missing Steve kind of week.

1. His 43rd birthday is approaching.
2. The Rangers are in the World Series, and just having baseball games on TV makes me miss Steve.
3. He was in my dreams two nights in a row this week.
4. Being the only present parent is sometimes more difficult than I ever imagined. And I've got a big imagination.

And the biggest:
5. It's fully hitting me that it's autumn and that Katie is 6. Cooper was 6 and it was autumn when Steve's health problems began to present.

That means it's been almost four years since life was "normal" around here. 

October 2007: Cooper is 6, Katie is 2.
Four years ago, Katie was in preschool two days a week. Cooper was in first grade. Steve was working 50, 60 hours a week and singing in church choir and helping with Cub Scouts. I was freelancing from home a little and managing Cooper's Destination Imagination team and doing some other volunteer work.

Fall 2007: 6-year-old chess-playing Coop
Steve was taking Cooper to Saturday chess tournaments. (I'll be taking Katie to her first chess tournament this Saturday.)

I ache for that "normal" while fully trying to embrace our new "normal."

Fall 2007: Katie is 2, Steve is 39. At this moment, we'd never even heard of glioblastomas.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Angry eyes

One time in my life I had to help fire someone. It was really awful. Necessary but awful.

That day I was wearing a pair of greenish brownish eyeglasses. That night, after I came home from work and told Steve about the meeting that ended in a firing, Steve dubbed those glasses my "angry eyes."

Years later, when Steve was fighting the Damm Spot, I would wear my angry eyes to medical appointments. We would joke that my angry eyes would scare the tumor right out of Steve's head.

As my prescription has changed, I've had the lenses for my angry eyes and my other two pair of glasses changed.

Lately I've had trouble with night vision. Driving after dark has been a little dicey, as I don't have good depth perception. So, I visited my eye doctor (the same doctor who fitted me for my first pair of glasses in 1984) this week.

My prescription has changed again, and I was prepared to pay for three new sets of lenses.

The optician encouraged me to look at new frames. She helped me choose a really cute pair. But buying a new pair PLUS replacing lenses for three old ones is awfully pricey. I was trying to decide what to do.

The optician waved toward the angry eyes and said they were a little dated. Maybe I should just retire them.

Oh, the unexpected grief triggers. The very nice optician had no clue why I started to cry. I filled her in briefly, apologizing the whole time.

See, I know it's totally irrational to cry about not wearing the same glasses that I wore for years. I have memories and photos of the angry eyes. Steve, of all people, embraced change. He encouraged me to try new things, new styles. He would have no expectation that I hold on to every little thing.

But he also would have understood my tears.

In the end, I chose to buy one new pair of frames and one new pair of prescription sunglasses (something Steve always pushed me to do, though I never did). And the three old pair of glasses, which I've been wearing since Cooper was a toddler, will be retired.

I'll find a special perch in my room for the angry eyes.
Steve and me with my angry eyes, December 2008

Friday, October 14, 2011

No crash, no fire

Yesterday I served as one of many lunchroom monitors during first- and fifth-grade lunch so that our teachers could enjoy an outdoor teacher appreciation luncheon. (I should write a much longer post on the differences between lunch with 6-year-olds and lunch with 10-year-olds.)

I was summoned to a table full of Katie's classmates to open a water bottle. While there, I came under friendly interrogation.

Most of the children in Katie's first-grade class weren't in her kindergarten class. Most of them don't know her well. Still, I just assumed that they knew that Katie's daddy had died -- I guess because she discusses it openly.

Most of them, in fact, didn't know. She recently read one of her writing samples to a small group in class. She wrote about family; halfway through she writes, "My daddy died. He was so nice." (I've cleaned up the spelling. You can see the charming original work here.)

So, this table full of first-graders had some questions for me.

Child 1: "Mrs. Damm, is it true that Katie's daddy DIED?!"

Me: "Yes, sadly. He had an illness called cancer, and all the medicine we tried couldn't make him healthy and he died."

Child 2: "So, did he die in a big plane crash?"

Child 3: "Yeah, was it a plane crash?"

Me: "Um, no. He had something called cancer, and his body couldn't keep working."

Child 2: "So, was it like a really big fire?"

Me: "No, no fire. No crash. He was just very, very sick."

All around me there were looks of disappointment. Honestly, I couldn't tell if they were sad for Katie or sad that there wasn't a better story. I tried to mask my curious amusement with so many earnest faces staring at me.

Child 1, with huge eyes: "So, are you and Katie ALL ALONE?"

Me: "No. Katie has a big brother, Cooper. He's in the fifth grade. He's 10."

