Mad for…Crystal

There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life more beautiful for others. (M. Hale)

Oct. 11– I’m pretty sure she and her husband, Nick, got married at Wrigley Field. These people are a little bit crazy, I’m not going to lie! They are afflicted with a disease when it comes to their Chicago Cubs mania. It’s been a few years since I have seen any member of this family in person, but I seriously doubt this condition has improved. Also, despite the years, they have made a lasting impression and an imprint on my heart. Crystal Bazan is better known to me as “Coach Ball”. She is absolutely THE BEST TEAM MOM that I have ever encountered. That is saying something. I have come into contact with just A LOT of amazing and selfless team parents over these many years with my three boys.

Coach Ball made baseball fun for boys. Period. She sent video clips to parents of their kids performances on the field. She had a smile on her face at all times. Coach Ball loved up all the children and had way too much candy available. I think she spent several years as the Queen Mom of Skiles Test. I’ve never forgotten her because of her over the top selflessness.

Here’s the thing. I’ve watched from a distance. She’s a hard worker, a loan originator if memory serves. I’ve seen her angst as she has said goodbye to loved ones. Her heart? She wears it right on her sleeve. She cheers on her team a little louder and with more passion than regular people. Bella and Dawson? They’ve seen it too. Her children are high-achieving, respectful and first rate. That doesn’t happen by accident. They’ve been loved up and shown the way. We lead by example. As a parent, she’s phenomenal and her kiddos are blessed.

From the cheap seats over here, Crystal “Ball” Bazan is getting a lot of things right. She’s a beautiful woman, inside and out! Today is her birthday, so I thought it was the perfect time to say what I’ve been thinking for a long time. YOU ARE THE REAL DEAL, MRS. BAZAN!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Mad for…Don

When all the dust is settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are faith, family and friends. (Barbara Bush)

He was raised by a Dutchman who was partnered up with an Irish spit fire. This, I have concluded is the reason why my Uncle Don is an ornery human. Ralph and Pauline (Holladay) Dykhuizen had two children, my uncle Don and my dad, Jim. Don is the older of the two, and I am told he was quite an athlete. Grandma used to share newspaper clippings with me, and she was a story teller too. She was so incredibly proud of her sons. I have no doubt Uncle Don could throw a baseball, among other talents, because his sassy mom made sure her grandchildren knew all about it! His little brother is my Dad. These two guys are both smart-alecky, wise-cracking, and very ornery humans. It seems to be a genetic predisposition.

Don married a pretty fantastic human, Carolyn Surface, and the union endures. They are pictured above with their grandson, Connor. They had two children, Joe and Amy. My sister and I used to travel to New Castle with our parents to watch Joe play football and Amy cheer for the New Castle High School Trojans. I remember their house on Forest Drive, near the school, and the fact that they had a super cool pinball machine in the basement. Joe and his friends were friendly, but smelly, and Amy always had a drawer full of trinkets and trash and a lot of makeup that I thought was pretty much awesome! As for my aunt and uncle, I recall them smiling and laughing a lot. There were many joy-filled Christmas mornings opening presents in that tiny house of Grandma’s on Vinton St. too, where we all wondered what on earth could be inside that package Aunt Helen brought! She never failed to disappoint, am I right? Those are happy memories of times spent together and I cherish them.

When we lost Joe, way too young, to cancer…well…things changed. How could they not? I’m happy to report though that Don Dykhuizen still has his ornery little twinkle in tact. Just last week, in fact, he told me that he had called the Pope in an effort to get my husband Tom declared a saint for putting up with me these past 25 years. That was his “Dykhuizen” way of saying “Happy Anniversary”. It made me laugh. He apparently thinks I’m a stinker. I’ve got news for this guy. It takes one to know one, Uncle Don!

He’s a football, basketball, baseball sort of “old school” guy who even trudged over to Guerin Catholic a few times to watch Nick and Drew play a little football, and we always were thrilled to see him and Aunt Carolyn too. It’s true our family has grown and we have gone in different directions, but our roots are still our roots. He’s a supportive Dad and grandfather who is now having fun watching his own two youngest grandsons, Joe and Jake Strickland, do their thing, and I’d bet there’s not a lot better than that for this passionate lover of sports!

