Mad for…Ann

“To help children, boys and girls, young men, women and adults to know and love the Lord ever more is one of the most beautiful educational adventures…” (Pope Francis)

Day 41 of 365.

One of her several recent notes read, “I wanted you to know that yesterday you were my special intention at mass and communion. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you.” Meet Ann Kalmey. She’s the mother of one of my most dear friends on the planet, Lisa, as well as two more grown children, Lee Ann and Doug. She’s a grandmother to a whole slew of accomplished and amazing young people. I really know her just a little, from a sprinkling of moments together over the years, and yet this fact is utterly unsurprising.

You and I, all of us actually, we sometimes wish for a better world, a better way, an improved life in one way or another. Standing between the ideal and reality are mountainous obstacles, colossal challenges….and we think I’m only one person!! What can I possibly do? Let me tell you what you can do! You can BE LIKE ANN!

Ann and her incredibly fun-loving and intelligent husband raised their beautiful family with a strong base of faithfulness as it’s core. Ann spent much of her professional career as a principal at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School near Louisville, KY. Because Ann is an unbelievably articulate and very strong woman, I know without a doubt that the staff of teachers she led and the students under her care were both well educated in the faith and unconditionally and compassionately supported. “Without confidence and love, there can be no true education” said St. John Bosco. I quite agree. What an amazing way Ann has served the Lord with her life and vocation!

In more recent years, Ann also FOUGHT THE BEAST….and she WON! I am confident she has met many other obstacles in her life besides breast cancer with similar fire and persistence. Her formidable strength and faithfulness as well as an overflowing helping of compassion are to me, her defining qualities.

Here’s the thing Ann reminded me of in recent days with her persistent and thoughtful reaching out. God can do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine. On our own our little efforts might be little in our minds eye, but when we live our lives with Christ at the center, we aren’t on our own– we are souls magnifying the Lord! We needn’t ever think “I can only do so much!”

Thank you, Ann, for being an encouraging face of the Lord to all in your path. Your daughter, Lisa, is a fierce and unbelievably loving and faithful woman because of the love of her mother. I couldn’t do life without her, and this week I realize how fortunate I am that through her, I’ve been able to get to know her spectacular sparkplug of a mother….and snag a scoop of your fabulousness in my life too!

Mad for…Jackie

Great is a teacher’s influence on his pupils if they love him. -St. John Bosco

Today, I’d like to introduce you to another bright light. Her name is Jackie Adams. Phenomenally adept as a teacher, and an even finer human being, Jackie is a 5th grade teacher at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers.

As my youngest son prepares to exit grade school and heads on to Guerin Catholic High School next fall, I find myself incredibly grateful for the gift that so many amazing educators have been for my three sons over the years. This particular gal is simply an amazing soul. People who take the time to notice what is special about ALL THE CHILDREN in their classroom are a rare breed. I have a mother who taught grade school for over three decades. I know from evenings filled with stories about school experiences that it’s easy to notice the squeaky wheels and it’s impossible to miss the truly brilliant. It’s so easy to overlook “the regular guy”. This teacher never does that. Jackie taught my “regular guy” youngest son math for 2 years, and it quickly became his favorite subject. Folks, math is hard. There’s lots of homework. This is no small feat!

With Jackie at the helm, the learning atmosphere has been described to me as “kind of serious, but also laid back.” My son said, “Ask anyone, Mom, because EVERYONE likes Mrs. Adams! She really knows how to teach hard stuff and make us understand.”

Jackie has a great smile and a very funny and sarcastic sense of humor that plays well to the middle school audience, as well as their parents. Yes, she’s creative in her use of fun games to keep the children engaged, and she’s truly gifted with her unique ability to teach new and difficult material. Children leave her classroom ahead of their peers in other nearby schools, because she’s experienced and talented, yes, but I think it’s more than that. You see, the students also know she truly cares about them.

