Mad for…Will

“…and she loved a little boy very, very much, even more than she loved herself.” (Shel Silverstein)

When my three boys were very small, they didn’t have a babysitter very much. Usually, Grandma Kate and Grandpa Jim got the gig. However, they did have one kid who was their favorite, because he was cool guy, a baseball catcher, and he let them wrestle around acting stupid. Boys love that at any age, ha? One time we came home and the boys were sitting on his back pretending they were on horseback. Sheesh. Poor kid. I probably WAY underpaid him. Will Volpe lived 2 doors down from us on Garden Gate Way, so that fact was also a super easy bonus for mom and dad!

Handsome, intelligent and responsible are three quick adjectives that come to mind when I think of William. He’s the son of Mark and Karen Volpe, and the oldest of the Volpe children. He’s pictured, above right, with his brother Mitchell and sister, Sam. He’s a Boilermaker, a Purdue engineer to be specific. I’m not sure who he works for now, but I do know they’ve got a gem in him. Will has always had such a beautiful, warm heart and a bright smile. I can’t escape thinking about him today, as it’s the first birthday he’s celebrating without his mama, my dear friend who thought sun rose and the moon set on this young man and his two siblings. His mom and I used to talk about him behind his back a lot. It’s what moms do. Sometimes she worried about him, but mostly, just the thought of him made her smile and count her blessings. She was overwhelmed to tears in my presence, with pride about being his mother…many times.

Life has hard times and it has good times. I’ve noticed over the years that Will simply seems stronger, more kind, and more independent no matter the circumstance. There’s an endearing tenderness about this young man. Karen used to say “Will was a blessing from the start.” She adored his smile, and she cherished his hugs. I know she’s watching down on him today, showering him with abundant grace from her perch on high. I’m also certain he’s missing the hell out of her today. Me too, Will. I’m learning, ever so slowly, that grief is really just love, deep abiding love.

William Volpe is capable, hard-working and integrity-filled. He’s respectful and he’s got a great laugh. He is loved by MANY, most certainly including the Thieme family. We are SO PROUD of you, Will and we hope you celebrate in a big way, because yours is a life certainly worth celebrating!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILL VOLPE!

Mad for…Will

Believe in yourselves, dream, try, do good. (Mr. Feeny)

This morning, I noticed that there is a handsome young man who is celebrating a birthday today. He’s a kid I have enjoyed since that day I met him because he’s got this impish grin I cannot resist. The boy has a definite mischievous quality about him, but also Will Fremion is just incredibly likeable!

Will is the youngest of the four Fremion kids. He has older brothers, Grant and Joey, and one sister, a beautiful young woman named Maddie who is the oldest of the bunch as well as a fellow Boilermaker. The Fremion family are parishioners at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. The pretty terrific parents of this brood are Mike and Pam Fremion. We first got to know this family just a little several years back when Grant was playing a little high school baseball with our son, Nick. The friendship has grown since that time, largely because of the sports loving youngest sons in our families. Will Fremion and our Zach are both freshmen at Guerin Catholic High School this fall and proud members of the class of 2023! I’m not going to lie, that number makes me feel OLD. I remember being in high school, and it doesn’t feel like it was 30 years ago…oh, but it was!

“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” That’s a quote by the late, great Fred Astaire. If you don’t know who he is, then I am only proving my point about age again, ha? The reason I share it here is because to me, though he may sometimes be a stinker like all smelly 15-year olds, Will Fremion does one thing better than almost all of his peers. He’s polite. I NEVER and I mean NEVER run into Will without getting at least a cursory “Hey, Mrs. Thieme!” His peers could stand a lesson from him, truth be told. Awkward is the buzz word that most frequently applies to kids of this age, but Pam and MIke Fremion…I want you to know that your youngest son is doing the right thing here even when no one else is paying any attention. I flat out ADORE a young person who takes the time to notice the folks around them and takes a moment to say hello. I guess what I’m saying is that I SEE YOU, WILL FREMION!! Nicely done.

I have no idea what kind of student Will is in school, but I know one thing for sure. He’s going to be a successful human because friendliness and good manners always open doors that even the most smarty pants of humans cannot gain access to in this life.

