Mad for…Mary

Be cheerful. Jesus will take care of everything. Let us pay no attention to people who do not know what they are saying. Let us trust in Jesus and our heavenly Mother, and everything will work out well. –St. Padre Pio

I’d like to take a moment today to wish one of the most genuinely cheerful and bright souls I ever have had the pleasure of meeting a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Mary Banta is the wife of Ed (pictured with her here) as well as a mother and grandmother. I had the good fortune of meeting her when she was the principal at St. Louis de Montfort several years ago.

Mary was a former school teacher who had just left her position at OLMC to fill an interim post as our top school administrator. She came in during tough circumstances and did an exceptional job, in large part because I think she could see in each child a point of goodness. She’s sunny!

I see Mary from time to time at mass, where she often sings in the choir, or just out and about in Carmel. I am fairly certain she is now retired, but she is definitely still quite busy. Even if we just run into each other while getting our nails painted, she never fails to say hello and come to inquire about my children.

Mary is a faithful, holy woman with a good sense of humor. She’s not afraid to be self-deprecating and she’s easy to be around. St. Therese of Lisieux, who is my very favorite saint, says “Even when alone, be cheerful, remembering always that you are in the sight of angels.” I suspect Mary follows that sage advice, considering her lovely positivity and ever present smile.

I hope your birthday is filled with laughter and love, Mary, because your life and the way you live it is very beautiful and worthy of celebration! Thank you for always reminding me with your genuine cheerfulness that we are the people of God– so we should SMILE and act like it!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARY BANTA!!

Mad for…Maggie

Good people don’t have to say they’re good people, it just shows. –Shauna Parker

Some people make the world special just by being in it with us. Maggie Kuhlman is such a woman. She’s compassionate and gentle, and at the same time fierce and competitive. Deeply loving, this wife and mom is also now a mother-in-law and grandmother. She’s pictured above with her granddaughter, Maddie.

When my oldest son, Nick, was a 2nd grader, he came home from school one day wanting me to drop everything so the two of us could pray for a neighbor friend who was struggling through cancer. “Of course, kiddo, let’s do it.” Afterward, I quizzed him about why Mrs. Volpe was so much on his mind that particular day. He said, “Well, Mrs. Kuhlman told us today that God listens to all our prayers, but ESPECIALLY to children who are preparing to make their first communion!” Cue one giant lump in my throat.

Ah, yes….Mrs. Kuhlman. No beauty shines like that of a lovely heart, am I right? Good people just naturally bring out the best in others, and that is exactly how it went for my two children in the 2nd grade classroom of Maggie Kuhlman.

Perhaps because she was a runner at Purdue University, or maybe it was because she also was a mom of boys, she seemed to connect so quickly with Nick and Drew. I recall there being many days where the kids would share that the entire class just needed to shake out the ants in their pants, so Mrs. Kuhlman and her class took a break and jogged a lap around the church building or something of similar ilk. Also, I remember giggling audibly when the boys told me that I needed to buy them some deodorant because Mrs. Kuhlman says kids start to smell rotten at their age!! Hahaha!!

Maggie retired from her teaching position a few years back, so she didn’t teach the youngest of my three goofballs, but I regret so much not reaching out as she moved on to let her know that she just feels like sunshine and that the Thieme family truly appreciated every single bit of wisdom, compassion, faithfulness and heart that she shared with us and the entire SLDM community during her “Cardinal” years. Maggie, YOU are an incredible human who makes such a difference for others. Your family and those grandchildren are blessed beyond measure. I’m a little late, but THANK YOU FOR BEING A WONDERFUL EXAMPLE OF WHAT SPECTACULAR HUMANS LOOK LIKE! Also? BOILER UP!!