Jackie does things like drive 40 minutes (one way) to see her students play in a CYO game, because she understands that her presence speaks to them loudly about how much they matter. She organized routine trips to the adoration chapel for the students in her class who wanted the opportunity for extra prayer time– an effort which required her to seek parent support. It would be so easy to just “skip it.” She instinctively knew the extra prayer time was incredibly valuable. She shares with her students about her love for them and for her own beautiful (and very blessed) daughter. In short, she is a compassionate, caring woman.

Her smile reaches her eyes and her words are spoken from her heart. This kind of light fills a room, and it inspires in her students a deep desire to work hard and succeed! If your child is lucky enough to spend the day in her care, they will inevitably experience the light of God’s love for them in the person of Mrs. Adams.

THANK YOU, JACKIE ADAMS, for being the light of Christ to SO MANY young people everyday. What you do everyday matters so very much. Your witness of love is a great inspiration to me personally and it reminds me that I should always make an effort to let God’s love shine through me too! The Thieme family LOVES YOU, Jackie, and we are grateful!

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Mad for…Maddie

She’s the kind of girl who follows her heart, but takes her brains with her on the journey. She’s not afraid of being smart. Or faithful. Meet Maddie Beck. Today is her 15th birthday! In honor of this auspicious occasion, on this day, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my incredible niece.

Maddie is an utterly brilliant human. She’s just flat out brighter than most of the rest of us. We’ve known this since she was very small– all of us. Several years ago, one of my kiddos had some sort of project that required them to understand the difference between an alligator and a crocodile. He knew just what to do when he saw my “you mean they aren’t the same thing” face. He called his cousin Maddie who lives in Naperville, Illiois. She sent us a video explanation from her family room. I’m pretty sure she didn’t need Google. I once found a chemistry book on her bed as a much younger girl and quizzed her about it. Turns out, she was memorizing the periodic table for fun. She’s a prolific reader. She’s a badass keyboardist who loves the Rolling Stones. Maddie sings in the church choir, and she was BRILLIANT as Miss Hannigan in her school production of “Annie” last year.

Additionally, Maddie Beck makes me so incredibly proud to be her godmother. She’s caring and she’s kind. She’s got a beautiful laugh, and as a big sister to sweet Ellie, she is loyal, affectionate and warm-hearted. Her work ethic is outstanding, and in my opinion, she glorifies God by the way she lives her life.

Maddie’s been aided, for sure, by my incredible sister Robin (her mom) and her pretty swell Dad, Chris, along the way. She hit the genetic jackpot there. Ditto that “wow, she’s blessed” sentiment for all the folks at her grade school, All Saint’s, as well as her grandparents and extended family. STILL, there’s a light that shines in this young lady that comes from the Lord. Those folks at St. Francis High School truly have no idea what a gem they have in their midst yet…but they will.

So, birthday girl, today I wish you just the most fantastic day. I love you. Happy 15th! If I can leave you one sentiment this day and always let it be this quote from the great St. Augustine.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

Please, never forget that. If you can manage it, all will be well. No matter what life deals you. I LOVE YOU, MADDIE!

Mad for…Sr. Sophia

Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. It is not what we do but how much love we put into it. -Mother Theresa

Note to reader: This is day 30 of 365 in my year long project to introduce others to some fantastic person each day this year that I think really makes a positive difference in the world with their life.  The world needs more reasons to smile, so today I submit to you, Sr. Sophia, a Nashville Dominican.  If you want to know more  about her order, visit:

It’s Catholic Schools Week across the nation right now, and I find myself terribly grateful for my own Catholic education as well as those of my own three sons. This feeling of gratefulness for the enormous blessings got me reminiscing interiorly about one of my favorite CSW experiences a few years back. I’d like to share a pinch of it with you.

Several weeks before CSW that year, I was over at the football fields at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel cheering on my favorite Cardinals who were facing off against the big, bad Raiders (ha!) when a conversation ensued. It was between a group of grade school chums whose siblings were out on the field playing. As they ran around in the grass tossing a small nerf football some well-prepared mom had packed, they were stopped dead in their tracks.

