Turn the Page

Are we confident that this is the best solution, or are we still exploring alternatives?  That’s a great sentence, I think.  It’s the kind spoken by articulate, “pc” types.  I’m the sort of person who would, in the same context, blurt out, “That’s a horrible idea!” 

Allow me to provide an example.  On Christmas eve, our resident (and self-described family “Scrooge”) came out from the bedroom with a big cheesy grin, wearing a teal-colored quarter-zip. It was unzipped to reveal a bright orange T-shirt underneath, over a pair of white and black gym shorts.  My face immediately got this quizzical, swished up kind of confused vibe, and I was honestly wondering if Tom was trying to make us laugh by putting on an outfit which clearly did not match itself?  So, I believe I poured forth with something witty like “What on earth are you wearing…” just seconds before I realized that he absolutely thought he was wearing festive red and green.  Oops.  Thankfully, he was in good humor and received it well. 

When I hear myself speaking, that’s me processing out loud.  I keep talking until I’ve found the proper edits and my actual position is clarified.  Extending my heart before realizing I should guard it a bit is also a charming pattern of behavior.  Trusting my own judgement when my vision is cloudy because I’m unwell, blue or just extremely fatigued is another among my great volumes of work.  Non-verbally, I’m a billboard on I-465.  These are qualities I loathe, and which seem to me to be virtually impossible to rectify.  It’s almost like God got His wires crossed when He created me.  Maybe He was tired that day and forgot to add the proper helping of tact and He totally left out the volume control panel?  Those flaws are just my opening act.

Here’s the thing.  I’m nearly 52 years old.  Tick. Tock.  The Lord of life is whispering sweet nothings.  They sound a lot like, “Stop screwing around. I made you to travel this journey just the way you are—loving loudly and with your whole heart.  Quit thinking about yourself so much and get to work!”

That’s just it, am I right? 

All this insecurity. We all suffer it. Some of us struggle more than others. It’s pretty much universal with young people, especially teenagers. I’m in year 12 of 14 with at least one teenager living in my midst. Of late, he’s been struggling a bit as ladies and gentlemen of this age bracket are pretty much required to do. Adolescent angst is practically a right of passage.

My sons (l to r): Zach, 18, Drew, 23, and Nick, 25.

It might seem like I wrote today’s entry to just share with the world that I’m still a hot mess and I need to FIO, but really, I wanted to write down some pieces of advice for my kid, and the other high schoolers who are in the middle of a rocky part of their own adventure.  So, here I go.  This is my Top 10 list for Teenagers on Friendship.  Use it or toss it.  Hopefully, it helps someone.  Thank you to my mom squad, who are chiefly responsible for sharing their wisdom as we’ve navigated parenthood together the last quarter century. I know I could have used some of these golden nuggets myself in 1987 or so.

  1.  If you have to walk on eggshells around them, they aren’t your people.
  2. You get to choose your friends, so choose the ones who choose you back.
  3. God didn’t screw up when He created you. Be Yourself.  You’re a big scoop of AWESOME.
  4. Bad day?  Be intentionally kind to someone. Anyone. It will be a blessing to you both.
  5. Show up for your people—even if they don’t ask.  Apologize when you screw up, and be there when they need you, even if it feels inconvenient or awkward.
  6. Don’t say something behind someone’s back that you would not say to their face. 
  7. Put NOTHING on social media that you would be embarrassed to read aloud to your mother- or your pastor!
  8. Notice, smile, say hello.  BE THE LOVE. These kindnesses are Christian joy– and are always free.
  9. Some people aren’t going to like you and sometimes you’ll be left out.  It’s okay. You are not responsible for their version of events or perceptions. You know who you are, and so does Jesus.
  10. WHEN you get hurt, and you will, take some time, talk to someone you trust, and sit with Jesus.  Your worth doesn’t come from others, it comes from the Lord.  You, are the child of the most high God.  Don’t you dare shut down that beautiful heart! God has BIG plans for you. TURN THE PAGE.

“Christian joy is contagious because the Gospel makes us go beyond ourselves to share the beauty of God’s love.  We cannot keep Christian joy to ourselves.  It multiplies once we start spreading it.” –Pope Francis


Holiness grows fast where there is kindness.  I have never heard of kind souls going astray.  The world is lost for want of sweetness and kindness.  –St. Mother Teresa

“When you leave your stuff on the floor outside the shower like that, I lose the spa vibe I was hoping for when we built this master bath, Shell.”

Those words, spoken to me a while back, were a gently filed (but valid) complaint being lodged against yours truly.  I still recall that particular fraternal correction by my husband because of the humor and kindness with which it was spoken.  It made me roll my eyes, but I laughed.  I do fail still, but I have made a concerted effort to keep that particular area relatively tidy since then.  Honestly, it’s because he was candid, but respectful and funny.

