Mad for…Heidi

Any time we practice hospitality we follow in the steps of our lavishly hospitable God. (from The Simplest Way to Change the World)

I’ve been learning a little about the concept of “mindfulness” recently, and what it can mean to our lives if we choose to be fully present today, recognizing it truly is a gift. When we recognize and just enjoy NOW then we are so much happier, healthier and more peaceful. This day was a joyful one, largely because of the great giftedness of a gorgeous and talented woman named Heidi Carnahan. I’m so glad I’m more focused on being present, because missing any of this one would have been a darn shame.

In the above picture, Heidi is 2nd from the right in white pants and black tank top. The photo was taken in her stunning home this afternoon as we celebrated our mutual friend, Lisa Houze, and her 50th birthday which is this week!

Here’s the thing about this gloriously beautiful mother of 3 boys (Zander, Drake and Lincoln)…she didn’t just host a party. Oh heck no! She’s been working behind the scene for WEEKS to pull off a phenomenal surprise for a terrific woman. You see, for Lisa’s 50th, she decided to participate in a tri-athalon in downtown Indy with her two sons, Christian and Malcolm. Her brother, Doug Kalmey, joined in too! Heidi communicated with LOTS of family and friends over several weeks and convinced us all to come down to Celebration Plaza and surprise Lisa with cheering, signage– the whole works! The logistics of managing to communicate all the details were significant. It was a profound act of love.

Not only that, but the detail-oriented Heidi also hosted a kick ass post-race party at her amazing home in Noblesville. She created a photo memory wall, catered in delicious food, and her dessert table looked like it had been created by a professional party planner. She spared no detail and the effect was impressive. She has the gift of hospitality times 10!

For me, it’s a phenomenal act of service, and utterly selfless, to organize and pull off flawlessly a birthday surprise like this one. I already knew that Heidi was a fiercely competitive, highly intelligent mama bear with academically and athletically gifted children. That doesn’t happen magically. I knew she was an attractive, articulate woman. What I didn’t know before these last few weeks was just how stunningly beautiful her heart is.

Albert Einstein once said that “Only a life lived to the service of others is worth living.” I quite agree. You have inspired me by your generosity today, Mrs. Carnahan! NICELY DONE, HEIDI!!

Mad for…Michelle, Polly and Kristy!

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. (Nelson Mandela)

Above: Michelle Mates and her gorgeous boys

Above: The Thomas Family

Above: The Worthingtons

I’m breaking with “Mad for” tradition today and celebrating THREE amazing women this evening. Let me explain. This morning I woke at 5:40am in Hilton Head Island, and as I type now it’s nearly 10pm in Carmel, Indiana. Most of the intervening hours I was sitting shotgun in my Dodge Durango as Tom guided us safely home across the (very hot) eastern portion of this great nation. This gave me PLENTY of time to scroll through my emails as well as my Facebook feed. It was then that I noticed something really AWESOME. I kept thinking about it as the hours passed, and then I decided that must be the Holy Spirit leading me to where I am right this moment– attempting to celebrate the impressive accomplishments of these terrific moms who clearly have a passion for learning!

My friends, Michelle Mates, Polly Thomas, and Kristy Worthington are collectively the mothers to 11 children. As they have been working and raising their families for the last few years, they have been studying for their master’s degrees! Each of them finished up their work in recent days, and I just wanted to take a moment to say how incredibly impressive this is to me!

I suppose I do believe that if you are eager and determined to learn, nothing and no one can stand in your way. Still, to be in the midst of raising young families and to successfully get masters degrees in Social Work (Michelle) and Education (Polly and Kristy)…well…color me dazzled!

Michelle is a beautiful, articulate and funny woman with an hilariously sarcastic sense of humor. I met her working in the lunchroom at our kid’s school which does create excellent fodder for amusement. Her positivity is palpable and she’s easy to be around. She was passing out lunch plates at SLDM, raising 3 boys with her husband, Marty Mates, working at the time to help young children by providing prevention education in youth abuse, and completing her Master’s degree. What a slacker, ha?!

Polly Thomas is the gorgeous, faith-filled and highly intelligent mom to 5 and the wife of Eric. She’s a terrific teacher at St. Louis de Montfort. So, she’s been completing her Master’s in education at Ball State while grading papers and getting FIVE young people to and from school and all their various events? I could barely hold it together with three sons and I don’t have a teaching gig or master’s classes to manage. Polly….just WOW! You are the real deal!

Kristy Worthington I have mentioned to you before. She’s one of the sunniest humans I’ve ever encountered. Honestly, her three kiddos and Joel are just beyond blessed. How did she manage to keep her poise and patience in the classroom and continue to ooze faithfulness while holding down a full time job as a teacher, raising 3 amazing kids and taking classes of her own? Girl, I am just in awe!