“Hey you guys! Look over there! Why are those crazy ladies wearing matching white dresses?”

“They look kind of funny! It’s too hot for long dresses today…plus that’s really fancy for a football game.”

Frankly, the fact that the sweet kiddos clearly HAD NO CLUE that these “crazy ladies” were religious women was a touch shocking to me. It made me sad too. As a youngster myself, many of my teachers were Franciscan sisters, and some of them really helped to form me in my faith. These two beautiful Dominicans had come to cheer on their students, and their presence there that sunny day changed the CSW plans I had in my mind on the spot.

Meet Sr. Sophia. She’s a spitfire from New Jersey, and also she is a Dominican Sister of Saint Cecelia. The Order is based in Nashville, Tennessee and they are strongly committed to Catholic education. I made a few calls that winter and with a little strong-arming from OLMC pastor, Fr. Richard Doerr, I was able to get Sr. Sophia over to talk to children at SLDM about her vocation during Catholic Schools Week. For most of the children she spoke to that day, she was the very first religious woman they had ever met. It was a very cool experience to witness.

I have only briefly spoken to Sr. Sophia– maybe twice. I’m sure she will be surprised to learn I’ve written about her today, because my name will not be familiar to her. Here’s the thing. A vocation talk by a joyful person in a religious vocation is a game changer. By the example of her consecrated life, she taught a few little ones the way to holiness and joy that day. She spoke to them enthusiastically about the trinity, her background, her prayer life, and her love of the Church. They were enamored. She also answered some pretty hilarious questions without even a hint of condescension. She was the face of Jesus to many that day and I have never forgotten her, praying for her often.

I asked a friend whose son had Sr. Sophia as a junior high religion teacher at OLMC to share with me a little about her as a teacher. She said this, “He loved her, he enjoyed her teaching, always felt like she was for the kids, wanted everyone to do well, she was interested in them as a person and encouraged them to dig deeper into their faith. She connects very well with the students.”

Why am I not surprised?

I LOVE this very funny story shared with me about her and I hope that my sweet friend won’t mind it’s retelling. Apparently, after a talk about “relationships” by Sr. Sophia, she made such an impact that all of the young students that were part of “a couple” in her class decided to just be friends instead. While there weren’t reportedly a large number of “couples” anyway, it’s a tale about her influence that made me snicker.

Sr. Sophia is full of personality. She’s small but mighty! I chose this photo of her because she’s up on a folding chair standing next to her fairly tall student, Dylan, at graduation. Her infectious smile and authentic joyfulness is on display. Its that same spirit of joyfulness and camaraderie that I notice on display by all the members of her community who I have been lucky enough to meet.

This Catholic Schools Week, at a time when Christian education is much maligned, I wanted to take a moment to give thanks to God for Sr. Sophia and ALL the religious women who have made a difference for so many of us by their enthusiasm for the truth of the Gospel, as well as the selfless way they share their lives with all of us. THANK YOU, SR. SOPHIA! What you do everyday? Oh goodness, it matters! Today, my rosary will be for you.

Mad for…Larry

Be grateful for small things, big things, and everything in between. Be grateful for today and never take anything or anyone for granted. Life is a blessing.

He’s an unsung hero working to make sure the children and his co-workers are safe. I have been watching him for the better part of two decades as he stands guard, often wearing many layers of clothing, topped with his signature bright orange coat. He hustles dozens of cars filled with little children in an out of the parking lot each day, genuinely concerned for the safety of each child. He does it everyday, in pouring rain…and also in frigid cold like today.

Meet Larry Banther. It’s currently 9 degrees here in Central Indiana. That’s actually several degrees WARMER than it was when he was managing the morning carpool, as always, at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers. He’s the man in charge of building maintenance at my son’s school. However, Larry is much more than that. How many building maintenance guys at schools across the state who you suppose are also certified school safety specialists? I don’t know the answer, but I’d be surprised if there were many others. He’s literally taken the time to be fully trained to know how to make the parish he works for as safe as it can possibly be. THAT is cool and inspiring.