Here’s my point.  It takes less effort to grumble than it does to be thoughtful in how we speak to others in our path. We honestly have zip for a clue what most folks are up against today.  Do you know what’s powerful?  A sense of humor is compelling and persuasive, of which well-intentioned smartassery is my personal favorite variety.  Basic compassion and kindness are also pretty magical.

Days we encounter might be difficult, even tragic.  There might be sad anniversaries, grief, health challenges…or a million other mountains you’re climbing.  Still, let’s work on not being a thorn in someone’s side, huh?  The world is so freaking hard and full of insanity.  You can choose to be positive even if you don’t love the day, because I truly believe there’s something good in each one of them if you keep your heart and your eyes open.  You are important to more people than you know.  It’s tough to remember that sometimes, but it’s true.

Here’s what else.  It’s better than okay to apologize when we screw it up.  I love this quote by Kelly Hayes who said, “There’s no shame in admitting you were previously speaking from a less informed place.” A to the MEN, Kelly!

I’m mostly running on lattes and Jesus most days.  My hair isn’t really long enough for the ponytail I constantly shove out the back of my baseball cap.  There are 55 boys on the GC tennis team, and I’m a team mom just trying to keep them fed and hitting tennis balls that still bounce.  My father-in-law passed away 3 months ago, we’re nowhere near closing out the estate, and his son to whom I’m married has had zero chance to properly grieve yet given the endless mayhem that tends to befall anyone to whom the word “executor” applies in these matters.  Our lives are blessed in many ways, but I could keep adding to that list of stressors for a while yet if I chose to continue on like this in today’s post.  We all have our hands full.  A whole spectrum of emotions cover us up each day.  It’s okay to feel all those emotions.  That’s what it means to live life.  None of us has a perfect one.  You are who you are because of your life and experiences.  And you, my friend, are flipping awesome.  You’ve trudged through thunderstorms people can’t see.  You’re still here, and you are okay.  God sees.  You are not alone.  You are loved. 

Who are you really??  Ask yourself if you are living authentically, because that’s the whole ballgame.  Let me tell you who I am.  I’m the kind of girl who wears my heart on my sleeve.  I burn too hot, and I cry too easily.  I laugh so hard that I can’t breathe and tears fall down my cheeks.  I’m menopausal and my hair is falling out, so I try to hide it.  I love hard and am overly dramatic.  I don’t have an inside voice and patience isn’t my virtue.  “Calm down” doesn’t work at all with me. I’m obsessed with leggings that have pockets and I hate story toppers, being late and diet Pepsi.  Most importantly, though, I believe it’s important to be honest and forthcoming, but considerate in the way we treat others. When I fail at that last part, I am hard on me.  These things are who I am today.  If I was pretending to be someone else, I couldn’t possibly have what it takes to do the work God calls me to do today, and neither could you.  Today, He asked me to remind a few folks about the power of kindness. I kind of wasn’t in the mood to type things this afternoon, but He asks and so I answer.  Maybe someone needs to hear something in this ramble?  That’s not my business, I suppose.  That’s up to the Lord.

Because giggling is good…

The thing about kindness is that to the many people who feel the cruelness of the world overwhelming them, your little gift often has an impact you might never realize.  Do the obvious.  Be kind to your family, friends, and the total strangers in your day.  Show grace even when others are casting stones.  Be a person who chooses to love. If you have something legitimate to correct, go with Tom’s tidy bathroom method and do it with a smile.

Say nice things to each other.  Thank the darn barista, because she’s probably spent 8 hours busting her rear.  Offer to pray with or for someone.  Send a funny meme.  Hold the door.  Tip too much.  Don’t look aways when someone is hurting.  Look him in the eye and tell him he is not alone.  Empathy is powerful!!  HOLD EACH OTHER UP.

Only people who are dissatisfied with themselves are unkind to those around them.  If you notice that’s you, ask for the grace to turn it around starting…right now.  Ask for a heart like Jesus.  Some days are so hard we have to brace for impact.  It’s just one day. Tomorrow is a new one, full to the brim with all the grace and mercy you can imagine.  We are going to make it.  It’s easier when we lean on Jesus and work together. 

You don’t have to be a superhero to save the day.  For the right person, your intentional kindness can change everything.  People like that make the world beautiful. 

I’m going to close by sharing a prayer that was recently shared with me by a holy, affirming, and hilarious friend named Deanne.  It’s my new favorite way to end the day.  I invite you to try it before you close your eyes tonight! 

PLEA FOR THE NIGHT (Ignacio Larranaga)

My Father, now that the voices have hushed and that cries have ceased, my soul rises to you to say: I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you with all my might. Glory to you, Lord.

I commit into your hands the fatigue of the battle, the joys and the disappointment of this day which has ended. If my nerves betrayed me, if self-centered impulses had the best of me, if I allowed resentment or melancholy to invade me, forgive me, Lord. Have mercy on me.

