Mad for…Dianne

You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be so? As long as faith gives me strength I will always be joyful! (Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati)

Kindhearted, amusing and cheerful are the first three words I would use to describe my new friend, Dianne Modleski. She’s pictured at the far left in the above photo. She’s an upbeat, joyful mom of two sons and the wife of a pretty terrific guy named Matt. I met Dianne shortly after my son, Zach, started playing baseball with a great group of mostly Our Lady of Mt. Carmel boys a couple of years ago. Quickly, I learned that she’s the owner of both a witty and self-deprecating sense of humor as well as a very welcoming heart! She went out of her way to be friendly to Tom and I when our family landed on the scene. Sure, this may seem like it’s an easy thing to do– smile and chat to draw in the new people– but it’s often surprising how few people see, understand, and apply themselves to that most Christian of tasks. I adore welcoming souls like Dianne!!

This morning, as I was sitting at the McDonalds on SR 32 in Westfield drinking an iced tea and killing time while Zach had his second golf lesson with a very encouraging young golf pro at nearby Pebble Brooke Golf Course, I thought to myself how grateful I was for my friend Dianne. She has unwittingly assumed the role of “golf mom mentor” in my life. You see, the Z-man has decided he is crazy about golf and he wants to try and work on his game. I am thrilled to see his passion and desire to dig in, so I reached out for an assist. Dianne’s son Keaton was a HS golf state finalist this year on the GC team, and her younger son Jake is a pretty solid golfer who will try and take over where his brother left off when he joins the Golden Eagles on the links next spring. I think I waited a total of about 3 minutes before Dianne thoughtfully replied with several suggestions that might be helpful…including the name of our new friend, Brandon Smart, the golf pro I mentioned.

The Modleski’s are a faith-filled family, and Dianne’s love of Christ definitely shows by the way she has leaned in and trusted the Lord in both good times and much more challenging moments of her life, as well as in the way she loves her boys and Matt. Her joyful witness of faith has made a significant impact on me, and I have only known her for a fairly short time. My gratitude for the sharing about her life she has gifted me with is significant. Sometimes, people don’t realize how much impact their witness has on those around them, and I suspect Dianne is one of those folks who underestimates the positive difference she makes for in the lives of others.

Dianne and Matt live on a beautiful piece of property just north of SR 32 that we have had the chance to enjoy a few times now. We’re way overdue to reciprocate, by the way! In the meantime, I wanted to simply take a moment to tell you, Dianne, that you are a giant scoop of awesome sauce! I truly believe the Lord sent you in my direction to help me remember, by your example, how important it is to be welcoming as well as grateful and filled with joy for all the blessings God gives us each day! I hope you have a terrific 4th of July week, filled with laughter and smiles!!

Mad for…Rita

The greatest marriages are built on teamwork…a mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration and a never ending portion of love and grace. (F. Weaver)

This week, a really special couple, Rita and Danny O’Malia, celebrated 50 years of marriage. I’m almost halfway there, since Tom and I will reach the 25 year mark this coming October, so I think I am just beginning to realize what makes a marriage great. Folks like my own parents, my in-laws and the O’Malias have all given me great clues about how to get there from here. Several days ago, I wrote about Danny O’Malia and today I’d like to say a few words about his amazing bride, Rita.

Rita is the mom and grandmother to a large and amazing group of folks, many of whom are close friends. I consider her a friend, too, actually. She’s sassy, thoughtful, and incredibly upbeat. She makes the world brighter with her sunny face and warmth. It seems to me that as one half of a terrific couple, Rita knows interiorly that a successful, long marriage isn’t about being perfect but accepting with love and grace the flaws of one another. I kind of adore the witness of both she and Danny on this point and have tried to remember that in my own marriage.

Straightforward, forthright and outspoken, Rita is stunningly generous with her love and her time. She’s nearly always had a grandchild under toe when I’ve seen her in the years I’ve known her, and she’s got the gift of hospitality without a doubt! She’s genuine and utterly unafraid to tell it like it is! Nothing appeals to me much more than authenticity, so this is probably one of the reasons I most respect her.

