Mad for…Tony

Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. -William James

An intelligent man with a great sense of humor is well…everything! Tony Bonacuse is such a guy. He’s got an infectious grin and he never fails to make me laugh when I see him. Tony is a good-hearted guy who I met through other St. Louis de Montfort families. He’s got a handsome son named Ian who played some baseball and basketball with my youngest son, Zach, over the years. He’s also the husband to a beautiful and generous wife named Polly.

If I’m being completely candid, Tony is kind of a smart aleck. I’d use another word, but I’m keeping the blog PG today. He’s got a confident Italian swagger, but at the same time he’s very kind to people in his path. I haven’t got the slightest clue what Tony does for a living but I am pretty sure he is from northern Ohio, as I recall him mentioning his high school years while feeding us all sorts of humorous lies between innings over at Billericay Park a few years back, ha?

Here’s how Tony won me over, though. Anyone who has spent much time around me or my sons over the years has inevitably met my parents. They are incredibly supportive and loving human beings who have made the 60-mile trek from Lafayette to Indianapolis more times than one could even begin to count over the years. Most of those trips were made to come watch one of their three grandsons play in some sporting contest. My Dad is full up to his eyeballs with personality and if there is anyone approaching his level of orneriness in the area, he will find them like a heat-seeking missile. Therefore, I’ve been known to warn certain folks in advance of the sneak attack that might be coming their way. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to Tony Bonacuse in time, ha? The good news is that with his quick wit and full grasp of the gift that is sarcasm, he had zero trouble with Grandpa Jim, who was heartily laughing and Tony was being utterly monopolized by my Dad by the time I noticed them together the first time at a ball game. I sure do love my Dad, and I have always been grateful for folks like Tony who make him smile and laugh! You, sir, are a good sport!

Tony is a phenomenal dad, and a class act himself. Yesterday was his birthday. I’ve been chasing birthdays all month, darn it! Tony, please excuse the belated good wishes, but I do often say that I believe strongly in the month long celebration. You’ll have to get on board with my line of thinking today because I’m giving you a BIG ITALIAN HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHOUT-OUT!! People like you who smile often, laugh frequently, and never hesitate to share their love for life with others around them are the folks who I think inspire me the most, because the world SO needs your joy! Thanks for giving me a little taste of the “Bonacuse secret sauce” every time I see you!

Mad for…Eric

The fruit of faith should be evident in our lives, for being a Christian is more than making sound professions of faith. It should reveal itself in practical and visible ways. (St. Ignatius of Antioch)

My husband, Tom, spent the better part of the last 15 years or so coaching boys basketball. This will be the first year he hasn’t done that since my college senior, Nick and his old friend, Grant Buntin, were in I think the 2nd grade. During many of those years, he did that coaching alongside a good-natured guy named Eric Buntin. Those two men had almost as much fun as the boys they coached, I think! Eric’s oldest went all through St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School with Nick. Grant will graduate from Butler soon while Nick is finishing up at rival school, Xavier University in Cincinnati. Both those young men have bright futures ahead, in part because of the love and support they received from their dads as they grew up. Eric’s youngest is a stunningly beautiful and friendly daughter named Shannon. She’s a senior at Guerin Catholic High School this year. Eric is pictured above with his wife, Kerin.

Eric was an athlete in college and is a graduate of St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, and he hails from my hometown of Lafayette, Indiana. He’s a very bright guy with a warm smile who is an incredibly supportive dad to Grant and Shannon– rarely has he ever missed one of their events over the years. Witty, friendly and kind, Eric is easy to be around. He truly is an integrity filled man who has made a visible difference in the community over the years whether it be as a leader of young men in the CYO sports program or with the consistent participation and presence at his parish, among many other worthy endeavors.

It’s been a few years now since we have seen Eric on a regular basis, but since his birthday was this week (yesterday, actually) I wanted to take a moment to give him a little shout out and let him know that we have always known him to be a character guy and to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ERIC! Hopefully you believe in the “festival” approach to birthdays like me and you won’t consider me late at all with the love! Here’s hoping your life was celebrated in a big way, Eric, because it’s certainly one worth cheering!!

