Thursday, July 19, 2012


I am in the process of refinancing the mortgage on our house. (Interest rates are incredibly low right now.)

It's an emotional experience for a few reasons:

  • When the process is complete, the title of the home will be in my name only. I probably should have removed Steve's name before now but it hasn't been a priority. Just after he died, there were lots of actions I had to take. I focused on those, and I haven't been diligent about following up on the rest.
  • Unlike every other loan I've signed since 1994, this one requires just one signature. Only mine. Before I was the co-borrower, always the second signer. I miss Steve's inscrutable scribble at the bottom of every page. (He walked me through the progression of his signature on our first date on July 4, 1992, after he signed the credit card receipt at dinner.)
  • Compiling the necessary paperwork for a post-2008 home mortgage is a lot of work. It's the kind of work that Steve and I would have shared. I should add that (1) it was miraculous that I was able to locate our original survey from 2002 and (2) I am thankful that my CPA keeps good records.
  • Big financial decisions were shared decisions in our marriage. I miss the ongoing discussions we would have about our goals and the future.
I do take comfort in knowing that I'm capable of these decisions on my own and that Steve would be proud of me.

Monday, July 2, 2012


A few weeks after Steve died, I met with our financial planner.

My financial goals as a single, widowed mom were drastically different than the first time Steve and I met with our planner. Back then, we were focused on college planning and retirement. In late 2009, I was focused on survival, with enough left over for college and retirement.

As part of that 2009 meeting, our planner asked how I wanted to be remembered.

I cried. "As a good wife and a good mom." Saying that out loud made me realize that one of the roles I'd treasured so much -- wife of Steve Damm -- was trapped in time. Not gone, of course, but not exactly moving forward.

That meeting has been on my mind again lately. One, because today is our 18th wedding anniversary, and the weeks leading to it always make me remember 1994. How Steve moved to Lubbock so I could take a job at the Avalanche-Journal. How he couldn't find a professional job for the longest time and instead waited tables at Leal's. How we planned our simple wedding long distance. How very giddy we were, at the young ages of 25 (him) and 22 (me), to be husband and wife.

I've also been considering the "good wife and good mom" answer because of the Bible study I'm facilitating this summer. A group of friends and I gather every other Thursday night to discuss No Other Gods, a study by Kelly Minter.

Last week's session addressed identity. How do you see yourself? How does that identity -- or the pursuit of that identity -- control how you behave?

I thought about my Twitter profile, which reads: "Reluctant widow; joyful mom; Briefing columnist focused on parenting & education; freelance writer & editor; volunteer; painfully slow runner."

That's me in a nutshell, mostly.

But those things can be stripped away. I could lose my column. (I certainly hope I don't, but the newspaper industry is cruelly fickle these days.) All kinds of tragic events could rob me of my ability to move or read or write. (Again, I'm not expecting them, but then again we weren't expecting a malignant, inoperable brain tumor.)

My list doesn't include the one thing that no one or no thing can take away: I am a child of God. (So are you!)

When I reframe my identity to include "child of God," the other stuff flows from it. The 15 amazing years on earth with Steve Damm. Cooper and Katie, the incredible souls we were gifted with raising. My ability to organize, process and write. An innate need to help others. The ability to run, even if it's ungraceful and slow.

So I'm working on changing how I think about myself, not in a way that excludes everything I love but in a way that makes me feel more complete, even with Steve gone.

Today I rewrote my Twitter profile. It now reads: "Child of God; reluctant widow; joyful mom; Briefing columnist focused on parenting & education; writer & editor; volunteer; painfully slow runner."

It's a tiny, superficial change that, with time, may help me continue to adjust to all of my other roles -- chosen and otherwise.

Image courtesy of Melissa Tarun, best friend since eighth grade