Mad for…Nicholle

Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops. (Henry Brooks Adams)

My oldest son is a college senior this year. He’s a happy, (relatively, ha?) well-adjusted Finance major at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Even though we all worry about our kids, no matter the age, the fact is that there is some corporation, bank, or other organization out there who will undoubtedly find this hard-working gem I call my son. I have some friends who joke with me about the fact that we are all pretty sure our kids are going to live in our basements forever. The truth is, Nick Thieme is ready to fly. He hasn’t found his job yet, but he will because a sharp kid with a strong work ethic is always going to land on his feet. It’s the very fact that I am using words like “career” and “corporate” in the same sentence as my baby that has me a little rattled, frankly. How can this child of mine be about to embark on the real world? It’s impossible to think that he’s 22 years old. It seems like 5 minutes ago he was in Nicholle Wewora’s first grade class at St. Louis de Montfort!

Nicholle Wewora is now Nicholle Smith. She’s got two incredibly adorable children and a handsome husband named Marc. I haven’t seen her in person in many years, but I do keep an eye on her through social media and sometimes I get updates from a few of her old colleagues. Because my mother was a teacher, I know how much hard work it is to do that job. However, the best thing about being a teacher, in my opinion, is that it matters. The influence of a great teacher like Nicholle can never be erased.

Is Nicholle Smith even in a classroom anymore? I don’t even know. However, I do know this. When my bright little squirrel was a first grader, he could not stay focused. She was a very young teacher and she called me one day to say he wasn’t finishing his work, and she suspected it wasn’t because he couldn’t do it, but because he just lost interest halfway through. I laughed and talked about how he was probably counting ceiling tiles or looking out the window, and I told her I would try and talk to him. She said, “No, I have an idea. I just want to get your permission first to try it.”

She went on to explain how she and Nick had bonded over their mutual love of the Purdue Boilermakers and that she’d learned he was a competitive, sports-loving boy. She didn’t want to stress him out, but she wondered if making a little competition out of the work might be tried. I agreed. So, it was then that Nick began trying to beat Miss Wewora’s timer. He got great joy out of telling me how fast he was with his math facts, for instance, saying things like “I set an all time record getting math facts done today, Mom! I cut 4 seconds off my time!!”

Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this young man is still a procrastinator sometimes… but he always hits the deadline with good work. Here’s the thing. After first grade, he never needed that timer. He learned how to focus better in school and his grades have always been excellent. You see, he got off to a good start with a spunky, creative, energetic teacher who used her giftedness and sunshine to influence a young man in a way that stuck. I believe Nicholle to be the kind of person who always lights the way for others. I strongly suspect that she continues to patiently nurture the young people in her life to this day.

As my oldest finishes his “school years” this year, his old teacher, Nicholle (Wewora) Smith is on my mind today. I’m feeling thankful to her for the articulate, helpful, and kind human being she has been to SO MANY young people over the years including to my two oldest sons. Certainly, she made a positive impact the Thieme family. As the daughter of a teacher, I know circling back years later to say THANK YOU is definitely not too late. You were a gem right out of the box, Nicholle. The world is a much better place for your positivity and fantastic influence on others. I may be a day late with the birthday love, but I do believe in the festival approach to such celebrations anyway! IT’S STILL YOUR BIRTHDAY WEEK SO… HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NICHOLLE!!

P.S. Also, Nicholle? You were good with photos even way back when! I spotted a CD you made of that class 16 years ago not so long ago and it was filled with beautiful smiles you wanted to share with us parents. The images warmed my heart even more these many years later. Thanks for being a giant scoop of awesome!

Mad for…Mary Lou

She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction on her tongue. (Prov. 31:26)

Mary Lou Fischer is a woman who knows trusting in God to counsel and guide us is the best path. She shared with me from time to time when I would run into her about her quiet joyfulness by explaining that she reflects often about the blessings of her life. She’s a wise woman whose time alone with the Lord seems to have graced her with the sweet peace of God.

I met Mary Lou almost 20 years ago when we went to get our middle son baptized at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers. We were brand new parishioners at SLDM with a newborn who had special health concerns at the time. It’s easy to forget those early struggles when one looks at my very large 6’5 inch Boilermaker today! She said, “no problem” and she came to the house and cheerfully prepared us for the process. This woman spent many years being a jack of all trades for SLDM. She helped with weddings and funerals, loved up students at the school, and kept the religious education program running smoothly, among other duties as a pastoral associate for the parish. She taught protocol classes before the program went online. I honestly feel like there is probably no ministry on campus at SLDM that she was not involved in at one time or another. Mary Lou was a fixture at the parish with an impressive work ethic and a positive attitude. Her influence and gentle spirit made her the face of Christ to all she encountered.

