Mad for…James

Then the Lord will guide you always, and satisfy your thirst in parched places, will give strength to your bones and you shall be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

When my oldest son, Nick, was a freshman at Guerin Catholic High School, his principal was a remarkable man named Rick Wagner. He is now Deacon Wagner, and he is a Christ-filled man as well as a gifted school administrator. Following a rock star is tough. That was the task assigned to James McNeany when he arrived at GC nearly 7 years ago.

This morning, I attended Guerin Catholic’s “Nest Fest” which is sort of a freshman family orientation event. It was incredibly well run and organized. I was remembering those earlier years as a GC parent and marveling at the evolution that has occurred there. It was an impressive event and I really do believe many newbies around me felt the warm welcome that was intended by McNeany and his team.

When James McNeany first arrived at GC, I’ll be honest….I was wary. His background was as an elementary school principal which is a whole different animal. His own family was also very young. That was two strikes in my mind. When you pair that with the fabulous predecessor, well, I just wasn’t sure AT ALL that his hiring was a good idea. However, when he arrived I noticed immediately one of his clear strengths as a leader. Excellent leaders are people who show others how it’s done by their own example, and James did something I truly respected right out of the gate. It made more impact on me and on many other parents than anything else he did. He started showing up. He was present for EVERYTHING. He was at the play, he attended the Golden Voice concert, the baseball game, the basketball games…at home and on the road. I saw him at the all-school masses. In short, he was very present, and he was smiling.

This is a man who clearly cares about young people– his own children as well as yours and mine. He is willing to listen to frustrated parents even when his schedule is full. Trust me, I know this by personal experience. This is a school administrator who makes every attempt to hire folks who really do love the children first. He’s character-filled and he’s doing his best, which is an important quality in a leader. However, the thing that I respect most about James McNeany is that he realizes that he’s not the most intelligent person in the room at all times, and THIS above all is what makes him a leader for whom we Golden Eagle families should all be grateful!

Thank you for all you do each day for the young people and families of the Guerin Catholic community, Mr. McNeany! Godspeed in your role this year– and good luck to you while you navigate this year as the father of a senior for the first time! What lucky kiddos those McNeany children surely are to call you Dad.

Mad for…Darrell

There is no personal charm so great as the charm of a cheerful temperament. (Henry Van Dyke)

August 9, 2019–

Sweating profusely from my long walk and with a bottle of water in my hands, I meandered out to the back porch where Tom promptly said, “Don’t sit down. We have an urgent situation.” He then led me to the garage where he explained that while I was gone, there was a loud popping sound apparently generated by the large springs that operate the garage door, which was now utterly inoperable. An attempt to manually open said door was also a fail. That meant that Tom’s car and Drew’s car were stuck in the garage. Both of these handsome gentlemen of mine were not just a little concerned about how we were going to get that resolved ASAP. A guy’s got to get to work, you know! Enter the handsome and affable Darrell Drane! He’s pictured above with his very sharp truck!!

In this family, there are certain tasks for which I am permanently in charge. Among those are the acquisition of all birthday and Christmas presents, gift wrapping, laundry, grocery shopping, kids school and church “stuff”, resume updates, fireside s’mores assembly, bill paying…and last but not least, the scheduling and managing of all broken things that require outside assistance. Don’t feel one bit bad for me, because I am a princess who gets door-side drop off at Sam’s Club on rainy days and I literally never mow my own yard. When you add to that the fact that all summer long my husband grills our dinner, I am a pretty lucky girl. Anyway, I snagged the phone number from the sticker on the back of the broken door and placed a call. Indy Overhead Door came to my rescue right away!

Now, back to my new big brother, Darrell, who I learned is the owner of the company. He took to calling me “sis” while he was here and I am completely cool with that, because he seems like the kind of positive human anyone would love to have as a family member! The man drove here at 9pm from the other side of Indy to replace the broken garage door parts– springing my men loose– so to speak!! Not only did he show up at that late hour, but he entertained us with stories about his family and asked us about ours too. He made us giggle and marveled at Drew’s size 14 feet, sharing that his son has the same large foot “affliction”. It was clear as a bell that this cheerful man loves his people, heck, all people… and is incredibly proud of his four children!

