Mad for…Pam

Sometimes miracles are just good people with kind hearts.

Tonight, I attended the Guerin Catholic High School production of “The Little Mermaid.” So many talented and enthusiastic young people were involved in this play, and it truly was an adventure in joyful noise! Among the stars of the show were two former SLDM ladies, Annabelle and Lindsey Bork. Goodness, these two ladies are full of personality…and WOW…beautiful voices! Their pretty terrific dad is a handsome guy named, Jason, but today I’d like to tell you more about their beautiful mom, Pam!

The mom of four great kids, Grant, Annabelle, Lindsey and Stella, Pam is incredibly supportive and loving as a mother. What else? I once went to a Luke Bryan concert with Pam and Jason, and it’s then that I learned Pam is from southern Indiana– maybe she said Jeffersonville? In any case, the woman enjoys music and she knows how to laugh and have a good time! See the photo above and tell me I’m wrong? Impossible, right? Over the years, I’ve watched her parent her children from afar and I’ve noticed her faithful heart. Mostly, though, what stands out for me about Pam is that she is just plain kind.

She’s completely genuine, the type of person who does lovely things for others because of who she is, and not because of what she might receive in return. She keeps it simple. Pam just does the next right thing.

A successful person to me is being good-hearted, authentic, curious and thoughtful. It’s a bonus if you also know how to laugh and misbehave just a little. Pam Bork is all those things. I’ve watched her shower sunshine on her own very blessed children, random grade school kiddos she was serving in a volunteer capacity, and on moms in the carpool line who just needed a hug or a smile. Among them, yours truly.

This gal is a truly fantastic human being. That’s why this evening as I watched her daughter, Annabelle, completely sparkle in the role of “Ariel” in the Little Mermaid, then when I spotted her sassy girl Lindsey on stage singing with her sister…well I smiled for her good fortune. Nothing makes a mom’s heart sing like seeing their children happy doing what they love! It was a moment I know she will always cherish. She deserved that moment because she’s one of those people I have always noticed from my nearby perch who is just the salt of the earth.

I read this quote today, and it made me think of Pam, who numerous times made my day in during that 16-year run I had in the SLDM carpool line by taking a moment to share an affirmation or even just tell me something positive she noticed about one of my sons. We all need those unexpected moments of consolation! If all women affirmed the ladies around them like Pam does, this world would be next level amazing. So, I’ll finish my post today by sharing a quote I love and saying THANK YOU PAM BORK for showing us all what character, integrity and kindness are meant to look like. Kindness oozes right out your eyeballs, and it’s just incredibly beautiful. Color me inspired! BRAVO!

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” (Bob Kerrey)

Mad for…Katie

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. (Amelia Earhart)

Her defining quality, according to my youngest son, is her kindness. When I asked Zach how I should describe his cousin, Katie LaReau, he said, “Well, she’s basically the kindest person I know.” I quite agree. Sunny, articulate and full of life, Katie is the owner of a stunningly beautiful smile and a gloriously positive disposition. I am so proud to be her aunt!

She’s the daughter of Jennie and Jerome LaReau (with whom she’s pictured above) and a parishioner at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers. Her mom, Jennie, is my husband Tom’s oldest sister. Katie is faith-filled and it shows in the beautiful way she lives her life each day as well as how she treats others. She’s incredibly bright and has an impressive work ethic to go along with her intellect. Responsible and trustworthy, this young woman has a very promising future ahead!

Enterprising and determined, Katie is gifted as a public speaker. She’s largely responsible for starting the Speech Team at SLDM…and also at Guerin Catholic. I’m rooting hard for this (future engineer..?) to end up at my alma mater, Purdue University! For now, we can all enjoy watching her shine in all her Guerin Catholic Fine Arts activities for the next year and a half or so!

What I love about about Katie is that she brings out the good in the people around her. Her disposition is naturally joyful– and WOW does the world need extra heaping spoonfuls of that! This is why when GC people discover we are related by telling me their son or daughter is a friend of Katie’s, I usually have a very simple reply. “I admit I am entirely biased, but if your child is a friend of my niece Katie, then I know they are a quality human being.” It’s true. Katie is an authentic, kind soul who attracts like minded young people.

Today, Katie turns 17! Wow that happened fast! I think of her still as that little girl we all called “Katie bug”. As you celebrate your birthday today, sweet girl, I just wanted to tell you that you should never underestimate the impact you have on all the people in your path. By being selfless and kind to everyone, I suspect you are unknowingly the one person who helps to sooth an ailing heart or who reaches a wound only compassion can help to heal. You consistently inspire me by your example of character and integrity!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KATIE BUG!! I love you!

Mad for…Shannon

The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us everyday in His goodness. (St. Gianna Molla)

Shannon Buntin

Raising three boys has been the great adventure of my life to date. We tend to do the child-rearing alongside other families who are traversing a similar path at a like time. In my case, there’s been an unusual twist. We’d often look around at gatherings and there would be maybe 15-20 collective children among say 6 or 7 families…and very often nearly all of those were boys. Shannon Buntin was a beautifully coiffed, sunshine-filled exception to the rule! She was a butterfly amidst the sweaty throng of testosterone.

Even as a little girl, Shannon was classy and fabulous. Still now, her manners are impeccable and her smile genuine. She’s an outgoing young lady with beautiful eyes. Talented, respectful and confident, Shannon Buntin is also intelligent. She’s a high school senior this year at Guerin Catholic High School where she currently serves as an all-star caliber student manager for the Golden Eagles football team. I’ve also watched her in several plays and she sings in the choir too. Certainly, she’s a young woman with a lot on her plate who is full to the brim with giftedness.

As my youngest son entered the doors of GC this fall as a freshman, Shannon thoughtfully told me she’d keep her eye on my Z-man. That’s classic Shannon form. Her laugh is contagious and she’s incredibly friendly and kind. Shannon is the younger sister of a Butler senior named Grant, and the daughter of Eric and Kerin Buntin. She’s a faith-filled scoop of awesome sauce and tomorrow is her birthday!

Today’s post, therefore, is a HAPPY BIRTHDAY shout out to a terrific young lady, a sparkly member of GC’s Class of 2020! If you spot Shannon tomorrow (10/23) be sure to wish her well! This special girl deserves to be loved up on her big day! Hugs to you, Shannon, from all the Thiemes!

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!!