She has suffered tragedies and set backs, like all of us do eventually in this crazy life, and she has met them with courage and eyes of faith. As a mother and grandmother, she is supportive and loving beyond words. I always enjoyed watching her interact with others because of the grace-filled words and quiet optimism she never failed to share. She is especially gifted with children.

When Mary Lou retired, I failed to reach out and thank her properly for her incredible service to the parish and to our family specifically. It’s a regret I’m attempting to rectify today. Mary Lou, thank you for your example of faith and for setting high standards for those around you. I’m grateful for all the beautiful smiles and warm hugs as well as the wisdom and prayers. Thank you for being someone who always taught me by your example to trust in providence and rest in the peace of Christ. Because of you, many of us learned an important lesson– that we should be grateful no matter what! May the blessings of the Lord always be abundantly present for you, Mary Lou! Hugs from the Thieme family…and say hello to Wes from us!!

Mad for…Meg

Nothing is more beautiful than a woman who is brave, strong and emboldened because of who Christ is in her.

We need more goodness, more virtue, more women of faith. We need more kindness, tenderness and genuine concern for purity. We need more pretty hearts and beautiful souls. We need more women like Meg Ryder.

Meg is the wife to a top shelf guy named Tom and the mother to a talented and soft-hearted daughter named Faith. Tom and Meg are pictured above. She comes from a large and loving family full up to their eyeballs with love of the Lord. She’s lived a very blessed life, and she knows her belovedness. These gifts, she shares generously with others.

I met Meg several years ago when we attended a Christ Renews His Parish retreat at St. Louis de Montfort. Her goodness shined like sunbeams then as now. She was impossible to miss. I admire Meg because of how she has risen above the storms that life brings us all. She is one of the women who taught me by her witness that all of us may have areas of brokenness but God still chooses us and uses us to bring others to Him.

Meg is funny and beautiful. Her smile is as genuine as her character and integrity. She’s an incredibly affirming person. It’s no surprise then that her daughter shares many of these same qualities. I ran into Meg today at the SLDM fall fest. Her warmth and her big bear hug made my day and I decided I was LONG OVERDUE to tell her how special she is to me and many others! Thank you, Meg, for being a light for others. Your optimism and your faith make the world a better place every single day!

Mad for…Carol

We should all have one person who knows how to bless us despite the evidence. My grandmother was that person to me. (Phylis Theroux)

There’s an old Italian proverb I love which states, “If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.” For those of us lucky enough to be blessed with a terrific grandparent in our lives, there is so much wisdom, love and general spoiling going on there. As a child, that unconditional love I received from my grandparents settled on my soul as a certainty of my own belovedness. My own parents are phenomenally supportive and loving models of what I think God means grandparents to be as well, and my dear friend Renee has been similarly gifted in her life with a stunningly terrific human as her mother and as the grandma to her two kiddos. I’d like to tell you a little more about her. Meet Carol Raver! She’s pictured above, on the right, with her husband and her four fantastic grandkids.

Carol is the sunny wife to a very solid guy named Dave. They live in Batesville, Indiana. Together, they raised two daughters, Kathy (Cruz) and Renee (Schwegman). Because her daughter and I are close friends, I know how supportive and present Carol is as a mother. I watched her drive back and forth from Batesville last year when her daughter Kathy was very ill, in and out of the hospital, for instance, to help fill in the gaps. I know it was exhausting, but that’s just what she knew she needed to do. I’ve seen her at an incredible number of sporting events, plays, choir concerts and of course graduations over the years from my nearby perch. One can see clearly how beautifully she loved and nurtured her daughters as they were raised, by the impressive moms both of these women are now as adults themselves. As a grandmother to Laine, Ty, Lilah and Max, Carol is ever-present. She’s caring, generous, and devoted.

Carol is an amazing woman who is treasured by her family. To Laine, Ty, Max and Lilah, she’s a sprinkle of parenting, a little bit teacher, and a big scoop of unique friendship. I have long thought when observing grandparents that this phase of life is when women come into the fullness of their grace. That certainly seems to be the case with Carol Raver. She’s got a beautiful smile and an infectious laugh that fills the room. I’ve been watching her grandchildren long enough to see how special she makes them feel– one can read in her eyes how enchanted she is with the wonderful things her grandchildren do. It’s this quality that makes me appreciate and admire her the most. Making another human being feel truly loved and special is a gift from God.