If I have been unfaithful, if my mouth spoke idle words, if I was a thorn for someone, forgive me, Lord. I do not want to fall asleep without feeling in my soul the safety of your mercy, Lord, sweet and unbinding. I give you thanks, my Father, for you were the refreshing shadow that shielded me all through the day. I give you thanks because all along these hours you surrounded me– invisible and affectionate– you watched over me like a mother.

Lord, all around me is silent and calm. Send the angel of peace over this house. Relax my nerves, appease my spirit, set my mind at rest, flood my being with silence and serenity. Watch over me, beloved Father, when I surrender to sleep, confident as a child happily sleeps in your arms. In your name, Lord, I will rest peacefully.


This Makes Me the Dog

I know Ann, I gotta go because I am at the grocery now, but I don’t know what she’s thinking letting her daughter go to that school next year with all those backward, elitist Catholics!

Several years back, I overhead these disquieting and decidedly unchristian words spoken in a local grocery store.  During the last few weeks, the memory of that morning continue to find their way to my mind and heart as I take in giant ladles full of moral relativism and anti-Catholic sentiment. 

Back then, I spoke up (albeit not in the moment) about why it’s okay to be proud to be Catholic.

At the time I heard them, I said nothing and simply turned away. It felt like a very personal blow all the same. To be fair, I arrived at the grocery store in a bit of a bad head space, not unlike the one I’m in now. Therefore, the longer I thought about it, the more annoyed I became with this stranger. To call me BUGGED would have been considerably inadequate at the time.

I watched a similar encounter between two friends just this past week (over six years later) that has me similarly riled.  One can choose silence as a response to uneducated attacks on the Lord of life, or the state of the world. Or, we can speak up.   My head is right in the middle of the muck coming across my Twitter feed and TV and I am certain many of you are right here with me.  Allow me to share what I know to be right and good about our collective Christian community by using the example of my own parish as I begin.

I’m an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, at which the 13,000 sq. ft. Merciful Help Center is located.  Jayne Slaton, the amazing woman who runs the operation, would literally be the last person on earth to say, “Hey, look over here!  We’re amazing!”  Truth be told, THEY ARE.  The center houses a large food pantry, the Trinity Free Clinic, and serves thousands annually. They meet the needs of marginalized people from all walks of life every single day. Their network of volunteers from doctors and dentists to retirees, as well as housewives and their children, is astounding. 

Above: Food packages prepared by Merciful Help Center Volunteers is ready for delivery to Hamilton County families in need of assistance.

Guess what? I know you good Catholic people with your sleeves rolled up all over your own community, and I know you don’t really give a rip how much “credit” you get for who you help. Largely, you simply want to be the hands and face of Christ to those around you. You inspire me. You make me want to be more and do more!  You are literally EVERYWHERE.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 17,000 parishes that serve a large and diverse population just here in the United States.  The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of education and medical services in the world.  Catholic Charities, for instance, serves over 10 million individuals annually.  Some of its more well-known partner organizations include Habitat for Humanity as well as Catholic Charities Disaster Relief. In short, they work hard to reduce poverty and provide emergency relief throughout the US and well beyond. It’s hardly an insignificant contribution.

To understand the social services impact of the Catholic Church, though, I think, one needs to understand that our country is home to a vast network of Catholic hospitals and health systems, and that the University system in our country was largely a Catholic invention, and that our thousands of parishes ALL contain ministries similar to the ones I mentioned at mine.  Each contributes in its own way and within its own capacities to combat hunger, domestic abuse and poverty.  They provide resources to families struggling with elder care needs, children in foster care, to pregnant mothers, those in mental health crisis, and so much more. 

The Church runs 5,500 hospitals, 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, with 65 percent of them in underdeveloped and poverty-stricken areas. 

Now, add up the smaller scale charitable works of the Catholic parishes I mentioned, and be sure not to leave out those undertaken by individual religious orders like the Missionary Sisters of Charity, the Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, and many others I’m forgetting. 

You see, we Catholics know that Jesus was never indifferent to the sufferings of others or the dignity of life.  So, when someone yells “You Catholics don’t even support [insert social concern here], so we know you don’t really care about life”, they are just ill-informed.  I’ve heard it said this way. A dog barks if his master is being attacked.  I guess this makes me the dog.  If hunger were easy to fix, or abuse, or poverty…then they would be solved already.  Georgetown professor J. Brennan recently stated it this way on his May 3, 2022 post on social media.  It says, “I am against Russians killing Ukrainians, but I might for all sorts of reasons oppose the US government aid to Ukraine.  I don’t think my neighbor should murder his kids and yet that doesn’t mean I believe I am obligated to feed his kids.”  This particular academic admits he sides against Catholics on many issues but acknowledges that some in his camp misunderstand some of the pertinent issues at hand.  What I’m trying to say is, the argument is not only an invalid one, the premise is also completely false. 