Today, Darrell was back at the Thieme house to pre-empt a similar situation on our other door and I was able to take the picture above. Doesn’t he have just the most sunny smile? He’s got a fantastic sense of humor and a heart of gold. I truly enjoyed listening to him share with me a little bit about each of his kids, and he showed me a picture of his youngest son (who at 16 is just a little older than Zach) and his daughter, Paige (I hope I’m spelling her name right), who is frankly one of the most stunning young women I have ever laid eyes on. Holy cow, she’s beautiful– and apparently quite bright too– as she’s attending IU Kelley School of Business on a rather impressive academic scholarship! Darrell is a proud dad with a soft spot for those 4 kids that was impossible to miss.

Darrell Drane is one of those folks who is a blessing to all in his path. He’s a pro at customer service and utterly full of personality. Thank you, Darrell, for reminding me how important it is to treat everyone with kindness and to BE CHEERFUL ALWAYS! The world is so much better with you in it! Also, if you ever need a garage door guy and you don’t call my new friend from Indy Overhead Door, then it’s your loss. He’s top shelf!

Mad for…Angi

Kindness is free. Sprinkle that stuff everywhere.

She’s a fun-loving mom who roots for the wrong college team, ha? Angi Micheels is a Hoosiers fan with a bright smile and a very quick wit. She and her husband, Rich, live nearby here in Carmel. I’m pretty sure she’s a Carmel native who attended high school here too. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but what I know for sure is that she’s a beautiful human being, inside and out!

I met Angi several years ago. She has 3 sons just like I do. Her middle son, Sam, played baseball for several seasons with our Nick. They became pals and Sam rode along with us to games or practices a few times over the years. He’s got a pretty terrific and genuine grin, just like his mom, and he always made me laugh! All three of her sons– Calvin, Sam and Jackson– are just incredibly handsome young men. Jackson (who is maybe 2 years older than Zach) is her baby but he’s like 6’7 or some crazy thing! I wouldn’t have guessed that’s where he was headed when he and Z would throw tennis balls off the side of their big brother’s dugout for hours on end as little guys!

I always enjoyed having Angi around to enjoy the summer fun with us, because she was just as fired up and into the action as I have always been at my boys sporting events…plus she made me giggle. However, that’s not why I am writing about her today. Do you see the quote above? That’s the header on her Facebook page, and I think she has figured out life pretty well if she’s chosen to spread that fabulousness to her people! Not only that, but in small things she’s living it out. I’ve seen her advocating for humane treatment of both people and animals. Also, there’s this. I’ve been posting a few words each day in 2019 about someone who I think is making a positive difference for others, and Angi has been doing that for ME!

I think Angi has posted a comment of some affirming kind nearly every day of my 221 day (so far) “Mad for 2019” adventure. I’ll be honest, I haven’t felt like writing every single day. On the few days here and there where I was just worn out physically or emotionally and I considered hanging it up, because, really it was a nice idea and a good run….but will anyone really notice if I stop now….? I’d often think about an encouraging soul who lives just a little bit down Hazel Dell Parkway named Angi Micheels WHO ALWAYS COMMENTS and decide to just keep on trucking. Obviously, I’m under no obligation to continue this silly little idea, except that spreading kindness just does not take that much time and it’s a good thing!

So, today I wanted to honor my friend Angi. She’s a phenomenal mom, daughter, sister and wife…and a compassionate soulful woman. I’ve witnessed all of that for myself over the years. She’s a competitive and selfless hard worker. Also, she knows how to encourage others to persevere. For that last bit, I am especially thankful. The world needs more folks like you, Angi, who understand that kindness is contagious. We’d all be wise to take a few cues from your beautiful humanity! Let’s find an excuse to lay eyeballs on each other soon, old friend? You are a fantastic human and I am grateful to know you!!

Mad for…Wendy

All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity — St. (Pope) John Paul II.

In the middle of this sea of gorgeous faces (above) sits Wendy Pottratz. She’s the mom in this beautiful family, and a woman of deep, inspiring faith. I have only recently come to know her a bit better.

Wendy and I work together on the Gospel of Life committee at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. When she joined our group, she made an immediate impact with her holiness as well as her leadership and passion for our pro-life ministry. We are also both parents with children attending Guerin Catholic High School. Wendy is sunny, articulate, witty, and an authentic lover of the Lord. I find her energy and passion inspiring!

Several months back, I agreed to take on a writing and editing role for the high school’s new “parent to parent” newsletter. I mentioned to Wendy that the principal and chaplain at GC were both interested in us running something which might help parents navigate the terrain when it comes to overseeing teens and their technology. She promptly volunteered to contribute a piece that spoke to this topic from the perspective of spirituality and our responsibility as parents.

