Thursday, April 26, 2012


The first book I remember reading by myself and sobbing as I read: Charlotte's Web.

We lived in Farmers Branch. I was 7. It was a Saturday, and I was sprawled on the covers of my twin bed, engrossed in this wonderful story about Fern and a pig and a spider. I fell in love with the characters.

And then the spider died.

Oh, it was heartbreaking. It's been heartbreaking every time I've read it since. (As a writer, I'm impressed with how E.B. White makes us feel so strongly about barnyard animals and arachnids.)

Yesterday was movie and popcorn day in Katie's first-grade class. The class had earned the privilege after filling its compliment jar to the very top.

While Katie was still in chess club after school, her wonderful teacher, Shannon, called me.

"We watched Charlotte's Web today," she said.

"Oh, no," I answered, knowing what was next.

Shannon told me that Katie enjoyed the movie until the end. And then she cried -- not a mild cry but a really strong, dramatic, sincere cry.

Shannon comforted Katie. She told her that it is so sad that Charlotte dies, but it's also wonderful how all of Charlotte's babies live and how those babies carry with them all of Charlotte's good qualities.

She told Katie that it is the same with her Daddy. That it is so sad that he died but that she and Cooper carry with them all of Steve's good qualities.

I am consistently reminded of the gracious, loving, nurturing folks who have been placed in our lives, and I am so thankful.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Today I am 40. The same age Steve was when he died. I can't even wrap my head around that.

What I can do is report that I have been absolutely spoiled and showered with love. My loved ones completely outdid themselves. Steve Damm would have been mighty impressed.


You may remember the lamp incident from September 2009, when I'm convinced Steve was communicating with me through our bedroom lamp.

Last night, around 11:45 p.m., I went to bed. I turned the lamp switch to turn off the light, and it wouldn't turn off. It flickered a little but stayed on. I turned again and again. It stayed on.

I whispered hello to Steve and kept turning until it turned off.

About five minutes after being in the dark, the light flickered one more time.

It's just like Steve to make a big deal out of my birthday.


My mom called this morning. She's been in a nursing home for more than four years now. Some conversations are more lucid than others.

Today, she was cheerful and totally cognizant. And she told me some baby and toddler stories.

She told me that I was born with lots of dark hair. And that I was a smiley baby, often "smiling when it wasn't time to smile."

She told me that when I was very small and in the backseat (without a carseat, of course, because it was the 1970s), I dug my hand into the ashtray and ate cigarette butts.

Nice, eh? Perhaps that's why I've never smoked or had a desire to smoke -- I got it out of my system early.

And she told me about a time when I was a toddler and slept in my crib with night braces to correct the direction of my feet (too inward or too outward, I'm not sure).

She and my dad were downstairs drinking coffee. I apparently crawled out of the crib with the brace on and crawled down the stairs. With a big smile on my face.

"You were determined," she said. "And you always have been. That's what's gotten you through your life."

That conversation was one of the best gifts ever received.


Liz apparently sent an email to our circle of nearby friends, asking them to help me celebrate today. Let me tell you -- this group of women and men gets things done. They do life in a big way!

Drivers followed instructions all day.
I woke up to a giant 40 sign hanging on the front porch. And in the front yard, signs encouraging drivers to honk "hello." (The handiwork of Layne and Kris, I believe.)

Cooper and Katie were beside themselves with excitement, obviously in on much of the fun.

Kelly was here by 6:45 a.m. with enough breakfast food to feed a dozen people, including the Starbucks oatmeal I love AND a grande soy latte.
One of many 40 signs around Frisco today
When it was time to drive to school, I discovered another surprise: my typically tame minivan tricked out with tulle and a big heart on the windshield and signs proclaiming "40 and Fabulous!" and "40 is Hot!" (I have Shannon and Lisa to thank for this creativity, I think.)

So, we're in the car, driving one-third of a mile to school in the gaudiest Odyssey this side of Frisco when Katie says, "Tyra is 40!"

"Yes, Katie, that's true."

"No," she persisted. "There's a sign there that says 'Tyra is 40!' "

It was true. On the corner of our street and busy Timber Ridge was such a sign. And a couple of blocks later, at the entrance to our beloved Bledsoe, was another sign.

Katie, Tyra, Cooper and the sign at Bledsoe
Shannon was responsible for the signs, too. She never met Steve, but I have no doubt they would have been fast friends.


Bernita, on her way to Bible study at Prestonwood, surprised me in the office with homemade muffins for Thursday's breakfast.


Holly, Kris and Liz treated me to lunch. (This after they joined Julie and Allison in throwing me the best girlfriend birthday party ever on Saturday night.) We ate on the patio at one of my favorite restaurants and enjoyed the sunshine.


Once home from work, a giant balloon bouquet was waiting on the front porch. (I think I can thank Zena for that festive touch.)