Tomorrow, (9/28) Carol is celebrating her birthday! She’s a blessing to her children, her husband, her grandchildren, and all in her path. She’s charitable and kind, gifts she passed along to her girls. If you get a chance, reach out and wish her a terrific and special day, because her life certainly is one we should all celebrate! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAROL!!

Mad for…Jak

Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. (James Barrie)

This picture typifies so many things I love about sports. My new friend, Melissa, sent me this great photo this morning. On the left is her son, Jak Kolb, and on the right (crouched down) is my son, Zach.

This fall, Zach took on a new sport. It’s been an emotion filled whirlwind for a competitive kid like Z who wants to win at every sport he tries. He had literally never played in a tennis match before this season began several weeks ago, and I would call his experience on the GC tennis team exceptionally good. There are many reasons for this, which include but are not limited to supportive coaches, experienced and welcoming teammates like Cole Metzger, Ty Harrington, Carson Kniola, Thomas Darland, Luke Gregor (and many others), and a solid work ethic. However, chief among his blessings this first trimester of high school has been meeting his new friend and doubles partner, Jak Kolb.

Talented, and athletic, Jak is a young man who knows his way around a tennis court. He’s an experienced tennis player and a sophomore for the Golden Eagles. He is also an intelligent, positive, patient and encouraging teammate. For example, during one match earlier in the season, an opponent hit an errant serve which was clearly headed well out of bounds…until Zach reached up to catch it. Jak looked at Z and immediately asked him what the heck he was doing. Z clearly was focused on not having to chase down the poorly delivered serve and didn’t realize that he had in fact lost the point for his team by touching the ball BEFORE it landed out. He shrugged his shoulders saying something super articulate like “that’s my bad”. Let’s just say some of the finer points and rules of tennis have been a learn-as-you-go proposition for Z, ha!? What I love about Jak is that he just laughed and shook it off, and continued to give his signature “You’ve got this, Z” despite the guffaw.

Don’t let me mislead you here. Zach is a natural at tennis, and with his great hands and athleticism he has contributed well to several good wins this season. That said, the on court coaching by his teammate, Jak Kolb, has been an impressive show of leadership by this faith-filled young man.

Jak is the son of Jason and Melissa Kolb, and the older brother to two talented sisters, Katie and Anna, who also play tennis. He’s a parishioner at OLMC where he serves mass as a Knight, which is their high school altar server group. He’s a member of GC’s music program and sings in their choir, Golden Voice. The Kolb family must be incredibly proud. They have raised a terrific young man.

As I drove across Hamilton County recently with 3 boys in my Durango to get to a match, I learned that like Z, Jak is a country music fan. His sunny disposition and his big, genuine smile are fairly spectacular. He’s both polite and articulate. Jak has spent time hitting with Z outside of tennis practice, and he has encouraged Zach to continue to work on his game in the offseason so the team can come back stronger next fall. Z clearly respects the very likeable young Mr. Kolb, and so do I! The two boys have good chemistry on the court, and I really do credit that to the positivity and encouraging temperament of Jak.

That leads me back to the photo above. Last night, Jak and Zach lost a marathon match to a good Zionsville team by the score of 7-6, 5-7, 4-6. It was the second night in a row they played for 2.5 hours, finishing nearly in the dark. Their loss meant the team lost too. They had played well, but those are hard moments. However, just like he did in this candid captured by Melissa above, Jak immediately turned to his friend with encouraging words. Then, they tossed their rackets aside and went across to the other bank of courts where their teammate, John Tiplick, had just found victory in similar circumstances on the singles court. Together, they cheered for John, happy for his success. It was a beautiful thing.

Jak, you are a faith-filled young man of character. The future is extremely bright for terrific humans like you who build others up! Thank you for being such a great example to those around you! Thanks also for bringing your competitive fire to the courts all season and for sharing your sunshine with all of us in your path. Keep up the good work, kid! GO GOLDEN EAGLES!!

Mad for…Joe

A year ago or so, I went in for my annual physical. Grossly overweight and with health issues getting worse by the day, I was, quite candidly a hot mess. An excellent doctor like Joe Martin whose comforting and reassuring words are sometimes far more powerful than any medicine ever could be, he was in good form that morning. As gently and compassionately as a human could ever speak truth is what Dr. Joe Martin did for me that day.