Today, I finally read her work and it made me sit down my iced tea and take a deep breath. I said a prayer and thanked Jesus for sending this wise mom into my life. When she suggested to the readers in this article (that I am editing now) that it might be wise to ask oneself as a parent if a child would watch a particular program, YouTube video, or use the app if Jesus was sitting on the couch with them…? Well, she made me think. She talked about how we vowed before God at their baptisms to keep our children safe from the poison of sin, and she suggested that our concern should be whether or not our decisions as parents are glorifying God.

I’m going to be brutally honest. It’s been a while since I’ve given consideration to how I might stand before the Lord and answer to God about baptismal promises. Heck, I barely remember my kids baptism days. I was probably sleeping standing up with baby spit up all over my shoulder. It’s a blur. That’s the thing about Wendy. When I am around her, I leave her thinking MORE about Jesus and less about myself and my own petty concerns and excuses. Her goodness and faithfulness is fruitful. She helps me remember who I am and to whom I ultimately belong.

Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your sunshine and your beautiful, faithful heart…with all of us in your path. You inspire in me a desire to love the Lord a little more each time I see you!

“For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Mad for…Michael

Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are. (H. Kushner)

August 6, 2019–

The handsome young man pictured on the left above with his beautiful mom, Julia, is Michael Mattei. Michael turns 25 today, and that fact seems nearly impossible to believe! He’s the oldest son of Julia and her husband, Steve, and the brother to Jack, Megan, and Joey Mattei. This entire family has a special place in our hearts. They were our long-time neighbors and church/school friends and they remain treasures in our lives, even though we don’t see them as often as we’d like.

I have often told Michael’s mom that she’s my “mom mentor”. The reason is simple! She was in the middle of raising the most phenomenal young man who is 3 years older than my oldest kiddo when I commandeered her guidance many years back. Here’s a hot tip. If you’re looking for someone to guide you as a parent, always choose the one with the most respectful, character-filled children. That was Michael (and his siblings too).

Too often we underestimate the power of a friendly smile, a kind word, or even just a silly fist bump in the hallway. My son, Nick, (who is 3 years younger) always noticed how Michael was spreading sunshine in the hallways back in their grade school days at SLDM. More than once, he came home to excitedly tell me that the “way cool” Michael had given him a high five in the hallway or some such thing. He’d shoot hoops in the driveway with the younger guys and encourage Nick as he hung on for dear life on an innertube at Lake Sweetwater too. I bet you had no idea that that tree you planted sprouted roots and lived on when you left, Michael…but it did! You see, I recall when Nick became the “pretty big deal 8th grader” and I heard from some moms with younger kids about his smiles and hallway fist bumps. When I questioned him about this (awesome) behavior, he said, “I just always wanted to be like Michael, and he was so nice to all of us younger guys!”

A few weeks ago at his grandmother’s funeral, I ran into Michael for the first time in a while. It was a somber occasion, but he greeted me with his bright smile and warm hug. His joyful spirit and quick grin were as present as ever. He’s an enthusiastic, responsible, bright, handsome and witty young man. He is a Cathedral grad and was a Fiji at IU, who now lives in Manhattan! What the heck is happening? How are so many of my favorite kids now adulting?

Today, on your birthday, Michael, I just wanted to give you a little shout out and let you know that the positivity that you project is a piece of needed sunshine in this world! Your future is so incredibly bright!! I hope that today on your special day that you know how much you are appreciated and loved by SO MANY, including the entire Thieme family! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MICHAEL!!

Mad for…Nick Fred

You have such a big heart, you’re bound to have it bump a couple of things along the way. Never make it smaller so that your journey will be easier because there might come a time when you will need the magnitude of your heart to help others in this life. No one wishes the sun to be smaller so that they can find their way west or the north star to find their way home. Be grateful for your big heart for each pump brings new life. (T.B. LaBerge)

August 5, 2019–

I love this photo. It captured the moment that my oldest son, Nick, held his little brother, Drew for the first time. Nick had waited and waited, and then when Drew arrived he went to the NICU, so he had to wait 10 more days. He was SO THRILLED to be a big brother. The photo has a simple note on the back, “Nick holds Drew for the first time, 11/20/99.” Look at the sweet smile on Nick’s face. I don’t mean to go a mushy mom today, but the truth is that Nick’s beautiful heart was evident from the time he was quite small.

