Mad for…Amy

Fill yourself with confidence. The mother we have is the Mother of God, the Most Blessed Virgin, the Queen of Heaven and Earth. (St. Josemaria Escriva)

Meet Amy Ross. She’s the mother of 5 pretty amazing children and the wife of a fabulous husband named Hugh. I’m pretty sure she’s a Purdue grad and a pharmacist. I’ve known Amy for many years as our kiddos all attended school at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers at the same time.

For a time, I attended a book club with Amy where the group discussed some of the most interesting and inspiring spiritual reads. I remember one such get together at Amy’s home and her mom was staying with her at the time. I was deeply moved by the respectful way she included her mom in the meeting, despite her limitations. I had already witnessed on several occasions her beautiful example of faith to her own children as well as the rest of us but that day I realized what a humble and holy woman Amy is, and how much there is to learn from watching her care for those around her.

Amy Ross is upbeat and funny. She’s thoughtful and affirming, a woman who seems to face whatever comes her way with a positive attitude. I know her to be a tuned-in, and hands-on mom with a glorious smile who is grateful to God for the blessings in her life. She loves cheering for her kids at all their events! When I hear her name mentioned, I feel positive energy. She’s a woman who reminds me by her example to focus on all that is good.

Because she loves the Blessed Mother and is such a truly wonderful mom herself, I chose this quote about Mary to share with you all today in her honor. I’m long overdue to tell you that the little ways you bring light into the world each day, Amy, make a BIG difference for the rest of us. Keep on going! You light up the place!

Mad for…Jeff

A man does what he must- in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures- and that is the basis of all human morality. (John F. Kennedy)

Today is the birthday of a great man named Jeff Oberndorfer. We at the Thieme house just love all the Oby clan. They are pictured above on the occasion of the recent wedding of Jordan’s marriage to Michael Bann. The birthday boy (father of the bride) is at the top left in this terrific and joyous shot! I chose this JFK quote for Jeff’s day because I think he’s just the real deal, a solid, faith-filled man!

I can’t help laughing as I look back on our first interactions with Jeff. He was helping to coach a Carmel baseball team that his son, Will, and my kid, Drew were both playing on that summer. I recall them being fairly young, grade school aged boys at that point. Jeff was all volume and passion coaching third base. If I’m honest, my biggest memory of him before we connected years later and became friends is of him getting the wrath of an umpire who was underwhelmed by his enthusiasm. He might have gotten booted from the game actually. Years later, it was his wife, Lisa, who handed me a “husher” at a high school basketball game. She literally carried tootsie roll pops in her purse for crazy people like me who just didn’t know when to zip it. Maybe she’d had plenty of practice over the years, ha? What makes it funny now is that I consider Jeff to be a pretty mild mannered guy.

In all seriousness, Jeff is an incredible father and husband. He’s done a fine job leading that beautiful family of his because great men are guys like Jeff who cultivate love. He is proud to let the loves of his life shine brightly and he supports them in everything, showing off his happy, intelligent and truly amazing wife, as well as his children, Jordan, Kelsey and Will– as well as his two new sons-in-law!

A native of St. Louis as well as a fellow Boilermaker, Jeff is quick-witted and just plain fun. He’s always game for a little tailgate action and gets sweaty palms just like me when Purdue is making us all very nervous!! He has gone out of his way to be kind to our son, Drew, over the years and has lugged him around numerous times just because he can. He’s been supportive beyond all reason with the charity work being done by Will’s Way to benefit underinsured young people with diabetes. In short, he’s an integrity-filled guy who adds a lot of light and laughter to the world, and I feel fortunate to call him a friend!

I hope your day is filled with smiles and laughter, Jeff, because you have added both of those to many of our days over the last several years! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! BOILER UP!

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!