Life can be tough sometimes, but a supportive and fun-loving family is so incredibly important. That’s what I remember when I think of my growing up years around my uncle and all the Dykhuizen clan. Once when I was a kid, my sister and I were playing euchre against Grandpa and Uncle Don. We weren’t very old at the time but Robin and I were trouncing them. They kept looking at each other like, “What the heck is going on here? How are we losing to two little girls?” To teach them a little lesson in humility, Dad had taught us how to send each other signals by the way we held the cards. The signals were so hard to spot because they had been employed, quite illegally, in some professional card tournament which Dad apparently read about. Eventually, we confessed to the trickery, but we still laugh about this silliness years later!!

Here’s the thing I’m overdue to say. Uncle Don has endured through what to me seems unthinkable. I have three sons so I understand better than I did earlier what that loss means. However, he continued to do his day. He walked forward. Sometimes, he was strong and sure, and other times it was more halting and stumbling. But he never stopped putting one foot in front of the other. When I saw him, he still shared his teasing and his sarcasm and gave me a big hug. He may not know it, but as he’s run his race, others around him were watching…and it helped others be brave in their lives.

I still miss Joe too. He was special, and feisty, and a big teddy bear…kind of like his dad. Uncle Don? I’m proud to be your niece and I love you. You are smart and funny and your perseverance through difficulty is inspiring. I’ve made my call to the Vatican as well, though. The real saint is your bride, ha? I’m sure we’ll be hearing from Pope Francis about Aunt Carolyn’s canonization any time now.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Mad for…Jennifer

It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness. (Paul Strand)

Oct. 9– When her daughter, Mia, was in the 8th grade, I noticed Jennifer at the Indianapolis International Airport. She was crouched in the corner of the waiting area, looking a bit sullen. It didn’t take me long to pry from her that while she was trying hard to be present for her daughter’s big field trip to DC that had been long since paid for, her mind was elsewhere in the middle of another place– a place of crisis. Her beautiful heart was revealed to me during those few days, and I have never forgotten. We rarely forget the day we encounter a grace-filled soul.

Into all our lives, God allows some chaos. Maybe it’s all just the result of our free will, or perhaps the mayhem draws us near to Him who made us. I’m not sure I’ll ever figure it out. I do know this, when we trust our cares to the God of love, He reminds us that we are above all things, His children, and we are precious. Jennifer is a woman of faith, and she knows this well. We’ve talked about it over coffee, actually.

The mother of three and grandmother of one very blessed boy named Jack, Jennifer is also a wife to a truly nice man named John. She’s a gifted photographer. So talented is Jennifer that each time I see a photo of one of her subjects posted online, I think to myself…”what an unbelievable joy that must be to those people, that family.” Oh, to have even one picture of my own family that reveals the kind of beauty and relationships her pictures always expose! I’m not kidding, y’all…she’s that good.

I’m not exactly sure how old Jennifer Driscoll is, but I’d be willing to be $100 that she’s older than she looks. The woman is a stunner. Each of her three daughters is equally so. She is plugged into her faith life and often I see her at daily mass. Maybe that’s her secret? She might post about her computer crashing or the end of her patience after a busy week, or she perhaps will share about it’s just been one of those days. However, she seems to always settle at the end on positivity and rest in the fact that God loves us, even when we are frazzled.

Supportive, funny and intelligent, Jennifer is a woman with many interests and a giving heart. I noticed recently, for instance, that she was involved in mentoring some young women, and then another day the O’Connor House in Carmel shared a big thank you to her for coming in and taking photos of their new moms and beautiful babies. She’s a generous woman who shares her time and her talents with others. Its a lovely example to the rest of us. We’ve got to get out there and do our part, be like Jennifer!

Today, Jennifer is celebrating her birthday! There’s no better day then to give her a shout out and let her know that many of us have noticed that she is pretty special! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JENNIFER!! Thanks for all you do to make the world a little more sparkly!

