Mad for…Joe

Sports contribute to the love of life, and teach sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of every human person. -St. (Pope) John Paul II

When my oldest son was in grade school, he came home from school on jersey day and said that his friend, Joseph Zimmerman, was wearing a Colts jersey with a player number he wasn’t familiar with at all. Joe claimed, he explained further, that the player in question had a connection to their family and to the parish, St. Louis de Montfort. My Nick wasn’t at all sure that this was correct and he wanted me to check on that suspicious claim…ha?!!

A few days later I ran into Joe’s mom, Tina, and I told her about Nick’s curiosity over that #76 jersey. Tina laughed and said, “Well, you might know the family actually. He’s just been signed by the Colts and his name is Joe Reitz!” I said, “Like Jane and Dave Reitz? How cool is that?” She said, “Yes, their son is going to play for the Colts.” As you can imagine, this news was a hit with the testosterone heavy Thieme household.

It wasn’t long before Joe began holding sports camps every year at SLDM, and the Thieme boys still have pictures of themselves propped in little frames in their bedrooms with Joe from those fun and memorable camps that were filled with a great message about faith, family, academics and sports. His successful career in NFL football (and before that in college hoops) has been well-documented, and if I’m honest, this part of his life has very little to do with the reason I’ve chosen to write about him today. However, because he is a fairly public figure, his words and example are noticed more than most, I’d argue, which is why the following really matters even more.

Joe and his beautiful wife, Jill, are clearly faith-filled people. They have a large family full of gorgeous toe-headed kiddos, and as they were sitting behind me at 9:30am mass this morning at OLMC, I was unable to get an accurate head count without turning around to stare like some kind of weird stalker. The kiddos range from newborn to maybe 7 or 8 years old, if I am a good guesser? They are active and squirrely, as well as respectful and (mostly) quiet. I see this stunning family week after week, usually sitting a few rows in front or behind us near the front of church. I can hear Joe organizing who will sit where, or employing a gentle but firm “shush”. They’ve got the zone defense working every single Sunday morning.

It’s flat out impressive and inspiring to see a large, young family engaged in their faith and consistently attending mass. If others wonder sometimes if coming to mass isn’t a bit inconvenient or a scheduling hassle, there’s the Reitz clan providing a beautiful witness of how it’s supposed to be done by their consistency.

As much as I love the work Joe has done over the years to help fight homelessness, or to encourage sick kids, or to inspire young athletes, what makes him a true man of integrity and character in my mind is the way he honors the Lord by his faithfulness. A high profile, but humble man who loves Christ and who is present AND PATIENT every single week with his gorgeous pew full of children at mass is just plain refreshing and encouraging. It’s easy to see he’s a wonderful dad who has his priorities in order. NICELY DONE, JOE AND JILL REITZ!!

Mad for…Susan

“Give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths.” (Epictetus)

In the photo above of the beautiful Wagner family, my friend Susan is pictured second from the left in the striped dress. She’s flanked by son Sam, daughter Lily, husband Ethan, and on the right, (holding the sweet pup) is her oldest son, Jack.

Feisty, positive and colorful are words I would use to describe this gorgeous, music-loving mom of three growing children. I met her a number of years ago and her oldest son, Jack, has been a longtime classmate and friend of my youngest, Zach. They will be in the GCHS Class of 2023 together! Susan has been a very present and involved mom with her 3 cuties during their time at SLDM, and she’s contributed in many meaningful ways in both her church family and the community at large. She’s a Butler Bulldog, and I am pretty sure she grew up in Plainfield? My point is, she’s spent some time here in Central Indiana and knows her way around town. She’s always got fun suggestions on things to see and do!

Particularly impressive to me is the time she has spent volunteering at Prevail, a Noblesville-based organization that advocates for the victims of crime and abuse. If you’d like to know more about this terrific place, which offers crisis intervention and restorative support services for adult, adolescent and child survivors of crime and abuse, visit their website at Susan’s got a big, generous heart and with it she blesses many in her path.

Countless are the times Susan hosted a gaggle of smelly, adorable middle school boys before school dances, or to celebrate birthdays and other fun occasions, and always they left her house smiling and very well-fed. Like yours truly, she enjoys cheering on her kids in their various activities and she is a wonderful witness of what a patient and compassionate mom can inspire. Unlike me, however, she does it while looking just so darn hip and adorable that I have just a little bit of an inferiority complex in her stylish presence, ha?

