Mad for…Tommy

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

Eeyore. That’s how we usually describe the youngest of my boys. He’s definitely the guy you want standing next to you as the tornado is about to roll in, because he has already thought through the worst-case scenario, and he will be strong and steady through the storm. Anything less than the apocalypse itself will be a total win in Z’s mind. Perhaps this is why the two of us laughed this week at my attraction to a festive Christmas t-shirt which said, “In a world full of Grinches, be a Cindy Lou Who.” Let’s just say Zach didn’t feel it would work well in HIS life, but he felt it was an annoyingly solid fit for mine. As my youngest son is taking his first set of final exams as a high school student presently, those kiddos and their teachers are on my heart today. It takes a solid educator to be able to reach the Eeyores as well as the Cindy Lou Who types. That’s why I think…God bless good folks like Tommy Mascari, as they serve the Lord through teaching!!

Coach Mascari (pictured above with his wife) has been a Kinesiology teacher at Guerin Catholic for a number of years. In fact, I recall with some humor when my son Nick told me his first test grade in the class was like a 57%. I am certain it was the first test the kid ever came close to failing. I said, “Well? What happened, Nick Fred?” He replied honestly, “It’s PE, Mom. Who knew it was going to be hard? Probably I should think about studying next time.” It was a sage self-correction. You see, Coach Mascari’s class was challenging 7 years ago, and it remains so today.

That said, Tommy Mascari is an understated, hard-working educator who does a beautiful job connecting with the young people entrusted to his care. He’s understanding, faith-filled and fair-minded. Some kids, especially the ones who are related to me, seem to connect especially well to the quiet wit and low-key authenticity of folks like Tommy. They identify best with teachers who lead by example and treat others fairly. It doesn’t hurt if, like Tommy, they are gifted with a little less natural volume and slightly more sarcasm in the arsenal than your average bear as well. Apparently, a Thieme guy can only take so much cheerful enthusiasm, ha?

Tommy Mascari is the handsome husband to an athletic fellow educator named Jen and the father of three. Those are three blessed young people to have such an attentive Dad who supports them in all they do! I’m pretty sure the Mascaris are parishioners at St. Maria Goretti, but I could be wrong on that, so don’t hold me to it?

As a teacher, I think it’s clear Tommy Mascari plans for the success of all his students by the way he operates. His students are attentive and engaged, because he has good control of his classroom. After 8 years of parenting high schoolers, a mom has her sources. He’s generous with his time, and could often be found sharing his classroom space after school with young athletes who needed a place to eat a sandwich before their basketball game, for instance, when my older two kiddos were at GC. He’s been involved for many years with the Guerin Catholic boys basketball program, on which he’s had significant impact– including during a couple state championship runs! He’s not a man who seems to seek notoriety, but he just honestly does his work, offers his gifts, and makes a difference for many young people every day.

I’m indebted to folks like Tommy who brighten the future by the wisdom they share, and the patience they display with their students every day. Thank you, Coach Mascari, for being a friendly face, a bright light, and a gentle guide for my sons….and so many other young people over the years! We are grateful for you!!

Mad for…Drew

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depends on you.” (St. Augustine)

Appearing again at the reception desk on November 10, 1999 after a long delay in the waiting room, I informed the gal sitting at the desk that I simply couldn’t wait any more to see the doctor, and she kind of rolled her eyes at me and said, “well, she’s quite busy so you’ll have to wait your turn.” She misunderstood me. So, rubbing my pregnant belly I clarified, “that’s fine, it’s just that I am so incredibly dizzy I think I might faint, so I think it’s better if I just leave and go home so I can lay down.” A nurse standing nearby heard the exchange and immediately ushered me to a room and had me get on my left side while she took my vitals. “Oh my word! Her blood pressure is through the roof. Get the doctor!”

That’s how it came to be that Andrew James Thieme was born several weeks prematurely by emergency c-section. He spent some time in the NICU at St. Vincent’s Hospital on 86th St. before coming home with some rather bulky and over the top equipment attached. Dr. Hirsch cautioned me about him, warning that we should certainly expect developmental and other delays. More drama ensued when he spiked a 104 degree fever shortly after being released from the hospital. Long story short, our sweet son had a kidney condition which would require surgery to repair, a thing we’d end up doing later at age 4 (at Riley Hospital for Children) when the timing was right. Those folks down at Riley are rock stars, by the way!