Mad for…Cole

The strength of the group is the strength of the leaders. (Vince Lombardi)

Handsome, respectful, and athletic, Cole Metzger is the top tennis player at Guerin Catholic High School. He’s a junior for the Golden Eagles and to me the undisputed leader of the boys tennis team. He’s not flashy or arrogant. Cole hits the ball hard, and he leads by example.

The son of Todd and Terri Metzger, Cole comes from a tennis loving family of boys. I’ve only known him a short time, but what is defining about him in my eyes is his work ethic. This is a young man who knows all about sweat equity. His positive temperament and natural ability to encourage and coach up the younger guys truly impressed me this season.

Last night, GCHS Boys Tennis Coach, Chris Sciaudone, recognized Cole’s efforts and named him the Golden Eagle Award recipient for boys tennis this season. It was the right choice for a lot of reasons but primarily it was this one. As the top player for GCHS, Cole earned the right by his hard work to play #1 singles this year. When the coach asked him to move to play #1 doubles instead, in an effort to help the team, he was willing. The most powerful tool that leaders have at their disposal is in my opinion their personal example. Cole said yes and he played doubles. End of discussion. I have no idea what conversations he might have had in the privacy of his own home, but when he showed up at the GC tennis courts, he was ready to work no matter where the coaches placed him in the lineup.

I respect this talented kid, and I was impressed all season with his welcoming attitude towards younger teammates like my son, Zach, as well as his example of work ethic, and his terrific leadership. He’s a character-filled kid, and I will be court side cheering him on to victory next year as a senior! CONGRATS, COLE!! That Golden Eagle Award is in the right hands for sure in 2019…a well deserved honor.

Mad for…SaraH

Her name is NOT Sara. Nope. She’s SaraH. I capitalized the H for her today, because I know how attached she is to the very important letter at the end of her name. It makes me laugh, so that’s how I entered her contact in my phone. SaraH Funk. She’s pictured above with her handsome husband. Also, she’s a Jesus girl. They are my favorite kind of girls, and today I shared my God wink with her. You, my dear readers, are the next victims.

The Mother of God is our mother. -St. Anselm

I shared with SaraH that I was telling my long time friend this morning about how I have in recent months become quite the rosary girl. I walk everyday and I move the beads at a pretty fair clip, usually inserting the names of folks I am praying for at the end of each Hail Mary. Also, I shared how bugged I am that I can never remember the darn mysteries of the rosary or the particular day upon which they should be said. Nevertheless, I assured her, I am praying one for her each day. Sometimes, I do so incorrectly but I trust Our Blessed Mother knows how to sort it out. At that moment, my friend pulled from her purse the most beautiful rosary that was made for her by Katie Sahm. The mysteries are right there behind Mary on these round little medallions. I found it spectacular, and quite frankly I had a moment. I was so excited about this beautiful rosary, I really didn’t even hesitate much when she handed it to me as a gift. I really was enamored. What made this day even better is that a few hours later I learned that TODAY is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary! What?! I was utterly gotten. The amount “happy” this made me cannot be overstated. It was one of those “you are so loved” moments from the Lord who knows how to give His children good gifts.

I promptly shared my BVM moment and glorious God wink with everyone…because well…I have been known to be an overly dramatic force of nature when provoked? Beautiful, energetic, big-hearted SaraH? She’s in Florida on vacation today, but right away, she got it. She responded with appropriate and timely enthusiasm.

She texted me today, “I’m glad we’re becoming friends. Unusual circumstances really, but I’m glad for it.” I couldn’t agree with you more, SaraH. Friendships that begin over love for others are destined for greatness though? That’s what I think!

Sarah is a Catholic school educator at St. Joan of Arc School in Indianapolis, and we have a mutual friend, Janet, who introduced us. A mother of three, she’s a stunningly beautiful woman exteriorly, but her soul magnifies the Lord too. That’s why I just needed to write about her today. I’ve only known her a short time and yet I am certain without a doubt that she tries to trust in the God who loves us all. She is an authentic woman who genuinely wants the best for the others in her path as they deal with the challenges life throws our way. Her two daughters and her young son are incredibly blessed to have such a positive, intelligent and life-affirming woman as their momma!