There are more nuanced conversations and smarter arguments out there for why being authentically Catholic and proudly so gives great glory to God.  Pope Benedict XVI called us “an expert in humanity.”  I quite agree.

To those in who cry out in anger, who are suffering, or who are searching, I offer the following invitation in all sincerity.

When you are down on your luck, come find us. We are literally EVERYWHERE. We’ve got nuns that will help care for your Uncle Henry who needs a hand up, priests who will tend to his spiritual needs, and pastoral associates who will help his daughter find a counselor and a great gal named Jayne who will get her a bag of groceries.

We’ve got Universities who help underprivileged young people get a college education who couldn’t otherwise afford one—and college students filled with so much heart they are building houses for people on the weekends and tutoring students in your local public school for free.

We’ve got hospitals. We’ve got grade school kids making PB&J’s who will pass one to you to take along for the road after you leave the food pantry. We’ve got HS kids taking their day off after finals to come rake your leaves. We have thousands of those little old “church ladies” and countless Catholic prayer groups who will pray for you– and if you need help with food for your brother’s funeral–we’ve got your back.

Stop in and see us.  Find out who we really are.

When you call us names or tell us we’re backwards, we’re human. It makes us sad. When you think it’s okay to disrespect our beliefs, and especially where it relates to ending the lives of the most vulnerable, it makes our hearts weep. Broken hearted people don’t always think straight or articulate well. For those times when we have failed, we ask your forgiveness. We will work on our behavior. It doesn’t change the fact that we are right here and we want to help—no matter who you are or where you live.

Catholic friends, when did disagreeing become something that must express itself venomously? WE, as a group, need to do a better job understanding that people weren’t exactly a big fan of Jesus either (and we are CLEARLY NOT HIM), and rest in the Lord. That’s all. The anger and defensive posture are unbecoming.

As my youngest son often says, “We’re a good family.” Like all good families, we are full of flaws. But don’t be led astray. Our church is born of Christ Himself, and it’s okay to be proud to be Catholic.

With God’s help, we’ll keep trying to respect one another and do better. We must.

If I have the chance to talk sometime directly to the heart of folks like the woman I overhead at the grocery a few years back, or the one filled with venom this week? I would say this. “I’m worried about some of you guys. Some of you don’t see how BELOVED YOU ARE. Hey you! Yes, you! God loves you. He’s better at loving than any human being could ever be, and He sees everything amazing about you.”

My faithful friends, if you know that, really KNOW THAT, in your heart, then you are blessed beyond words. I’m asking you to please join me in prayer for our country? It’s full of angry people who do and say evil things which means they don’t know God loves them.  It breaks my heart. I’ve been there. It’s a really crappy place to be. Let’s ask God to use us to be His face and His hands to show them what love looks like.

When you feel worn out or lack the courage to speak life and be a proud Catholic, remember these words spoken by St. (Pope) John Paul II, “Never tire of firmly speaking 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!” 

Mad for…Colleen

Intense love does not measure, it just gives. – St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Once in a blue moon, I encounter a soul that instantly captivates me. Perfect measures of both holiness and smartassery are rarely found in the same person, I’ve noticed. Today, on the very appropriate feast day of St. Teresa of Calcutta, I’d like to introduce you to such a person– my new friend, Colleen DuLac.

Here I am, on the left, with my friend, Colleen, on the right.

Truly genuine, beautiful souls like Colleen are a gift from the Lord. This Jesus girl lives her faith every single day. A gifted and compassionate caregiver, Colleen has walked with many folks as they journey to the end of their lives and into eternity with Christ. She’s a mother, sister, aunt, daughter and friend. She’s suffered much in her life— physically, spiritually and emotionally. However, none of that pain has gone to waste. She uses what she’s learned to make the lives around her better by her presence.

I met Colleen when she began to help the Thieme family care for my father-in-law, Tom. He’s a gentle, but stubborn soul and does not always take up well with strangers. Colleen, though, is a faith-filled woman and a patriot who has a special affinity for all our military men and women who serve the country now, or who are veterans. She also adores helicopters and airplanes. These are affinities she has in common with Grandpa Tom, and she played that common interest card perfectly with our family patriarch. He really didn’t want any strangers in his house even before his cancer battle got serious and he clearly needed us to pour forth some intrusion. He’s not the extrovert his wife was, for sure. So, Colleen simply became his friend, and developed fast rapport. She’s grace filled. The Lord blessed her with incredible patience and warmth, gifts she passes to others in heaping, ornery, “smart-alecky” spoonfuls. She is not afraid to look you in the eye and speak truth, but those glorious, sparkly things are so full of love that one can’t even hold it against her when the truth is tough. THIS is an awesome human being. She’s smart as a whip and can accompany a confused or hard of hearing patient to the doctor and take perfect notes, ask the important questions…and humble enough to see that the bathroom just really needs to be cleaned and simply step up to offer another human being dignity in their daily life. To be an integrity-filled truth teller who cares for others, meets them where they are…well…that’s what it means to be the face of Jesus to those in need. Just like Mother Teresa did, she looks gritty in the eye and sees only our Lord, and she wants to be His hands. It’s incredibly inspiring.