Mad for…Todd

Great teachers empathize with kids, respect them, and believe that each one has something special that can be built upon. –Ann Lieberman

As the Thieme family finishes up nearly two decades of Catholic grade school education in the next month, I find myself overflowing with gratitude for so many of the folks that have made a difference for my boys during their time at SLDM. One of those absolutely special people is a junior high science teacher named Todd Oneacre. Todd arrived at SLDM just in time to have the oldest of my sons for 8th grade science. Nick’s class was his very first at St. Louis de Montfort.

I recall very clearly wondering how things were going to work out for Todd as he began his teaching career at SLDM. Although my memory isn’t always reliable, I am fairly certain Todd came from a career in geology and then decided to transition into teaching. A huge advantage Todd had in his corner though is the fact that he is a loving dad with a beautiful family. They are pictured above. Parents who transition from to teaching do have a leg up, in my opinion! It helps to know how to relate to kids after all.

What I have learned over many years is that Todd is not only a gifted teacher, but he is kind and well-loved by his students. Because he is very funny and never condescending, his genuine care and concern for them rings true. The kids respect Mr. Oneacre. His classroom is always filled with hands-on experiments and out-of-the-box thinking.

As an 8th grade homeroom teacher, Todd is tasked with helping organize the annual trip to Washington D.C. each fall. He does a phenomenal job communicating with both students and parent chaperones and still making sure everyone is safe, and the experience is rewarding.

What makes Todd truly special is that he connects and he cares. Several times over the years he has asked me about how my older boys are doing. He reached out when Drew graduated last year to have me share with D how proud he was of Drew’s high school academic achievements. He’s stopped me at school mass to share with me about something terrific he noticed about Zach. These moments of intentionality he shares with many families are incredibly meaningful.

So, Todd Oneacre, in case no one has told you today, YOU ARE A GREAT TEACHER! The Thieme family is very grateful for you and we appreciate all the times yours has been the face of Christ to us!! Thank you for all you do each day for your students.

Mad about Lily

In each child, God whispers a new secret to the world; adds a new dimension of immortality to creation. -Ven. Fulton Sheen

For the past 16 years, I have been picking up kids each afternoon after school in the church parking lot at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers. The white flag is currently being waived, because I am in the midst of my final lap. A month from now, my youngest son will be a graduate and my time in that line will be complete. The last little girl to ride in the “Thieme-mobile” is a sunny 5th grader named Lily. She’s pictured above with her dad, Grady Dunlap, who’s also a pretty solid human!

When we moved to our current home a few years ago, Lily was much smaller than she is now, but she was just as light-filled. She’s outgoing and very chatty. Since my house has always been a little overflowing with testosterone, Lily and her myriad of hair accessories, girlfriend stories, and general enthusiasm for life has long been a breath of fresh air. She makes me grin!

When the current group was a little younger, I was able to easily draw them in with my carpool game of “highlight/lowlight”. I would always ask the kids to share with me either a highlight from their day, or, if the day really was just rotten, to feel free to share what frustration was on their mind. One can really learn more than they might want to know sometimes with this dangerous line of questioning!! Ha? Invariably, though, Lily would come bounding in the car during those early years saying “I wanna go first today, Mrs. Thieme! I have some really good highlights!!” Usually, the boys would roll with the punches, but occasionally, her older brothers, Sam and Matt, or my Zach would roll their eyes at her and say something about how she needs to give someone else a chance. I’d try to give the boys a chance now and then to share first, but I’ll be honest, those sparkly eyes and that sunny grin are pretty darn hard to resist!

Lily Dunlap is an extraordinarily bright young lady who is also polite and cheerful. She loves to play soccer and I have seen her fierceness on the basketball court too. She’s a big fan of my occasional DQ runs and always respectful, kind and grateful. When I have extra passengers along for the ride, Lily, realizing she’s physically the smallest, always volunteers to climb into the back row of seats. In all this time, I’ve never once heard her complain about it. I can’t say the same for any of my three boys over the years! This is a faith-filled young lady who is filled with goodness.

