Mad for…Anna

Be the same person privately, publicly, and personally. (Judah Smith)

Okay, I am very slow with this birthday greeting and 50th birthday shout out to a terrific human being named Anna Fagg! Forgive me, my friend! I am apparently the last person in Hamilton County to know you have been celebrating a big milestone! A tennis playing mom of two, Anna has a beautiful daughter, Victoria, and a tall, lanky, hoops playing son named Harrison. He’s a senior at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. She’s married to a super cool, down to earth guy named Andy. I met them years ago at St. Louis de Montfort where our children all attended grade school together. Victoria is the same age as my oldest son, Nick, and they were members of the SLDM class of 2012.

Genuine. That’s the word that for me positively defines Anna. Sure, she’s friendly, funny, and kind. Yes, she’s an incredibly supportive mother and a loving wife. That’s easy to see. However, what makes Anna a truly special person for me is how authentic she is. She’s not driven a second by ego, or status, or anything of that ilk. She simply gives off positive vibes and treats the people around her like they matter. She’s flat out a salt of the earth woman.

With Anna Fagg, there’s no hidden agendas, she’s just got an honest goodness about her. She knows how to smile bright and warm the room with her sunshine. Fancy, she’s not. Fun, yes indeedy! I’ve got a thing for genuine people. In fact, it might be my most favorite quality. Every time I see Anna, I am reminded how important it is for each of us to just be ourselves. The Lord knows what He’s doing, and none of us is like the next guy– what a beautiful thing!!

HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY, ANNA! What do you say we overlook how late I am and just declare festival until the end of the year?!!

P.S. I can’t root for your team tomorrow, my friend– I’d like to, but I’ve got to be genuine, ha?! Boiler UP!!

Mad for…Family

As I pack up the crockpot full of green beans this morning, I find myself grateful for my people. Some of those folks I am related to, and some not. In my mind and heart, they are all truly my family.

For the folks in my life who inspire me by their stunning faithfulness— and there are many— I am grateful. In recent weeks, I feel closer to Jesus because of Katie, Chris M., Chris H., Tina, Lori, Janice, and of course my sarcastic pastor, Fr. Richard. To you fine folks, I tip my Thanksgiving hat.

For my guys— Nick, Drew, and Zach who have taught me so much over the years and who each own beautiful, caring hearts— I love you, I am so proud of you, and I am grateful to call you son!

For my “Shoebox” girls, the Dinner Club crew, the “Love bunch” and the members of my Mom squad— you know who you are. I love you all beyond words. Thank you for doing life with me. Many times each of you has brought joy to my day and a smile to my face. Occasionally, I have even leaned in for much needed encouragement and a hug, and you people never fail to come through. I am thankful for you! Nothing beats “next level” friends who walk alongside us on this journey…am I right, Rhys?

For my parents, the two people who have always and forever shown me unconditional, foolish love and support— “thank you” feels far short of adequate. I love you people madly.

Finally, to my husband, Tom. Look what those 2 teenagers from Lafayette did these last 25 years? Gosh. That happened fast. Words fail today. I truly love you, our family built together day by day, our life. Thanks for always taking me to the door when it’s raining and for knowing I would love to see the Christmas display at Sullivan’s. You’re the bomb. Let’s see what beauty comes next on our little adventure?

As I ride in this Durango on SR 47 headed to Mom and Dad’s, typing this rather inarticulate entry on my cell phone, I have one last thing on my heart. For all who have lost someone they treasured over the past year and who are heading into the first holiday season without that special person, their smile, and their warmth…I am praying for you all today. ❤️

Happy Thanksgiving!! God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!

Mad for…Angie

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

A sunny soul with a great sense of humor, my cousin Angie Laws is the mother of twin girls and the wife of a good guy named Joe. We spent a lot of Thanksgivings together over the years, and some of the most hilarious photos from my younger years are with my sister, and my Langdon cousins– which includes Angie and her siblings Joe, Aimee and Andrea. There were often matching plaid nightgowns for the girls and always there was a lot of bad hair and Grandpa’s wood burning stove in the background of said photo. Our roots are forever tangled together.

As the oldest of the Langdon grandchildren, I was the first to do everything– graduate from high school, college, get married, and have kids of my own. When my boys were very small, and Angie was a single gal who lived in the area, she sometimes came to babysit. My little guys absolutely LOVED Angie. How could they not? We always spent some time laughing with Angie about our silly goofballs and what they got themselves into under her watch. As long as I have known her, she has been the owner of a beautiful, contagious smile. She’s just an incredibly likable and also amusing person. She laughs easily and her smile is broad!