Tonight, I just wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS, LADIES!! All three of you have set the bar high with your character and intelligence. I think Jesus is looking down smiling at all three of you and your incredible work ethic as well as the witness you have given to all around you with your life and your accomplishments! WAY TO GO!!

Mad for…Kim

Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries. (Jimmy Carter)

July 19, 2019– This week, the 5 of us have been on vacation in South Carolina. Since Saturday, we’ve been staying at a beautiful condo on the ocean in Palmetto Dunes. Most mornings, the four guys have headed to the golf course while I head to the beach to read. However, this morning, we went another way!

We traveled today to the Coastal Discovery Museum and took an Eco-Tour on Segways! That’s where we met our lovely tour guide, Kim! Kim, who is a Georgia native, has lived for some time on Hilton Head, and she was an extremely knowledgeable and friendly gal. She reminded me so much of my friend Mary Hansen with her voice and mannerisms, and also she kind of even looked a bit like Mary.

What made Kim special was the enthusiastic and passionate way she shared with us about everything from the native horses to the live oaks, and the oyster shells being collected from island restaurants to preserve the reefs. We learned that over 500,000 trees on the island were lost during Hurricane Hugo, which didn’t hit the island directly but packed a big wallop all the same.

Tom had previously ridden a Segway, but the other 4 of us had not. I was a bit nervous that my balance wouldn’t be up to the task, but Kim was patient and confident and I was able to get the hang of it in no time at all.

Clearly a lover of nature and the environment as well as all things historic, Kim made our morning a terrific experience with her positivity! If you are ever here and looking for something fresh to try, I highly recommend Segway of Hilton Head Island…and ask for Kim!!

Mad for…Lauren

There are lives I can imagine without children but none of them have the same laughter and noise. (Brian Andreas)

July 18, 2019– Of all the moms I know, and there are many, Lauren Ayers is on the top of my list of the ones I most admire. She has bad days, awesome days, typical ones and super mom days. What makes her special is the way she seems to love and embrace the real, crazy, chaotic work of motherhood. In the midst of the mess, she has an inner peacefulness about her that speaks to me of her belief in God which somehow helps her know interiorly that she’s doing better than she sometimes thinks she is.

Like moms everywhere, Lauren constantly puts the needs of others ahead of her own. How can she not? She’s the mother of 6! Those boys and little Mary are a handful. However, I’ve been watching her for years teach the hard lessons, over and over again. She’s a patient woman of God who sees the big picture– the heartbeat of the Ayers household. I’m sure her husband, Anthony would agree. How she gets 6 kids reasonably dressed and makes it to mass every weekend with them, I have zero clue!

Lauren is a competitive woman from Michigan, a Butler grad, and she’s got a super sense of humor and a great smile which help her through life. It’s fun to watch games with her, because the woman can get fired up! I love it!! She’s incredibly beautiful, even with no makeup and her hair pulled in a ponytail while she’s dusting off the skinned knees of one of her kids.

When she’s tired, she keeps going. When she’s overwhelmed, she persists. She’s amazing, wonderful, and a life changer for those young, gorgeous kiddos. She’s their glue person, the proverbial “default parent”. As they say, if you aren’t sure you are the default parent, then you aren’t!! With a big brood to care for, that’s a lot of jobs defaulting to my friend Lauren.

I just wanted to reach out today and let you know, Lauren, in case no one mentioned it today…YOU ARE A GREAT MOM! Sometimes, it’s nice to hear it out loud. The Lord loves the way you shine, my friend!

Mad for…JoEllen

People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. (Maya Angelou)

July 17, 2019– Did you ever meet someone and just immediately think to yourself how much you like them? For me, that was the case with JoEllen Simmons, who as I recall is a native of Wheatfield, Indiana. She’s the mom to triplets, Tavic, Tanner and Avery and the wife of Mike. They are pictured with her, above.

The Simmons family is one we know from our baseball years. Drew played on Carmel teams in the summertime with Tavic and Tanner, and very often I sat right next to JoEllen at those games. Why? Well, first of all, just like me she was interested in sitting near the action behind home plate. Many games, her son Tavic was pitching to her other son Tanner. So, I suppose she wanted the best view of them doing their thing. More importantly, JoEllen always made me feel welcome.

Most of the boys on those Carmel teams over the years that both my older sons played on were comprised, unsurprisingly, of young men who went to school together in the Carmel school system. Ours were Catholic school kids, so we were always hunting for the smiling “we’ve got room for you here” kind of folks who welcomed us in. That was ALWAYS JoEllen. She’s got the gift of hospitality. In today’s hurting culture, that gift is more valuable than ever and a very useful and godly witness to those around her.