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” –John Wooden

Mad for…Jennifer

…”No Catholic school can be effective without dedicated Catholic teachers, convinced of the great ideal of Catholic education. The Church needs men and women who are intent on helping to permeate the whole educational milieu with the spirit of Christ. This is a great vocation, and the Lord himself will reward all who serve in it as educators in the cause of the word of God.” –St. (Pope) John Paul II to the NCEA of the United States, April 16, 1979

One of my favorite saints is JPII. He spoke at great length about the importance of helping to form Christ in the lives of others, and he greatly revered those in Catholic education. It’s people like Jennifer Popovich who courageously share their enthusiasm for Christ each and every day that really do give me tremendous hope for the future.

I first met Jennifer when she was pregnant with her daughter, Katie, who is now a high school sophomore. Sheesh! Time flies!! She was my oldest son’s kindergarten teacher, and I admit we got off on poor footing. The Catholic school experience was brand new to our family, and like many first time parents, I was impatient and easily aggravated. When at our very first parent-teacher conference she proceeded to tell me which letters of the alphabet Nick needed to work on, I behaved badly. Rather than notice that the very pregnant Jennifer was likely exhausted after a day of such sessions and might have simply mixed up her paperwork, I was convinced of her ineptness. You see, Nick was already reading by this point and I utterly overreacted. It was a classic “oldest kid” parent move.. UGH!! I have long regretted my crabby behavior that afternoon, but I don’t think I ever apologized.

I tried to learn from my mistake that day and hopefully most of the teachers our sons were blessed to have leading their classrooms over the years felt that we were supportive and kind. You see, Jennifer truly is a talented educator who cares deeply about her students. It didn’t take me long to realize my mistake. When years later she taught my youngest, I noticed how much she encourages her students individuality and speaks to them with respect.

Jennifer is the mom to Katie, who is a sophomore at Noblesville High School as well as the wife to a handsome husband named Bob. She loves full-test Coca-Cola, comfy clothes and snuggling with Katie’s guinea pig, Graham. Since Qdoba and Chick-Fil-A are favorites too, I probably should buy her lunch to make amends and relieve my long-term guilt about our initial interaction? Perhaps a gift card wrapped up with a fresh set of colored Bic pens would be just the overdue peace offering that would help my soul find peace here! Why did I not apologize sooner anyway?

Her beautiful smile, incredible patience and solid sense of humor serve her well in her current role as a 2nd grade teacher at St. Louis de Montfort School in Fishers. Those little ones are incredibly fortunate that they have a teacher who understands the challenges and demands of being in charge of a classroom every single day, but who still seems to find satisfaction in the work she does. What an awesome responsibility!

As JPII said, “not only are the attitudes of teachers crucial for the success of Catholic education, but also the attitudes of Catholic parents.” I’m not sure Jennifer knows what an important lesson I learned from her many years ago. I tried hard to correct course. I’m grateful to you for all that you fostered in my boys and so many children over the years, Jennifer. The fact that I have also watched you be a nurturing and supportive mom to your own daughter left me with nothing but feelings of respect for the high integrity human being that you are!

What led me to write about Jennifer today was a photo I saw of her recently. She was beaming with pride, standing with her daughter. In a climate where morality is often thought to be a matter of personal preference, Catholic School teachers like Jennifer are so incredibly valuable! So, this evening, I wanted her to know that she is a lovely and authentic woman of God! Thanks, Jennifer, for all you do and all you have done, for so many of our kiddos over the years. You are an extra large slice of fantastic pie!

Mad for…Scott

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play. (Henri Matisse)

It seems like a million years ago since I roamed the halls of Central Catholic High School, but I will admit to being a member of the class of 1989. Yikes, that’s 30 years ago!! When I noticed that this week one of my old classmates was celebrating a birthday, I decided it was time to honor his awesomeness all these years later.

It’s been three decades since I have laid eyes on this guy in person, but I have been watching from afar and it’s very easy to see that he is a loving dad to two very blessed children and the husband to a lucky gal named Rhonda whom I’ve never met. Witty, kind and generous were always qualities I associated with Scott when we tromped through those old halls at CC, but his defining quality was his creativity. He could draw circles around the rest of us and as a writer, he was a shining star. Even through Facebook I can see that his beautiful kind eyes and winning smile are still very much in tact.

