Mad for…Paul

A tree is known by it’s fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost. He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. St. Basil

When I was a little girl attending St. Lawrence Catholic School on the north end of Lafayette, one of my favorite friends was the sweet, adorable girl on the right in the picture above. That’s just how I remember her in my mind, and even as I have run into her as an adult, I still see that beautiful, friendly face. Her name is Kathy Hunckler. On her left is the guy that I always thought was the most cool big brother imaginable, Paul. I was totally jealous that Kathy had him as a big brother!!

Unexpected kindness is a powerful, totally free, and underrated commodity with which Paul Hunckler has always been generous. In fact, so engaging and friendly was this guy to all of us younger goofballs whenever I was visiting the Hunckler house as a grade schooler, that I recall asking my parents if I could please have an older brother. I’m not sure I completely grasped the complexities involved in that request, ha? For the record, I remained the oldest child in the family.

Here is a more recent photo of the siblings, from left: Paul, Beth, (mom) Jean, Brad, Kathy and Laura.

Paul is the husband to a completely charming wife named Maggie and the father of two talented and bright daughters, Danielle and Erica. If my sources are correct, Paul and Maggie should be about ready to take Danielle to St. Louis University for her first year of college. It’s an exciting but completely emotional experience and since all college kids are on my mind this week, I couldn’t help thinking of the Hunckler clan with their oldest off to school. We reconnected after many years because our children are all Guerin Catholic Golden Eagles.

When I first ran into Paul again after MANY intervening years, he smiled just as brightly as ever and greeted us with enthusiasm! Paul’s a talker, and he can draw anyone in with his warmth, great laugh, and sense of humor. He and Maggie are both charismatic and they have done a remarkable job with their girls, as they are articulate and delightful.

I’m LONG overdue to tell Paul that because he never missed an opportunity to share a smile or a few kind words, he made a major impact on me as a kid. It would have escaped my notice had he simply ignored us, as many older siblings would typically do just that. His good humor, patience and kindness were notable as his example made me want to do those things a little better myself for those around me. Thank you, Paul!!

Hang in there, Huncklers, your sweet girl will return and all will be well. Go Golden Eagles! Go Billikens!

Mad for…Chris

Don’t worry to the point of losing your inner peace. Pray with perseverance, with faith, with calmness and serenity. (St. Padre Pio)

August 17, 2019– Today, our youngest son, Zach, opened up his tennis career officially at Guerin Catholic. After taking up the sport about a year ago, he’s come a long way, but there’s still a lot to learn and significant experience to be gained. Fortunately for him and 34 or other young GC Golden Eagles, there’s a good man leading the way for them and lighting the path. Allow me to introduce you to Coach Chris Sciaudone.

Chris is a faith-filled man and the husband to Stephanie as well as the father to Sophia, Jack and Lauren. As a coach, he is firm and demanding but also incredibly encouraging. We’ve been sports parents a long time now, and this is a guy who goes out of his way to be friendly, upfront, and welcoming to parents as well as young people. It’s refreshing and heartening!

I’ve been looking around my life for folks to affirm in a very intentional way this year, and only a couple of times has someone been “nominated”. At the time his name was suggested to me by Todd Metzger, I didn’t know enough about him…but I’ve been watching, learning, and praying for this man for a little while now.  He’s quite incredible and I want to tell you a bit about what I’ve learned.

Chris Sciaudone is fighting brain cancer.  He shared today that he took a big tumble on a fishing boat a couple of years back and ended up with a badly broken arm that required multiple surgeries.  Testing and scans done at that time prompted the doctors to ask him if he had ever had a stroke.  That’s a bit of a strange question to ask a guy with a broken arm, and it sounds like the red flag went up in a big way in his mind.  It sounded providential to me, as he may not have found the more serious underlying condition were it not for that terrible arm injury.  Long story short, after many doctors appointments and some time at the Mayo Clinic, Chris had brain surgery.  Also, he’s a frequent flyer on the MRI circuit and he continues to receive treatments and care as he bravely and joyfully lives his life.

“Being brave doesn’t mean we have no fear- it means we refuse to be overcome by it.”  Some guy named Steven Furtick said that, and I think he’s absolutely right.  When Chris finished giving us his health update today before the GC vs. Fishers tennis match, he seemed optimistic and full of energy.  He was the very embodiment of Mr. Furtick’s idea about what true bravery is about.  