Will has a genuine smile and a twinkle in his eye. He’s competitive, a good teammate, and not just a little fiery. He’s enthusiastic, and I love me some high volume, fire in the belly boys!! His volume control issues are not a quality he inherited from his mother, by the way, ha? The volume came from Mike. I joke, but the truth is that Mike and Pam are caring, supportive parents who have done a lot of things right. They’ve loved those four kids unconditionally, and it shows in the characters of each of them, most certainly including today’s birthday boy!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILL! I can’t wait to cheer you on during basketball season. I’ll be the one yelling for you louder than is appropriate or necessary. Count on it. It’s what I do with all the kids I adore. You’re so lucky, haha?!! I hope your day is half as special as you are, because you deserve to be celebrated!

Mad for…Kathryn

Love is not proud. Love does not boast. Love after all, matters the most. Love will protect. Love always hopes. Love still believes when you don’t. Love is the arms that are holding you. Love never fails you. (from Brandon Heath’s song “Love Never Fails”)

A few years back, I told my pastor that I wanted to get involved in my new parish. I know, I’m a glutton for punishment, right? It’s a place full of faith. There are a lot of people who kneel in front of Jesus there like they know in whose presence they are currently located. It’s impressive as heck. Also, this crazy parish is the home to an insanely large number of parishioners…close to 15,000? That fact makes plugging in intimidating to a newcomer with a spiritual inferiority complex, and I needed an assist. Fr. Richard said, “Gospel of Life. I think that group will be a good fit for you.” My participation in that little group has been a boon to my faith because of the friendships I’ve made with folks who love the Lord, but also because the committee often is responsible for bringing in speakers who talk to the parish about all sorts of things related to the sanctity of human life. One such recent speaker was a Texas author, Kathryn Whitaker. She shared a meaningful message about loving in all circumstances– a lesson she learned from the stressful premature birth of her fifth child– a little boy named Luke.

After her talk at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, I bought her book and had her sign it. She wrote, “May you always live a HELL YES kind of life.” It’s an inscription I’m sure she’s signed many times by now, but as I read it for the first time a couple weeks later, I had a strong reaction. I thought “Hmm. That sounds scary?” I decided I would read her book to see if I could uncover exactly what she meant, and today I did just that. I thought back about my interactions with Kathryn and measured her a skosh. I mean, if you’re reading this silly blog and have been paying any attention at all, you’ve probably figured out by now that I am an observer of people. I’ll even humbly submit that it’s an area of giftedness for me. Every one of us has strengths that others can learn from, and usually, I can spot them in short order.

So, back to the beautiful spitfire from the Lone Star state. You see, I had been very involved in the behind the scenes organizing of this particular parish event so I had spoken to Kathryn on the phone and by email. I had observed her during set up and we met briefly. My pastor, a man who measures his out his words of affirmation in a very conservative fashion had sung her praises for months. An attractive, sassy and articulate lover of Jesus, this gal speaks at a break-neck pace with her sweet southern drawl. She’s got a lot to say and had little time to get it done. She is not a speaker who circles the drain. Energy and passion ooze from her as she succintly makes her point! When her microphone didn’t work, I laughed interiorly. Of course her mic didn’t work even though it had been tested. Ditto the back up lavaliere. AND NOW SHE HAD MY FULL ATTENTION. You see, Satan CLEARLY didn’t want us to hear from her, and so I was all ears! I learned after the event that a frequency problem we had never previously experienced was the root cause of the mic issues, by the way. It’s almost comedy to me. If I were her, I’d consider it the most lovely compliment. Satan was bugged by her, you guys. How awesome is that?

Kathryn kept going. She’s a force of nature. What makes Kathryn spectacular is that she is in the business of using the blessings of her life as well as her unique, saucy brand of giftedness to glorify the Lord. She writes and speaks about how our good and gracious God is in the miracle business every single day. She urges people to push through the panic and discomfort of the cross and let God love us. Explained through the lens of her big family and the challenges that have come her way over the years, it’s spoken in compelling fashion. We should take what we’ve learned from our own lives as well as those inspired by the folks around us and spend what remains of our lives fearlessly loving BIGGER. Great message, right?

Folks. I stink at moderation. I’m not good at eating, praying, or loving moderately. So, when this faith-filled, very authentic woman of integrity closed her book “Live Big, Love Bigger” with the following paragraph, I’ve got to tell you…I thought back to my initial reaction to her inscription in my copy of her book.

“This life was meant for living, so I encourage you to set fear aside and love bigger. Can I get a HELL YES? Let’s say it a little louder for the folks in the back, shall we?”

HELL YES, Kathryn. HELL TO THE YES!

Folks, get her book. It’s accessible and full of the wittiness and faith of it’s author. Also, listen to that Brandon Heath song I quoted from at the beginning of this post. It’s a favorite of this very impressive wife, mom and author for a reason. Thanks for sharing what you know and pointing me to Jesus, Kathryn. I kind of feel like I should order you a case of Dr. Pepper on Amazon Prime or something and have it shipped to Texas to properly express my gratitude. You are big scoop of awesome sauce!