Child 1: "Oh. 10 is big."

And then I had to leave because Katie, at the next table, spilled chocolate milk on her leggings.

I was impressed that these sweet children waited to ask me instead of Katie. They wanted to understand, but they didn't know how to ask her. I have no doubt that Katie could have explained it herself, but I feel certain that her classmates didn't ask her out of concern for her feelings.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Cooper and Katie love to hear stories about Steve or me from when we were young. (They can each tell the tales of Steve falling off a swing in sixth grade and me hitting my head after jumping on the bed when I was 4 with precise detail.)

While we were celebrating Uncle Jim's birthday this weekend, Katie asked to hear a story. Betty had an even better idea -- photos to help tell stories. She pulled out a treasure box filled with photos, notes and slides, representing decades of Damm history.

The box included this photo, taken in 1995 or 1996. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Old and new

Cooper was lucky enough to tag along today with the Spears family to Game 2 of the ALCS. The mighty Texas Rangers are facing the Detroit Tigers.

There's so much to love about this photo.

1. Cooper is so tall that I have to tilt my camera (or in this case, my iPad) at an angle to fit him in the frame and be close enough for details.

2. Cooper is wearing a blue Rangers T-shirt, a gift from Uncle Jim, who was in town this weekend to celebrate his 45th birthday.

3. On top of that, he's wearing Steve's vintage Rangers away jersey. I'm pretty sure that Steve bought it just before we started dating or just after, which makes it almost 20 years old.

4. Coop is also wearing one of Steve's (many) Rangers caps. It's a fitted cap, and it's a little big but not too big.

5. He's on his way to a game that the Rangers went on to win in dramatic fashion -- a walk-off grand-slam in the 11th inning. (Katie and I watched the last three innings at home.)

6. The Rangers are playing the Tigers, probably Steve's second favorite team. While he was a student at the University of Michigan, Steve attended quite a few games at the old Tiger Stadium. I have no doubt that Steve is rooting for the Rangers, but I also know he'd be proud of the Tigers.

I've got a big ol' long list of disappointments with Steve gone. I work hard to not dwell on the list, to acknowledge the list without being paralyzed by it. Part of my strategy to make that happen is to acknowledge the blessings all around us despite the disappointments.

So, yes, I'm supremely disappointed:
  • That Steve never lived to see the Rangers make the World Series last year or this ACLS 
  • That when the three of us watch games together it's me answering the questions and not the real family expert 
  • That Cooper continues to miss out on the father-son bond over games (and Katie, too -- she loves watching) 
  • That I'll never again go to a Rangers game with my sweet Steve

But I'm also thankful:
  • That we have friends who include us in their own family activities
  • That our children enjoy a sport that Steve loved so much
  • That Cooper carries so much of Steve in him and was able to carry some of his Rangers gear in to today's game

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Red Balloon Run

The second annual Red Balloon Run & Relay is set for Saturday, Oct. 22. The race benefits Children's Medical Center (Steve's former employer) and takes place at the hospital's Plano campus.

For about a year I've been hoping to run the 5K. I even established a Run for Steve team and registered myself for the race.

But I've decided that I can't do it this year.

For one, I haven't been running enough lately to feel ready for it. And I can't devote the time right now to coordinate all the details for our Run for Steve team. 

What pushed me over the edge, though, was being on the Plano campus two weeks ago.

Katie and I were in the ophthalmology clinic at Children's Legacy, waiting for her eye exam. I was completing a stack of forms and was just overwhelmed with missing Steve. The Children's logo was all over the place, and then there was the form describing electronic medical records, which I knew was based on software that Steve had worked on.

Then another mom in the clinic was telling me about her older children, now adults, who had a hard time growing up because their dad ran off. "It sure was hard raising those girls without their dad," she said. "That's why my girls ran so wild. There was no dad in the house."

I just listened. I didn't share anything myself. (She definitely needed someone just to listen to her.)

The appointment itself was exhausting. Katie is no fan of anything medical. When she heard that she would need eyedrops (for dilation), she freaked out. She screamed and cried, and it took two nurses plus me to hold her still for the drops. 

Katie left with a prescription for lenses for nearsightedness. And I left with the strong sense that this year isn't the right year for me to run for Children's. I love the hospital and the people who work there and the families the organization serves. And I'm hoping that next year I can gather a whole bunch of you to run with me.

This year, though, I'm going to be content as a phantom runner. 

At first I thought of myself as a failure for backing out. But now I'm considering it a victory that I've recognized what I'm not capable of doing just now.

If any of you would like to join the Red Balloon Run and need a team, feel free to join the Run for Steve team (already established). Click here for the team page.