Here’s what I never told Scott. He’s the one who made writing seem cool to me. What he penned, I was drawn into completely. Undoubtedly, it was because of Scott’s lead that I continued to read like a crazy person and dabble a little with my pen or my keyboard in the post high school days. When he used his God-given talent, he was at his shiniest. The Lord loves when we brighten up the area, and I suspect that the current, slightly older version of Scott Haan still sees the world through a lens different enough to make it truly great when explained from his perspective.

Thanks for showing me that being curious and coloring outside the lines is actually the secret sauce, Scott! I am LOOOONG overdue to acknowledge your fabulousness. We’ll have to adopt the festival approach to birthday celebrations since I am a day late with my greeting, however, I have always been in the “more is more” camp where these things are concerned! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SCOTT!!

Mad for…Kelly

Motherhood is a choice you make everyday to put someone else’s happiness and well being ahead of your own. To teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong. (Donna Ball)

Sports-loving moms like yours truly are easy to locate in the stands. You see, I am “gifted” with volume. In good news, you don’t even need to know where I am sitting to find me…? I don’t even realize how loud I am, until my husband gives me the death glare and scolding tone. I usually deserve both, but certainly I do not receive them gracefully. My much more tactful friend, Lisa Oberndorfer, used to hand me a sucker at such moments. She called them “hushers” and I find her strategy both brilliant and effective!! I bring this up today because I really thought I might be the loudest, most passionate mom around…but then I met Kelly Panzer.

A wife to Matt and the mother of Brien and Caelan, Kelly is an Indianapolis native who I think attended St. Mary’s College. She’s incredibly beautiful too, as you can clearly see from her photo above. Her smile is infectious! I first met her when we did hot lunch duty together at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School. We have a truly phenomenal mutual friend, Lisa Houze, who introduced us to one another. Those lunches full of chaos and cute kids sealed the deal for me on Kelly. She never lost her cool and she is a hard worker.

Quick-witted, sarcastic, and just plain fun, Kelly is the center of the action. She’s involved in the everyday lives of her children, and those two sweeties are incredibly blessed to have such a loving mama! She values her friends and is filled to the brim with generosity of spirit. This quality was called to my attention when I watched her help to organize an impressive 50th birthday celebration this summer for our mutual friend. The thoughtfulness and gracious spirit of this woman was impressive and inspiring. Also? This woman can tell a story. She makes me laugh until I am doubled over!

I turned to Kelly once looking to tap into her professional expertise for a friend in need of health care guidance for her very ill father. Her compassion and willingness to do absolutely anything she could to assist made clear to me the quality of her character. She’s a passionate, high-volume, integrity filled PISTOL. If you attend an SLDM CYO contest in which she has a child participating, you’ll know exactly how to find her, ha? Sometimes she’s coaching and sometimes she’s in the stands, but I promise you she’s there, so just listen for the sound of passion. She’s a little fierce on the outside, but interiorly, she’s as warm as folks come. Today is her birthday! Please join me in wishing Kelly a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Thanks, Kelly, for making the world a more positive and exciting place to inhabit by the way you live your life. You are a rock star, my friend!

Mad for…Bill

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Mt. 5: 13-16)

A few years back, my oldest son, Nick, and his friend Vinny Ferrucci decided to make the trek north on I-65 to catch the Purdue Boilermakers in a home game at my favorite sports venue, Mackey Arena. They were seniors in high school at the time and they brought along their younger brothers, Zach and Anthony, who also happen to be the closest of friends. They sent the obligatory selfies from their upper arena seats, and this mom’s heart was pretty warm and gooey. Those are some phenomenal big brothers!

When they arrived home to tell us about the evening, it wasn’t the exciting game recap they opened with, it was the story of dinner. Nick and Vin decided to take the littles to a landmark for yummy burgers and root beer before the game. They went to the Triple XXX. As they say in West Lala, “It’s on the hill, but on the level…” and really nothing beats the greasy spoon that is this grungy orange drive-in! They were wearing Guerin Catholic hats, and a man with whom they were unfamiliar paid their tab. Maybe they were familiar, but they just couldn’t remember his name? My memory is unreliable. Later, much later in fact, I found out the mystery man was none other than Bill Moss!