Also? She likes her morning coffee…and my friends St. Francis and St. JPII. When I heard she once got on a flight to Italy with like 30 minutes notice so she could be there when he finished his magnificent work here for the rest of us on planet earth, it made my soul smile. She’s a woman after my own Polish pope loving heart.

It seems to me that the world wants us to overlook heroes like Colleen. These are tumultuous times for sure. However, yesterday while I was at the Purdue football game, I noticed something important. The entire crowd of Ross-Ade stadium got up on their feet and applauded (at some length) while the photos of many military men and women were flashed on the jumbo-tron. They stood again to thank the military pilots who showed up on the field because the weather was too crummy for them to do their planned flyover. They yelled “I am an American” with one voice during the pre-game festivities. It was as if we are all a little more in love with one another, and mostly a notch or two better than we’ve been led to believe, by social media or our TV screens. This made me realize how important it is to be fully present and notice the heroes around us, the folks who make the world more light-filled. This is the best time to become saintly. When it’s difficult to live in a virtuous way, when the world tells us that being Christian isn’t a valid perspective, I think this is the time to look at each other with love in our hearts and minds. Be like Colleen.

So. My little “Mad for” series is back. I’ve decided I’ll reboot this series, making it a weekly for the next year. I’ll introduce you to a “person of the week” starting with TODAY– this Labor Day weekend– and my friend, Colleen (Conner) DuLac is my first victim. As I have said before, and will likely say again, she’s a big scoop of awesome sauce. Nominations are welcome, as always. I make up the rules as I go along, folks. Stay tuned for more inspiring humans. They’re everywhere.

Peace out.

Hail, Holy Queen

I’ve always been drawn to the Blessed Mother. Even as a little girl, I remember stopping outside the church doors on my way to my grandparents house when the organist was practicing. She often played “Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above” which I found magical. I didn’t quite understand how the fullness of the Lord’s love for us was revealed in this one incredible woman at that time. However, I intuited beauty and peace.

A couple years ago, my pastor implored me to familiarize myself with the Memorare. It’s a prayer which calls on the Blessed Mother for her powerful intercession. It quickly made its way into my prayer lexicon, and now I consider it a favorite for its efficaciousness. If you’re still reading this, I’ve likely prayed it for you and your intentions or needs. So, this is me admitting I’m kind of a Mary freak alongside my Jesus girl tendencies. It sort of makes sense. After all, we can learn a lot about anyone by looking at their mother, am I right?

Last week, a lovely Christian friend confided that she just was made aware of a Catholic Holy Day she had never heard of previously. Now, I should share that this woman is incredibly kind and also not a Catholic. She spoke candidly to me, “Shelly, I don’t get it. How is all this Mary stuff supposed to help us humans? I mean I like you and my Catholic friends are good people, but I just don’t get the point of the Assumption, or just your whole obsession with Mary.”

I’m thankful she felt comfortable to ask, and also that I have smart people to lean on who explain things better than me! I gave her a great video by Bishop Robert Barron on Mary. And also, I shared the following personal thoughts.

I told her that Mary, in her heavenly glory, reminds us that this life isn’t our end game. We are aiming higher, for a glorious forever home in eternity. We have to live with our eyes fixed beyond the here and now, and on the beauty of heaven.

This reality is so darn helpful at this moment in time. That’s because the stresses and anxieties of today, then, can’t be permitted to overwhelm us. We’re human and we foul this up sometimes, but we need to look to the example of Our Blessed Mother. That means, we can’t allow the craziness of this world to steal our peace.

The Assumption of Mary (Guido Reni, 1642)

Pope Benedict said, “The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon. We may be sure of it: from on high, Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, reassures us with her motherly hand.”

What a beautiful explanation of the Assumption, and the wonderful intercessor we have in Mary!

I hope I helped my friend understand just a little bit more about the reason I love so fiercely the Mother of Our Lord. If not her, maybe one of you…but I’ll leave those outcomes to grace.

Have a great week everyone, and if you find yourself at low ebb, call on Mary. What do you have to lose by giving her a shout out? Just saying. Worth a shot?

Queen of Heaven…Pray for Us!!

On Prayer, and Cheating at Euchre

Remote though the likelihood may be of you having either the time or inclination to hear out the ramblings of one rather insignificant and sinful soul, I find myself humbly submitting to the world this little entry about my Dad and asking you to stick it out, all the same.  Frankly, I’d greatly prefer to never have written this post, most especially not on Mother’s Day weekend.  However, it’s my sincere belief that the Lord expects my obedience in this matter, so I’ll delay no further.