Chris Sciaudone is the kind of guy who is more concerned about others than himself.  For instance, when I reminded him that he is on my prayer list, he thanked me but asked that I pray especially for his children.  He knows they take their cues from him and are well-adjusted kiddos, but he’s also aware that his health challenges don’t come at no cost to all who care about him.  Then, he looked over his shoulder to the 35 or so GC tennis players now on the property, and he headed off to greet them and get them going at their first match of the season. 

After the matches were all over today, Coach caught up with my Zach and asked him how he thought he had played.  They both agreed there’s more work to do.  Then, he finished, “Hey Zach, are you the first of the Thieme boys to get Varsity action as a freshman?”  Cue the BIG SMILE.  “Yes, Coach, I am.”  Coach Sciaudone?  He’s an encourager.

So, here’s what I’ve learned so far from Chris Sciaudone.  We should all train ourselves to find the blessing in all things.  Obsessing or overthinking things is much less constructive than just remembering to breathe and having faith that God will stand beside us as we journey through life.  The morning chat with Chris reminded me of the famous quote by Muhammed Ali.  Don’t count the days.  Make the days count.  We should all work to do that, don’t you agree?

Thanks for all you are doing each day for others, Chris!  I find you incredibly inspiring by the way you live your life.  Stephanie, Sophia, Lauren and Jack are truly blessed to have you in their corner…and so are the rest of us who are lucky enough to find you along our path.  God bless you and GO GOLDEN EAGLES!

Mad for…Sara

Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice– a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. (Brene Brown)

August 16, 2019– As I type this entry, it’s just past 10:00pm and I’ve made it back to Carmel after a long day that started at 6:00am. All three of my boys got started back to school today. I hugged my oldest goodbye very early this morning as he was headed back to Cincy for his senior year at Xavier University in Cincy. Then, I dropped off my baby, Zach, for his first day of high school at Guerin Catholic. While I was doing that, Tom was helping Drew load up two of our cars with old furniture and all the t-shirts a guy could ever need for his sophomore year at Purdue. This is why my hometown and all the wonderful people who live there is what’s on my mind as I wrap up this crazy day. One of those terrific folks is a truly authentic woman named Sara Thieme. She’s pictured at the far right in the above photo, with her children and her husband, Brian Thieme.

Sara and I met in high school at Central Catholic. She was a senior when I was a freshman, and her little brother, Steve Rausch, was in my class. He was a smart guy with a fantastic smile, and it turns out, so was his sister. Sara married a cousin of Tom’s and so now we share the same last name. What I remember about her back in high school was that she was always friendly, even to lowly freshmen such as yours truly. That has not changed one bit over time!

This afternoon, Tom and I made our way over to Thieme and Wagner, a local watering hole run by Sara’s son, David and her husband, Brian. Today, David was tending bar and he regaled us with a little history and an update on what he’s up to. I kept thinking as I listened to him that he seems like a remarkable mix of both his mom and dad– in temperament and looks! Sitting down there at that bar also reminded me of the very kind favor Sara did for me at Christmas time when she helped me create a custom Thieme and Wagner shirt for my father-in-law as a gift. Sunny and thoughtful, Sara went way out of her way to assist and then she spent time she didn’t really have to meet up with us to pass the item along. The kindness is typical behavior for Sara.

A faith-filled wife and mom, Sara is also a physical therapist who has recently started a new job. I’m not actually sure who she’s working for now, but I know they are fortunate to have her!! She’s got a wonderful, welcoming smile and the most fantastic giggle. She cares. What makes Sara just magnificent in my mind is that she has always seemed remarkably authentic. That quality is WAY on the top of my list of most favorite qualities in humans. She’s also a bright light for others by the way she serves her family and her faith community down at St. Boniface. She treats others with respect and dignity.

Sara is fun and she has a great sense of humor. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff. I am inspired by her and can relate to her because she’s just truthful and genuine. I’ve definitely got a thing for genuine people– and if you do too– you’ll be glad if you take the time to get to know her if you ever get the chance. She’s rock solid. Thank you, Sara, for reminding me by your example that I should always strive to be authentic, be genuine, be real…be myself!!

Mad for…Lily

Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. It’s a holy day of obligation for Catholics here in the US, and this morning my soul was singing along joyfully with the overflowing crowd at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, flanked by two of my three sons. The Assumption is about our Catholic belief that the Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory. The grade school cantors at the mass did a glorious job, and it was so uplifting to hear so many people singing Hail, Holy Queen, Immaculate Mary and Let it Be Done to Me so beautifully. I was deeply moved.