While I am looking forward to gaining back an hour of my afternoons after 16 years starting next fall, I will most certainly miss the smile and sunshine of Miss Lily in my backseat. She’s a refreshingly charming and a truly terrific young lady! I’m hoping maybe I’ll get a chance to catch up with her now and then when the neighborhood kids gather for basketball in the driveway, but my life these last few years has certainly been sunnier because of making the acquaintance of one Lily Dunlap! I think you’re just awesome, Lily!

Mad for…Fr. Travis

“A holy priest is a savior and another Christ, taking the Master’s place on earth, representing Him, clothed with His authority, acting in his name, adorned with His qualifications, exercising His judgment on earth in the tribunal of penance. He is consecrated to exercise the highest functions Christ ever performed on earth, to continue the work of salvation. In imitation of His Redeemer he gives himself, mind, heart, affections, strength, time all for God. He is ever ready to sacrifice his very blood and even life itself to procure the salvation of souls, particularly those of his own flock.” -St. John Eudes

Fr. Travis Stephens, pictured above in his office, is the associate pastor at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers and he hails from Yorktown, Indiana. Today is his birthday, so I wanted to take a moment to just thank him for everything he does each day for the people I love at SLDM.

To be a priest, as St. John Eudes says very concisely in the above quote, is a truly selfless and incredible way to live one’s life. Fr. Travis, as he lives his life in service to others, is remarkably bright, so smart in fact that I think he could have made a life as a college professor had the seminary not worked out! He’s also a cat lover, and a well-traveled man who loves to smile and laugh. He’s kind and patient with the students at the parish school, who all respect him for the same.

The priesthood can be a lonely place, as folks sometimes expect these men we call “Father” to be superhuman. They are mere mortals, however. Fr. Travis has been mourning the tragic and unexpected loss of his Dad. All the while, his incredible daily responsibilities remain. I so admire him for his positivity and his perseverance through the past several months. His faithfulness and his holy and prayerful witness during his personal storm are more powerful than he can imagine.

Today, as you celebrate your birthday, Fr. Travis, it’s my hope that you will know how deeply you are cared about by those around you. Your life is one we should all be celebrating alongside you today! I will be offering my rosary today for you and for your intentions. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Mad for…Lisa

We live our lives for an audience of one: God. If you are doing what you believe God is calling you to do deep in your soul, walk on. -Matthew Kelly

Day 115 of 365: Lisa Finn

April 25, 2019– She’s a mother of three who lives in Fishers, but she hails from Huntington, Indiana. I’m told she was named Indiana’s “Miss Basketball” for her hoops prowess while representing Huntington North back in the day. This surprised me not at all when I learned it– because she’s very competitive– but also because she communicates with confidence, honestly and clearly. Those are the qualities that make the very best team members. She’s the wife of a handsome fella named Billy, a pretty fantastic human, and TODAY is her birthday!

When I first met Lisa, she was a teacher at St. Louis de Montfort grade school. She’s moved on with her life and I think now she keeps busy at Resmer Orthodontics when she’s not chasing her three adorable athletes all over the place! She’s straight-forward and refreshingly unemotional. She’s tough, ambitious, compassionate and matter-of-fact.

What I love about Lisa is that she is very clear on many things. She believes in personal responsibility, hard work, the importance of family and the value of living a life of faith. She likes to laugh and she’s a genuine person. Her energy is infectious and her heart is honest. I just plain like her.

If I am completely honest myself, its authenticity and faithfulness that typically draws me to others. She’s both of those phenomenal things in one stunningly beautiful package. Lisa is one of those people who understands perfectly that she isn’t, in fact, perfect…and the fact that she isn’t even pretending to be…well it makes her just a giant scoop of awesome sauce!

Thank you, Lisa, for always reminding me how spectacular it is to simply be who you are, and to do so with integrity. Those are things that I find incredibly inspiring. There is just so much to love about you! I hope Billy, Mia, Max and Luke spoil you rotten today, because your life is SO worth celebrating! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Mad for…Rebecca

As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:24)

Day 114 of 365: Rebecca Zigmond

Extraordinary delight was on the face of my youngest son when he climbed into my SUV in the afternoon carpool line today. “Mom, guess who the class chose to crown Mary at May Crowning? It’s Rebecca Zigmond!”