Although its’s been way too long since I have seen Angie, I am nevertheless grateful to call her family. Tom and I have always agreed that her positivity, terrific smile, and great sense of humor are hard to resist!

As we are nearly upon Thanksgiving, and this holiday evokes a lot of Langdon memories for me, I remember a quote I read recently which said, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” I suppose that feels very accurate as I consider my pretty terrific cousin Angie. Angie, I know without a doubt that your girls are incredibly blessed to call you mom. If the world was full of sparkly women as full of love as you are, it would be a much more phenomenal place to inhabit! HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOUR ENTIRE CLAN!! Hugs!!

Mad for…Holly

Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful. (Thich Nhat Hahh)

Smiles translate into any language perfectly. One which is genuinely offered signals compassion and a welcoming heart. It means kindness and warmth resides inside a person. Holly Ives is a woman who gives those glorious authentic smiles away to EVERYONE. To me, it’s her defining quality, and because of her authentic smile, I really believe she might be one of the most beautiful people I know.

On a day when she’s found life a little irritating, she mixes that famous smile with a little sarcasm and just the BEST laugh around. A few times over the years in the carpool line at St. Louis de Montfort, I encountered her on such an occasion. I left her cracking up in these instances, because I thought to myself how much prettier her tempter tantrums were than my own. I’d love to say she helped me adjust my sails and adopt her approach, but that would really be a lie, and since I JUST participated in the sacrament of reconciliation, I’d prefer not to sully my (still mostly) lilly white soul, ha??!!

A stubborn, slow learner is what I am, but nevertheless I find Holly very amusing and also inspiring. You see, when life brings lemons, Holly throws a little sass and smartassery at it, then she throws her head back, laughs and grins at it. As we all know, when you smile, life smiles back. When I was a kid, my favorite great aunt used to LOVE an old, eccentric comedian named Phyllis Diller. I have to admit she made me laugh too. In a few important ways, Holly reminds me of Phyllis who was famous for saying, “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.

The mother of two amazing, intelligent kids named Renee and David, Holly is also the wife of a quick-witted man named Erik. I’ll be honest. I have not a single clue where Holly is from originally or where she went to school. I don’t know much detail at all, which I suddenly find somewhat tragic. I do know these things. She’s a supportive and loving mother who is incredibly bright…and just plain fun to be around. When I leave her, I am always better for having had the interaction. At the end of the day, if we leave someone feeling more filled with joy than when we arrived, is that not exactly what it looks like to sprinkle a little Jesus around in this world?

Happy Birthday, Holly! I hope your people love you up today in a big way, because you are nothing short of spectacular! This Thanksgiving week, I wanted you to know that you make me feel welcome, warmed, and when I leave you, I am usually giggling a little. I am so very grateful. THANK YOU FOR BEING THE FACE OF JESUS TO ALL IN YOUR PATH!

Mad for…Carol

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. — St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Maybe a year or so ago, I had one of those follow-up to the follow-up type of mammogram experiences. They didn’t like the first round of photos, and they weren’t happy with the second round. The ultrasound was equally unsatisfactory. It was at that point that I ran into Carol LaReau at St. Vincent Carmel Hospital. I am related to some of the LaReau clan, but not Carol. It’s a skosh convoluted to explain to you how she’s married to a LaReau who is the brother of my brother-in-law…? I realize I should have left that last part out, because my attempt at clarifying the relationship did the opposite as I read it back. However, if one has been following me and my Mad for 2019 shenanigans, then said person has already figured out that I am a stream of consciousness blogger in this column, ha?

If anyone is still reading at this point today, then it’s time to cut to the chase. Carol works at St. Vincent and she spotted me, then she quizzed me about what I was doing. Later in the day, I got a follow up message from her. She said “I am praying that you got good news today.” How kind. Classic Carol LaReau behavior. It’s been this way in every interaction I have ever had with Carol. She oozes goodness.

Carol’s got a cheerful countenance and her voice is filled with something gentle that resembles a beautiful mix of both kindness and mercy to me. Her smile is bright, warm, and sincere. Carol is the mother of a University of Dayton graduate named Christopher and the wife of a super guy named Dan. Together, they built a beautiful family. She’s a Ball State gal if memory serves, and as a mother, Carol is incredibly supportive and loving!