Bill is the husband of Chris, and the father to Nick and Lexi. He’s an avid Boilermaker fan whose kids also attended Guerin Catholic High School. He’s a joyful guy with a great sense of humor, and also he’s got a very generous heart. My tiny example above is absolutely reflective of the kindness he shows others ALL THE TIME. I am pretty sure he’s an Indy native because I feel certain he told me once during a game that he graduated from Broad Ripple High School. If I’ve got that wrong, I apologize, Bill.

Here’s what I know for sure. This man is crazy about his family. He demonstrates that by the supportiveness he has shown to those two great kids during the time I have known him, and by the respectful and loving way his wife talks about him behind his back. Bill Moss is a faith-filled guy with a great sense of humor, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously! He’s friendly and welcoming…and the man knows how to enjoy a tailgate party in the parking lot at Ross-Ade.

As you and Chris celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary today, Bill, I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that the world needs phenomenal men like you! You are the salt of the earth! Congratulations and THANK YOU for spreading your sunshine to those around you. We think you are a big scoop of awesome! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

Mad for…Deb

Be a Catholic: When you kneel before an altar, do it in such a way that others may be able to recognize that you know before whom you kneel. (St. Maximilian Kolbe)

I met her and was immediately convicted of the fact that this was a mom and wife who is serious about her love of the Lord. Debbie Spech, who I think is originally from the Cleveland area, has a wide and genuine smile. While I have only been around her for a short time, she strikes me as a “fixture” type person as her parish is concerned. Everyone seems to know her, and she knows everyone. If I am wondering who might be able to hook us up with technology help or who might be in the know at the school, she’s my girl. When I’m over at OLMC, if she’s not involved in the meeting I’m attending, I see her taking a walk on the grounds with her kids or her husband, Bob. Debbie Spech is ever present.

Generosity of spirit comes naturally to Deb. This week, for instance, I received a request about recording an upcoming event that the Gospel of Life committee is organizing on medical ethics. When I mentioned that I was involved in the planning for the event but that I will be out of town the day of the talk for my father-in-law’s 80th birthday celebration, she IMMEDIATELY offered to chase down the details and solve the issue. She digs in to help like this as if it were second nature, and I never detect anything but joyfulness on her part for the opportunity to pitch in.

She’s got a beautiful singing voice and she often cantors at mass. Personally, I think that is both brave and amazing. Mass is the place I often run into her where she’s usually with her big, faith-filled family glorifying the Lord. Her joy-filled laugh fills up a room, but it’s her authentic and thoroughly spiritual nature that drew my notice. That’s why I chose the quote above by St. Maximilian Kolbe to honor her today. She’s a gal who inspires in me a deeper faithfulness by simply listening and watching the way she lives her life– engaged utterly in doing God’s work in her home and her parish.

Thank you, Deb, for all the time and talent you share with others. It’s a phenomenal example to those of us in your orbit. I strongly suspect that your family is incredibly blessed to have such a fun, quick-witted, Jesus-loving woman in their lives! I got a text this week from a friend who probably stole this from someone, but it made me laugh. I chose not to take offense to the possible insult to my appearance (ha?) and I hope Deb does the same when she sees this, because I think it applies to her too. It said, “The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.” Indeed. Getting to know you through our work together on the GOL has been a bit of a “God wink” for me too, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to know you, because you inspire me to want to work on my own holiness, and I’m grateful!

Mad for…Vanessa

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. (Roger Staubach)

I’ve heard it said that the goal of a business is to create customers who create customers. Such was the result of our yummy dinner tonight. Great customer service like the kind we experienced at Ristorante DaVinci during our last night Marco Island is a rare and pretty special thing! After five glorious days of sun, sand, loads of laughter and a few too many drinks this week, the six of us headed out for “the last supper” and decided to indulge in some Italian food.

Celebrating 77 years of marriage between us, Ann and Gerry Hepp, Chris and Rhys Helt, as well as Tom and myself have truly enjoyed our time in Florida.