I share this snippet of melodrama today on the occasion of Drew’s 20th birthday because it makes me laugh to look back on now, two decades later. After causing me considerable anxiety on his entry to the world, this young man corrected course in a big way. Drew Thieme is the LEAST dramatic human being imaginable. As a toddler, he’d simply wait patiently in his bed for me to come get him in the morning– no fussing. He’s among the most strong, steady, respectful and emotionally stable kids I have ever encountered. As a little guy, he pretty much just wanted to hang out with his big brother, Nick. Thankfully, Nick and his buddies were good sports about letting D participate in whatever they were doing. Partly, that was because Drew could always keep up with them. You see, he may have started out a little small…but he caught up quickly! My three boys are pictured below (from left to right) Drew, Zach and Nick!

Little Drewbie LOVED games of all kinds, but especially card games and magic tricks! He had a magic wand, hat, and cape that he wore with pride just HOPING one of us would want to see his act. He was never interested in video games, but he typically had a board game or a deck of cards handy. If not those, then he had a ball of some sort! His smile was always bright, and his report card ridiculously good. He’s sharp as a tack and with a terrific work ethic. When his younger brother, Zach, was born, Drew became “his person”. When no one else could seem to calm down our youngest, or if my patience was lacking while I tried to explain to Z some new concept, Drew would inevitably jump in. “Mom, I’ve got this! Let me talk to him.” He even wrote a book titled, “How to take care of your little brother.” It’s a prized possession of mine. Drew Thieme, you have now and always have had a beautiful heart that feels compassion for others!

While he’s not a big talker by any stretch of the imagination, Drew is nevertheless naturally pastoral– a born leader. It’s just that he doesn’t waste words. He’s not enthralled with the sound of his own voice, but if he has something to say, it’s likely of value, so one would be wise to pause and hear him out. As a friend, he’s loyal and caring. As a son and a brother, he’s top drawer. I don’t think he’s ever failed to make me just a little teary on my birthday or Mother’s Day with his incredibly kind and loving notes.

We had a lot of fun over the years watching Drew play baseball, basketball and football. With his lanky frame and his good hands, he was always a valuable player on every team, but it was the way he led by example and the sportsmanship he displayed with his teammates and opponents that made me most proud as his mother. I mean, I did enjoy the home run moments, the CYO city championships (one of them captured below with Coach Dad), and the those senior year touchdowns he scored for the Golden Eagles, too…I’m not going to lie!

Drew is as authentic and honest as the day is long, and filled with integrity and love of the Lord. He’s sincere of heart and filled with faith, taking in weekly mass and availing himself of the sacraments frequently. Jesus is smiling down on Him for sure. He’s a driven young man, but also he knows how to relax in God’s grace. I’m grateful and thankful to have such a son, and I pray for him and his brothers every single day!

As he forges ahead, Drew is a man whose temperament seems to require that he be working a plan. I terrifically admire his drive and the effort he puts forth to get where he wants to be. He was one of the valedictorians of his Guerin Catholic Class of 2018, which was no small feat. His current plan involves finishing his undergraduate degree next December, taking the spring semester off school to work a tax season internship with an accounting firm, then to take the following year and complete his masters degree. He’s the treasurer of his fraternity (Pi Kappa Phi) at Purdue, and a member of student-led School of Management Employers Forum at the Krannert School of Management. He has a part-time job in a computer lab on campus and he’s a practice player for the Purdue Women’s Basketball team. His sweet and very beautiful girlfriend, Erika, must have the patience of Job because Drew is a busy guy. Any mom would be proud, and I am definitely any mom!! Also, thinking about his life makes me sleepy.

That said, God’s plans and our plans have a way of diverging from time to time. My hope and prayer for Drew is that whatever God’s will is for his life that he rolls with it and embraces it, because God is…well…God. He knows what He is doing.