He was a fun little boy, and a complete gift from the Lord I could never deserve. Tom and I joked when he was a pre-schooler that we needed to buy stock in 3M, because he was WAY into building things in three dimensions out of construction paper. There were a LOT of versions of the “green monster” at Fenway Park lovingly cut and taped together with rolls and rolls of scotch tape. He liked superheroes too, often fashioning masks and capes from that same construction paper and taping them to his face. He’ll not be thrilled that I found an example to share today, but what are moms for, if not utter humiliation…am I right?

Below: Super Nick!

He dressed as Buzz Lightyear almost daily for a couple of years, and he insisted that Drew be his sidekick, Woody. I wish I could find a photo of the two of them dressed up at Halloween, but that nugget of fabulousness eludes me today, on this, Nick’s 22nd birthday!

Nick is a sports crazy, testosterone filled young man. He was a standout on the baseball field with a big bat and fantastic hands at 1st base who never quite mastered sliding like normal players, so he took to the head first diving technique (which made me slightly crazy as his mother). He played some outfield too and MANY times gunned down runners who had tagged up at third with his surprisingly strong left arm. He’s still got a decent jumper and will mix it up playing hoops with anyone. His senior year in high school, he took up football where he logged a lot of downs on the defensive line. He LOVED that team! These days, though, it’s the game of golf that has his heart. He’s been at the course almost everyday this summer. He and his Xavier University club golf teammates are headed back to their national tournament this fall after winning the club golf championship this past school year. All that is good, and I’m glad he enjoys team sports. Mostly, though, I am proud of his work ethic and what a good and supportive teammate he has always been. Many meaningful friendships in his life have been forged through his passionate love of all sports!

It’s hard for me to believe this kid, the one who first made me a mother, is turning 22 today. There were many times during the past two decades when I felt like I had failed him as a mother. We all feel that way sometimes, I suspect. We notice (especially with oldest children) that we should have done more, or done it differently. We should have been more patient, more loving, or less clueless!

Here’s the thing. A few weeks back, Nick noticed that I was a little blue and he texted me “Hey mom just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you and prayed a decade of the rosary for you on the way to work. Hope you have a great day!” Then, last week when I was truly suffering from the loss of a dear friend, he came at me in the kitchen with his big bear hug and told me he loved me and that he knew it had been a rough week for me. Umm…something went right? What I am attempting to say is that while it’s true I could have spent more energy encouraging cleanliness, for instance, this kid of mine is a very fine human being with a heart of gold. I am so proud of him.

Nick will graduate with a degree in Finance from Xavier University next spring. He has a knack for getting along with others, respecting all despite any differences. His friend groups reflect that terrific gift too. Bright, handsome and with a sunny disposition, Nick sees the positive things in life. I’m going to guess he might not be the flashiest interviewee the college recruiters ever meet, but trust me that is much more about his humility than it is a reflection of the kind of employee he will be. I know I’m his mother, but I’m just saying…whoever ends up with him will have a gem in their organization, because THIS YOUNG MAN IS THE REAL DEAL! He’s a hard worker who builds relationships that last. Wherever he lands, that’s one fortunate organization. His future is bright!

Nick’s a phenomenal friend to many and the best big brother I could ever want my younger sons to have. He’s honest and character filled. He’ll also want you to know that he might not be the biggest, but he’s definitely the strongest of the Thieme men, ha?!

Above: Nick (in yellow), with his brothers Drew and Zach

Today, on the occasion of your 22nd birthday, Nick Fred, I just want you to know that I LOVE YOU TO INFINITY AND BEYOND! For your sake, I hope it’s a banner year for the Pacers, Colts, Boilermakers and Muskies. It looks like you may have to wait another year on the White Sox, ha?! Our good and gracious God sees your glorious heart, and so do I! Keep on shining, kid. Happy Birthday!!!

Mad for…John

A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs- jolted by every pebble in the road. (Henry Ward Beecher)

I love this old picture of John Berger with his two sons, Patrick and Thomas. Look at the baby faces!! This is about how old they were when I met them, and even though Patrick is now in college and Thomas is a Golden Eagle at Guerin Catholic High School, I still largely see these sweet faces in them when we cross paths.