Cake and candles (with a wisecrack from Cooper about the heat)
Angie (world's best guidance counselor) and Jana (world's best fifth-grade language arts teacher) delivered a homemade, three-layer chocolate cake.


Cooper, Katie and I met a group at Braum's for afternoon treats. When we walked in, the Amezcuas, the Morgans, the Wheeleys and one Watland burst into song, singing "Happy Birthday to You" right there in the entrance.


Katie, Molli, Brooke and Cooper
We met the Woodbury family for dinner in Allen. All four cousins ate together then ran around. Melane, Greg and I visited.


I've received so many cards and gifts and phone calls and Facebook and Twitter messages all day. It's like the best group hug in the history of hugs.

Cooper asked me tonight how I would rate today as a birthday on a scale from 1 to 10.

I told him 9. That the only thing that would have made it better was to celebrate with Daddy.

"I've kind of forgotten what it's like to have Daddy in the house," he said. "All those tears are dry, since the middle of fifth grade."

He didn't say it with sadness or melancholy or anger. He was simply honest.

After I tucked him into bed and I was walking out of his bedroom, he called out, "Good night, Birthday Girl."

For some reason, that sweet comment made me cry for the first time all day.


Thank you to everyone who has made 40 so fun and so filled with love.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


We're putting the house back together after post-flood carpet was installed yesterday. (Aren't you ready to stop reading and hearing about that incident?!)

We're trying to be deliberate about what goes back in the rooms. I predict that will last about four more hours and then everything will be shoved back in. Because Cooper and Katie are growing weary and I'm tired of walking through a cluttered family room and entry way.

Part of being deliberate means going through boxes, which means I'm discovering all kinds of treasures.

Such as:

This Mother's Day card from Steve in 2006. Cooper was still 4. Katie wasn't yet 1. We were living a blissful life. We had never even heard of the word "glioblastoma."

Reading Steve's loving words in his distinctive handwriting makes me simultaneously cry and smile. And makes me miss him even more in this moment than when I woke up this morning.

And this:

A photo taken for the church directory in spring 2006. At the time I hated this photo. I gave it to no one. (I guess that's why it was in a box.) My hair looks weird. We're all looking in different directions. I don't think I did a good job coordinating colors.

And now? Well, it makes me feel enormously foolish for being so vain.

And it simultaneously makes my heart sing and ache.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Head for the Cure: Top 10 reasons

We're getting the Run for Steve Damm team back together for the Head for the Cure Foundation 5K!

When: 8 a.m. Saturday, May 12, 2012
Where: Granite Park in Plano (corner of SH 121 and the Dallas North Tollway)

Top 10 reasons you should join our team:

10. Saturday mornings are made for exercise.

9. You can show off your enviable running skills.

8. Or you can show off your incredibly amazing walking skills.

7. You'll be surrounded by super friendly and fun people.

6. You'll get a cool, green Head for the Cure T-shirt.

5. It's a great excuse to pull out your favorite Run for Steve T-shirt.

4. You can witness Cooper beating me by at least 10 minutes.

3. You'll see old friends and make new friends. (Click here for the totally awesome group already registered!)

2. You'll help us reach our goal of at least 100 team members. (We are already a Top 3 team with 33 members!)

1. Proceeds from the race benefit brain tumor research.

To register, please click here.

And be sure to choose the Run for Steve Damm team option on the second page! That's how I'll know you've joined the team and how you'll be included on future Run for Steve Damm correspondence.

Can't be there? You can donate to the Head for the Cure Foundation. To donate, please click here.

Thank you to everyone who has donated already and who has joined the team!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week 1

This week I returned to an office job for the first time in almost seven years.

This week also included:
Memorial service for a former colleague
Reconstruction work on the house, repairing flood damage
Katie getting strep throat

How does a single widowed mom handle those challenges plus a new job in the same week?

With a super supportive new boss and an incredible team of loved ones to help.

Jim spent much of the week at our house, taking Margie on walks and making sure everything was in good shape as workers painted walls, replaced baseboards and rebuilt and installed a new bathroom vanity. (We're still waiting on carpet.)

When I worked late Monday, Julianne took care of Katie and Wendy took care of Cooper. Julianne sent us home with a complete dinner. Liz made us dinner the next night.

I worked from home many hours while taking care of an ill Katie. Jim returned to the house Friday to watch her for a few hours so I could work in the office. (It's a little busy at a megachurch, you know, the week before Holy Week.)

The Walls family let Cooper and Katie hang out with them one night so I could see a grown-up movie in a movie theater. (The Hunger Games -- as intense as the book.)

The Burris family took Cooper to lunch and soccer so that I could take Katie to the doctor for a second time. (She has an upper respiratory infection on top of strep.)

Betty brought dinner Saturday night.

On this Sunday after Week 1, I'm pausing between activities to give thanks for my new job and for the sweet people in our lives who continue to support us with words and actions and prayers. And I'm kind of hoping for a less eventful Week 2.