I have my three boys to thank for a very important lesson. I wanted to acknowledge that here as I write today about my own children for the last time in this series. I have long loved the Lord. However, it took me an extraordinary amount of time to realize He loves me back. Just as I am. He used my children to help me grasp it. You see, I love these 3 boys (Nick, Drew and Zach) with a fierceness only other moms can understand. Am I right, ladies? That love is without condition and does not wane even when said young man does or says something idiotic. I mean I have some crazy mama bear claws and my heart might burst from the insanity of the unconditional love I feel for these smelly young men!! Well, when I realized that I am the daughter of the Lord, who is literally LOVE itself, it occurred to me that He must love His child, Shelly, at least as much as I love my children? I mean, He’s GOD, and I’m not… so probably it’s possible He can love even a tad better and a bit more, ha?

Is that a beautiful gift the Lord gave me through my sons? You betcha!

Happy Birthday, Drew! I am CRAZY proud of you. I love you! Happy 20th, you big goofball. I hope you sing so loud from the rafters at Banker’s Life this week enjoying that Luke Combs concert that you don’t have a voice for a week! You deserve it.

“People are made for happiness. Rightly, then, you thirst for happiness. Christ has the answer to this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him.” -St. (Pope) John Paul II

Mad for…Angie

You will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. (Phil. 2:15)

Joyful. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of Angie Weas. She’s the mom of three– Joey, Billy and Molly– and the wife to an incredibly kind guy named Andy. I met Angie because of high school sports. That’s a recurring theme for our family. Often, we encounter tremendous families who are filled with love and life in this way!

A friendly and outgoing woman of God, Angie is a parishioner at St. Maria Goretti in Westfield, but she actually lives not far from me and I had her on my mind this week because my daily walks had me passing right in front of her house. It made me smile, therefore, when I discovered it was her birthday today! It was a clear signal from the Holy Spirit that I was meant to point out her goodness and give her a little birthday shout out.

As my three boys were very small, growing up and attending a nearby Catholic grade school, I discovered a couple of things about myself. Often, I would volunteer to help at school in whatever way was needed. However, I quickly found that I was incredibly comfortable handling middle schoolers and that large groups of kindergarteners and first graders gave me hives! It felt like herding cats, and I would have minor panic attacks worrying that I would lose one of them and have to explain to a distraught parent how sweet Ava went missing while I was tying her cute classmate’s tennis shoes for the 3rd time in 15 minutes. Here’s what I am attempting to tell you. Angie Weas is heroic. She teaches pre-schoolers. Despite that, she seems to maintain her sunny disposition, ha? Thank you, God, for amazing women like Angie!!

I have long admired Angie from afar for her genuineness and positivity. She speaks words of encouragement and words of life to those in her path. As a mother, she’s incredibly loving and supportive. Her children are respectful and bright just like their mother. It’s hard for me to even hold her love for Notre Dame against her, she is such a fine human being…ha?!!

Angie? I just wanted to take a moment today to wish you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY and thank you for being a terrific example of joyfulness and integrity. The world is so so much better because you are in it with us! My prayer for you today is that you will know peace and happiness this year and always! I hope your people are celebrating you in a BIG way. You are a giant scoop of awesome sauce!

Mad for…Jennifer

In everything, give thanks. (1 Thess 5:18)

As we begin the month of November, I find myself filled with gratitude for many things, mostly people around me who show me the light of Christ by the way they live their lives. Today, I want to give a shout out to one such woman.

A year ago perhaps, I found myself in the carpool line at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School, just as I had been nearly every week day for 16 years straight. I had gone inside the church to say hello to Jesus, and when I came out to try and remember where I had parked my Durango, there was the very genial, Jennifer. We began to quiz each other about our children, as moms will do. The details of the conversation elude me to be honest, but I just remember leaving her thinking how authentic and lovely she is…and how deeply she loves her two daughters. I already knew her uber friendly girl, Avery, because she and my son, Zach, were in the same class at SLDM. Her much younger daughter, Grace, I knew less well. She’s pictured with her girls, above. When I left Jennifer that day, it felt like a blessing in my week. Some folks just always seem to leave us a little more joyful than they found us– that’s this gal!

Genuine, friendly and kind are the adjectives I choose to describe Jennifer Layden. She’s also just sunny, witty, and incredibly beautiful. I think she’s a local who grew up in Carmel, maybe? Also, she’s a Xavier University grad, so we’ve bonded a little over our Muskie connection since my oldest son is a senior Finance major there! Her husband is a handsome guy named Dan who I am not sure I have ever officially met. She’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan, for reasons unknown to myself?