Sarah has eyes that twinkle and the love she shares with others is an epic, powerful thing to witness. She’s an encourager and a lover of people. SaraH is funny. Honestly? She’s the sauce. The world is a much better place because this faith-filled woman of character inhabits it with us!

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for SaraH, now and at the hour of death. Amen.

Mad for…Jeff

One can know a man from his laugh, and if you like a man’s laugh before you know anything of him, you may confidently say that he is a good man. (F. Dostoevsky)

I dragged my cranky husband a few weeks back to a Guerin Catholic football game at Heritage Christian High School on a Friday night. His work week had been long and he was downright grumpy. What I’ve learned over the course of time is that the only chance we have to shake off a week like that is to do something to distract Tom. I value harmony and am a much bigger fan of “happy Tom” so off we went to the game. My saviors that night included a great guy named Jeff Tabor who owns a glorious, infectious laugh! It was that evening that I decided we have definitely not spent enough time with Jeff and Karen. They make me grin!

Jeff is the husband of a phenomenal woman named Karen and he’s the dad to two terrific boys– Luke and Sam. Both Luke and Sam Tabor are members of the Golden Eagle football team this fall. When we arrived at Heritage Christian for the game, Jeff was standing next to our mutual friend Steve Ferrucci in the top row, and there was just enough room to squeeze in beside them.

His sarcastic wit and genuine smile are my favorite things about Jeff, and I like him despite the fact that he’s a confused man when it comes to college sports. He’s a real, transparent and very funny guy who seems to like the cream and crimson? It’s sad to me, but then no one can be perfect, ha? He wins me over with his kindness. For instance, that night at HC, he tried numerous times to give me his jacket as he noticed I was a little underprepared for the conditions. Needless to say, it was only a few minutes and Tom’s frown was turning the opposite direction after his exposure to the two clowns in the back row. I laughed when Jeff escaped at halftime for a few minutes to go for a beverage and to smoke a cigar. People who don’t try to be anyone they aren’t, who are perfectly comfortable in their own skin like Jeff are rare and wonderful!

I respect Jeff as a father. He’s extremely supportive and I always see him at his sons events, cheering them on. He’s also a charitable guy whose successful law firm has allowed him a lot of choices but who so often chooses to be generous to others with his resources. He’s an Evansville native if my memory serves, but he has lived for some time now in Hamilton County where his sons went to the same grade school (and now high school) as my guys. His youngest son, Sam, is the kiddo I know best and he’s a character-filled young man who is full of personality just like his Dad.

As he celebrates his birthday tomorrow, I just wanted to give Jeff Tabor a little shout out! Happy Birthday to this IU, Colts, Pacers and St. Louis Cardinals fan who knows how to work hard and still be present in a very real way to his family! He’s got a great twinkle in his eye and he’s quick with a smile and a hug. Jeff is flat out authentic and filled with warmth, and he makes the world more joyful! Thanks for sharing your sunshine, Jeff. We’re big fans here at the Thieme house. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JEFF!!

Mad for…Mary

Never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ is with you; be not afraid! (St. Pope John Paul II)

Panera makes a darn fine cup of latte. I had already finished one before 6:30 am today on my travels across town to pick up six dozen donuts and a couple big boxes full of bagels. A morning of reflection was held today at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. Intimately, I knew the plans and details for this event, because I am involved in the ministry that organized the event– down to the flavors of cream cheese. Still, despite having read a bit about her background and her story, I was unprepared for the powerful witness of one Mary Lenaburg (pictured above).

Humorous, fierce and irreverant, Mary is nevertheless a passionate woman of God. A wife and mother of two, she shared in a brutally honest way about the mentally and physically exhausting work of caring for her severely disabled daughter. There was a profoundly moving story about their trip to Lourdes that had me laughing audibly and also brought me to tears. I’m not going to tell you more about the story because she tells it better herself, so you should buy her book, “Be Brave in the Scared”.