For the uninitiated, May Crowning is one of those annual traditions that grade school children truly enjoy each spring. The 8th grade class always chooses a young lady from among their ranks for this truly special honor. They are tasked with picking someone who they feel is a faith-filled and virtuous representative of the class. Although I know there are MANY such girls in his class, it was evident that Zach felt the class made a terrific choice in the young Miss Zigmond.

Over the years, I’ve noticed all the Zigmond ladies. It’s hard to miss them, as they are all quite tall and stunningly beautiful. Rebecca is the youngest of 5 daughters who were born to Scott (pictured above with Rebecca) and Joanie Zigmond. Rebecca is a joyful, remarkably bright and incredibly talented young lady. I’ve seen her dance with the Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, and she is just so truly graceful and impressive.

What’s truly special about Rebecca, though, is how she draws others in. She’s genuine, fresh and inviting. The presence of God is so evident in her pleasant smile and grace-filled countenance. Always friendly and ever kind to others, she’s a soul that I predict will continue to allow God to do great things with her life. She walks with the Lord, and it’s beautiful.

Congratulations, sweet Rebecca. From among a stunning group of young people, your peers have chosen you to honor Mary in 2019. Our Lady is certainly going to be smiling down on you at the SLDM May Crowning this year– that I know for sure!

Mad about…Andy

Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not. –C.S. Lewis

Day 113 of 365: Andy Durnell

My friend, Andy, is a charismatic dreamer. Madly in love with his two daughters and with his hand in ten different things all at the same time, this is a former Wabash College “Little Giant” who is gifted at encouraging others. He is pictured below with his talented daughter, Sam, who is a high school senior.

I came to know Andy Durnell through a mutual friend. I had been hobbling around for some time with a bum knee, and that had me grumpy and discouraged. Andy trains all sorts of folks, and I hear he has a special gift with Parkinson’s patients. I have no doubt that he makes a big difference for them all, just as he has for me. Despite my physical limitations, Andy was able to help me build up enough of the muscles around the offending knee that I was able to get moving and live my life much more normally. He’s a great story teller and he distracted me at just the right moments to get me through some of the more challenging sessions. He did such a good job on that bad knee that I actually think it’s now the good knee! HA!

Articulate, funny and a lover of our good and gracious God, Andy does a lot of smiling, even when his own life has moments of struggle. He chooses affirming words, little golden nuggets of encouragements, words of life. If even on our worst days, those moments when we fail or feel blue, we can use our giftedness to breathe life into the day of another, I believe that is what the face of Jesus looks like. I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of that generously offered sunshine, and I am truly grateful to the Lord for giving me such a friend.

I’m not sure exactly what Andy’s plan for his own life might look like today, but I do know that whatever his dream is, God’s got an even bigger one. That’s the way the Lord works, after all. He shapes our tiny plans and makes them something much more, and when we keep talking things out with Him, the Lord makes our dreams one with His own for us.

Andy, God loves your tender, encouraging heart and the beautiful smile you share with those around you!

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person a beautiful thing.” — St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Mad for…Jen

We must drink from the very Source the deep calm and peace of interior quietude and refreshment of God, allowing the pure water of divine grace to flow plentifully and unceasingly from the Source itself. — St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Once, many years ago, I visited the nearby home of a lovely woman named Jen Konesco. She was clearly a faith-filled woman and a loving mother. I can’t remember if she had 2 children or three at the time, but her oldest, Joellen, was a classmate of my youngest son, Zach. We were paired up as kindergarten “room moms” I think? I enjoyed getting to know her that year, but she quickly vanished from my circle. She’s pictured above with her husband, Marc. I am not sure I ever encountered Jen after that one year together. I think she moved her daughter to a new school. My memory gets shakier all the time.