Here’s what else I know for sure. Jennifer has a warm, kind heart. Her social media posts attract my notice for their consistent positivity. She’s incredibly supportive as a mom, a fact I know from all the events she attends all the times she raises her hands to help others around her. I don’t know her as well as I’d like, but I’d bet she’s the sort of gal who watches the Hallmark Christmas movies, ha? Her heart is of the soft and mushy variety, the kind that reminds me of marshmallows. I mean that as a profound compliment.

Many months after our talk in the carpool line, a chat I had long forgotten, Jennifer found me again. She reminded me that I had encouraged her to pursue a desire that was gnawing on her heart in a way she hadn’t previously considered…and that she followed my advice! She made a point to find me because she wanted to say thank you. To be candid, I feel like any contribution I made in the matter was extremely small, however her intentional act of gratitude made it’s mark on me. You see, I am hard on myself. Often, I chastise myself for the little failures, and rarely do I remember to be gentle with myself and notice the goodness– that day particularly so. God used her to help me correct course, judge myself less harshly. Her example of a simple “hey, thank you for listening and weighing in– it helped” reminded me ONCE AGAIN how truly important it is that we notice and acknowledge the goodness of those around us and that in ourselves.

When the Holy Spirit whispers, “say thank you” or “be kind” or “listen carefully”…it’s likely the Lord giving us a chance to be His hands or His face to another. Jennifer Layden is a lovely example of a wife and mother who seems to intuitively grasp that. Today, I just wanted to say I SEE YOU, JENNIFER. Well done.

The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. (Henri Nouwen)

Mad for…Joni

You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, training them up in God’s fear, minding the house, and making your household a church for God as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of Hosts. -Charles Spurgeon

Her birthday was a couple weeks ago, but I intentionally saved Joni Smith Abdalla to share with you today, on All-Saints Day. Joni is the mother of a big, joyful, messy, imperfect, beautiful group of faith-filled children. Physically, Joni is a stunner. She’s incredibly gorgeous, but what’s much more impressive to me is her spectacular heart which positively radiates the love of the Lord.

I’ve only met Joni briefly a few times, but I’ve been watching her from nearby, and I’ve got to tell you, she blows me away. Instead of excessively swooning about her, I’d like to share with you a tiny glimpse of how she lives her life every single day. She posted this the day after her birthday.

Yesterday was truly the perfect birthday. Thanks to all of you for reaching out. The boys and I went shopping on Saturday to purchase things for the homeless. We assembled 60 bags to distribute yesterday. The highlight of our shopping trip to Walmart was the two employees who helped us find the items for our bags. One of the employees walked up to me and handed me a twenty dollar bill as her personal contribution to our purchase! I was blown away by her incredible generosity. After mass and brunch we headed downtown to deliver the bags. There is truly no other way I would want to spend my birthday than loving on others with my family. My heart was so full looking around seeing my kids engaging, serving and loving others. The takeaways for my kids were: that every person is important and deserves unconditional love, that a smile and conversation can make people feel better, that when we are tempted to complain about something, to realize that we have all that we need and that so many others live without. To whom much is given much will be expected (Lk. 12:48). We ended the day with a delicious meal and lots of heartfelt, handmade gifts from my children. Truly such a lovely day.

You’re following me now, right? Here’s my point. Joni Abdalla is a woman who knows that the souls of her children are in her hands. She takes time to teach them to love the Lord and others. Her priorities are on things that truly matter. I think she’s a living saint, raising the next generation of saints….and I wanted you to see her light. It shines incredibly bright. There’s so much more I could share about her because the story of (what little) I know of her life that I haven’t shared here is unbelievably compelling.

Instead, I just offer her to you as a beautiful example of someone who gets it right, and when she doesn’t she just keeps doing her level best to glorify the Lord the next day. I wish I could remember which saint said it and the exact words they used, but it went something like this…sometimes the greatest gift we can give God isn’t something we do, but someone we raise. Thank you, Joni, for the curious, optimistic, joyful and faith-filled woman that you are. Your example inspires me and gives me SO MUCH HOPE!