John has coached two of my sons over the years– Drew and Zach– in baseball and football. People who volunteer their time to coach kids are often underappreciated, but not by the Thieme family. Those hours are a significant investment, and we are grateful! The guy is passionate about his sports, but he seems to me to be crazy for baseball! He likes to watch baseball, coach baseball and play baseball!!

We’ve had a great deal of fun over the years teasing John whenever the opportunity has arisen. Mostly, it’s just plain fun because John’s a joyful “people person” who doesn’t even try to hide his laughter at his own jokes (because he definitely thinks he’s hilarious). Usually, he’s not wrong. My friend, Janet Andriole, and I had an exceedingly good time questioning his masculinity every time we ended up at George’s Restaurant with him after a practice or game back in the Skiles Test Baseball years– because he LOVES their hummus. It was funny to us I suppose because it just seemed so incongruous for a guy’s guy like John Berger to order a hummus plate! He’s got a great sense of humor, so he shrugged us off with laughter!

John is a welcoming man who can always be counted on for a wide smile and a big hello hug. Those are my favorite kind of people!

In my son Drew’s senior year of high school, he decided to take up the sport of football. Coach Dilley decided he was a tight end. He was the only true tight end on the team that year and the tight ends coach was….John Berger! We cackled a lot around the dinner table that fall about how watching that duo (Drew and Coach Berger) do their thing was a lot like the blind leading the blind. They managed to make progress together, but more importantly, they had a fantastic time!

We never got to thank Coach Berger properly for the time he spent with Drew during the fall of 2017, or for the incredibly gracious words he wrote about our son to be shared at the awards banquet for the team. As the already emotional mom of a senior, the kindness brought tears to my eyes that night. So, Coach Berger, there’s no time like the present to set things straight! As you celebrate your birthday tomorrow, we want you to know that your cheerful and encouraging spirit has been enjoyed and appreciated by our clan many times over the years. We appreciate you for both your volume and your positivity, ha?! Thanks for all the smiles and the time. We think you are pretty terrific!

If you run into this guy tomorrow, be sure to wish him a HAPPY BIRTHDAY and give him a big hug from the Thieme family! HAVE A GREAT BIRTHDAY, JOHN BERGER!!

Mad for…Agnes

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. (Marcus Garvey)

August 3, 2019–

Last fall, I went on a “bucket list” adventure to Italy with my mom and another mother daughter duo, Nancy Vanderkleed and Erin Ulrich. It was my first trip to Europe and I will never forget the experience. One of the reasons it turned out to be so memorable and meaningful was making the acquaintance of Agnes Crawford while we were in Rome. I absolutely LOVED Rome. The architecture, the art, the piazzas, the gelato…the crazy glorious churches. It was magical!

Agnes is a native of the UK who has lived in Rome for many years. My recollection is that she ended up in Rome because she married an Italian guy. She’s engaging and incredibly bright and articulate. I wish now that I had learned more about her. She speaks both English and Italian, which was completely awesome. Agnes gives tours for Understanding Rome and she has an educational background in architectural history, which made her particularly awesome as our guide.

Agnes met us outside the Colosseum on our first full day in Rome and she showed us around the architectural and historical wonder as well as a great deal of ancient Rome. We saw and learned about the history of the Roman Forum, as well as Palatine Hill. I wasn’t initially super excited about seeing some of this, however, Agnes was spectacular and I was drawn in. The next day she showed us around the Vatican, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. She’s pictured above speaking to us in the nave of St. Peter’s. Being the Jesus girl that I am, I’m not entirely sure what she told us at that moment, because I was in a bit of a stupor from the fact that I was inside St. Peter’s Basilica. I definitely needed more time there than we had!

Today, Agnes is celebrating her birthday. I meant to send her a note when we returned home to thank her for helping to make our trip extra special, but neglected to do it. Therefore, I wanted to reach out and say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AGNES! You are great at what you do and I am grateful for your time and expertise! I hope your friends and family spoil you on your special day!!

If you are ever in Rome for a visit and want to arrange a private tour, I highly recommend Agnes. Check out http://www.understandingrome.com for more information!

Mad for…Luke

I meant to behave but there were too many other options.

August 2, 2019–

The kid is fairly docile the majority of the time, and sometimes, he can be a handful of ornery! Argumentative, articulate and athletic, this is a young man with a bright future in front of him. He’s a natural born salesman who has never met a stranger. Here’s the thing about Luke Wiese…he always makes me smile. We should never neglect to notice the importance of a person with this gift!