Before I get to the reason for the post, I want to share a couple of moments from my childhood.

I was an Indian Princess as a kid.  Dad named me “Blue Water” for the color of my eyes, and my sister and I named him “Hungry Bear”.  I don’t remember a lot about the Indian Princesses, to be candid.  However, I remember it was delightfully different from all the other activities we did.  What differentiated it from the ordinary?  Well, there were cool headbands, colorful feathers, and campouts filled with daughters and dads where I learned to use a bow and arrow, shoot a shotgun, and roast the perfect marshmallow. Dad was all in!

At about age five, Dad taught me how to play poker.  Next came euchre.  We played A LOT of euchre in grandma’s house on Vinton Street when I was growing up.  In fact, I remember distinctly Dad laughing until he cried one Sunday after mass when he saw to it that Robin and I were pitted against my Grandpa and Uncle Don, Dad’s older brother, in a big euchre game.  We were about 12 and 10 years old, respectively.  We trounced the very experienced Dykhuizen men that morning, and they were utterly rattled.  Dad could not contain himself.  The trash talk was legendary after our victory.  It wasn’t until much later that they were told about how he taught us some signs to use to signal each other—barely perceivable signals– that had been successfully used to win an international bridge tournament that Dad read about.  He taught his two young daughters these hand signals for the sole purpose of watching his Dad and brother come uncorked when they lost at cards to two little girls.  His laughter shook the entire house when it worked perfectly. 

I have so many silly little memories like this for which I’m deeply grateful.  Both of my parents loved us up in an extraordinary way.  They surrounded us always with a supportive atmosphere and the understanding that we were loved unconditionally.

My Dad is a joyful, articulate, sarcasm-filled lover of people and a man of faith.  He’s an uber-involved and phenomenal grandfather too.  I’m sorry to all who have suffered endlessly through the exaggerated stories of my three boys and their sports successes, but I assure you the tales of the musical and artistic giftedness of my nieces, his granddaughters, are for real!

If they gave a Nobel Prize for “Best, Most Unintimidated Conversationalist” I am convinced that Dad could not be beaten.  There are no limits to the “no strangers” rule of life according to Jim Dykhuizen.  He’s extraordinarily gifted at befriending total strangers.  In fact, I guarantee you that as I type this, he’s learning the names of the children and grandchildren of his nurses up there at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lafayette.  I feel certain he’s trying to make the best of an incredibly trying stretch of days.

Dad had a massive heart attack this week.  Because of the COVID rules, Mom was forced to simply drop him at the door of the ER, clutching his chest in pain.  We didn’t hear again from him or about him for 7 hours.  When he called mom from the recovery room after his heart stents were placed, it was the first time we knew he’d had a heart attack and gone into surgery.  I’ll spare you more details but suffice it to say the week has been challenging and emotional for the entire family.

He remains in the hospital, fighting a fever of unknown origin. He’s there all alone.

Lively and persistence recourse to prayer is what I’ve got for this.  It’s all I’ve ever got, honestly.  Sometimes this week, I’ve moved all 50 of the Hail Mary beads and I don’t remember saying any of the prayers.  I’m sure I did, but I don’t recall them a bit.  I was entirely distracted, but the fact is that I tried to turn my glance heavenward, and I’m trusting that Our Blessed Mother sees my heart and has accepted my request for her intercession all the same.  I’ve walked and spoken aloud to the Lord in fits and cries—for Dad, for Mom—and for all of those on my prayer list.  My work this week was sort of like a school kid who did half the math problems and then forgot to sign the test.  I’ve not had a corner on the market in the piety department, but I think God isn’t like the teacher I had who gave 0% when we left our name off the assignment.   We’re in the middle of the coronavirus season, and He’s the amazing teacher who understands my wifi’s been acting up, so patience and compassion are His calling cards. He’s not failing me. He loves me even more than I love my parents.  He loves them more too.

Here’s the thing.  God knows I want to pray.  He sees me trying to turn to Him, doing my best.  That is enough. 

My favorite saint is Therese of Lisieux.  She said, “Prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned towards heaven.  It is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” 

I might be screwing it up, and I’m no theologian, but I think I’ve learned something worth sharing.  It’s about knowing how deeply we need Him, and about our own desire to find Him.  Praying is just us pathetic peasants, beggars that we are, looking for sustenance from the only one who can truly help.  Of course, we wouldn’t be looking for Him if He hadn’t already found us first. It’s painfully simple.

This one’s for Dad.  And, dear reader, if you are so inclined, join me in this prayer for peace of mind and complete healing for one of the best guys around.  I’m thankful to you in advance!

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided.  Inspired with this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.  O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me.  Amen.