If you ever feel distressed during your day, call upon Our Lady. Just say this simple prayer: ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.’ I must admit, this prayer has never failed me. -St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

This leads me to the young lady I’d like to introduce you to today. Her name is Lily Smith. The daughter of Adam and Mollie Smith and the sister of, well, MANY, she’s a vivacious, sparkly, intelligent, outgoing and faith-filled young woman who gives the most incredible hugs! It’s been a while since I’ve seen her, but she graduated from St. Louis de Montfort in 2014 with Drew and they continued on in school together until they graduated from Guerin Catholic in 2018. Lily was impossible to miss. She may be little, but she is filled up to her eyeballs with grace and love for Jesus, and also, she sings like an absolute angel. She’s college age now, and last I heard she was set to start her 2nd year of college at my alma mater, Purdue University! Boiler Up, Lily!! How blessed her fellow students as well as her family and friends are to have this gorgeous human in their lives is impossible for me to impart here in any adequate way.

When I contemplate about Our Blessed Mother, I have often pictured Mary’s youth and humanity. God asked her to trust Him completely, and she answered yes. She would have been a very young woman who was full of faith, and in love with the Lord– just like Lily Smith.

When the SLDM class of 2014 lost a classmate rather suddenly their sophomore year in high school, they all gathered together at church to pray. I’ll never forget the stunningly beautiful Divine Mercy Chaplet that Lily led her classmates in that evening. She certainly glorified the Lord that day by the way she used her incredible voice. Her classmates sang along to honor Jen, but make no mistake, Lily was their leader. Jesus was powerfully present that evening, just like He was this morning.

Spunky, outgoing and full of laughter and fun, Lily Smith is a young woman who just epitomizes servant leadership to me. She says yes. Just like Mary. Today, I wanted to tell Lily what I am long overdue to say. You, sweet girl, inspire me to love Jesus more. I haven’t even seen you in months, yet your light shines so brightly that yours was the face I saw in my mind when I was thinking “who can I choose to write about for the Assumption?”

Thank you, Lily Smith, for being a bearer of light. The world needs all the light that we can get! You are a treasure.

Mad for…Diane

Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. (St. Anthony of Padua)

This is my friend Diane Conover. She’s inspiring to me for her steadfastness in faith and today when I read a piece about how much the world is in need of women who know how to do hard and holy things, she came to mind. There is something powerful about her quiet graceful spirit that I find intriguing.

Diane is a beautiful woman with eyes that sparkle. She’s a sensitive and spiritual woman of God who is both tender and gentle. Through grace, she seems to have developed her divinity and nurtured her gifts. She’s also a mom and wife, and her family is certainly blessed to have such a remarkable woman among them everyday!

I met Diane at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, where she’s incredibly generous with her time in practical and meaningful ways. As I was writing this evening, it occurs to me that there’s much more I’d like to know about her. Here’s what I am clear about. She plays a pivotal role on the Gospel of Life committee at OLMC, taking down notes and details for the group. It’s a generous service to the rest of us to have her attend to this important but not glamorous piece of the puzzle, and each time she sends us her terrific email summaries she reminds me I need to be more like her in my life. She is a whiz at handling promotions, and a bright, articulate woman. Diane also teaches NFP, and I am certain she’s made a positive difference for many Catholic couples on their faith journeys.

Our Blessed Mother has a friend in Diane. She’s prayerful and her love of the Lord is obvious. Rather than tiptoe around obstacles to faith, Diane seems to overcome them by focusing on the goodness and generosity of the Lord. The fruits of her prayerful life are clear. She’s anxious to share her time and her gifts with others around her. Diane is one of those rare gems we come across who witness to the fact that the word of God is alive and has the power to transform us.

Thank you for being such a beautiful example of authentic faithfulness, Diane. Knowing you really has helped me desire to conform my own life more closely to the image of Christ. Desire is an important first step, am I right? The world is a much more beautiful place because you are in it, my friend!

Mad for…Jackie

This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Are you old enough to remember the old Warner Brothers cartoon, The Road Runner Show? I know, I know, I am revealing my age today. This animated series featured the adventures of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. When I discovered the Road Runner, it was a little later in the game when he appeared with the “wascally wabbit” Bugs Bunny. Nevertheless, the premise was always the same with the Road Runner. He never stopped moving…and always at top speed! Because I decided to honor a plucky woman with seemingly boundless energy today, I very nearly ran a photo of the Road Runner instead of my friend, Jackie Mewborn! She’s too cute to omit her photo, though, so you can see her above with her husband, Mike, and sons Joey and Matt.

