Mad for…Irene

Be the living of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Today is the feast day of Mother Teresa. To me, she is a great model of selflessness and humility. People of all faiths came to see her as an example of goodness and service to others. As I was thinking about her today, I decided I wanted to share with you a bit about a pretty terrific and remarkable woman who shares many of these qualities. Her name is Irene Beck.

Irene is the much beloved grandmother of my two nieces, Maddie and Ellie. She’s the mother-in-law of my only sibling, Robin, who married into the Beck family. My first real extended exposure to Irene was when my two oldest boys were very young. They invited us to visit with the entire Beck clan in Galena, Illinois for a couple of nights. We were so gotten by the welcome Irene showered on our boys that I don’t think I’m quite over it even now. She had all sorts of toys and fun little boy activities to entertain Nick and Drew, who were quite young at the time. Let’s keep in mind, she didn’t then and still doesn’t have any grandsons! Her focus was on making sure that our little family felt welcomed with open arms, and in that she succeeded! Every single interaction I’ve had with her since then has been equally notable. She’s a gifted communicator, authentic and genuinely caring woman who never fails to shine light on others with her compassionate and inclusive personality.

As I’ve shared previously in this column, Bill and Irene Beck are phenomenal humans in copious ways. For instance, they run a charitable trust that is committed to helping those in need. Depaul University (Irene’s alma mater), multiple community food pantries, schools serving low-income youth, and many other worthy charities have been recipients of their generosity. I could write a plethora of articles about the way they contribute positively and make a difference for others by the way they live their lives.

However, today I want to share something more personal. My only sister lives a few hours away. It’s a bummer of the highest order!! I don’t get to see Robin, Chris and their girls as often as I’d like. When Robin started struggling with her health some time back, I worried. When she needed to move out of her home to a more allergy-free environment for a while, Irene didn’t hesitate. Bill and “I” took her in– which meant having the whole family in the city with them. It’s hard for me to be far away sometimes, but it was such a relief to know that the great Robino was safe and breathing easier in Chicago under their watchful eye, being loved up.

Irene is a proud New York native and a very involved grandmother. She is stunningly present for my nieces. Thoughtful, sunny, and always wearing the brightest smile, this is a woman who knows how important it is to be plugged in to the lives of those around her. She never tries to attract attention to herself, but in much the same way as Mother Teresa did, she shines so brightly that one simply cannot fail to spot her awesomeness. Today, I wanted to take a moment to thank Irene, and point out to my little corner of the world what a brilliant example she is of what the face of kindness looks like. I am grateful to know you, Irene!!

Mad for…Barb

Happy people don’t have the best of everything, they make the best of everything!

Above is a picture of two out of the three exceedingly beautiful Kordesh women. On the left is my friend, Barb, and she’s pictured here with her daughter Kristen. I met Barb and her husband Steve a few years ago through CYO sports at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers, where their son Matthew signed up to play a little basketball. He ended up on Zach’s team, and Tom was his coach.

As a parent to three boys who attended school from Pre-K through 8th grade at a Catholic elementary school, I quickly came to admire the “non-school” families who not only signed their children up to play CYO sports at their parish, but who decided to dive completely in to a group already very well-acquainted with one another. It’s hard to be the “outsider”. Jumping right in was definitely what the Kordesh family chose to do, and I hope they experienced a warm welcome! So many of us immediately enjoyed Barb, Steve and Matthew. What I love about Barb is that she keeps smiling, no matter what life brings, and she was always up for whatever shenanigans we were undertaking. If we had a pizza party, there they were. If we decided to organize a Christmas toy drive for a needy family, Barb always said “count us in”, willing to do what she could.

Her sarcastic good humor, competitive fire, and positivity are what stand out most for me about Barb over the course of time. She’s interested and engaging, articulate and kind. She’s the mother to three: Kristen, Katie and Matthew. Those are three incredibly blessed young people to have such an energetic and loving mama! I ran into Barb a few weeks ago when her Matthew and our Zach played on opposing teams for a high school tennis match. Matthew and his Fishers Tigers were much too much for the Guerin Catholic tennis boys that day, but it was so wonderful to have a few moments to catch up with Barb and hear the latest and greatest. As always, her warmth and bright smile made my day!

Barb, I am long overdue to share with you how much I truly enjoyed our time together over the years while our youngest kiddos played hoops together. Your sunniness and awesome sense of humor never failed to make every interaction with you a positive experience. I chose the quote above as I attempt to honor you today because to me it speaks loudly about the quality of your character. Thank you for choosing happy and sprinkling it around! We’re all better for knowing you, and the whole darn world would be too if we follow your lead!