Larry’s not a fancy guy, but he’s a steady and vital contributor every single day. Also, I learned some time ago he’s a big fan of Mountain Dew– so consider the Taco Bell gift card and keep the McDonald’s one for someone else. I’ve watched him deal patiently with rude, obnoxious and difficult people. They serve as important reminders of how NOT to be. Mostly, I really do think he is appreciated and loved by the folks around him. However, sometimes I’ve wanted to raise my voice and yell “Don’t be condescending to Larry. Try his job for half a day first.” This guy scoops snow, spreads salt, and climbs up to check out a leaky roof. He mops up a lunch room floor covered in spilled milk and smashed grapes. He’s called in when someone had the stomach flu and the 3rd grade room is essentially uninhabitable. He’s a jack of all trades, he’s reliable, and he’s kind. He also has a great smile and a really terrific laugh.

In the midst of the everyday chaos, Larry is treasure to many for his steadfast care and helpfulness. THANK YOU, LARRY for keeping my 3 boys safe, warm, and dry these last 16 years. I truly appreciate you!!

Mad for…Hugh

Saint Joseph was a just man. A tireless worker. The upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families. -Pope St. John Paul II

Meet Hugh Ross. Hugh is first and foremost a husband and dad. From my perch nearby over the years, I’d say Hugh embodies what it means to be a holy and present father. In fact, the photo above is one from him attending a Lacrosse event cheering on one of his kiddos– on a freezing cold day as many dads often do to show love and support. Just out of the frame is his cheerful wife Amy, a holy woman I also greatly admire.

I chose the quote above about St. Joseph for today’s entry owing to the fact that Hugh Ross seems to me a wonderful modern day model of the virtues we see present in St. Joseph. He’s of uncommon faith, and he’s a tireless worker for Christ in all he does.

When my mother in law died rather suddenly a few years ago, it was Hugh who stepped up on very short notice to be the cantor at her funeral mass. This effort was no small sacrifice on his part, and his presence was an enormous gift to the entire extended Thieme family. The gentle loveliness of his voice lent reverence and beauty to a truly difficult day. It’s merely one anecdotal example of the sort of selflessness and kindness that he displays everyday.

Love the children first, then teach them. –St. Mother Theodore Guerin

Also, Hugh is a high school physics teacher at Guerin Catholic High School. It’s patroness, when she spoke of what an educator should be, might as well have been describing Hugh Ross. He teaches a challenging subject, yet his class is invariably a favorite among his students. My middle son in fact named it as his very favorite during his four years there…and Drew is FAR from alone in that selection. It’s because while Mr. Ross is brilliant, attentive, and affable, he more importantly exudes the kind of care and love that Mother Guerin described. There’s a reason he’s received prestigious awards for his work with his students. Christ uses him to show others what His love is all about.

Hugh is an exceptional human being. He’s a leader in faith and a model for what the Lord means fatherhood to look like. His witness of gentle strength and selflessness is a blessing to all with whom he interacts, including yours truly! THANK YOU, HUGH, FOR WHO YOU ARE AND ALL YOU DO EACH DAY!

Mad for…Barbara

A good deed is never lost. He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. -St. Basil

Day 27 of 365.

Meet Barbara Schrader. She’s Tom’s aunt, the older sister of my father-in-law. I met her when I was a teenager, which feels now like a very long time ago. Barbara has been retired for some time now, but she spent many years as the principal at St. Mary’s Catholic School, which is at the Cathedral parish of the Diocese of Lafayette. I have absolutely no doubt that she was both wise and compassionate in that role.