Here’s what I do want to acknowledge today. I was pretty sure I already believed strongly in the sanctity of all life. I mean, I’m the darn chairperson for the Gospel of Life ministry at my parish for gosh sakes. However, as Mary found her full voice at the end of her talk and passionately pled with all of us to understand how important her daughter Courtney’s life was, an imprint was made on my heart. When we pray those prayers for the sanctity of life from conception until natural death, THIS young woman who was utterly dependent on others for literally everything is who we’re talking about. However overwhelmed we are by our circumstances and no matter how exhausted we might be, I knew walking out of OLMC today a truth I wasn’t convicted of previously. Every one of us needs to trust God, who loves each of us, to be in charge of how long we’re all here and what gifts we are given. We need to live that trust completely and with all the aspects of our lives. He’s not cruel. He loves us.

Today, I sense that a young woman I never met, who was non-verbal, and who died at the age of 23 tried to convince me to surrender to LOVE. Thanks, Courtney, for sending your sassy, beautiful, tough momma to do the talking for you. Love always wins.

“Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3: 20-21)

Courtney Lenaburg, Pray for us.

Mad for…Todd

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” (Fred Rogers)

People talk about him behind his back in the kindest way. That’s what I knew about Todd Metzger before 2019. My good friends, Ann and Gerry Hepp, for instance would always say when his name came up, “Shelly, you need to meet him. He’s such a good guy!” Other folks I respected did the same. Take Claudine Kreiner, for instance, whose awesome son has been getting tennis lessons from this guy for a while. She’s expressed to me her deep gratitude for his patience with young Mr. Kreiner. So, by transference, this man I only knew as “Wyatt’s dad”, was dubbed in my head as a solid human. His reputation precedes him.

This summer, my son Drew went to work for the father of his good buddy, Wyatt Metzger. Todd has been generous in his employment of hard working high school kids for as long as I have known his name. I had only a vague awareness about him, having never met him myself. Drew started coming home with a few stories about Mr. Metzger, most of which made me grin. Then, Todd invited our entire family to his place for the 4th of July. This was a blessing to us, as we were all very much missing our annual 4th celebration in Michigan which wasn’t to be this year. Spending the evening with some (mostly) new and a few old friends too was such a generous gesture on Todd and his wife Teri’s part. We had a great time!

Then, came tennis season. Todd Metzger did a LOT of helping out a big group of boys with varying skill sets this fall. I watched him donate his expertise and his time. Patient, competitive and articulate, Todd is an encourager of young men. For instance, when my son, Zach, struggled one match to put the ball away, Coach Sciaudone noticed the deficiency and put Coach Metzger on the job. The very next practice, Todd spent considerable time teaching Zach to do something he’d never previously learned– how to hit an overhead. Zach was excited when he got home, feeling like he really had improved that day. He picked it up quickly because Todd is an excellent communicator with a bright smile, and he was patient. Does Z still need to work on it? Yes! However, someone like Todd who takes the time to help someone improve is my favorite kind of coach.

I am now officially a member of the Todd Metzger fan club. He’s a supportive dad of his boys, a job he and his beautiful wife Teri have done pretty fantastically. They are integrity filled young men because, in part, their father is a wonderful example of the same. Todd’s a human who helps others in a variety of ways… just because it’s the right thing to do. He’s a helper I’m proud to know! Thanks for welcoming my sons into your life, and for being such a good example of kindness to those around you, Todd. We’re all better for knowing you! So, today, I’m giving a shout out to my new friend, Todd Metzger. He’s a giant scoop of awesome sauce!

Mad for…Michelle

The lovliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the love of a mother. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

This time of the year, we celebrate so many of my favorite saint feast days. This week in particular there are multiple great ones, including the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. She’s famous for her “little way” which is a model for us all in our everyday lives. As I noticed tomorrow is the birthday of one of the most lovely women of God I know, thinking of Michelle Welsh has me contemplating what a great contemporary example she is of this concept.