Tonight’s dinner was the grand finale, mostly because of a beautiful and thoughtful server named Vanessa! Articulate, attentive and professional, Vanessa did not even find Ann’s signature “Meg Ryan” custom menu-ordering style challenging at all. She just smiled and said “no problem!” More than once, this Sarasota native humored Rhys with the fist bump that blows up when things went his way. If you know him, you will understand the joy this brings him.

The food at DaVinci’s was spectacular and the drinks were never empty. As the meal ended, Vanessa brought out some desserts we didn’t order to congratulate us on those 77 years and she posed with us for a picture.

Building a good experience for customers doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because terrific employees like Vanessa go the extra mile! Thanks for being “next level” amazing, Vanessa!! As for the rest of you, if you like good Italian food, check out Ristorante DaVinci the next time you are on Marco Island! You won’t regret it!

Mad for…Chris

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone would give another person, he believed in me. (Jim Valvano)

Quick-witted, intelligent and kind are the words that first come to mind when I think about my brother-in-law, Chris Beck. He’s the husband to my only sibling, my younger sister, Robin, and he’s the dad to my two talented nieces, Maddie and Ellie. Robin and Chris are pictured above.

An Indiana University grad and middle school history teacher, Chris is a tall, lanky and sports-loving guy. A native of the Windy City, Chris is a big Chicago Bears and White Sox fan. He’s the one my dad blames for turning my son, Nick, against the Cubs! Grandpa Jim has definitely lost that young man forever to Uncle Chris’s beloved team from the south side. I’m pretty sure it was that trip to Comiskey when Nick was a little guy that sealed the deal.

He’s a musically gifted person too, and in fact he originally landed at IU to study music. He’s passed his fine arts talent to both of his girls, who excel in the creative and musical arts like their dad. As a father, he is incredibly loving and supportive. He’s funny, well-read guy and he owns a really genuine and contagious laugh. When he smiles, so does the whole room!

Chris is thoughtful and he’s loving, a man of both character and integrity. He genuinely enjoys helping others and it shows in the charitable and generous way he has helped to raise those two incredible girls of his. As a husband, I can’t imagine hoping for a more solid, authentic guy to be a life long partner to my sister, Robin.

His sense of humor and the genuineness that shows in his smile are his defining qualities to me. He’s a top shelf human. He’s also celebrating his birthday today, a date I always remember because it falls on “Scary month, scary day.” I hope your gaggle of gals is celebrating you in a big way today, Chris, because yours is definitely a life worth cheering! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Chris!! We love you. ❤️

Mad for…Valeria

Be the kind of woman who knows her identity, walks on holy ground, and that’s also unafraid to be free and silly, because life’s too short to be uptight and figured out. (Unknown)

“She has a joyful countenance.” That is what I said when I was asked by a friend if I knew Valeria Pittsford. The truth is, I wish I knew her a little better. We met as a result of being on the Gospel of Life committee together at our parish, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Her eyes smile. To me, that’s the impression I was immediately struck with when I first encountered her.

Articulate, thoughtful and filled with the love of Christ— those things are also true of Valeria. She is a wife and mother of two very blessed young people about whom she’s completely crazy! To work for God and for others with Him is what her life seems to be about. I have known her a short time but I respect and admire her for many reasons, chief among them her authenticity and her faithfulness. She is always willing to go out of her way for the benefit of others.

This week, at our monthly GOL meeting, Valeria did something vulnerable and generous, for instance. She shared with some of us a personal struggle. The genuine and loving way she shared her beautiful story and the knowledge she gained that might help some other folks was moving, but her motivation was truly charitable. She was trying to share with others about helpful tools she felt might prove meaningful. When someone like Valeria unselfishly offers themselves like that, admitting to moments of challenge, I find that I am always moved. It’s clear the Holy Spirit works frequently through this beautiful soul!

Today, I just wanted to take a moment to give Valeria a little shout out. She is a woman who to me aims to follow the example of the saints by the way she lives her life, and I find her a joyful and inspiring example of living, breathing faith. THANK YOU VALERIA!

“Follow the saints, because those who follow them will become saints” (Pope St. Clement I)