That quote above? It is one of my most favorite quotes OF ALL TIMES. That’s saying something because I am a girl who loves words. Carol is all of that. Her eyes, her smile, and her face are filled with authentic kindness. She’s a blessing to those in her path. Period.

Because it is Thanksgiving week, I am working to recognize people who I think truly exemplify what it means to be grateful. In my mind, those who embody God’s kindness by the way they treat and interact with others are at the top of that list. So today, I find myself thinking of Carol and her fine example. She’s like a big slice of pumpkin pie covered with real whipped cream. THANK YOU, LORD, FOR YOUR FAITHFUL DAUGHTER CAROL. I am so grateful to know her!

Mad for…Jennie

Jerome, Katie, and Jennie LaReau

For many years, there was a growing collection of the most richly colored sea glass at our family vacation spot near Lake Michigan. We shared that old house in South Haven with my in-laws, the whole darn clan! This includes my sister-in-law, Jennie LaReau, as well as her husband Jerome and my phenomenal niece, Katie. It was a sweet tradition the frequent walks Jennie always took with her daughter looking for the pretty sea glass. I’m fairly certain those walks continue to this day when the LaReaus are up in South Haven. It’s just one of the small ways I have seen the Lord working through Jennie as a mom.

To see what kind of mother Jennie is, one need only look at her stunning daughter. Not only is she polite, kind, hard-working and sunny, but Katie is also a young woman of faith. That comes from living in a home with spiritually aware parents, and both Jennie and Jerome are certainly that. They love the Lord. Long engaged as active members of their parish, St. Louis de Montfort are the LaReaus. In fact, they have been members of the choir at the 9:00am Sunday mass for as long as I can recall.

Jennie is a fellow Boilermaker who graduated from the Krannert School of Management. She had a lengthy and successful career in a largely male-dominated organization. She’s also just a stylish and put together woman- she has always been beautiful. I’ve long been a little jealous of how great she looks in that short haircut…it’s very “Audrey Hepburn” to me. Now retired, Jennie has focused a great deal of her time and effort deepening her faith life. It’s a super example to those around her. For instance, from my nearby perch, I notice that in addition to her SLDM pursuits, Jennie’s participating in a Christ-centered book club as well as the “Awaken” program for Catholic women that happens most Wednesdays at St.. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel.

I’ve decided to give Jennie a shout out this week because she and Jerome celebrate their wedding anniversary at this time of the year, and they are a couple to whom marriage is so much more than “just a sheet of paper”. It’s clear from their enduring union that theirs is a sacramental marriage in an age where that seems to me be a more rare thing than it once was in this world. I have grown to admire them both as time goes by for their mutual commitment to their vocation.

Jennie, thank you for helping me to understand how important it is to value and understand differences, overlook mistakes, and yield to good sense by watching your example over many years! Happy Anniversary!!

“A successful marriage isn’t the union of two perfect people. It’s that of two imperfect people who have learned the value of forgiveness and grace.” -Darlene Schacht

Mad for…Jeff

The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go. (Dodinsky)

As I sat here at the counter to begin typing my column, my MVP for the day, Tom Thieme, was throwing on his apron to fix dinner. He asked me who I was featuring today, and I when I told him “Jeff Kniola” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “OH! I do NOT like that guy. He’s retired and that is one strike against him immediately!” I just chuckled. I spy the big green envy monster right across the counter from me. However, Tom’s making homemade chicken pot pie for us this evening so I will be refraining from any criticism whatsoever. Also? The jealousy is totally understandable. Jeff is definitely on the young side for retirement, and who among the working folks of this world cannot relate to the awesomeness of managing to pull this off? My sense is that Jeff Kniola is simply a man who has his priorities in line– and it was time to let that phase of his life go so that he could spend more time being the man the Lord has called him to be. I have deep respect for Jeff!

“It appears my sous chef has taken the evening off..” is what I am now hearing in the background. But you see, honey, it’s Jeff’s birthday week and I need a minute to think in full sentences. I’m on day 321 of 365, after all, and I can’t quit now! Just like my handsome chef du jour who is very engaged as a Dad, so is Jeff. He’s the father of a high character son named Carson who certainly learned integrity from both his Dad and his mom, Pat. Jeff and Pat Kniola are pictured above.