Rita is a faith-filled woman who always seems to be busy helping others. She fiercely loves, generously forgives, and her heart is beautiful. She’s a blessing to all and an example to everyone who knows her when it comes to perseverance through traumatic crisis. I cannot imagine as a mother myself conducting myself with the grace that Rita has displayed after the loss of a child. She’s the example of living our faith, trusting that God’s grace is sufficient, even when our hearts are pierced to inconsolable.

I want you to know, Rita, that I miss Shannon too. I continue to pray for you and your husband, Con and Danny, Jan, Colleen and all the rest of your clan. You honor Shan’s incredible memory by the way you live your life, by your frequently offered smile, and especially by the way you treat others kindly. CONGRATULATIONS on your 50th Anniversary! You are a fantastic human and I have mad respect for you!

Mad for…Andrea

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord will be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Today is the birthday of a beautiful fellow Guerin Catholic mom. She’s pictured above (far right) with her husband and her five gorgeous kiddos! Her oldest son, Matt, who is sitting just in front of her in this terrific family photo, played basketball with my middle son Drew and that is how I first met her. What is it with me? It’s always a smelly gym, ha?!! Matt just graduated from GC, and in a few weeks he will be headed off to my hometown to become a BOILERMAKER! Good choice, kid!

Here’s the thing. This is Andrea’s first child to head off to the next adventure, and I know from experience that it’s a tough hill to climb for loving and involved moms like Andrea. That’s why I chose the scripture quote above to honor her on her birthday, because I’d bet about now she could use an extra large scoop of calmness in her heart. My special prayer for her today was to ask Jesus for exactly that!

I’ve watched this caring and kind soul from a distance over a few years and I’ve noticed that she’s always willing to pitch in, she has a genuine smile, and she’s both sunny, humorous and faith-filled. We have several mutual friends, and when I’ve inquired about Andrea, what they always say is the same. They use slightly different words, like considerate, courteous, understanding and good-hearted…but they all boil down to one common denominator. She’s just plain KIND.

The world is crying out for kindness, and there sits Andrea, bringing the sunshine for the rest of us. Today, I just wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a terrific gal that I truly hope I will get to know a bit better!! THANK YOU, Andrea Parenteau, for being a light for those around you. BOILER UP!!

Mad for…Nicole

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-hearted bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

(Langston Hughes)

Above, on the left, is my former CRHP sister, Nicole Hanna. I met her at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers, Indiana. Nicole is pictured here with her daughter, Maggie, who apparently isn’t super easy to get to bed? She is also the mom to three handsome boys and the wife of Chad. Several years ago, Nicole left her suburban home in Fishers and moved to the farm. The Hanna family now lives on a beautiful piece of property near Shirley, Indiana (I think). It was a bold move taking on such a drastic lifestyle change, but I have to say it seems to suit her. She’s now a grade school teacher, and I’d bet a very exceptional one. I keep up with my old friend mostly through social media, and since she’s an old soul who speaks my love language, following her is one of my best kept secrets to keeping my priorities straight and my mental health in check.

Nicole is faith-filled woman with a huge heart, a native of Lansing, Michigan and a BIG Michigan State Spartans fan! I’m a diehard Boilermaker who grew up in Purdue’s backyard, so I utterly identify with her passion, even if we disagree on which BIG TEN team is superior. She posts pictures of homemade pies that are so beautiful I swear I can smell the sweet goodness through my iPhone, and even more glorious shots of sunsets that make me want to move to the wide open spaces too!

Sensitive, loving, thoughtful and silly are words I would choose to describe Nicole. She is also incredibly beautiful. What makes her phenomenal to me is the way she can spin words in such a way that my heart is expanded and inspired. The number of times I have taken a screen shot of one of her Instagram posts is sort of embarrassing. Instead of trying to poorly explain why, I’d rather just have you read her words from today. They accompanied the poem I posted at the top of today’s entry.

“When I was in third grade, I had to memorize this poem and recite it. Moreover, I also had to understand what it meant, which made me learn about Langston Hughes, which made me learn about his historical significance, which made me want to know more. This poem made me fall in love…with words, with writing, with language, with ways we communicate, and with reading. This didn’t happen all at once. After all, I was only 9. But 30 years later, it has stuck with me. It’s these little things, that may seem insignificant but they are life changing. The seeds will grow and bloom and bring life to our lives. I’m hoping that I can plant some seeds- in my own children and in my school children. That’s my goal. That’s my dream.”