What I love about Susan is that she isn’t content to stay stagnant. She is always growing and blooming in new ways. The last time I spoke to her, she was taking classes to become a certified Pilates instructor. She explained how much it means to her to be able to help others become healthier and reach their own goals when I quizzed her for more information. It made me smile and think how much the Lord must be pleased with her heart. As life changes and the difficulties of the world settle on Susan, she just digs in to the messiness and lets Him help her bloom all the more gloriously as she redefines her mission by saying, “What’s next?”

Thank you, Susan, for all the time you have given to others as well as the example you have shown to all in your path about what it means to be a loving mom. The world needs as many generous souls as it can get, and your witness is more powerful than you might know! Your friendship is a blessing to me.

Mad for…Jeff

Every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you’ll never get back. (Unknown)

About a month or so ago, Coach Jeff Schwegman was asked by an (over zealous) umpire to excuse himself from the dugout during a Cadet CYO baseball game at Scecina High School. What makes this so remarkable and honestly quite funny is the fact that he’s one of the most laid back people I have ever encountered. I’m sure he was bugged, but he laughed it off and cheered from behind the fence. About the only times I have EVER heard him being audibly rattled were at sporting events he was coaching. He’s a smiling, positive, humble and genuine guy– but don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s not competitive! Also, he’s a talented musician and fellow country music lover, which is why he’s on my mind today.

This evening, we made plans to take our youngest, Zach, to his first ever concert– Thomas Rhett. His buddy, Ty Schwegman, is the only genuine country music lover among his close friends, so as a surprise for his birthday, we made plans to enjoy this evening alongside the Schwegman family (pictured above in an old photo from left are Jeff, Laine, Ty and Renee). Presently, I am baking cookies and praying the rain holds off long enough for us to get our groove on out at Ruoff Music Center. As I ponder what on earth I might wear for this event, I couldn’t help thinking of Jeff who will not have put forth much effort at all but who will nevertheless look effortlessly hip. He’s just a jeans and leather play-it-cool kinda guy.

Balance is what life is all about, and Jeff seems to me to do about as good a job as any man with holding on and letting go just the right amount to keep the boat upright and sailing in the right direction. His work ethic is impressive, certainly. More importantly, as a father, he’s present, thoughtful and truly compassionate. Jeff can be counted on to make the most “right” choice available at any given moment. He’s married to one of my favorite women on the planet, and as the song says, “there’s a little bit of devil in her angel eyes”. I’m not worried about that though and neither is he. It appears to me that my friend Jeff knows his is a marriage that is going to catapult him straight to heaven if he plays the cards correctly, ha??!

On numerous occasions over the years, Jeff has schlepped my Z-man to and from various events or let him tag along as an extra member of the family. I always marvel at how attentive, aware and considerate he is when dealing with all the children in his life, but especially his daughter, Laine and his niece, Lilah. A standout athlete who grew up with no sisters, he’s remarkably natural and sensitive.

Jeff is a guy who sees the best in others and lives his life in an unselfish and loving way. He likes to laugh and he’s easy to be around. He is one of those people who doesn’t feel the need to point out his goodness, it just shows. So, here I am not getting any younger, my baby is entering high school, and things are feeling very different than they once were. I find that I just prefer to enjoy the ride while surrounding myself with good people who are good to me, to my people and for my soul. Jeff is one of those folks. THANKS FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP, JEFF! YOUR GOOD HEART MAKES ME SMILE!

“…You make plans and you hear God laughing. Life changes, and I wouldn’t change it for the world…” (Life Changes, Thomas Rhett)

Mad for…Nick

The passionate, energetic Dad in the center of this photo is an old friend of mine, Nick Bazan! Coach Bazan is THE BIGGEST CUBS FAN I have ever met, and I have spent most my life with some pretty big fans of the Chicago Cubs…so that’s saying something! He’s pictured here with his beautiful daughter, Bella (at left) along with his wife Crystal (who everyone calls “Ball”) and his handsome son, Dawson.