Michelle seeks holiness in the ordinary and everyday, like St. Therese, who used every small opportunity that presented itself as a ways to manifest her love to God and others. Therese didn’t care if she was assigned to be a sacristan in the convent or they put her in charge of the laundry, or asked her to write plays to entertain her fellow nuns. She tried to show her love to all people no matter how easy to get along with or difficult. It sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was based on a loving commitment to God. This is how I have always seen Michelle Welsh.

Michelle is a plain spoken, sunny and faith-filled mother to Sam, Riley, Megan, Nina and Ellery as well as the wife to a phenomenal man named Chris. She goes out of her way to be friendly and thoughtful…and she’s generous with her time and talent at her parish of St. Louis de Montfort in Fishers. I’ve noticed her supportive and loving way of interacting with her children over the years. It’s beautiful and filled with light and humor too! Also? She’s a Boilermaker fan who seeks out other folks who bleed black and gold when she can’t use her basketball tickets, and I am a BIG FAN of that, ha?!

Helpful to others, Michelle goes out of her way to make a difference. Her children have watched the way she chooses to interact in the world and they are respectful, faithful and kind like JUST LIKE HER as a result. Articulate and hard-working, Michelle seems to live out her days in a grateful way, because when I have been around her, she allows love and positivity to be the statement she makes about herself and what she’s doing with her day.

As Michelle Welsh celebrates her (50th, I think?) birthday tomorrow (10/4), I just wanted to give this beautiful momma with the lovely soul a little shout out and let her know that her example of goodness motivates me to work toward the same with my life! THANKS MICHELLE, AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Mad for…Ty

Passion is your life juice, and without it, expect a very bland existence indeed. -Myrza Sison

Today, the Guerin Catholic Tennis team played in the first round of IHSAA Boys Tennis Sectionals at Carmel High School. It was the first such event for the Thieme family and it had me looking around during the warm-ups at all the great young men and terrific families we have gotten to know through Zach’s participation in this sport during his freshman year at GC. One of those families is the Harrington clan.

Passionate is how Z first described his teammate Ty Harrington. He’s a talented, athletic and experienced tennis player– a hard-hitting sophomore for the Golden Eagles. Like Zach, he’s the “baby” of his family. He has two talented and integrity-filled older sisters, and he’s the son of Stacey and Pete Harrington. When the preseason practices had just begun, our kiddo was just not sure if he was going to feel comfortable with this new group. He’s a freshman and really who is lower on the social pecking order of life than a high school freshman boy? Right? He felt awkward. However, I told him, “Give the guys a chance. I’m confident you’ll make new friends.”

Then, we started noticing he seemed to be laughing and joking with Ty Harrington as he walked out of practices. Ty is full up to his eyeballs with personality!

Here’s the thing. A talented kid like Ty absolutely did not have to choose to be welcoming to Zach Thieme. He didn’t have to smile in his direction or break out his grin and “smartassery”. I shared with Stacey and Pete that in my opinion, Ty was the one that made the initial difference for Z on the GC tennis team. You don’t joke around with people you dislike, after all. Being from a family of sarcasm savants, Z spoke that language and began to feel more comfortable. It’s absolutely true Ty’s a competitive kid with a little bit of a passionate edge on the court, but also…Ty is a handsome young man of character who chose to be welcoming to the new guy. Welcoming the stranger is one of my most favorite qualities in humans. I hate to break it to him, but that sort of behavior is likely to label Ty in my eyes as (perilously near) being the face of Christ to others. Ha? I am not sure he’ll like it but I am two thumbs up on this kid.

Ty joked with me before the first home GC football game about how the older kids were going to have a blast “hazing” the freshmen in the student section that night. He had a great twinkle in his eyes that spoke to me, I’ll admit. He’s a harmless prankster with fantastic hair a good heart. I have a special fondness for cheeky smart-alecks. Ty is a little saucy, but in the best possible way. You can’t coach personality, one just has to be born with it.

Today, I just wanted to congratulate Ty on the sectional win at #1 doubles and wish him a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We hope you were celebrated in a big way today as your life is certainly one worth celebrating, kid! We love your gorgeous smile and your orneriness too! Ty, the GC tennis team would definitely not have the same flavor without you on it. Thanks for being welcoming to the new guy. We saw that. Well done young man!