Clap Your Hands

Panera Bread was the place where my friend, Janice, and I decided to meet up for a little while this afternoon. After we scored a table, we went up to stand in line. Shortly, a sunny employee headed through the lobby towards the door and as she did so she sang, “If you’re happy and you know it…” and then Janice and I commenced with the appropriate clapping, of course! The singing Panera gal seemed genuinely thrilled at our joining in.

Afterward, my sweet friend commented about how her children would be mortified that she made such a spectacle of herself. Meanwhile, I explained how mine would be relatively unaffected because, well, I let my freak flag show a lot. They might be embarrassed, but they’re largely used to it. I’m genetically predisposed?

I mean, my parents used to make us all sing the Mickey Mouse Club Song when leaving restaurants. M-I-C, see ya real soon, K-E-Y, why, because we like you…M-O-U-S-E. Also, they shoved 14 year old me out of the family mini-van once just before I started high school and refused to let me back in until I belted out the school fight song. I might be immune to total humiliation? So, my point is that the Thieme boys have gotten off easy. Still, I’m their mom and that’s been a character building opportunity for them all, ha?

As we finished up at Panera, that employee we had seen earlier? She showed up at our table with two to-go bags, each holding a cookie. She wanted to thank us for joining in on her joyful moment.

The moral of the story today? If you’re happy and you know it? CLAP YOUR HANDS!!

“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” (James Barrie)

Today, I’m grateful for the gal from Panera Bread and my dear friend, Janice Kunkel who both were the face of Christ to me this day with their example of joy. Let’s all quit worrying what other people think about us and be the reason someone smiles today! I believe Jesus would think that’s pretty swell, and isn’t He the one who really matters anyway? Who’s with me?!

Mad for…Mark

Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women. -St. Gianna Molla

This weekend, a faithful, passionate friend of mine, Mark Volpe, is celebrating his 60th birthday! As you can see from the photo above, Mark has been galavanting a little in the south, celebrating with “Bourbon and Basketball” as his wife Karen noted. Alongside him on this little adventure are some of the finest humans I know– his incredible wife, Karen, his daughter, Samantha, and sons WillIam and Mitchell!

Like Boilermakers everywhere, Mark undoubtedly is suffering from a little broken heart this morning. The Volpes had excellent seats at the YUM Center in Louisville last night for what truly was an epic Elite 8 game, but it didn’t end how we in the black and gold had hoped. Mark’s a Cleveland Browns fan, though, so he knows how to handle sports disappointment…ha?!

Mark is an Italian guy, and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s warm and compassionate. Over the course of his long marriage, I have often thought of this quote by St. John Paul II where the iconic saint spoke of the role of men in this world. He said this, “God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.” To be completely honest, I don’t think I know a single man who has lived up to that ideal better than Mark Volpe. Not only has he done that by loving his daughter, Sam, with fierceness, but he’s been extraordinary as a partner to Karen in her long and torturous battle with cancer. God loves the way he keeps going, stays positive, and so do I!

There’s a lot in his life that I know has not gone according to his plan, but Mark has held on through it all with belief and trust in the Lord. Somehow, some way…

Mark is a guy’s guy. He’s a sports lover. He’s also filled with integrity through and through. His witness about what a character-filled man looks like is truly beyond my ability to describe here, but it’s certainly not a thing that has been missed by his two absolutely incredible sons or his sunny, terrific daughter. That’s obvious. They are three very blessed young adults– bright and capable– because of the witness of their parents. Few children have been given a Dad of this caliber who loves with all he’s got.

As Mark starts his 6th decade on this earth, I wanted to just take a breath and say a prayer of thanksgiving for Mark Volpe. His witness in my life is a powerful one, because in times of joy and times of struggle, Mark looks to the Lord and trusts Him with the journey. Thanks for showing me the way, Mark. It’s beautiful– just like YOU, my dear friend! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Mad for…Shelley

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. -Dr. Suess

Day 68 of 365.

A Brooklyn, New York native, Shelley Bethel might be far from home, but she seems to me to be living her best life here in central Indiana! This sassy gal is boldly smart, sunny and a little saucy too! She’s got a smile that’s a mile wide and the warmest hug around. In short, Shelley is a fine human being, mom to Bryson, Jackson and Addy and wife to Mike. Her children are respectful and full of personality. In my book, both of these are signs of excellent parenting. There is just so much to admire about Shelley.