Jackie lives nearby and her sons went through both grade school and high school with my guys, although neither of the Mewborn boys were a match for one of my sons, age wise. That did NOT stop me from noticing the force of nature that is their mother! She’s an organizer. Jackie is the kind of gal who will never be accused of standing still too long or spending too much time mulling over an idea– she is a doer of deeds, a woman who gets stuff done! Her laser focus is on what she can do to help the people around her. What’s even better is that she ALWAYS invites others around her into her goodness!

I’ve been roped into all sorts of wonderfulness because of Jackie and her husband, Mike, too over the years. For instance, I had everyone I know buying sleeping bags and books for grade school kiddos in Indy a few winters back. You see, Jackie had decided to make it her mission to see to it that a group of 8 year old students in need each got some meaningful love from the community that year. She made it happen. There have been school and sports fundraisers and meals that were needed by mutual friends, and on and on. When I get an email from Jackie, I generally know she’s up to some “do- gooder” activity and the chances are excellent that I might want to jump on in.

If you’re not sure if you’ve met Jackie, then you probably haven’t. She’s rather unforgettable with her terrific laugh and her unmistakable appeal. She’s fully monogrammed and color coordinated…and absolutely sunny, energetic and filled with positivity. She has never met a stranger and she speaks quickly and at volume! Jackie is the kind of person who doesn’t ever saunter into a group. The uninitiated always look around after she flees the area and ask, “Oh my gosh! Who was that?!” No one ever needs to ask that question twice it seems.

Yesterday, I got another lovely invite from Jackie. She wanted to gather some mutual friends for a drink to laugh, celebrate and honor a friend we all love who died recently and who would have celebrated her birthday on August 24. It was a classic Jackie move– just beautiful!

Do you know the popular church song, “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love”? It really makes me think of Jackie Mewborn. It’s a little known fact that the song was inspired by John 13:35 but originates in a phrase that non-believers used to describe the members of the early Church. “Behold, how they love one another.”

If there’s ever a move to convict Christians, then this gal is in real trouble. It’s an open and shut case. Thanks for being a bright light in this world, Jackie! You inspire me by your goodness and faithfulness.

Mad for…Alana

persevere (verb): to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.

Take a look at the beautiful Urban family! On the right, you’ll see my cousin, Alana (Langdon) Urban. From the time she was very small, she was just a gorgeous human. She remains just as lovely today as ever, and she’s the mother to two and the wife of Chad. She grew up in Sheridan, Indiana and moved about a year ago from the Fishers area to North Carolina!

Soft-spoken, funny and wearing a bright smile, Alana is an incredibly bright woman. She’s a fellow Boilermaker fan who graduated from Purdue University! As long as I have known her, (which in this case is literally for her entire life) she’s been both kind and engaging. Her work ethic is impressive and Alana is a character and faith-filled person.

On the day the moving trucks were scheduled to pick up all their belongings and haul them across the country to Wake Forest, North Carolina, Alana found herself at the funeral of her brother, Justin, sister-in-law, Amanda, and niece, Kendall. It was an incredibly difficult situation– a tragedy beyond all reason. On top of her grief, Alana was faced with a stressful move. The house closing had already taken place, and really there was no turning back. She called and asked me to help manage the movers so she and her sweet family could be fully present for the difficult day. I was so thankful to have SOMETHING meaningful to do for her, however small. God rained down grace on Alana during that time, because I marvel still at her undeniable grace in the midst of an unfathomable set of circumstances.

Some time has passed and I hear that the Urbans are adjusting well to their new city and situation. I’m so pleased to hear that because they so deserve peace and happiness! Alana was home for a visit recently and I missed seeing her because it happened while we were out of state on vacation. Mom and Dad were sweet enough to send a selfie of the three of them having an ice cream cone together in downtown Zionsville.

I have prayed hard for them all– Alana, Chad, Avery, and Connor– as well as Alana’s parents (my aunt and uncle). I read this bit of wisdom a few months back and tucked it away for the right moment. It seems to fit correctly today, and I hope in it all of us who occasionally need an extra dose of sunshine ourselves will also find the strength and generosity to be needed bearers of light for others.

“The world may bring deep darkness, but we are the bearers of light. We’ll join our flames together and shine in the blackest of nights.” (John Mark Green)

Alana, you are a strong, compassionate woman because you were raised by a strong, compassionate woman. You’re an incredible mom and wife and a person who has always inspired me by the gentle positivity you always share with others. I know that while the world is filled with suffering, it’s also full of folks overcoming it…just like you! Best wishes to all the Urbans as you tackle the new school year with all it’s challenges and fun. Also, BOILER UP!! If you and Chad make a trip back this fall to see a game, give us a shout! Tom and I would love to buy you a beer in West Lala!!