JoEllen is a generous, compassionate and affirming person. I never told her how much her kindness and hospitality meant to our little family of “outsiders”. She offered us space, welcomed us in, and shoved bottles of water at our kid when he looked pathetically dehydrated and we weren’t there to look after him ourselves because we had 3 games at the same time and we were chasing our tails! She’s a jewel, and today is her birthday. I am WAY past overdue to thank JoEllen for the gift of kindness she gives to others, and the hospitality she always showed to me at those endless summer baseball games. I read somewhere that hospitality is simply love on the loose. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t really remember what she ever said to me, I just remember her smile and how it ALWAYS made me feel like I was welcome to plop down my chair behind home plate next to her. YOU ARE A FANTASTIC HUMAN, JOELLEN!! The world could use a lot more folks just like you!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOELLEN!! We hope your crew celebrates your awesomeness in a big way today!

Mad for…Ann

Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy. (Isaac Newton)

July 13, 2019– One of my most dear friends on the planet is celebrating her birthday today! She knows how to balance honesty and tactfulness better than nearly anyone I know. Perhaps its a gift born of decades as a grade school teacher? What I know for sure is that the Lord did NOT gift me similarly, ha?!! Thank goodness for her stunning example to show me the way. Getting along with people, knowing when to remain silent and when to speak up, and smiling the whole way…these are just a few of her gifts. Meet Ann Hepp! She’s pictured above with some of my other favorite girls on the 4th of July. She’s on the left in the front row in the cute striped shirt.

Ann, who looks beautiful even in yoga pants and ponytail, is the wife of a “salt of the earth” kind of man named Gerry and the mother of two truly impressive young men, Cole and Clay. Her boys are both students at the University of Dayton, and before that they attended Guerin Catholic High School, which is where I first made her acquaintance. She’s incredibly bright, articulate, thoughtful and positive. I count on her prayers and she counts on mine. Her friendship is a treasure in my life.

A gloriously kind soul, Ann is also a remarkably supportive mother to her two sons. Whether she understands their current passion or not, wherever they’ve decided to dip their toes in the water, nearby you will find their mom cheering them on all the way. She’s confident and conscientious as well as thoughtful and loving. Her sons have inherited these terrific qualities from both of their parents. They are her most impressive and remarkable work for the Lord, in my opinion.

A faith-filled, spiritual woman, Ann just flat gets it. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She stops to help, texts to check in, and she offers to assist. She trained her children to interact with the world in just the same wonderful way. She goes out of her way to be a terrific human, which inspires me always to try and imitate her. When she laughs, I giggle. Her giving heart is made of gold. She’s the kind of person for whom you want to return the favor, precisely because you know she isn’t keeping score.

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:38)

Our good and gracious God blessed me more richly than I could ever deserve with a friend like Ann. She’s a blessing in my life as well as those of all who know her. I’ll be out of town on vacation for her birthday this year, but trust me, we made it a festival by starting the party early before I head out of town! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY DEAR FRIEND! I LOVE YOU, ANN!!

Mad for…Tara

Enjoy the little things and be joyful, for one day you may look back and realize they were actually the things that mattered. (Unknown)

JULY 12, 2019– She simply warms those around her by genuine smile and cheerful nature. Meet Tara Lutes. When I first met her, she was Tara Stapleton, and one of my sister’s most dear friends in high school. We all attended Lafayette Central Catholic together. Therefore, she spent quite a bit of time at the Dykhuizen house with us and I got to know her and fell in love with her positive energy– a trait she has carried along with her always!

These days, Tara lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Ben Lutes and together they have two children, Henry and Meg. She’s pictured here with her daughter, Meg. A couple years back, I got a message from Tara asking if I happened to know anyone in the area that might be looking for a part time job, as her company had an opening. Since I know Tara has a beautiful soul, I felt comfortable sharing the name of my dear friend, Renee, who has been working there ever since. What’s terrific for me is that I can kind of follow Tara from afar through Renee and keep up to speed.

After college, Tara went to law school and then spent several years working for a big law firm in downtown Indy. She gave that up several years ago for other work, but from what I can see, through it all her personality continues to brighten the lives of all around her. What has always stood out for me about Tara is her hospitality, enthusiasm and sunny disposition. She’s thrilled to see you and you can absolutely count on a warm greeting and a big hug!

“There is no personal charm so great as the charm of a cheerful temperament.” (Henry Van Dyke)

Today as she celebrates her birthday, I just wanted to give a shout out to my old friend, Tara! Thank you for the sunny glow you spread to others, sweet woman! Your two children are utterly blessed to call you mom! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TARA!!