St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers, PRAY FOR US!

Mad for…Chris

To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there. (Barbara Bush)

They say the purest love one can find in this life is the love of a good mother. That means Grace, Molly and Sean Wehner find themselves in rare air. Even from a distance of a couple hundred miles, I can see those three young people are loved beyond all telling. Their mom, Chris Deible Wehner, is a strong, remarkable woman who is crazy about them! She’s pictured above, right, with her mom, brother Rich, and two of her three kiddos.

I don’t know Chris well enough to say for sure if she stays up half the night overthinking and worrying about her two daughters and her son. However, she certainly is the outspoken and undisputed chief of her little tribe…and she has their backs. She has definitely instilled in them the belief that they can and should aim just a little outside their comfort zone and beyond their easy reach, because these young people she has raised are high achievers. She makes it look easy. The truth, though, looks a bit more like this quote I tucked away on a post-it note. “Raising kids is a walk in the park. Jurassic Park.” HA!!? I don’t know who said it, but it’s hilarious because…it speaks truth all of us know who have been blessed with children.

She’s a sassy, saucy, gutsy woman with a soft heart. She’s faith-filled and also witty and not just a little cheeky. She’s brave, resolute and adventurous. For instance, as I type I think Chris is on her way to Italy with her mom, Josephine, who just celebrated her 80th birthday. She didn’t have much of a plan, Chris just knew she wanted to love up her mom in a daring, big way. That 80th birthday is a milestone shared with my father-in-law, Tom. You see, Chris and my husband are cousins. As the family planned this duo’s big celebration, it was Chris who organized the invitations. Honestly, I don’t know how she came up with enough time to do that work, as these things were works of art! Her love was evident and she poured it out in that project for sure! It was impressive.

Here’s what’s always been defining to me about Chris. She makes it clear by her reliable presence, as well as her time and actions that she values her roots and that family is important to her. Unlike many of the members of the extended Thieme family, she does NOT reside in central Indiana. Chris and her three kiddos claim Chicago as their home base. Nevertheless, she has been incredibly present over the years at all the family weddings, funerals, holidays and other events along the way– often more so than many of us who live closer. Despite whatever the struggle might have been in getting it done, Chris always shows up. She does the little important things, like keep the family address list current and send it out during the holidays.

Today, with her infectious laugh still fresh in my mind, I just wanted to give a little shout out to Tom’s cousin, Christine. I so enjoyed spending the evening with her yesterday. She’s one of those secretly incredible people who just gets stuff done behind the scenes. When I see her, she’s always wearing a beautiful smile. Being with her inevitably leaves me feeling just a little more joyful…mostly because I’m probably still giggling. I just flat out like her. She’s a beautiful human. Thanks for sprinkling the world with your brand of sassy sunshine, Chris. I think you are a big scoop of super sauce!

“…Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

Mad for…Julie

It takes courage to live through suffering; and it takes honesty to observe it. (C.S. Lewis)

Unceasingly wet. That’s what yesterday was like in my hometown. Tom and I brought Zach along and headed to Ross-Ade Stadium all the same to suffer through an ugly day with our Boilermakers. We were dressed like the Gordon’s Fisherman for the occasion. I’ll be honest, in the third quarter when my hands turned to ice cubes, I was not sure they would ever properly thaw. Our team had very little fire in the belly and I am considering sending a bill for my rain gear to the athletic department at Purdue, ha? However, the day had a pretty fantastic turnaround when an old high school friend showed up for a visit!

Tom and I with Julie!

Julie Tiller and I were high school friends. She only attended Central Catholic for a short time, but the affection I have for her has endured. She still sports the same beautiful blond hair and aside from perhaps her mother, I don’t know that I have ever known anyone as authentic. I value genuine people who are not driven by ego, money or status. Julie has an honest heart and there is simply not one fake thing about her. It’s a defining quality for sure!!

As we caught up with Julie and she shared updates on her family, her compassionate heart came through for me loud and clear. She shared rather poignantly about both the joy and difficulty of watching a Purdue Football game from the press box full of pictures and memories of her Dad, Joe, who she lost fairly recently. I loved her honest telling of how she got off that elevator and inadvertently made a strangers eyes well up because she couldn’t hide her own emotions. Grief is a price we pay for love.