In all these years, though, I’ve not lost track of Jen, and it’s because she’s such a uniquely joyful and life-loving woman. I’ve watched her venture off to a beautiful life, and I’ve prayed at times for her family and their happiness and safety too. What makes Jen and the Konesco clan so interesting to me is a big leap they took a few years back. Today, as Jen celebrates her birthday, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate her and let her know that I am among the MANY inspired by the way she lives her life.

Jen and Marc sold their belongings (like almost all of them), and they decided to take their three kids and hit the open water. They bought a boat, and they spent a considerable amount of time (was it a year?) at sea. She’d occasionally post blog entries from herself and her children too, who she homeschooled throughout the adventure. Her photos were always quite stunning.

Following them on their extraordinary adventure became habit-forming. Sometimes, they found themselves in harrowing situations with boat breakdowns, storms, and the like, but always, Jen’s entries told the tale of a family in love with life and one another. They made new friends and found ways to serve others around them too. It was heartwarming and lovely to peek in from afar. They took the road less traveled, and they all seem better for it.

What Jen taught me with her daring choice and courage is that loving fearlessly and trusting the Lord no matter where He decides to take us will always be the right choice. I read once a quote by Hermann Hesse that said, “People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.” In Jen’s case, I’m not at all sure the word I would choose there is sinister, but I’ll admit I might have considered using “kooky” or “bonkers” when I learned of Jen’s boating adventure.

However, we all know what insanity really is, don’t we? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. By that measure, I’ve been insane many times. Change is hard for me, and stepping outside the box often terrifies. I’d be the one who is bonkers, though, if I didn’t take heed of the lesson the Holy Spirit tossed my way by the witness of the beautiful Konesco family. Initially, I thought you folks had bats in the belfry, Jen. However, I later learned that the joke was on me! The Lord used my fascination about your unique adventure to teach me a little something about stepping outside our comfort zone and living the life He destined for us all to live! I am terribly grateful to you all for that, and I felt I was long overdue to say so!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JEN! I wish you and Marc, and your three gorgeous kiddos many more amazing adventures in this life! God Bless the Konescos!

Mad for…Vivian

We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song! –St. (Pope) John Paul II

Day 111 of 365: Vivian Seaman

Brave and courageous in so many ways, my faithful friend, Vivian, is a woman who knows we must wait patiently for the Lord! So, today as we rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it seems fitting that we are also celebrating the birthday of Vivian Seaman!! A HUGE Happy Birthday shout out to you, Viv!! She’s pictured above right, with me. We took this selfie for our mutual friend, a great young man named Mitch Volpe, just a few weeks ago!

Your smile is one of your most beautiful features, my friend. That smile of yours is not really about anything except genuine joy of the Lord, hope, truth and kindness. Life isn’t always easy, but yours is a happy heart filled with love. You have taught me so much over time but most especially I’ve learned to concentrate on my blessings from you, through your own stunning witness of the same. I treasure our morning masses and “coffee talks”. You keep me in check, always inquiring about the most important things like my spiritual life and participation in the sacraments. Having a Christ-centered friend like you is truly a gift from the Lord.

The most dreadful darkness becomes a glorious beginning on your birthday in 2019. Plus, it’s a bright blue sky with sunshine lighting up everything this Easter. How cool is that, my Jesus-loving friend?

You are gifted with little ones, and you’ve spent a lifetime always pointing them to the Lord. You are compassionate and generous to a fault, and you are a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and friend to SO MANY! All of our lives are better for having you in them. Other than your unfortunate affection for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, (ha?) I don’t find many flaws worth mentioning in you, my dear, dear friend!

I know that you are in the midst of rehab from your recent surgery, and I hope you know that my prayers for your complete recovery continue. Work hard in physical therapy and get well quick, okay?! You are a wonderful blessing in my life and I love you! HAPPY EASTER AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VIV!!