Mom.  Robin.  I love you.  I’m so glad we have each other.  Happy Mother’s Day to two of the best moms on the planet earth.  The blog entry should have been for you guys this weekend.  Dad really knows how to steal the thunder, ha?  What do you say we get him home and well…and then make him pay for pedicures?

Mad for…Bill

My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor 12:9)

Several years ago when our sons were junior high age, I met Bill and Diane Akers. Their son, Drew, was on the SLDM CYO football team with my oldest. They were familiar faces from church and I had watched the family from afar. It was a fun group of boys that year on the gridiron, but nothing of consequence happened to further any relationship there between the Akers and Thieme families. Still, Bill always had a warm, welcoming smile, and that’s what I remember of him from that time.

Bill is a guy who does for others. He works for the Carmel Police Department. Over the years, Bill has officiated at countless CYO basketball games held in the St. Louis de Montfort gym. I have often noticed him kindly guiding young athletes and explaining the rules to others who seem confused about his whistle. His authenticity and sunny disposition always shines in that setting! He is a faith-filled man, ever present as mass with his family and participating as a liturgical minister.

When I learned about a year ago that his son, Drew, had been very seriously injured in a tragic accident while on Spring Break in Florida with some of his Ball State friends…my heart felt pierced. Perhaps it’s because my own son is similar in age, or maybe it was the Holy Spirit calling me to prayer. I’m not sure, but I know that getting a call like the one I know they received is truly a parent’s worst nightmare. As they traveled to Florida, I prayed. As they posted updates, I prayed. During the long months of rehab for Drew Akers, he remained a fixture on my prayer list. I know that there were literally HUNDREDS of us prayer warriors who were trying in our own small ways to support this faith-filled man and his family.

What was incredibly inspiring to me and to many over the long road back for Drew (who is now getting ready to graduate from Ball State, by the way) was the way Bill openly shared his trust in the Lord. He was gracious when prayers were offered, authentic about his worries, and steadfast in the way he leaned on God through it all. It was a very public ordeal, and one that I am certain the Lord used to bring many to Him through the beautiful witness of Bill Akers and his entire family.

This week as Bill celebrates his birthday, I just wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU for the beautiful faithfulness you shared with the entire community over the last year. You are clearly an incredibly loving husband and father, and I can’t help thinking how obviously Jesus is smiling as He looks at you! I hope your birthday “festival” continues all week! HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY, BILL AKERS!!

p.s, Please tell Lauren we said, great choice kid! BOILER UP!

Mad for…Ange

God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle. In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal. (St. Maximilian Kolbe)

She sings and shines through both the shadows and the sunshine of life. She’s generous, funny and thoughtful. Meet my friend, Ange Bailey. This week, we are in the middle of her birthday festival, so today I’d like to take a moment to show some love to one of the most gracious women I know!

I met Ange many years ago. She has two children, Michael and Katie, who are the same ages as my two oldest children. They were classmates of Drew and Nick all the way from grade school at St. Louis de Montfort through the four years at Guerin Catholic. Actually, Drew and Michael are Boilermakers and Pi Kapps together. Ange and I will be headed to Tippecanoe County to share Mom’s Day with the Pi Kapp guys next weekend, in fact!

I don’t know how many crock pots Ange owns, but I’m not sure she ever has all of them in her home at the same time. If you’ve ever been ill, or mourning, or just in need of some TLC and you live in Central Indiana, the chances are that Ange has cooked you a meal or baked you something sweet and delicious. My youngest son, Zach, actually has cravings for her cake pops which she has been known to assuage out of just plain goodness. She’s a genius in the kitchen, but its her big compassionate heart that drives her to cook! She knows how to walk beside others who need to know they matter and that they are loved. Her witness in this area is stunning and it is beautiful. She inserts herself and her yummy meals without fanfare, but always with attention to detail and a face full of joy.

In recent months, the weather in her own life has been a bit stormy. At moments when I know that if I had been walking in her shoes, I might have fallen apart, Ange turned to the Lord, to prayer, and to faith-filled friends and family. She was humble enough to say, “I can’t do this by myself”, and so therefore, I have watched with wonder as our good and gracious God has filled her to overflowing with grace beyond reason. She has remained upbeat and grateful for all her blessings. Should this surprise me? It should not. Ange has long been an active member of her parish, serving on the parish council and in various roles, but in my opinion, none have been more important than her role as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. I think it’s her sincere love and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist that has sustained her.

To me, Ange is just so inspiring. Her legs got a little wobbly, but guess what? She kept walking. She knew that when we reach up to Him, our Lord is anxious to reach down and carry us close to His heart. A friend like Ange is a treasure beyond words. Ange, I hope your birthday week is filling your cup to overflowing with blessings. I love you, friend! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Mad for…Kelly

Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices. -St. Teresa of Avila

I chose one of my favorite saint quotes to share with you today as I honor St. Louis de Montfort junior high math teacher, Kelly Hauschild. You see, Kelly has had more than her fair share of struggles over the last few years, and I thought maybe one of the great women of the Catholic Church could provide her some solace today!

