Sunday, October 28, 2012

44 Acts of Kindness: One week away!

Cooper, Katie and I are super excited to know that in one week we will be in the middle of celebrating Steve's birthday and 44 Acts of Kindness!

1. If you are on Facebook, I hope you've had time to visit the 44 Acts of Kindness event page. Click here to see the 240+ generous folks who have already committed to performing at least one act of kindness on Nov. 4.

2. If you need ideas on what to do, here are just a few suggestions from creative people last year:

  • Treat a stranger to a coffee or meal
  • Buy subway cards and give them to tourists
  • Give an extra-large tip to a hard-working waiter
  • Pay for the toll for the car behind you
  • Take treats to a fire station
  • Donate pet items to an animal shelter
  • Leave change taped to a vending machine
  • Leave dollar bills taped to a RedBox machine
  • Visit a nursing home; take handmade cards 
  • Hand out bottles of water to people who need them
  • Let people get in front of you in line at the store
  • Donate blood
  • Buy a book for your child's classroom
  • Help a neighbor with yard work
  • Give flowers to someone who usually goes unnoticed

3. When you give your gift, consider attaching the note above, which will explain the special day. Click here to for a link that makes it easy to print.

4. Please send an email or text to share your good news! I'll be reporting here on the blog throughout the day Sunday. You can reach me at and 972-489-4344.

Thank you all so much for participating and spreading kindness!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Unexpected grief, reliable joy

Early in 2007, before Steve and I had ever heard the word "glioblastoma," I had some health issues that required I spend a lot of time at the UT-Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center.

I was experiencing debilitating breast pain that required multiple imaging appointments and a biopsy. By early fall, I had a clean biopsy, and I pursued pain relief through acupuncture. (I was extremely skeptical about the treatment but was willing to try anything. It worked.)

Steve and I thought we were through with that building for good.

We were terribly wrong.

I can't begin to count the number of times we made trips to the cancer center from January 2008 until summer 2009. It's where we visited his neuro-oncologist, Dr. Maher. It's where he received radiation therapy treatments every weekday for a month (with huge thanks to our team of volunteer drivers who ferried him when I couldn't). It's where we'd go for MRIs and chest X-rays and blood draws and  chemotherapy infusion appointments.

Our time there wasn't always awful. We would visit, share snippets from whatever we were reading that day, watch movies during chemo, laugh at the absurdity of our situation.

We worked with incredibly dedicated, smart, helpful, kind people in that building.

And our time there represented more time for Steve to live. The treatment he received there allowed him to enjoy life a little longer.

This morning I had an appointment for my 40-year-old baseline mammogram -- back at the cancer center. I never considered that I would have difficulty walking back into the building, until I pulled into the driveway and neared the valet parking awning.

How many times had I pulled into that same spot, with Steve in the passenger seat? More than I could count. Even though it's been more than three years since his death and even longer since I drove him to that very spot, I couldn't control the tears as I put the minivan in park, received a claim ticket from the valet and walked through the automatic doors into the lobby.

What's the instant salve for such unexpected grief? A giant, vibrant tower of blown glass.

In the entryway of the building is Dale Chihuly's piece titled "Southwestern Seay Tower." Steve loved the joyful sculpture long before we knew we'd be seeing it so often.

When you're headed to an infusion room to have poison pumped into your body or when you're headed to an appointment to hear if the tumor in your head has grown in the past six weeks, you need all the love and joy you can find.

Even when you're perfectly healthy and just headed to a routine exam, that burst of joy acts as a warm welcome. It's even known to arrest unexpected tears.

Chihuly's work was installed at UT-SW in 1999. I took this photo today.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ideas for Nov. 4

We're getting excited around here about 44 Acts of Kindness on Steve's birthday, Nov. 4.

You can participate no matter where you are!

Some ideas from family and friends all over the world last year:

  • Buy subway cards for tourists
  • Donate food to a food pantry
  • Buy a meal for a stranger
  • Leave your waiter an extra large tip
  • Place newspapers on front porches
  • Buy coffee for the car behind
  • Deliver cookies to a fire station
  • Take a friend their favorite snack
  • Tape quarters to a vending machine

Cooper, Katie and I are brainstorming our own ideas. We can't wait to share them on Nov. 4!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Steve Damm humor

Cooper plays clarinet in beginning band. Katie and I are treated to practice sessions almost every night of the week.

All of the music students -- band, orchestra and choir -- were invited to a costume party at school last night.

Cooper decided weeks ago that he wanted to dress as something super scary to a band student. He wanted to be a chipped reed. (For those of you who, like me, weren't completely aware: When the reed of a mouthpiece is chipped, there's no repairing. You must get a new reed.)

Earlier this week, while the costume was in production, I was telling Melissa, my best friend since eighth grade, about the concept.

She laughed loudly and declared it "Steve Damm humor."

She's right, of course. Steve would have loved Cooper's idea -- topical, sly, quirky.
Front and back of the chipped reed on Thursday night, just after completion
Another sixth-grade mom and I served cups of soda for the entirety of the party, so I was there but not really in Cooper's way. He reported after that not many people knew right away what he was. That didn't bother him a bit -- he shares not only Steve's sense of humor, but his confidence, too.

Coop at the party (chipped part of reed on top) 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bench photos

Every Sunday that we're at church, I take a photo of Cooper and Katie on Steve's bench. (I post the photos weekly on our family blog.)

Here are just four photos from the past two years. I'm so thankful for these healthy, spirited, joyful children.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Save the date: Nov. 4

Cooper, Katie and I are looking forward to Sunday, Nov. 4 -- Steve's 44th birthday and our second-annual Acts of Kindness Day!

Last year we celebrated Steve's birthday by inviting friends and family members to join us in performing acts of kindness. Our goal was 43 good deeds, one for each year since Steve's birth.

Well, I lost track of the number around 200. There was such an incredible response, and folks were so creative and kind and generous serving others.

This year, our goal is 44 acts of kindness. How great would it be to reach 44 acts four or five or six times over?!

Throughout October I'll post more details and ideas and a link to a page that you can print to leave behind when you perform an act of kindness in memory of Steve.

This month I'll also remind you of last year's acts of kindness. Click here for part 1 from Nov. 4, 2011.

(Special thanks to Bledsoe art teacher and Damm family friend Cory Jensen for designing this year's logo!)