Mad for…Joe

A negative mind will never give you a positive life. (Unknown)

If you find this joyful guy in your day, then you have chosen well! Joe Kiffmeyer, pictured on the left with his oldest son, Andrew and his beautiful and amazing wife, Julie, is the original REAL DEAL. He’s a mood lifter. Sunny, optimistic, and witty, Joe is the father to 4 pretty terrific kiddos. He has three sons, Andrew, Jim and Matt as well as his “baby” Sarah, who is graduating from the 8th grade at SLDM on Thursday with my Zach. He was already a fixture at the school when we arrived with Nick 16 years ago, and we’ll be heading to Guerin Catholic together with our two youngest for one last spin around high school! I can’t wait to do that one more time alongside the Kiffmeyers!

Joe is flat out one of the most positive people I have ever been around. He’s got an incredibly genuine laugh and a grin that goes from ear to ear. He’s a man who has taught me, through his example, that beautiful things happen when you simply choose to distance yourself from all the traps of negativity. He’s the sunshine! It’s not that Joe hasn’t had struggles or doubts in his life, because he has had them just like the rest of us. The thing is, he seems to have just the right perspective because he just carries on despite them.

Except for the fact that he’s a pretty rabid IU fan, I can’t find many faults with the guy if I’m honest. He’s served his parish over the years in many capacities. In fact, he’s kind of run the gamut from CYO football coach to Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion! He and his family never fail to join in on our Christmas fun every year when we gather together friends, locate some other folks that could use a holiday lift, and spread some of our collective blessings to the community. They are always willing to help others.

There have been adult beverages too numerous to count which we have shared alongside Joe and his gang. We’ve cheered on each other’s kids in CYO and high school sports and celebrated loads of milestone events together. I can’t imagine what joy would have been lost by our family had we never encountered Joe and his faithful, kind, compassionate crew. Joe seems to innately understand the difference between what things are important and those that simply are not…and he smiles in all circumstances!

Joe, as you celebrate your birthday tomorrow, I just wanted to give you a little shout out and let you know how much the Thieme family loves and respects you! You’re such a powerful witness about how fantastic life can be when we choose positivity and happiness. Your smile for me has truly been a light of Christ in my life! Thank you for the gift of your optimism and for all the shared laughter!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRIEND!!

Mad for…Cathy

A good teacher is like a candle– it consumes itself to light the way for others. (MK Ataturk)

One quarter on “report card day” when my oldest son was in the 7th grade, he came bounding in the door with a big mischievous grin on his happy little face. “Guess what, Mom??!! DREW GOT A B!!” Nick’s joy was evident. I’ll admit, I silently chuckled to myself. Drew Thieme is now heading back for his sophomore year at Purdue in the fall and that “B” in Mrs. Cathy Cederholm’s 5th grade English class is STILL the only “B” he has ever received! Honestly, I have thanked our good and gracious God numerous times for that tiny bit of imperfection back in Mrs. C’s class because perfect is hard to maintain over a lifetime…and it’s not a fate I would want for any of my three boys in all honesty. For perfectionistic right-fighters like my smarty pants, Drew, ripping the band aid off early is the best kind of gift for a parent!

With only two days remaining in the SLDM timeline for the Thieme family, today I feel called to write about a truly fantastic teacher and even better human being named Cathy Cederholm. She taught both Nick and Drew during their time at SLDM, but she moved out of state a few years back so she never experienced the Z-man. Cathy started the first Mathbowl team at St. Louis de Montfort and she was a teacher who knew how to impart so much more than the basics– she is a teacher who makes sure kids are exposed to what really counts. Her positive, faith-filled influence on countless kiddos made a mark in the SLDM community that can never be erased.

A former Naval petty officer, Cathy also began what has become a truly meaningful Veteran’s Day tradition at SLDM. Each year, that event reminds me that I should be very proud to be an American! She was a teacher for my kids that really mattered because she set high standards for her students and wouldn’t settle for less. In fact, I vividly recall my oldest coming home one day in the 4th grade very upset about the grade he got on an essay answer in religion. He had apparently compared his work with that of a classmate and felt strongly that his answer was better…and yet his score was lower. I suggested that Nick talk to Mrs. C about his concern. The next day, he came home fairly miffed. “She said she expects my best work and this isn’t it.” I smiled and said, “Well, was it your best effort Nick Fred?” He quickly replied, “I’m probably able to write a little better than I did here, but it still seems unfair to me.” His work ethic improved.

Cathy also took his chair away from him and left him standing during class because, I’m sure, he was tipping his chair back or something of the sort. Mind you, Nick never mentioned this to me, but I had my inside sources. I am pretty sure that Nick knew better than to complain to me about such a thing. Cathy is compassionate, talented, sarcastic, and no nonsense. She was AWESOME for both my boys and scores of others. Good teachers are a treasure!!

When one of her former students became very ill and needed to sit out some school due to chemotherapy and other treatment, Cathy stepped in to help and was a constant support. There are SO MANY examples of her Christian witness to the entire community that I simply cannot do it justice here. However, knowing her as I do, I am certain that her integrity and faithfulness are doing for families in Virginia the very same things she became famous for at SLDM.

As the Thieme clan exits SLDM this week, it seemed important for me to let you know, Cathy, that your time, talent and genuine care has had a lasting impact for our family. You are a quality mom, wife, and teacher and we are all better people because you shared a bit of yourself with us. We feel truly blessed that our lives intersected with yours and we wish you, Dave and your kids so much happiness now and in the years ahead! THANK YOU for being a stunning witness of what it means to be a magnificent teacher and faithful Christian woman.