Well, Mrs. Hanna, let me tell you a little something. Your honest and sometimes utterly raw sharing has planted some seeds and brought some life in places you may never even know– including in the heart of a grown woman you once knew back in Hamilton County. You are special beyond what I can express, Nicole. THANK YOU for the gift of your sharing, your love of words, and your unimaginably glorious heart! Keep on keeping on, sister! Those four children of yours, and the ones that are blessed to land in your classroom? Well, they are beyond lucky.

You belong to God, children….for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Mad for…Carolyn

Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide. –D.W. Winnicott

Imaginative, graceful and intelligent are the first three words that come to mind when I think of my next door neighbor, Carolyn Martens. This week, she and her husband Rob are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, which means they were married the very same year as we were! Carolyn is the mother of three– two daughters and a son– who are all incredibly bright and talented not unlike their mother.

I’ll be completely candid. Although I greatly admire Carolyn for many reasons I will attempt to share today, I don’t know her as well as I should. Considering she literally lives NEXT DOOR, I’ve done a poor job of taking the time to connect properly. Friends are what make our lives really sparkle and shine, and this is a gal I definitely need to dig a little deeper to discover.

That said, Carolyn and I were in a book club for several months together and I learned a bit about her during that time. She’s a Colorado native who moved to Chapel Hill, NC where she was an athlete for the North Carolina Tarheels. As you can see from the photo above, she’s stunningly beautiful. What makes it worse for sweaty “morning walk Shelly” is that she’s just as lovely with her t-shirt on and her hair in a messy bun while she putters with her flowers in the front yard.

Yesterday, I was literally thinking to myself that I can’t even tame my “Guns-N-Roses” morning hair explosion with a baseball cap and a pair of oversized sunglasses and there she is looking just frustratingly picturesque. Maybe we’d be better friends if she would put on a dorky looking pair of tennis shoes to make me feel better, ha? Despite her gorgeous good looks, it’s hard to dislike Carolyn because she is just a truly kind and happy person. In fact, as I was interiorly disparaging her for being so naturally adorable while I gasped for air after my walk, she texted me offering to be my walking buddy during the day if I ever wanted company. Lovely, right?

Carolyn is an educated, independent and extremely well-read woman. She’s also an unbelievably talented artist. Her work has been featured in so many impressive venues and galleries across the country that it makes my head spin the more I learn! She’s been honored as an artist many times, including as I recall as winner of the Hoosier Women’s Artist competition. Many of her works have been auctioned off for worthwhile and deserving charities during the time I have known her. I “saved” one once that was drying in her backyard when unexpected very dark clouds were about to unleash on it. That was the day I decided I needed to “google her” because OH MY GOODNESS is she talented. You can learn more about her art by checking her Facebook page, Carolyn Martens Art.

The reason I decided to write about Carolyn today is because I find her intriguing. She’s curious, involved, grateful and true to herself. She’s optimistic…and has a gorgeous smile that she freely shares with others! Those qualities are all independently terrific, but rarely are they spotted in combination in just one human being. During a time when the world sometimes seems dark and unfriendly, my neighbor Carolyn manages to be a beautiful mother and an authentically kind-hearted woman. Thanks for inspiring me by your awesomeness, Carolyn. Let’s take that walk soon, friend!

Mad for…Kris

Intense love does not measure, it just gives. –St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Thus far, I’ve been spending my summer mostly trying to squeeze in long walks between rain storms and my duties as an “Uber Black” driver for my youngest son, Zach. Schlepping him to and from practices, lessons and workouts for basketball, golf, and tennis keeps me up to date on today’s country music scene too, as my 15 year old “DJ” runs through his favorites on Spotify. He’s a fun kiddo to talk to and be around, though, so I am not complaining.

This afternoon after his workout at St. Maria Goretti with the “Shot Doc”, a beautiful face I hadn’t seen for a while popped into the gym with her youngest daughter, Zoey. Kris Bussick and her sweet girl were a sight for sore eyes, because the golf courses and gyms I spend most my time visiting are relatively low on estrogen. Whether she wanted a hug or not, I forced one on her, at which time she humored me with a beautiful smile then promptly pointed out what I have been thinking since school ended. “These kids are living the good life, aren’t they?”