Though I have only known Shelley a short time, I have a tremendous amount of respect for her for so many reasons. As the mother of 3 very busy children, her energy is tireless. There is ALWAYS a sporting event to attend or a practice to manage. When you add to that the fact that she works a job that never allows a human free time and two of her kiddos are diabetic (with all the added stress and responsibility of managing their health), I find myself a little in awe. I’m sure it’s much, much harder than she makes it look.

Shelley is a teacher and a tireless advocate for the value of books and reading for children. That’s why I chose the sweet Dr. Suess quote to feature as I attempt to honor her today! If you’ve learned anything about me by now during my little 2019 blog project, it’s that I hold ALL TEACHERS in the highest possible regard. Blessed are the children who find Shelley Bethel leading their classroom!

Finally, my friend Shelley is a faithful woman and a recent convert to the Catholic Church. She’s pictured above with her pretty terrific sponsor, Lisa Finn. Shelley is prayerful and has a lovely, compassionate heart for others. She’s not afraid to ask for help when she needs it, a quality I admire greatly, because it highlights her authentic humility. I am praying often that her conversion to our shared faith will continue to lead her to the Lord!

Mostly, Shelley makes me smile and laugh. She doesn’t seem to take life too seriously, and with all of her responsibilities I find that an inspiring witness. THANK YOU SHELLEY, for your fine example of what it means to be a terrific wife, mother, teacher and friend! I hope my little shout out today helps you remember what an utterly beloved daughter you are of our Most High God! Hugs to you, Shelley!!

Mad for…Michelle

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…but how much love we put in that action. –St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

PIctured above is my friend, Michelle Crisci, with her beautiful daughter, Lauren

Day 64 of 365.

My favorite saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, is famous for saying “the loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the love of a mother.” How very true! Today, I am aiming to spread some of the love back to one of the truly terrific moms out there– Michelle Crisci.

As you can see from the photo, Michelle has a magnetic and very genuine smile that begins in her eyes. She’s funny, adventurous and big-hearted. She goes out of her way for others, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty in the process. She’s not looking for a reward, and it’s not important to her that she’s seen doing the act of kindness. Michelle just does the right thing for others because it is the right thing. If we know anything about goodness, it’s that it’s a gift from the Lord. He’s been using this particular gal as His hands and feet for some time.

Michelle is the mother of three pretty terrific young people– Sam, Lauren and Kylie. I’ve known these kids and their parents since they were very small. These are some very blessed kiddos to have such a mom. The Crisci clan spent a decade as our back door neighbors. We hauled our kids to and from school as a team, and we’ve shared lots of laughter, endless juice boxes, a few more than a few adult beverages… and some heartache too with them over the years. Here’s what shines in Michelle through it all– her compassion. Michelle authentically owns one of the most genuine and kind hearts around. The Lord knew she’d need it because, well, she’s married to Stan. If you know him, you’ll understand that I am now heartily laughing as I type! Let’s just say Stan is a BIG PERSONALITY and as awesome is he is….if I outlive Michelle I’ll be opening her cause for canonization when she’s gone! Hahaha!!

In all seriousness, my dear friend, today’s BIRTHDAY GIRL, is joy-filled, patient, and lovely in every way. Michelle, I’m grateful for your faithful and loving example as a mother and as a friend to many. When you could have chosen to be selfish or indulgent, I have watched instead as you have chosen self-sacrifice. What you are is an absolutely beautiful and beloved daughter of the Lord, and I am so proud to call you my friend.


Mad for…Mike

Sports contribute to the love of life and teach sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of the human person. (St. John Paul II)

Day 62 of 365.

Mike Fremion is a man I first met several years ago when his son, Grant, was playing baseball at GC alongside my oldest son, Nick. He’s a fiery guy who loves country music, a nice cold beer…and for some reason unknown to me…the Minnesota Vikings? He’s the husband of a very sweet woman named Pam, who is going straight to heaven, and proud dad of 4. He’s got a great smile and funny and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Today, I wanted to take a minute to say thank you to Mike for the many, many hours he has dedicated these last few years to coaching our youngest son, Zach…and many, many other young guys over the years. It’s easy to be a critic of youth coaches, but honestly the number of hours and the energy this guy has put in really does make him a hero. Do you know how NOT FUN it is to endlessly rake baseball fields and scrounge around for gym space like a beggar? It’s not a glamor gig.

Playing on a sports team coached by Mike Fremion is not for the faint of heart, that we can all agree on who know him. However, I believe it was St. Augustine who said that we should not be content with what we are, that we should each push ourselves to become what we are not. I’m going to assume Coach Fremion is a big St. Augustine fan, ha?