As I recall, it was this duo that brought boys volleyball to St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers. They have also contributed in a meaningful way to the same program since it’s inception at Guerin Catholic. I watched that from afar, and have long respected them for their energy and gift of time and talent they offer for the sake of young people. This fall, we had the chance to get to know the Kniola family a bit better. You see, Jeff was an assistant coach for the GCHS boys tennis team on which Zach played this fall. He donated countless hours helping out a large group of boys. He’s enthusiastic and positive when dealing with the athletes– and their parents too! Jesus is most definitely smiling down at His son, Jeff.

Friendly, positive and competitive are three words that come to mind when I think of this retired engineer who is originally from Michigan City, I think. He’s naturally welcoming and is also a man of faith. I enjoyed Jeff’s entertaining and playful sense of humor courtside this fall. His pragmatic nature and the affection he has for his family is obvious. When young people were injured during the course of the season, he was gentle and compassionate. It was fun watching our sons play doubles together a bit as well!

Thoughtful, kind-hearted human beings like Jeff are such an incredible blessing for the impressive difference that their presence makes in the day of those around them. Jeff’s smile is infectious and the joyfulness he exudes is a great witness to those of us in his path. Therefore, this week as Jeff celebrates his birthday, I wanted to acknowledge his awesomeness and offer him a little shout out! Jeff, THANK YOU for reminding me that being happy and shining light into the world is absolutely where it’s at! I HOPE YOU HAVE A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Mad for…Kelly

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. -Maya Angelou

I knew it was going to work out well when we shared a big hug before we even sat down to get acquainted. Today, I met a stranger for coffee. What can I say? I love people and I am big fan of the latte served by the fine folks at Panera. I’m not sure how many cups of coffee a girl needs to buy before they give you one free, but I feel like it should be a thing they do for customers like me who keep suggesting others meet me there! The Friday morning invite came from a fairly unlikely source since I had never previously met or spoken to Kelly Copes-Anderson. Her sweet family is new to the Guerin Catholic community, and I couldn’t resist her email request to meet me. Wow, am I pleased I said yes! She’s an impressive human being.

Kelly is the mother of two boys and the wife of a patent attorney named Arvie. I’m not even going to hold it against them that they are Michigan State Spartans, ha?! I learned quite a lot about this sunny, truly gorgeous woman during our time together. For starters, she’s a native New Yorker who is a marketing director for Eli Lilly. She works in the oncology-breast cancer area, she shared. It was apparent she feels a deep sense of satisfaction about the fact that she is able to help others through the work she does. She’s an impressive and articulate woman, and I feel certain Lilly is fortunate to have her!

Here’s the thing. Kelly sees the blessings in her life, which makes her truly a joyful woman of God. To me, it took me only minutes to spot these as her most defining qualities– her joy and strong faith! I have my youngest son, Zach, to thank for the loveliness of my morning today. You see, Kelly’s son, Bryce, and my kiddo are classmates at Guerin Catholic. Both the boys are on the freshman basketball team, and I think her reaching out was a thoughtful beginning and a super way to start plugging in at the high school for her. I admire her desire to do so, because not everyone takes the time, but as a veteran GC mom, I can tell you the effort has reaped big benefits for our family during the last decade. She’s clearly a very proud and supportive mom! Those are two incredibly blessed sons.

I enjoyed hearing about her older son, Brenton, who is an engineering student at Purdue, and who like my own young Boilermaker lives in a place where a mom does NOT have any desire to use the bathroom (if at all possible). I got a giggle hearing her talk about walking to the West Lafayette library and shared that I tend to prefer the Purdue Student Union over the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house.

Folks, the facts is, it’s a bit unorthodox and a tad uncomfortable to reach out to a stranger, from a community you’ve just barely begun to understand. Kelly is a joy-filled bridge builder and a positive woman of grace. We can’t learn, or grow, or get clarity without engaging. As uncomplicated as that seems, these days I find it’s much more uncommon than it once was to meet someone who grasps that. Do you know what Kelly? That bravery is THE STUFF I LOVE! Here’s hoping the Lord sprinkles this budding friendship with His special sauce! It truly was a pleasure to meet you.

Mad for…Sherri

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, its the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead

There were these t-shirts created a few years back by my friend Colleen Stine and her company (which at the time was called MamaSaid Tees) and is now called Everykind. The message on the front of the shirt reads “Kind is the New Cool.” INDEED! We could be the wealthiest, most athletic, most talented human in the room, but at the end of the day, how we treat others speaks the loudest about the quality of our character. To me, integrity is the defining quality that makes a person “cool”. By these standards, Sherri Kapsalis is most definitely one cool lady!! She’s pictured (top row, right) with her family.

