Mad for…Sandy

What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people! (St. Teresa of Avila)

Colorful hydrangeas, rough-looking men cleaning fish, and sweet winery snapshots like the one above from the great state of Michigan have been filing into my text stream from Mom this week. She’s on a girls trip, and she’s been joined by the lively and convivial Sandy Meshberger! As friends go, my mother has a batch of pretty terrific gals in her corner, and one of my absolute favorites is Sandy, who is pictured above! They appear to be taking in a lot of the very best parts of one of my favorite states! If you’ve never been to Michigan in the summertime, you are missing out!

Sandy is the mother of two grown children, Chad and Danielle, and the wife of super guy named Harry. Based on the quantity of adorable pictures at her disposal, she’s also an all-star grandma, and truly just an enjoyable, caring and cheerful soul. Mom and Sandy have let me tag along on a few of their shopping and frolicking dates over the years. Frankly, it did me an awful lot of good to get to know her better because it now makes my heart happy to hear mom say she and Sandy are out and about! There’s just not one disagreeable thing about this sunny gal who offers quick and contagious laughter as well as affirming words to those around her. I don’t know a single person who couldn’t use a thoughtful and bright friend like Sandy! She also has just amazing taste in well…everything! I could use her help as a personal shopper FOR SURE!

Sandy Meshberger is the kind of friend who overlooks the broken chair on your porch and notices the glorious geraniums instead. She’s a positive and joyful person. If you’re ever around her, be sure to ask her to tell you the story of how she met Tomisue Hilbert. I don’t want to share it here, because you’d be missing the fun of hearing Sandy at her storytelling best! As I type, I can still hear her cackling and see the twinkle in her eye! She’s engaging and just plain fun.

When you’re with good friends, the time passes quickly. That is the kind of friend Sandy seems to me to be. She’s warm and kind. I hope for many years to come, Mom and Sandy will be blowing up my phone with pictures of their great adventures together! Thanks, Sandy, for being such an inspiring example of what a fantastic friend looks like! I want to be like you when I grow up, ha?!

Mad for…Rhett

The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give. (Howard Cossell)

Above: Tom and Nick with Rhett and Rhys Helt down at Assembly Hall for a Boilermakers vs. Hoosiers match up. Who won that game, Rhett? Can you recall?

It’s to my oldest son that I owe the blessing of many of my most treasured friendships. He’s had a knack over the years of picking quality young men to surround himself with, and often I have grown close to the parents of said terrific gentlemen. (Pictured above are: front row- Rhett Helt, Vincent Ferrucci and Cole Hepp, and in the back row are Christian Daniels and my Nick.) That is certainly the case with the Helt family. Tom and I became friends with Rhys and Chris Helt because of their oldest son, Rhett. He’s pictured above in the red Wabash t-shirt during his senior year at Guerin Catholic High School.

Rhett and Nick played basketball together at GC. Handsome and passionately competitive is this young man, and I’ll admit that I was NOT a fan right out of the box. On the court, he had a hot temper sometimes. When Nick started talking about his new friend during their freshman year of high school and I realized who he meant, I said something like, “Oh my goodness, that kid with the temper? Seriously?” Nick replied reassuringly, “Mom. I promise you will like him. He’s not like that at all off the court. He’s a great guy and you will love him.” Love him, I certainly do. He won me over with his winning smile and we have laughed a few times over my initial leanings!

Rhett complies with all momma hugging requirements and is entertaining to talk to as well! He’s a Miami Dolphins fan for reasons I cannot still figure out, but also a fan of just almost all sports. He’ll be glad to give you an expert opinion on any sports related topic, whether it’s the PGA tour, the NFL, NBA…you name it and he’s got all the skinny you’d ever need and more! Like me, he’s not shy to share his point of view. That always makes chats with Rhett a lot of laughs! While he no longer plays college basketball at Wabash, Rhett is still one of the most competitive humans I have ever met. Even if it’s just a round of golf with buddies, there’s guaranteed to be some money on the line if you’re playing with today’s birthday boy! Sports are serious business to this young college senior!

Rhett Helt has a good heart. I admire the way he loves his family and how they all support each other in all things. He’s a fine friend to many and a young man of character. As he finishes up his college experience this year at Wabash College, I know the future is bright for Rhett. We are grateful to count Rhett, his little brother Rhye, and his parents as dear friends. On your birthday today, Rhett, I wanted to just send you this little shout to let you know that we love you and we hope your day is a special one!

Mad for…Jeff

A man does what he must- in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures- and that is the basis of all human morality. (John F. Kennedy)

Today is the birthday of a great man named Jeff Oberndorfer. We at the Thieme house just love all the Oby clan. They are pictured above on the occasion of the recent wedding of Jordan’s marriage to Michael Bann. The birthday boy (father of the bride) is at the top left in this terrific and joyous shot! I chose this JFK quote for Jeff’s day because I think he’s just the real deal, a solid, faith-filled man!

I can’t help laughing as I look back on our first interactions with Jeff. He was helping to coach a Carmel baseball team that his son, Will, and my kid, Drew were both playing on that summer. I recall them being fairly young, grade school aged boys at that point. Jeff was all volume and passion coaching third base. If I’m honest, my biggest memory of him before we connected years later and became friends is of him getting the wrath of an umpire who was underwhelmed by his enthusiasm. He might have gotten booted from the game actually. Years later, it was his wife, Lisa, who handed me a “husher” at a high school basketball game. She literally carried tootsie roll pops in her purse for crazy people like me who just didn’t know when to zip it. Maybe she’d had plenty of practice over the years, ha? What makes it funny now is that I consider Jeff to be a pretty mild mannered guy.