Luke loves to start trouble just to hear the conversation play out. It makes me laugh. He’s stubborn and combative, but in the most charming way imaginable. He’s anything but ordinary. He’s a talker, a force to be reckoned with, and a young man who should not be underestimated. In the Thieme house, we picture him as a lawyer or a future politician– or both! Luke is a kid who is comfortable speaking to people of all ages. He’s confident and incredibly intelligent. I don’t mean to disparage young people when I say this, but it’s true in my estimation that many young adults are just poor communicators. They are experts at texting and snap chat, but many can’t hold a conversation. In fact, many don’t realize that the “phone” part of the word “cellphone” means you can actually place a call and TALK to another human. If my son, Nick Fred, is on a phone call, I know with a fair amount of certainty that he’s speaking to either his grandfather or his friend Luke Wiese. He’s the last man born in 1997 who makes actual phone calls. Ha? I can’t help myself…I just really like him.

When I first noticed Luke, he was playing freshman basketball at Guerin Catholic on the same team as Nick. He was quick and cagey, a standout for his athleticism. He moved on from hoops and focused on tennis shortly after that and ended up playing tennis at Ball State before chronic shoulder injuries got the better of him. He’s now spending his summer studying for the LSAT in Washington DC, where he is a student at American University.

Luke turns 22 today. He’s pictured above at the left with friends (including our Nick) in our kitchen. He and my oldest son, Nick, have remained good buddies. They seem to enjoy a lot of the same things and spend an extraordinary amount of time in my presence arguing about super important things like their golf games and the Pacers, ha? As anxious as he sometimes is to be right, he’s even more loyal as a friend. He’s also a handsome kid with a winsome attitude who has never let his diabetes stop him for a second, and he’s got a fantastic sense of humor. There’s a lot to admire about this gifted young man.

As you celebrate your birthday today, I just wanted you to know that you are always welcome at the Thieme house, kiddo! It’s hard for me to admit it, but I miss you!! We happen to love all kinds– even crazy smart, right-fighting goofballs– over here. You make us giggle and we love what a great friend you are to Nick. You, young man are irreplaceable! HAPPY BIRTHDAY LUKE! I hope your day is as fantastic as you!

Mad for…Grace

Life is not about the mistakes you’ve made. It’s about the lessons you’ve learned and the friends you’ve made along the way.

I made a new old friend in the last several days. Her name is Grace Hineman. Grace is the sunny and compassionate mom of 3 (Michael, Maddie and Lizzie) and wife to Mike. She runs Cups Coffee in downtown Indy and she likes golf a little. She’s an IU girl who went to Brebeuf, and I can’t help it that I like her all the same, ha?! I don’t know tons more yet about her little “isms” but I have a feeling I am going to learn. Let me explain “new old friend”. It seems important to me that you understand.

I’ve known Grace for a long time– nearly 20 years. I’ve heard lots of stories about her sweet family and I know all about the quality of her character and how she radiates positivity. I know she understands how to walk alongside others on their journey through this insanity we call life during the joys and the sorrows. She’s incredibly bright and cheerful. Some of this I have observed for myself from afar, but most of my knowledge comes from our pretty terrific mutual friend, Karen Volpe. Karen talked about Grace quite a bit as she was clearly crazy about her. Karen very often shared a recap of their latest adventure with me when the two of us were catching up– and always with a smile on her face. Their friendship was most certainly of God. It made my heart happy to know Karen had a Gracie Hineman in her corner!

In the last few days as our very dear mutual friend neared the end of her earthly life, Grace called me. We texted. We talked again. We made plans to get together. It became clear to me that while we had never previously been close, we both felt significant mutual respect and concern for one another. It was an easy fit. I didn’t have to wonder what kind of person Grace really is, because you see my friend Karen had already given me her seal of approval on Grace Hineman many years ago. Hugging her last night and again this morning felt so natural and I coped better with a tough couple days having seen her beautiful face. She felt much more like an old friend I love than a new friend I was just getting to know better. Therefore, I have declared that Grace is my new old friend and I really do love her. Sorry for your luck, Mrs. Hineman!!

Karen taught me about the importance of appreciating each day and about how relationships are what life is all about. She’d be SUPER thrilled to know that Grace and I have been laughing and telling stories about her together. Thanks, Grace, for being an amazing human. You are the real deal. Our journey continues…

Rest in peace, KPV.