Sunday, January 24, 2016

Before church this morning

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The world of dreams isn't a competition

From today's Briefing:

I’m standing in a museum gallery, staring at a photo from Glacier National Park, when my 10-year-old sidles up and whispers, “Someday I want to have photos in a museum exhibit.” She leans her head on my shoulder, stares at the mountain, then sets off to admire more works of art.

An hour later, we are in another Fort Worth museum, studying American art. A massive sculpture of reclaimed wood catches Katie’s attention. She stands close. She backs up. She hugs the wall to examine the artist’s construction and technique. 
New England Landscape II by George Morrison at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

This is Katie’s world. 

And yet from the backseat of the minivan, on the way home that afternoon, she laments, “I feel like I should like sports.”

The comment came from nowhere, apropos of nothing, but my response was swift: “You don’t have to like sports, Katie. You like lots of other things.”

Then the conversation veered again, but I’ve had trouble shaking the sadness in her voice. 

We live in one of the most sports-friendly suburbs in all of America. Frisco already boasts connections to major league baseball, hockey, soccer and basketball, and the Cowboys are building a giant practice facility and headquarters 4 miles from our home. 

Youth sports often feel just as professional around here, with intense practice and game schedules, passionate fans, perpetual skills clinics and paid coaches for elite teams.

This is not Katie’s world. 

When she was much younger, she tried soccer, then basketball. She was a fan of neither. She endured gymnastics lessons for much longer, but she was neither interested nor particularly flexible. She spent a year in dance — and decided that she preferred creating her own moves.

Thankfully, people aren’t defined by what they can’t do or what they don’t like. 
Katie crafts soulful poetry. She creates art on a daily basis. She can stand before a crowd and speak without an ounce of fear.

She raises money for causes she believes in. Whenever she sees an ambulance speed by, she bows her head and prays for the injured or ill.

She gobbles up novels. She’s a vegetarian by choice. She loves long walks. She cheers loudly for the people she loves — including her friends who do like sports.
Some of her friends dream of careers in football or baseball or soccer.

Katie dreams of living in a cottage near a beach, writing, and illustrating and taking photos. 

This world of dreams isn’t a competition. One aspiration is no better than another, and each child deserves the right to change her mind over and over again. (In our house, the list of potential careers has already ranged from archaeology to zoology.)

I can’t predict Katie’s future. I don’t know how often her dreams will wander, evolve, change course. Maybe one day she’ll embrace tennis or golf or bocce ball. Or maybe she’ll never find a sport that speaks to her. 

What matters most to me is that she embraces the passion that whispers in her ear, that stirs her heart, that helps her realize her place in the world.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

Monday, January 11, 2016

Working as a family reminds you to keep the holiday spirit all year long

From Saturday's Briefing:

At the advent of every Christmas season, I consider not decorating. No wreaths, no tree, no crèches.
It’s a split-second thought — crowded out too quickly to entertain seriously — borne from the worst part of the whole affair: the de-decorating. So many ornaments to take off the tree, to wrap and box protectively. So many knickknacks to gather and hide away for a long respite. So much cheer quickly packed away and tucked into a dark corner.
Our Christmas decor lives most of the year in the attic, accessible through a pull-down door and narrow ladder in the garage. Returning all the boxes to their home requires courage and brawn — historically a job for Uncle Greg, who lives 30 miles away.
Greg never complains about the work, and we enjoy the bonus visit when he’s here to help. This year, though, I thought we should at least attempt to move the boxes on our own. How hard can it be to coax a boxed, 9-foot, artificial tree up a ladder?
Cooper and I hatched a plan. He would sit at the top of the attic stairs, ready to receive the tree. I would slide it up the ladder, pushing it one stair at a time until safely within his grasp. Katie would watch from below.
He clambered up the ladder and waited. And coached. And encouraged. I needed every bit of his cheerleading and advice, because that box of plastic and metal was bulky and heavy, and my arms weren’t long enough to both handle and guide the tree. It kept getting stuck on a step, and I was unable to push it high enough to reach Cooper’s arms.
After a few minutes of struggling and strategizing, I quit. I let the box slide to the garage floor, and Cooper climbed back down. My next move was going to be a phone call to Uncle Greg to arrange a rescue.
“Let me try,” Cooper said. “You sit at the top, and I’ll push the box up.”
“It’s too heavy,” I said.
“I’m strong.”
“I won’t be able to lift the box when it reaches me,” I said.
“I’ll do most of the work.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt,” I said.
“Let’s just try.”
I climbed the steps — always an act of bravery for me — and perched at the top. Cooper asked Katie to stand behind and spot him. Then he began to guide the giant box up — an easier task for him and his 6-3 frame — and into my hands.
My helpful teenager pushed the tree into a secure spot, then prepared for more deliveries.
I stood on the ladder. Katie lifted boxes of decorations from the garage floor and handed them to me. I walked them up to Cooper, who returned them to their hibernation spots.
“We did it!” Cooper exclaimed as he folded up the attic door.
The three of us exchanged high fives as we walked back into the family room, now strikingly bare. My eyes settled on the coffee table, no longer hosting angels or snowmen or a dish of Christmas candy. All that remained was a board game, a couple of books and a framed photo of the three of us — small doses of cheer that stay out all year long.
It’s often tough to be a single mom, to be the only adult making decisions, to shoulder full responsibility of this little family. And then there are moments when the three of us pull together, when a child takes on a leadership role, when we fully rely upon one another. Those moments more than compensate for the tough times, and they are sweet reminders of joy in all circumstances, no matter the season.
Tyra Damm can be reached at