In all seriousness, Mike Fremion loves the kids and I’m incredibly grateful for him. In the kids he instills a strong work ethic, strength, and fortitude. He’s intense, enthusiastic, passionate, but also truly encouraging. To say that Mike has gone out of his way for the sake of others in the time I have known him would be a tremendous understatement. Need help with transportation or anything else he might assist with? No worries. He’s on it. When we joined his little sports circle, we were coming in later than most the other families. He was incredibly welcoming, he drew us in to his circle of friendship, and that warmth always remained. He’s a character and integrity-filled guy whose efforts make a difference for others.

Thank you, Mike, for the hospitality, the many hours of toil, and the kindness you have shown to the entire Thieme family, but especially Zach. We are grateful for you.

Mad for…Brian

Do not lose any time. Do good, do all the good you can ad you will never regret doing it. Forget the services you have rendered to others, but not those rendered to you. –St. John Bosco

Day 56 of 365.

Note from the author: Some of you have noticed by now, but others continue to ask, so allow me to explain once again the reason for my daily entries. I decided at the start of 2019 that I would try to inject some positivity into my tiny corner of the world (and social media) by writing a few paragraphs each day about a different person who I think makes a positive difference for us all by the way they live their life. Today, I have chosen Brian Thieme. Read on if you are so inclined.

He’s a just man, upright, and faithful. He’s the father of five and husband to Sarah. Meet Brian Thieme. Brian is the cousin of my husband, Tom. Along with his son, David, he runs Thieme & Wagner Brewing in Lafayette. It’s been quite a labor of love for the family, opening this spot in my hometown. Brian’s an extremely likeable guy, funny, unassuming and absolute without any sense of entitlement whatever. Like most the Thiemes, Brian knows all about a good beer and he shines in the role of proprietor of the terrific bar because he inherited from his Dad his most authentic good nature.

What I love about Brian is that he is kind, welcoming and compassionate. He seems to do all the little things in a way that to me glorifies the Lord. He’s lived his faith life in such a way that it’s been beautifully passed on to his children. He’s an active member at St. Boniface Catholic Church, which is located very near his new establishment in downtown Lafayette.

I’ve watched from my nearby perch as Brian, despite all his responsibilities, has kept an eye on my father-in-law, Tom, his uncle. In my opinion, he’s been this stunningly generous and genial nephew, the one in the extended family who has taken the time to walk alongside Tom during his long fight with colon cancer in this unique and meaningful way. They share a lifelong love of Indy Car racing, and that seems to be the main vehicle for their bonding. What I hear from Toms Sr about their times together is joy. At times, those moments seem fleeting and hard to come by, so it absolutely warms my heart. The time and attention that the very sunny Brian has shared with his Uncle Tom to me cements his legacy as a simple, good man who knows how to witness to his children and his family at large what it means to be the face and hands of Christ to others. WELL DONE, Brian!

I realize you’re the one who owns the bar, Brian, but the next chance I get, your beer is on me! You are a terrific human! CHEERS!

Mad for…Karen

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. (Proverbs 16:21)

A couple of years ago or so, I pulled into the driveway of my friend Karen Tabor’s new home. I was bringing her youngest son, Sam home. It was dark and I was driving my husband’s brand new car. As I backed out rather aggressively, I completely mangled the Tabor’s mailbox. I mean, it was stunning how quickly I was able to utterly destroy it with Tom’s fancy Durango. UGH! Clearly, I was mortified.

I learned that night what true graciousness looks like. Karen immediately forgave me. The instant she heard my pathetic apology she was merciful. She didn’t even let me pay for the damage, which I know cost the Tabors not a small amount.

Although I was completely full of remorse, it would have been a natural reaction to curse, or at least whisper a little poison in my direction in the heat of the moment. Who could blame her? Karen did not do any such thing. Further, she’s never even given a hint of disdain in my direction, nor has her husband. We’ve laughed about it and it’s clear to me that her desire was to simply move on. She’s withheld any grudge and continued to treat me as she does everyone else– with her signature charm, kindness and good humor.

Karen is the mother of 2 terrific boys and the wife of a pretty hilarious attorney named Jeff. She seems to be big on laughing, golf, and the Indiana Hoosiers. She’s generous, and faith-filled, so I am overlooking the IU thing. Ha?