Coach Bazan spent some time coaching baseball for my youngest son, Zach, who played alongside Dawson on the fields at Skiles Test, which is on the northeast side of Indianapolis. It was without a doubt the most fun my kid ever had playing baseball, because Coach Bazan is one of the most sunny, sparkling and positive people I have ever encountered. He had nicknames for all the kiddos, and he called Zach “All-American”. There was “Lights Out” Ferrucci, Denzel “The Hammer”, Nick “Lightening” Boltz and “Tough as Nails” Bartlett, for instance. The boys were never referred to by the super boring names we parents gave them, always they were called by their nicknames, which made them smile from ear to ear!

He made them work hard, but they also played hard! He and Coach Ferrucci were a dynamic duo out there with teams that were tough to beat! He had a game I am going to call “Hit the Bucket” and at the end of many practices he would give the kids one chance to throw the ball at the bucket from a distance and if you could do it in one try, then there would be a prize– usually $1 or a piece of candy. The boys LOVED that and looked forward to it with glee!!

As this youngest child of mine heads to high school this fall, he’s looking more grown up all the time. He now stands about 5’10 which makes me the shortest of the Thieme family these days. His voice is so darn low that I feel fairly certain he will be in the bass section in that choir class he signed up to try. My babies have grown up and it has me feeling a little nostalgic today, I suppose, and so grateful for so many of the folks who over the years poured out their hearts and volunteered countless hours for other people’s children.

Nick Bazan stands out among those men for his integrity and quality of character. He just seemed to do it all so that the kids received a dose of the same values and experiences sports gave him. His devotion and passion inspired strength and courage in my son to be the best he could possibly be. I am thankful for you, Nick, and want you to know that the Thieme family has never forgotten you, the amazing and generous Coach Ball or those awesome boys of summer at Skiles!! Bella and Dawson are very blessed young people to call you DAD!

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal. –George Will

Mad for…Chad

Goodness is the only investment that never fails. (Henry David Thoreau)

Several years ago when my oldest son, Nick, was in the 6th grade, he found himself playing the low post on a basketball court on Indy’s west side. Despite his significant height disadvantage, Nick Fred was fighting the good fight… until he took an elbow to the mouth while hustling for a rebound and he found himself missing half of his front tooth and with some very sensitive nerve endings dangling. Even the act of breathing seemed incredibly painful. I scooped up the broken piece of tooth his teammate had collected from underneath the basket and tossed it in Nick’s water bottle. I didn’t know what else to do but to try and reach our friend and neighbor, Dr. Chad Bailey. “I’m at the store with Ally, but I’ll meet you at my office as soon as I can get there.”

Despite the fact that it was a Saturday morning, Chad, who is an excellent dentist, very kindly and compassionately put in what we thought would be a quick temporary fix. His daughter was very into the copy machine and the two of us spent about an hour making photo copies of dollar bills, as I recall, while her dad played hero in the next room with Nick and his tooth. I chose not to worry Chad too much about his girl’s fascination with “counterfeiting” (ha?) as I was just so thankful for his thoughtfulness!!

Remarkably, that tooth he glued back together on a random Saturday morning lasted for like 6 years! When it finally gave way, it happened of course at like 11pm when Chad was on the ice playing hockey with friends. Yes, our talented dentist friend saved my kid that time too, at about midnight as I recall. Nick was so grateful that he tweeted about the awesomeness of his dentist– that’s not something you see often coming from the twitter account of a high school kid! Chad is one of the good guys.

It’s not just Nick that he has used his talents to go above and beyond for, either. I called him once looking for help when a priest friend of mine from Africa told me that his mother was flying to the US to visit him and that she was in significant pain. She had never in her life seen a real dentist, he finally confessed, quite embarrassed, and he didn’t know that he could even afford to help her much if he could even convince her to go see a dentist. She was notably frightened. When I called Chad to explain the situation, his humanity and graciousness were just way beyond thoughtful. His selflessness and the courtesy he showed to her was way above and beyond the call of duty. When several weeks later she visited me at home and flashed her new, gorgeous smile, I wondered if Chad had any idea what goodness he had bestowed on this total stranger. I do know the woman definitely had no access to a dentist like Chad Bailey back home in Ghana!!

We are still neighbors with the Bailey family. Chad and his beautiful wife, Angie, have two daughters (Ally and Logan, pictured above with their Dad). Those are three very blessed ladies to have such a kind-hearted man in their lives. He likes to laugh a little, gamble a touch, and he plays plenty of golf. I often see him with a drink in his hand and a smile on his face. Today, I saw him in his office at my regular visit to the dentist, which was absolutely routine…but it reminded me about his integrity and flat out goodness. Dr. Chad, you’re a good egg, and I’m way overdue to say so properly. Today, I hope you’ll accept my thanks for the integrity-filled way you have taken care of my clan and countless others over the years! We are grateful for you and the example you share with the world about how to treat others with goodness. What you do everyday? It matters.