HAPPY ALL SAINTS DAY, EVERYONE!! #WhoAreYourFavoriteSaints

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel…pray for us!

St. Michael the Archangel…pray for us!

St. Therese of Lisieux…pray for us!

St. Louis de Montfort…pray for us!

St. Padre Pio…pray for us!

Mad for…Julie

It takes courage to live through suffering; and it takes honesty to observe it. (C.S. Lewis)

Unceasingly wet. That’s what yesterday was like in my hometown. Tom and I brought Zach along and headed to Ross-Ade Stadium all the same to suffer through an ugly day with our Boilermakers. We were dressed like the Gordon’s Fisherman for the occasion. I’ll be honest, in the third quarter when my hands turned to ice cubes, I was not sure they would ever properly thaw. Our team had very little fire in the belly and I am considering sending a bill for my rain gear to the athletic department at Purdue, ha? However, the day had a pretty fantastic turnaround when an old high school friend showed up for a visit!

Tom and I with Julie!

Julie Tiller and I were high school friends. She only attended Central Catholic for a short time, but the affection I have for her has endured. She still sports the same beautiful blond hair and aside from perhaps her mother, I don’t know that I have ever known anyone as authentic. I value genuine people who are not driven by ego, money or status. Julie has an honest heart and there is simply not one fake thing about her. It’s a defining quality for sure!!

As we caught up with Julie and she shared updates on her family, her compassionate heart came through for me loud and clear. She shared rather poignantly about both the joy and difficulty of watching a Purdue Football game from the press box full of pictures and memories of her Dad, Joe, who she lost fairly recently. I loved her honest telling of how she got off that elevator and inadvertently made a strangers eyes well up because she couldn’t hide her own emotions. Grief is a price we pay for love.

Julie lives in Buffalo, Wyoming. That’s not a place anyone should live who is faint of heart, and my funny friend is certainly far from that! She’s stubborn, spiritual, intelligent…and witty. A natural story teller and a loving soul who cares deeply, Julie hasn’t had the smoothest run these last couple years. Nevertheless, she’s running her race and moving forward.

Julie, thanks for gracing Mom’s kitchen table last night with your glorious smile and your stories about bins full of socks and barns crammed with antiques. We loved hearing about Renee’s place, Piezano’s…and I hope one day to get a slice of that unorthodox meat lovers pizza that still has my mouth watering!! Don’t be a stranger my friend. You are a fantastic human!! Hugs and love to you and all the Tillers! ❤️

P.S. If I ever run into a tiny violin, don’t be surprised if you receive a special delivery in the mail from Indiana. Hahaha!!

Mad for…Josephine

When you observe kind and gentle mothers in action, you see women of great strength. (Margaret D Nadavid)

Tom and Josephine Thieme (at about age 4)

My husband Tom is the son of Tom and Jane Thieme. What I always found really interesting is that both his parents were twins! Jane was an identical twin and Tom Sr. has a twin sister, Josephine Deible, who lives in the Chicago area. Today is the 80th birthday of Tom and Josephine!! We plan to celebrate this festive occasion with a big gathering in Lafayette, and I for one am really looking forward to that event!

Today, I wanted to take a moment to honor Aunt Jo with a little shout out on this rather auspicious occasion. I haven’t spend loads of time with her during my 25 years as a member of the Thieme family, but certainly long enough to tell you what I observe as her defining qualities– she’s both gentle and incredibly kind! A soft-spoken woman with a peaceful temperament, I have always observed her to be an incredibly supportive mother and grandmother. She has a tender and pleasant disposition and she’s clearly crazy about her two children, Christine and Rich, as well as her three amazing grandchildren. Grace, Molly and Sean are most definitely the apples of her eye.

Aunt Jo with her son, Rich

I’m sure today as she celebrates she’s feeling the loss of her husband, Dick, in a rather profound way. That said, her day simply MUST be celebrated in a big way today, because she’s a woman I’ve always thought displayed great strength of character and tremendous integrity— a life worth celebrating large!! Warm-hearted, truly loving women like Aunt Jo are jewels and they are meant to be treasured. I sure hope she feels the love this weekend!

HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY, AUNT JO!