This mother of three (Katrina, Nicolette and Trey) is supportive, loving and a beautiful example of faith in this role. Sherri and her husband, Whitey, have built a lovely family for whom I know they are both proud and grateful. Sherri is an attentive sister as well as a caring daughter and friend to many! The ways she has stepped outside herself for the benefit of others in the time I have known her are myriad and impressive. For instance, it was Sherri who coordinated the purchase of a beautiful statue of our Blessed Mother to be placed on the campus of Cathedral High School when our community lost a beloved young woman named Jen Maginot. Simply stated, Sherri’s heart is filled with the love of Christ.

I can’t remember if I first met Sherri through her sister, Sara, or if it was her talented son, Trey that I have to thank for the introduction. Trey went through grade school at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers with my son, Drew. The kid is quick, athletic and bright, so I was always glad to see his name on the roster of any team Drew joined. That said, it was a total bonus that it meant I would get to have my life intersect with the Kapsalis/Seger/Kaiser clan. The entire family is filled with positive, life-affirming humans– and they always show up en masse to support their people!

Sherri is sunny, pragmatic, and thoughtful. I have always loved her kind, genuine and matter-of-fact way of interacting with others. She’s certainly sensible, but also Sherri is fun! She knows how to laugh, be a little silly, and enjoy life. Her authentic laugh is infectious, but she is real. She’s a salt of the earth sort of person, and souls like that are shiny to me. I am a day late with my love, but it’s still her birthday week, and I want to tell my long, lost friend Sherri that I am grateful this world is populated by thoughtful, generous people like YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SHERRI!!

Do not let love and kindness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write the on the tablet of your heart. (Prov. 3:3)

Mad for…Immaculee

I’ve seen hatred and I have seen love. And love is more powerful. (Immaculee Ilibagiza)

In her book, Left to Tell, Immaculee Ilibagiza provides in shocking and poignant detail, her first person account of surviving the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Hidden for three months in a tiny concealed bathroom with 7 others, she somehow managed to remain alive while most of her family (her mother, father and two brothers) were killed by Hulu soldiers.

I am a prolific reader, and her beautiful autobiography still haunts and inspires me, years after I first read it. Today, I got the rare and meaningful opportunity to see and hear her speak in person at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. She’s incredibly bright, beautiful, and joy-filled. In my heart, she was already a spiritual giant, and hearing her share in person how her Catholic faith guided her through her ordeal and does the same still now in her everyday life was moving beyond what I can adequately express here. She is a soul who glorifies the Lord!

What makes Immaculee particularly remarkable to me is the grace filled way she speaks about her devotion to our Blessed Mother, who always points us to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The compassionate way she presses all in her path to forgive everyone always is equally impressive because this is a woman who has forgiven that which seems nearly inconceivable to me. Her message of hope spoke to my most interior parts, leaving me feeling the peace of Christ.

Recently, I admit to whining a little too much to the Lord. I’m kind of sick of that as well as my unholy self-judgements and I am ready to stand in the light of truth. It’s important that we realize that we are all created in the image of God, so to violate the dignity of our humanity by thinking anything less is not of God. We should strive to be people of joy, and joy is the conscious possession of a good. We have to come to know ourselves and that we are loved by God, forgiven for our mistakes, just as we are! Our Blessed Mother stands ready to help us if we ask for her hand. I needed that reminder, so thank you, Immaculee!

I suppose I hope our good and gracious God is patient and loving enough that He’s happy to hear from His silly daughter, Shelly, even if she needs to adopt an attitude of gratitude in a much more profound way. Here’s the thing. I JUST finished begging Him for some “boots on the ground”. I told God I can only read so many books and that to grow in holiness, I really, really, really want some face time with actual holy persons who live in His truth, love and peace. Then, I showed up for my weekly Awaken meeting and one of the authors I most revere IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD for her selfless example of what it means to truly Trust in Providence SHOWS UP IN CARMEL, INDIANA. Are you even kidding me, Lord? THIS woman? What the heck?! Being a Jesus girl can be kind of comical sometimes. I imagine Him up there rolling His eyes at me marveling at the ferocity of my stubborn refusal to give up my own will and follow His instead.

Immaculee, you inspire me. The depth of the love and grace which flows through you to all in your path is beyond all telling. It felt a lot like today, for this mom of 3 boys from Indiana, the Lord sent you to hold up that rosary and show me the way. I left filled with JOY. I strongly suspect there are a couple of hundred other beautiful women who felt largely the same way. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!