Kris is pictured above with her charming and friendly husband, Bill, and together they have four children and a new son-in-law. It felt fortuitous to me that I had the chance meeting with Kris today, because my mind has been so full in recent weeks with many spiritual concerns, mostly related to how in the world are we going to spend eternity with God when we just can’t seem to get along down here at all? All the media, social and traditional, seems to be just so incredibly full of anger and divisiveness. It’s heavy on my heart.

Seeing Kris reminded me about love, because she’s the one who taught me about what it means to “Love Foolishly” by her own example. Kris is a generous and utterly faith filled wife, mom, sister and friend who also co-founded The O’Connor House in Carmel. Their mission is to provide a Christian residential home to help struggling single pregnant women improve life for themselves and their children. What she has undertaken with it’s creation is the ultimate example of loving foolishly. They provide food, shelter, clothing, transportation, pre-natal and post-natal nutrition, parenting skills, financial management and so much more! What they offer is compassion, encouragement, hope and healing. If you’d like to know more, visit http://www.theoconnorhouse.org.

Her benevolence and earnest devotion to her Catholic faith are both things that make Kris utterly remarkable to me. She’s thoughtful and grace-filled with a quiet but very real sense of humor, and she’s grateful for what God has done in her life (the good and the challenging both) and those around her. Kris doesn’t seem particularly attached to the attention of others, rather, she seems intent on doing the right thing for the purpose of glorifying the Lord by the way she lives and the choices she makes. She inspires in me a desire to work on that 5th chapter of Matthew a little more.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Mt. 5: 44-45).

Today, in fact, I read an article from Aleteia.org about how Mother Teresa displayed a certain detachment to the opinions of others when she was alive. For instance, she was once asked about a very unflattering and even vulgar book by Christopher Hitchens that was written about her. She was said to respond, “Oh, the book. It matters not. He is forgiven.” The article went on to say that she saw things in the light of God. That’s very much how I view Kris. She sees things in that same way. How fortunate are all whose lives cross her path!!

Thanks, Kris, for the gift of your genuine and authentic love for Christ and how you share it with all around you. Because I saw you today, I was reminded that God is love and my response to all the challenges of life should be LOVING FOOLISHLY. Period. You, amazing woman, are a treasure!!

Mad for…Danny

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. -Roger Staubach

The biggest Xavier University basketball fan I know is Danny O’Malia. He’s pictured above, a year or so ago with my son, Nick, who was interning with the Xavier Athletic Department at the time. When he found out that my oldest son intended to become a Muskie when he graduated from Guerin Catholic, Danny reached out with enthusiasm and made sure that the entire Thieme clan knew that he would be pleased to help Nick in any way with his transition. His genuineness and authenticity are impossible to miss!

A former President of O’Malia Food Markets, Danny is busy these days as “Indy’s Trusted Servant” and an expert on good customer service. He definitely lives what he preaches when it comes to treating others with a smile and genuine hospitality as I have never been treated with anything other than utter graciousness by him.

Danny is the husband to a bubbly and beautiful wife named Rita, and together they raised three amazing daughters– Janet, Shannon and Colleen. Over the years, I got to know him through my friendship with them. He has four grandsons who have been on sports teams with my 3 boys at various times over the years, so it has been my pleasure to cheer those fine young men on, alongside Danny and Rita many, many times.

I’ve spent several sunny afternoons lolly-gagging poolside at his Carmel home. Most of those afternoons, I spent the day there knowing full well that neither Rita or Danny was aware I had even been invited, but knowing always that when they did show up, I would get a big sunny smile and a “So great to see you, Shelly!”

I admire greatly the example of kindness, fortitude, faithfulness and unselfishness displayed by Danny during the years I have known him, but especially since the tragic loss of his daughter Shannon. At a time when I know he was mostly broken, he dug in and loved his family, and leaned hard on the Lord… in every possible way. He’s one of the most supportive grandparents around too!

Danny, I am way overdue to express to you how much I appreciate the positivity and kindness you have always shown the Thieme family! You are a treasure to many!! Thank you for the terrific example of faith and the encouragement you provide to those around you– including me!