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!!

Mad for…Kathleen

The unselfishish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. –Helen Keller

July 7, 2019–It’s true that beautiful souls are never forgotten. My friend Kathleen Lupke knows that all too well. However, I often think to myself when I am around her that she does a fantastic job honoring the dear friend she lost way too soon by the cheerful smile she shares with others! Kathleen’s witness is just one simple and meaningful way I see Shannon Hall’s legacy of kindness live on.

Kathleen is the faith-filled mom of three terrific children and the wife of Scott Lupke. She’s the loving mom of two sports loving boys named Mike and Andy as well a gorgeous daughter named Amanda who I would describe as kind of a tomboy princess. It turns out that it is, in fact, possible to be both! What I love is that the softhearted Kathleen encourages her three to embrace all their giftedness and curiosity– however diverse those interests might seem!

If memory serves, Kathleen is a Ft. Wayne native and a graduate of St. Mary’s College (Notre Dame). She and I have spent more than a few evenings and weekends together at the same ball diamonds over the years since my “baby” boy has been on baseball teams now with both Mike and Andy Lupke. She’s a no-nonsense, genuine, attentive and agreeable woman who both values and appreciates her family and friends.

Kathleen, today on your birthday I just wanted to say thank you for the entertaining stories, good-natured giggles, and general thoughtfulness you have displayed over the years. The world on some days feels a little over full with gray clouds, and even when we were standing under cover in a rain delay, your playful smile and friendliness often made the day brighter for me and many others too! Your life is CERTAINLY worth celebrating so I hope all your people love you up like crazy today! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KATHLEEN LUPKE!

Mad for…Don

Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. (A. Stevenson)

As I thought about who to honor on this day, Independence Day 2019, I thought about all those who are serving or who have served this great nation. If you are reading today and you’re one of those amazing folks, please allow me to thank you for your selflessness and your service!! To honor all of you, I’d like to introduce you to one of the most patriotic men I know– Don Seaman. If you know him, then you’ve seen him in the Marines jacket he wears quite often, and very proudly. I’ve posted a picture of him in that gorgeous outwear at the annual Veteran’s Day program put on each November at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School. My favorite part of that event each year is what is pictured here. The children sing the service song, “Marine’s Hymn” as well as all the songs for every branch of the US Military. Then, veterans or active members of that military branch are asked to stand and be recognized while their hymn is played. It’s very meaningful and moving, and in fact, as I am thinking about it now my eyes are welling up.

Don Seaman is the husband of my dear friend, Vivian, who is pictured with him, above. He’s the father of 4 and the grandfather to many more! He fiercely loves the Lord, his family, his country…and the Nebraska Cornhuskers! He’s ornery, gracious, and a loving, fantastic human being.

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” I’m not sure who said it, but all this week I’ve seen it in the media and even on t-shirts. I quite agree. We all owe a great debt to men and women like Don Seaman who have bravely and generously served the United States in the military.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Freedom has it’s life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed else like a flower cut from it’s life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” That pretty much sums up the sacrifices made by men like Don and their families, huh?

Don is a sunny, positive and faith-filled man with a very enjoyable sense of humor. Today, as we celebrate the 4th of July with our cookouts and fireworks, I wanted to tell you, Don, that I believe the United States, her freedom, and everything that is lovely about our nation, we owe to the phenomenal sacrifices made by you and men and women like you. THANK YOU!! GOD BLESS AMERICA, AND HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, EVERYONE!!

“From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli;

We fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea;

First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean;

We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine!

Mad for…Michael

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Michael Bailey is a young man who is in the middle of the adventure of a lifetime! He’s about halfway done with a bike trip across the United States that he is doing for charity called “The Journey of Hope.” It’s quite an undertaking for a kid that was not previously a biker to decide to start by dipping his front bike tire in the Pacific Ocean and then end by dunking his rear tire in the Atlantic on the other coast of this great nation in summer 2019!

I’ve known Michael for most his life, as he was a grade school friend of my middle son, Drew. In fact, they went all through SLDM, then Guerin Catholic together and now they are Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers together at Purdue University. When he told me what he was planning to do with his summer, I am not going to lie, I thought he was pretty much a crazy person. However, I know adventure is worthwhile, especially that which is undertaken for the benefit of others. In Michael’s case, he’s participating in a super cool project which raises money to benefit the disabled through Pi Kappa Phi’s philanthropy, “The Ability Experience”.

Michael is an animated, silly, talented, bright, caring and outgoing young man. This week I read about how we shouldn’t die without embracing the daring adventure that life was meant to be. Honestly, I think this young man is a pretty super example to all of us about this being completely true. Our family is proud to be one of his many sponsors during this particular chapter, because he is doing a truly good thing for others by pushing through his fears and going for it!!

Michael Bailey can sing, act, crush it with his academics…and apparently bike 100 miles a day all summer long too? I just wanted to take a moment today to tell you, Michael, that I am really proud of you for pushing through all the obstacles and embracing something that is truly difficult, but ultimately a selfless and generous act. I believe that you will grow in ways you never expected through this terrific journey! I am so hoping we can get a glimpse of you when your group makes their way through Indiana in a couple weeks. I hope that amid the turmoil and chaos if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, you will turn to the Lord and ask Him to fill you with grace during this trip. I really do believe “Ask and you shall receive” is some of the best spiritual advice I was ever given. Trust is the cornerstone of acquiring peace. Know that my prayers are with you and your fraternity brothers from across the nation, that you will travel safely and arrive in Washington, D.C happy and healthy…having done a lot of good for others!!

If you’d like to know more or would like to help Michael, visit:

Mad for…Danny

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. -Roger Staubach

The biggest Xavier University basketball fan I know is Danny O’Malia. He’s pictured above, a year or so ago with my son, Nick, who was interning with the Xavier Athletic Department at the time. When he found out that my oldest son intended to become a Muskie when he graduated from Guerin Catholic, Danny reached out with enthusiasm and made sure that the entire Thieme clan knew that he would be pleased to help Nick in any way with his transition. His genuineness and authenticity are impossible to miss!

A former President of O’Malia Food Markets, Danny is busy these days as “Indy’s Trusted Servant” and an expert on good customer service. He definitely lives what he preaches when it comes to treating others with a smile and genuine hospitality as I have never been treated with anything other than utter graciousness by him.

Danny is the husband to a bubbly and beautiful wife named Rita, and together they raised three amazing daughters– Janet, Shannon and Colleen. Over the years, I got to know him through my friendship with them. He has four grandsons who have been on sports teams with my 3 boys at various times over the years, so it has been my pleasure to cheer those fine young men on, alongside Danny and Rita many, many times.

I’ve spent several sunny afternoons lolly-gagging poolside at his Carmel home. Most of those afternoons, I spent the day there knowing full well that neither Rita or Danny was aware I had even been invited, but knowing always that when they did show up, I would get a big sunny smile and a “So great to see you, Shelly!”

I admire greatly the example of kindness, fortitude, faithfulness and unselfishness displayed by Danny during the years I have known him, but especially since the tragic loss of his daughter Shannon. At a time when I know he was mostly broken, he dug in and loved his family, and leaned hard on the Lord… in every possible way. He’s one of the most supportive grandparents around too!

Danny, I am way overdue to express to you how much I appreciate the positivity and kindness you have always shown the Thieme family! You are a treasure to many!! Thank you for the terrific example of faith and the encouragement you provide to those around you– including me!