For a number of years, she spent long stretches of time at her cottage in South Haven, Michigan, and it’s there that I got to know her best. Tom and I would sneak over together to visit when we were teenagers vacationing up there with his family, then later we did the same as a married couple with our young boys. She always greeted us with a warm smile and we’d begin the catching up and story telling. There was often ice cream or some other fabulousness offered– even if the house was already filled to brim with humans. She’s got a great sense of humor and her laugh is quite infectious. She’s a straight shooter who is unafraid to offer her two cents, and one would be wise to take her prudent advice. What I love most about her is that her faith and her fierce love for her large family have always shined brightly. Wow, does she love those children and grandchildren! I remember many, many sets of doll clothes sewn with great care for her granddaughters. I recall stories she loved to share about the sports exploits of her sons and grandsons. More than once, she asked me to pray for a specific family member who was struggling. She always, always inquired about my sister and my parents when she saw me. Also, she can be sassy, but I have never seen her be unkind.

When her brother became quite ill a few years back, I ended up spending some extended time with him (my father in law, Tom) up at the hospital in Michigan. Barbara and her husband, Jim, were very present during those long hours and we talked and simply tried to be present for him, together. Their gift of presence was enormously comforting to me as I did my best to watch over his care at the South Haven Hospital. She insisted I stop over and spend some time while we held this vigil for Grandpa Tom, and her friendliness and beautiful heart helped me to understand why she is beloved by so many people in Lafayette and beyond. Barbara is grace-filled and her entertaining stories always shed others in the best possible light. It’s so refreshing.

Presently, Barbara is mourning the recent loss of her amazing husband. This time of grief must be trying to bear, to put it mildly. She’s been on my mind and in my prayer. Please join me in asking God to fill her with the grace she needs. I hope she knows what an inspirational witness she is of what God intended a Catholic wife, mother and grandmother to be. She shines! God Bless Barbara!

Mad for…Fr. Haan

O how great is the priest! If he realized what he is he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from Heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host. Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in the tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for the journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest—always the priest. And if the soul should happen to die (as a result of sin) who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again the priest. After God, the priest is everything. Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is. -St. John Vianney

Day 22 of 365.

Fr. Thomas Haan is a young priest from my hometown of Lafayette. He grew up in a farm family, which I am sure helps to account for his work ethic and natural humility. Like many young men from the Hoosier state, Fr. Haan was a talented basketball player and football player in high school. In fact, he was a gifted athlete who set some impressive records as a quarterback at my alma mater, Lafayette Central Catholic. He also went on to Purdue University where he was a member of the football team there.

That’s kind of a nifty and unique background for priest, but it’s not why I’ve chosen to highlight him today. You see, what makes Fr. Thomas Haan truly sensational in my book is that I believe he gives us all a pretty swell witness of what it means to live as a courageous and holy man. Accessible and reverent, Fr. Haan is an amazingly self-possessed and passionate guy who clearly loves the Lord.

In his role as the chaplain at St. Theodore Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, he preaches the faith to young people without even a hint of condescension. Some of those homilies are just incredibly challenging and they always call all within earshot to live in the world but not be of it. He asks us all to be the hands and feet of Christ to one another. He gets away with some bold and extremely demanding calls to holiness which enter into the interior of the listener because his authenticity and personal witness is clear for all to see. Also, he’s just a cool guy. That definitely helps when you’re dealing with teenagers everyday.

This fall, for instance, after my middle son, Drew had barely begun his freshman year in college, he and his high school buddies were back home for fall break. As 18 year old boys will do, a few of them decided to meet up at GCHS and play some pick up basketball. This was a fantastic crew of recent grads and they were thrilled to have the chance to go get sweaty with the buddies they hadn’t seen in a couple months. As Drew tells it, Fr. Haan walked into the gym with a scowl on his face and called out loudly, “Hey, do you guys have permission to use this gym?” They stopped and looked up at him and hollered back, “Uh, no, we don’t Father…” at which point Fr. Haan grinned widely and replied “PERMISSION GRANTED”. They all got a big laugh out his teasing, and it gave them the sense that they are loved and always welcome. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. Everyday kindness matters.