Mad for…Jaime

Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness of people. (R. Bennett)

At about this time each summer for the last several years, I’ve started to notice loads of baby-faced incoming 9th graders with noodles for arms and legs as big around as brand new saplings start to make their way through the doors at Guerin Catholic High School and I always think to myself, “Good gosh, Coach Waymouth has his work cut out for him!”

Allow me to introduce you to Jaime Waymouth. He’s a strength and conditioning coach for St. Vincent Sports Performance as well as one of the first faces that new sports loving freshmen get to meet when they start their journey at Guerin Catholic. He’s also a husband and a proud dad of three beautiful children. What lucky kiddos those three are to call him Dad!

This morning as my youngest son, Zach, made his way to the GC weight room for the first time as a high schooler, I found myself thinking about how fortunate all those young “Golden Eagles” are to have an honest, generous, integrity-filled and truly kind man helping them find their footing. To me, goodness is all about character, and Coach Waymouth is filled to overflowing with both! He’s a guy who goes out of his way for the students in his care, helping them become stronger in mind, body and spirit along the way while he’s at it. He goes the extra mile, not to be seen, but simply because it’s the right and good thing to do. He’s a positive guy who has a terrific smile. In his weight room, the safety of young people comes first and his expectation is that everyone will work hard. How great is that?!

At the Thieme house and many, many others, Coach Waymouth is a favorite for his authenticity and the faith-filled way he leads. I am truly grateful that one more Thieme boy will have the chance to get to know him a little more, because he’s a man who helps young people see what they can be if they give their best effort! THANK YOU, JAIME WAYMOUTH for all you do for the kids in your weight room…you are most certainly an everyday hero and our family is way overdue to let you know that we are grateful for you!

Mad for…Anthony

I come from a large family but I was not raised with a fortune. Something more was left me, and that was family values. -Dikembe Mutombo

When I was about 12 years old, my small family of four went to Washington DC to see the nation’s capital. We stayed with the Plumb family. They were cousins of my Dad and I think they had 12 children. It was a whirlwind of activity in that household which was both exciting and not just a little bit overwhelming to me. At one point, Delores Plumb (mom to this huge brood) called out to no one in particular, “Has anyone seen Larry?” One of the girls called back, “How long has he been gone anyway?” Her mom replied, “I haven’t seen him in about 3 days, but then you know, at this age boys need their independence!” It was both hilarious and shocking to me, the oldest of 2 girls who didn’t even share a bedroom!

The Ayers family is NOT the Plumb clan, as you can see from the photo above. They’ve got 6 gorgeous kiddos, not 12, but at a recent baseball game at Chatard when Anthony Ayers, father of this terrific gaggle of smiles called out to his wife, Lauren wondering, “Do you know where Luke is? Ah hell, he’s probably with Adam…” it made me think back to the missing Larry Plumb and wonder if he ever did turn up, ha?

As we move on to the remainder of the summer, I find myself still thinking about all the really amazing Dads that surround me and today I wanted to take a minute to give a little shout out to Anthony Ayers. He’s a laid back guy, as well as a supportive and very involved father of six– 5 boys and little Mary. He laughs easily and doesn’t seem to worry too much about setbacks. He’s been hobbling around on a knee that recently was under the knife, but he just keeps moving and doing his day, and showing up for his kids many sporting events! He loves coaching his boys, especially in football, and he’s a very faith-filled guy who can be found at mass with his kids and his beautiful wife, Lauren, every Sunday without fail. They are always remarkably well-behaved in my opinion, and they really are great young people.

Men who lead their families in faith by their own example are truly living their vocation at the next level if you ask me, and Anthony Ayers is a fine witness of fatherhood to all around him. He’s a generous guy whose habit I’ve noticed is to give freely what he has to those around him without expecting anything in return. He’s a positive, quick-witted and character filled man who cares deeply about his family as well as his faith community. Anthony, I hope you had a very HAPPY FATHER’S DAY because you deserve it! I think you are THE REAL DEAL!!