In all seriousness, Jeff is an incredible father and husband. He’s done a fine job leading that beautiful family of his because great men are guys like Jeff who cultivate love. He is proud to let the loves of his life shine brightly and he supports them in everything, showing off his happy, intelligent and truly amazing wife, as well as his children, Jordan, Kelsey and Will– as well as his two new sons-in-law!

A native of St. Louis as well as a fellow Boilermaker, Jeff is quick-witted and just plain fun. He’s always game for a little tailgate action and gets sweaty palms just like me when Purdue is making us all very nervous!! He has gone out of his way to be kind to our son, Drew, over the years and has lugged him around numerous times just because he can. He’s been supportive beyond all reason with the charity work being done by Will’s Way to benefit underinsured young people with diabetes. In short, he’s an integrity-filled guy who adds a lot of light and laughter to the world, and I feel fortunate to call him a friend!

I hope your day is filled with smiles and laughter, Jeff, because you have added both of those to many of our days over the last several years! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! BOILER UP!

Mad for…Catherine

Every human is an artist. The dream of your life is to make beautiful art. (Miguel Angel Ruiz)

Sheesh. It turns out a lot of people I know have birthdays in August! This includes a sweet and very colorful art teacher named Catherine Rae Brenner. When I first met her at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School, she was “Miss Rae.” Then, a few years back, she married a handsome guy named Bob Brenner, so all the grade school kids and I had to learn to remember her by her new name. I am pretty sure she’d been married for two or three years and my little guy, Zach, was still saying, “MOM!! It’s Mrs. BRENNER! Get it together!” Haha!

I’m going to let you all in on a poorly kept secret. The Thieme boys have precious little skills in the area of artistic ability. That did not keep this sunny teacher from affecting them in a positive way by her constant encouragement. Zach was particularly drawn to Mrs. Brenner because he knew that as long as he tried his best, she was going to give him one of her genuine and lovely smiles and tell him he did good work! Catherine knows that mostly kids are uncomplicated. They are just gorgeous little rose buds that need a little sunshine and watering and they will bloom into something glorious. She cares about them, and it shows, plus she more than once made a point of sharing something affirming about my son to his mother. Moms are into that. Fact.

Catherine is a beautiful woman, a kind person and a caring human. She knows that her job inspiring minds to think creatively is truly important. As Pablo Picasso famously said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” How true!! She has a way of encouraging students by her example to try and just wake up and be awesome. Her affirming words, particularly about my youngest son, were meaningful and impactful. Now that we have “graduated” from SLDM, we will miss Catherine Brenner!

Yesterday was her birthday. So, as most now know, I believe birthdays should always go on for days, so I’ve declared yet another birthday festival! Happy Birthday, Mrs. BRENNER! For all the times I accidentally called you Mrs. Rae over the years, I’m sorry!! Never once did you say a thing about my mistake, but I wouldn’t have blamed you a bit had you chosen to do so. Thank you for being a bright light for all the little faces in your path each day. We are grateful for you and the gift of your time and talent…and I am long overdue to say so!! Hope your festival continues for the rest of the month!

Mad for…Sam

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. Henri Nouwen

EDITORS NOTE: I am departing from my typical format today to speak directly to an extraordinary young woman on the occasion of her birthday. Her amazing mother wanted me to ask you all for a special prayer for her health and happiness as she celebrates her amazing life this year. As you know if you’ve been paying attention, I believe our prayers for one another are powerful. I thank you in advance for sending up some love on her behalf, Jesus lovers! 🙂

Dear Sam,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! You are incredible! You make this world a better place. Beautiful, energetic, and wise beyond your years, you are full of potential and have so much to offer the world. You are a sparkly jar of glitter, and when you smile it’s like the lid pops off and the world around you is brighter and more fun. I know your mom told you those things at least 1,000 times, because she said them about you behind your back even more!

Today as you celebrate your birthday, there’s just no way to keep you from feeling it as a bittersweet day. That’s because we only get one mom and I know you miss her, because that is the price of love. Hang in there, sweet girl, because you can do this, and lots of other wonderful things too.

Great things are coming your way, but as you head out on the journey, don’t forget to love today. Be grateful for this moment. Praise God for the gift of your glorious kindness and compassion towards others. Be grateful for those intensely blue eyes. Be thankful for your big, beautiful family including all those goofy cousins and your two spectacular brothers, too. You are a strong woman because a strong woman raised you. Do you remember that lunch you and I had with your mom at Pizzaology not so long ago when you were home for a visit? Maybe you recall it and maybe you don’t. Here’s what I remember that your mom said to me the next day when we were talking about you, like we often did. She said, “Whatever Sam decides to do, I just want her to make sure it makes her happy. She’s the most beautiful girl I have ever laid eyes on.” Sage advice.

The world is a better, more positive place because you are in it, Sam-a-lam. You treated my “little guys” with kindness every single day they were around you in the old carpool days and on GGW over the years. I feel certain that is the way you treat others now too, and it matters. Every tiny kindness makes a difference. Thank you for the example of your goodness. Today, I hope you eat a big piece of cake and you have to lick the frosting off your fingers. Your life is one that is worth celebrating in a big way! I hope you can feel the hug I am trying to give you, Sam. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAMANTHA VOLPE!!

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!