In short, Fr. Haan is one of the good guys. With him, young people (and their parents too) know he truly loves Jesus and feel that he cares, therefore his witness of faith bears fruit and begins to spread– even when he tasks us with the challenging work of being a disciple of Christ.

THANK YOU, Fr. Haan, for all you do each day!


Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests. Through them we experience your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Inspire them with the vision of your kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of your divine grace. We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.

Mad for…Kristy

Every time you smile at someone it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. -Mother Teresa

Kristy Worthington, left, with her beautiful daughter, Reese.

Day 20 of 365.

Hearing her name makes me instantly grin. Meet Kristy Worthington. She’s the quintessential smiler. Bright, effervescent, and brimming with positivity, Kristy is one of the most cheerful people I have ever known. You leave even the briefest moment with her better for the encounter.

As a grade school teacher, she’s good-natured on her worst days, and hilarious on her best. We call the year with Mrs. Worthington the “white fluffy cloud” experience. If your child comes home from school complaining about this teacher, then that’s a kid who…. must be coming down with the flu? She’s a phenomenally talented educator who has won many awards for the same. She’s a rock star at what she does every day with children. That’s not why I chose her today.

Kristy is an authentic example of what it means to model goodness. She chooses optimism and carries herself in such a buoyant way that others leave her presence lighter on their feet as well. Kristy can also bust a move. Her lip sync numbers are my personal favorite. She posted one today, performed with her travel partner (daughter, Reese) and it’s what made me think to choose her. She’s the most loving and fun mom, that’s easy to see, even from a distance. She’s sanguine, upbeat and sunny side up…even when the world delivers into her life truly difficult moments.

I have watched from a nearby perch as she set aside her own heavy and melancholy heart to hug, smile, and console others who she instinctively knew were in desperate need of a scoop of Mrs. Worthington’s sunshine. She’s a gift to all who know and love her. It seems to me she’s a terrific example of being grateful no matter what.

How blessed are her three children and her handsome husband, Joel? I hope they know.

Kristy? You are the barometer I use to identify positivity in others. Thank you for your example and for your beautiful, faith-filled and sunny heart. I am SO MUCH BETTER for having the chance to know you.

Mad for…Maggie

Kindness is like snow- it beautifies everything it covers. -Kahlil Gibran

Maggie Berger- Day 12 of 365

Central Indiana is covered in a blanket of white today. Haltingly, we inched our way this morning from our home in Hamilton County to the far south side of Indianapolis so our Z-man and Coach Dad could get to the last regular season CYO game at St. Barnabas. Our car was filled with exactly ZERO snow lovers. However, Zach pointed out that he knew one person would be very happy to see all the snow. That would be my pick for person of the day– Maggie Berger!

Lively and passionate, and with a heart of gold, Maggie has a certain zest for life that is magnetic! She’s an English teacher who loves all the kiddos like they are her own. St. Theodore Guerin has a famous quote which says, “Love the children first, then teach them.” That sums up Maggie’s professional life in a nutshell. It’s quite evident that Maggie knows innately that her students are both wise and capable, and this is why they respond to her with smiles and love. She has been known to sense the anxiety of middle schoolers and decide to turn down the lights and pray, asking the Lord to intervene for them all. Children who find themselves in her care are truly blessed. She is truly kind.

Maggie is an amazing mother of two sons, Patrick and Thomas and a loving daughter to a great gal named Peggy. She’s also the owner of a terrifically sarcastic sense of humor that makes me snicker at the sight of her. She’s been known to text me when certain old songs come on the radio that remind her of the times when our boys were much smaller and we sat at Skiles Test watching them have fun while we laughed and sang wholly inappropriate lyrics from the 3rd base line…until tears formed from the giggling.

My run-on sentences and lack of appropriate grammar in this entry will drive her slightly batty, but that’s my retribution for the snow you wished on us, Maggie. Ha?

I hope you know how much you are treasured. I know your faithful heart is certain that you are a beloved daughter of the most high God, Maggie, and that’s really all that matters. I guess I just want you to know that I love you too, friend!