Julie lives in Buffalo, Wyoming. That’s not a place anyone should live who is faint of heart, and my funny friend is certainly far from that! She’s stubborn, spiritual, intelligent…and witty. A natural story teller and a loving soul who cares deeply, Julie hasn’t had the smoothest run these last couple years. Nevertheless, she’s running her race and moving forward.

Julie, thanks for gracing Mom’s kitchen table last night with your glorious smile and your stories about bins full of socks and barns crammed with antiques. We loved hearing about Renee’s place, Piezano’s…and I hope one day to get a slice of that unorthodox meat lovers pizza that still has my mouth watering!! Don’t be a stranger my friend. You are a fantastic human!! Hugs and love to you and all the Tillers! ❤️

P.S. If I ever run into a tiny violin, don’t be surprised if you receive a special delivery in the mail from Indiana. Hahaha!!

Mad for…Josephine

When you observe kind and gentle mothers in action, you see women of great strength. (Margaret D Nadavid)

Tom and Josephine Thieme (at about age 4)

My husband Tom is the son of Tom and Jane Thieme. What I always found really interesting is that both his parents were twins! Jane was an identical twin and Tom Sr. has a twin sister, Josephine Deible, who lives in the Chicago area. Today is the 80th birthday of Tom and Josephine!! We plan to celebrate this festive occasion with a big gathering in Lafayette, and I for one am really looking forward to that event!

Today, I wanted to take a moment to honor Aunt Jo with a little shout out on this rather auspicious occasion. I haven’t spend loads of time with her during my 25 years as a member of the Thieme family, but certainly long enough to tell you what I observe as her defining qualities– she’s both gentle and incredibly kind! A soft-spoken woman with a peaceful temperament, I have always observed her to be an incredibly supportive mother and grandmother. She has a tender and pleasant disposition and she’s clearly crazy about her two children, Christine and Rich, as well as her three amazing grandchildren. Grace, Molly and Sean are most definitely the apples of her eye.

Aunt Jo with her son, Rich

I’m sure today as she celebrates she’s feeling the loss of her husband, Dick, in a rather profound way. That said, her day simply MUST be celebrated in a big way today, because she’s a woman I’ve always thought displayed great strength of character and tremendous integrity— a life worth celebrating large!! Warm-hearted, truly loving women like Aunt Jo are jewels and they are meant to be treasured. I sure hope she feels the love this weekend!

HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY, AUNT JO!

Mad for…Jake

Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how. (Unknown)

When a gal finds herself with yet another high school freshman boy living in her home (in fact the third and final freshman in our family) one quickly remembers that on the “social” spectrum in life, there’s really not a lower spot on which to be located. Being a ninth grade boy can be a tad rough in spots, and there is simply no way to avoid the awkward. Thankfully, it’s quite temporary! However, this is why I am trying in an intentional way this year to highlight some of these terrific young men, lest they forget how amazing they are. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the handsome and very sunny Jacob Modleski! He’s pictured, above left, with his friend and fellow OLMC grad, Bryce Kreiner.

Jake is a 9th grader at Guerin Catholic High School. As I understand it, this phenomenal kiddo is attempting to take on three sports this year for the Golden Eagles. Since he’s both athletic and quite bright, I feel like the kid has a fair chance to accomplish this task and be successful at soccer, basketball and golf too!!

Outgoing, intelligent and funny, Jake is a friendly young man. In fact, a mutual friend, Claudine Kreiner, shared with me this afternoon that two of her boys consider Jacob to be another older brother, so gifted and welcoming is he with younger children. Also, as uncool as I tend to be trying to force 15 year-olds to have awkward conversations with me, Jacob has several times humored me just long enough that I have been able to discern that he is a very articulate boy. He is impossible to miss, because he just shines!

A goalie for the Freshman and JV soccer teams this fall, Jake has become remarkably successful at the sport in rather fast fashion. This, I assume, is largely due to his fast feet, great hands and plenty of competitive fire. He loves to fish, and the kid knows how to strike a golf ball! He’s been both helpful and encouraging in this sport to our Zach who is a less experienced, but enthusiastic golfer.

Jake is the son of Matt and Dianne Modleski and he has an older brother, Keaton, who graduated from GCHS last spring. Jake, I just wanted to take a moment today to let you know that I’ve been keeping my eye on you for a couple years now and it’s become very apparent to me that you are a fantastic young man, full of character and integrity. As a team mate, you’re top notch too. I love, love, love how you always keep things positive, loose and how you cheer loudly for the guys around you! Keep up the good work, kid…and GO GOLDEN EAGLES!!