It’s hard enough to be the mother of a big, beautiful brood of children at home, but teaching math to 6th, 7th and 8th graders is also remarkably challenging. When one adds to that set of large responsibilities some outside struggles which have called forth all the reserves in a person, well, I guess what I am feeling today is the need to ask you all to just keep Kelly in your prayers.

It wasn’t that long ago that I found myself collecting gift cards and cash for Kelly. The Hauschild family suffered a major fire at their Fishers home a couple years back. When I visited, meeting her there to share what I could from the generous people of SLDM, it was a scene that took my breath away. However frazzled she was at the time, Kelly had her wits about her and seemed genuinely grateful that her family members were all safe. Certainly, it could have been much worse. The family has recovered from that episode, and they handled it with as much grace as they could. I so admired their perseverance.

In more recent weeks, I’ve learned that Kelly has endured 4 surgeries since the beginning of the year after suffering a fall on the ice during what I am calling the LONGEST WINTER EVER. It might not technically be the longest, but the lack of sunshine and cold weather has surely tested me as never before. During these frozen weeks, outside of Kohls, Kelly broke both bones in her right arm and dislocated her wrist, among other injuries. She has more metal in her arm than bone at this point, and well, my heart goes out to her. Suffering is just no fun at all!!

It’s easy during these times to allow your mind to be filled with anger or frustration, but I know Kelly to be a courageous woman of faith, so I am certain she will forge through this time with her head up! For many years, Kelly has been the brains behind the 8th grade Washington DC trip, a wonderful and very organized time filled with blessings for our students. She joyfully and reverently guides the 8th graders through the process of putting on the Living Stations of the Cross each Lent at SLDM, an event that the students always look forward to, and the parents treasure. She does an excellent job, always, of communicating about grade school graduation events for the kiddos as well. She does all these things with precise attention to detail, and with ample compassion and care.

So, as Kelly clings to the cliff a little this spring, I think it’s important to remind her to anchor herself in the solid rock of our Lord and Savior, but also…to let her know how much her efforts and positive attitude make an impact for many children and many families each day and each year. KELLY, we so appreciate you! Hang in there! We are praying for you, and we hope you know you are loved!

Join me in saying this prayer for Kelly….

Loving God, I pray that You will comfort Kelly in her suffering, lend skill to the hands of her healers, bless the means used for her cure, and provide others to help her as she struggles. Give her such confidence in the power of Your grace, that even when she is afraid, she will put her whole trust in You. Through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mad for…Kim

Put yourself in God’s hands; He abandons no one. -St. Andre Bessette

This is such a sweet photo of Kim Murray with her husband, Pat. Truth be told, I don’t know either one of them very well. Our kids were high school friends who went to a few dances together, though, so we are mildly acquainted. However, I am an observer of people and what I can see from a distance about Kim is crystal clear. We can all see that she is a stunningly beautiful woman with a truly genuine smile. More than that, though, she is a woman of God…a fellow Jesus girl.

Kim’s the mother of 6 children who very obviously love and serve the Lord, an animal lover, a sweet thoughtful woman, and TODAY IS HER BIRTHDAY! Allow me to share with you a little peek at her quiet compassion and faithfulness as I aim to honor her on her special day!

Some weeks back, I was diagnosed with cancer. Just a few weeks later, we learned this was in fact the wrong diagnosis, however during this time word spread. I ran into Kim at a daily mass we both happened to be attending at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I went to say hello and assured her of my prayers for her family, and she inquired about the rumor she had heard about me. It was a brief but lovely chat.

A few days later on my way down the driveway to grab my mail, I noticed Kim in her big pickup truck dropping something off. She explained that she wanted to share some of this “Oil of St. Joseph” that her husband had brought home from a trip to Canada. She explained a bit about the family having a devotion to St. Andre Bessette and that Pat had made a pilgrimage to the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, and that offering prayers through the intercession of St. Andre and St. Joseph might be a powerful aid to me. The gesture was incredibly humbling and utterly filled with faith and compassion. I was truly moved.

A lover of saints, this surprise delivery also caused me to explore the life of St. Andre, who I now consider a friend. As often happens when I meet new saints, I was captivated by his humility and holiness while I read about his life. His physical weakness or meager background did not deter him from becoming a truly amazing man of God. His story inspired me, and I have Kim to thank for the introduction.

Your little kindness was not small to me, Kim Murray, and I suspect similar acts of love leave others in your wake feeling like you are also the face of Christ to them as you “do your day”. I am grateful to you for reminding me that when we stoop down to lift up, reach out, pray, drive out of your way for the sake of another, we really are doing the Lord’s work. Your kindness left me feeling that Jesus was walking alongside and I am grateful.


Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)