A very faithful Catholic man, Joe is a gloriously kind and compassionate person. If ever there has been a man that I would compare to how I personally picture the Our Blessed Mother, at least temperamentally, it would be this guy. He explained in his soft-spoken way, that no matter what comes next, he will work to help me be as healthy as I can be. Only because I have a rare gem like this man as my doctor was I able to hear the love of Christ in his urging to make a radical decision to lose the weight. It wasn’t something I didn’t already know, of course. There was simply something beyond truth telling going on in our conversation. I didn’t make an immediate move, but I sat with his words for quite a long time. I took them with me to prayer.

“In order to be a good doctor, a man must also have a good character. Whatever weaknesses and foibles he may have, he must love his fellow human being in the concrete and desire their good before his own.” WH Auden

Earlier this week, I returned to see Dr. Martin. Having heeded his advice, but certainly with more work to do, I was nearly 90lbs lighter and not only in body, but in spirit too. His authentic praise for the turnaround in my health was so effusive that I found it almost embarrassing. We talked quite a while about our faith and trust in the Lord and the importance of spending time with Jesus in eucharistic adoration. He told me he wants me to be the woman God has called me to be. I mean, who has a doctor like this? I’ll tell you who– only the truly blessed. Articulate, professional, compassionate and caring are the adjectives that come to mind when I think of this doctor. He’s incredibly bright, but you don’t have to be brilliant to be an excellent doctor. I’ll take a kind truth-teller who loves the Lord every day of the week, even if there might be some doc out there more innovative or with more experience…or whatever. I know I’m not alone on this one, because there is most certainly a reason why this man is not taking new patients. He’s a grace-filled and gifted doctor.

Dr. Joseph Martin, the way you live your professional life leaves me doubting not even for a moment about the sort of husband, father (of 4) and friend you must be to those who are closest to you. Those folks are incredibly blessed to have you in their lives. I am grateful to them for sharing you with those of us who come in to your office every day and soak up so much of your time and energy. You are a bright light with a beautiful, caring smile who never makes me feel like you are in a rush to get to the next patient. In you, I have certainly experienced the love of Christ. Thank you so very much for what you do each day! YOU ARE A GEM!

Mad for…Shelda

Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.

A few years back, I met Shelda Balcer for perhaps the first time (at least formally) in my own family room. You see, the high school kids were headed to the prom at Guerin Catholic and they decided to use our home, which is very near the school, as their “photo op” location. Shelda’s incredibly intelligent and absolutely stunning daughter, Olivia, was headed to the dance that year with my son, Drew. Shelda is pictured above (far left) with her truly gorgeous family.

Before I knew it, Shelda had ordered the rearranging of the furniture and was very definitely commanding the room full of teenagers as to where they should stand, sit, and so on. I thought to myself…well…looks like I have met my match today! Haha! Shelda was sporting a rather impressive camera on her hip, however, so I yielded. I was thrilled a few days later to receive an email with some really lovely pictures of the kids. She’s talented with that camera!

Shelda is the mother of four, two girls and two boys. Her daughters happen to be the same ages as my sons, Nick and Drew, and they ran in the same kid groups while they were Golden Eagles. Emma and Olivia are both incredibly intelligent and kind young ladies who have impeccable manners. I don’t know her sons as well just yet, but it’s hard to miss the very tall and handsome, Dylan, who is a year ahead of Zach at GC. I spot him fairly often serving mass at OLMC. I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure yet of meeting her husband or her youngest son, Adam.

However, I’ve gathered enough evidence to be convicted of a few things about Shelda and I’d like to share them with you today. First of all, she’s a faith-filled, articulate woman with an incredibly beautiful smile. She’s friendly, confident, and positive in her interactions with others. I truly believe there are few things more important or powerful for the next generation than mothers who are prayerful and faithful to the Lord. Shelda is most certainly both of those, and it shows in the integrity of her children. Motherhood is a million little moments. That’s what I know, and I can see that Shelda understands too the words of St. (Mother) Teresa. “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

I see you, Shelda, being the face of Jesus to that beautiful family of yours and the rest of us around you too. You are a woman of character. I chose the quote above as I attempt to honor you today on your 50th birthday, because I think it powerfully applies to you. Thank you for your witness of faith and the grace-filled example of motherhood you provide to those around you. It matters. Those little things are how I think you make your positive difference in this crazy world. I’m grateful for your warmth and your smile as well, because the world needs every single grin! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SHELDA! I hope it’s been a terrific one! My rosary today was for you and your intentions. May our good and gracious God bless you on this special day!