I read a quote once in an old fashioned book about “how to be a lady” that stuck with me. It went like this. “Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you.” I can’t remember the name of the author but I’ll just say by that standard, then Karen Tabor is most certainly a lady on all 3 counts. She’s a beautiful, sunny, and oh so gracious gal.

Our lives are roller coaster rides, there are lots of twists, turns, ups and downs. Karen is a person whose example of compassion and graciousness serves as an awesome reminder to me of how we are to treat others. She treated me like the Lord treats us when we ask for His mercy. She gave it INSTANTLY. Thank you, Karen, for the real life reminder of what kind of woman I want to be in this life. How blessed all of us for knowing you! You are a terrific human and I am proud to call you friend.

Mad for…Mollie

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor: 3:18)

Day 53 of 365: Mollie Smith

By now, most of you know that I am BIG on honoring the birthdays of folks I know and even those I don’t know as well. Birthdays should be a festival, I think! This week, it’s Mollie Smith’s festival. Her birthday was earlier in the week, and I’ve chosen today to tell you a little about her fabulousness.

I read this inspiring entry in a spiritual book recently and the chapter was titled, “God loves your family resemblance.” This immediately made me think of the Smith family, because their glorious clan is so recognizable, and they are a family who loves and serves the Lord with enthusiasm. I credit their mom (an amazing convert to the Catholic faith, by the way). She’s as fine a Christian woman as I have ever encountered. I mean, Adam’s okay too…ha?! It’s just this THIS WEEK, I am celebrating his bride.

Here are some of the highlights from that chapter I mentioned. I hope when you read it, it will give you a more clear picture of the type of mother and kind, compassionate woman I believe her to be, because these words make me think of Mollie….and Carly, Kolbe, Simon, Lily, Sadie, Wyatt, Luke and little Ella too. I’ve been watching them from a distance for some time, and this is a family that inspires in me a firm desire to love the Lord in the same joyful way they do– its seems to me to be born of the deep faithfulness they all share.

Do you giggle like your mom? Or chuckle and chortle like your dad? Do you remind everyone of your Great-Aunt Ruth? We tend to look and act like the people we’re related to– those whom we love. So…are you as kind as the King? Do you love like your Lord? Do you give like Jesus? Having your mom’s eyes or your dad’s smile is great, but when it comes to your heart, God is hoping it looks a lot like His. Because He just loves to see your family resemblance. (Tama Fortner)

Mollie, I know you are proud of your stunning family, and you should be. Jesus surely sees the family resemblance with your clan. The Lord is smiling down on you and sees your perseverance, your endurance, your kindness, the YES you have proclaimed just like Our Blessed Mother, and so do I. Thank you for the witness of faith you have shown me through every encounter I have ever had with you or any of your children. You are impressive, birthday girl!! HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY, MOLLIE!

Mad for…Jeff

Video Story of Jeff Utzinger: Please click to watch

Day 50 of 365.

Today is the birthday of my old neighbor, Jeff Utzinger. Jeff’s the sunny, energetic, passionate, athletic father of three great kids (Jennifer, Jeffrey and George ) and the husband of a very sweet gal named Christine. In honor of his special day today, I’d like to ask you all to watch this important and heart warming video. From it we can all learn the importance of being courageous enough to be a good Samaritan, among other very useful lessons. It will tug on your heart strings, even if you don’t know Jeff AND it will convict you of the value of AED devices.

I thought the best way to honor my gracious and brave friend was to share his story and the message contained with a few more folks. If you’ve not seen it, it’s truly worth the time.

Jeff, today’s your day, and your life is certainly one worth celebrating! I am proud to know you and pleased to count you as a friend. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story. I’m thankful for the memories and fun we’ve shared over the years and for the lesson in gratefulness and humility you’ve spread by being open with your story. Bill’s a hero, and SO ARE YOU! YOU ARE SAVING LIVES!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Mad for…Colleen

Oh God, you are my God- it is you I seek! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, in a land parched, lifeless, and without water. I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory. For your love is better than life; my lips shall ever praise you! (Psalm 63: 1-4)

Day 49 of 365.

If you take the time to notice the life being led by Colleen Ward, you’ll see a pattern of thanksgiving. She clearly believes, by her conspicuous witness, that our good and gracious God meant for us to not only thank Him for the graces He’s shared which enrich our lives, but also to thank others responsible for the small blessings that make our journey more pleasant.

I met Colleen many years ago when I was a working girl in a corporate communications job. In my role, I counted heavily on the expertise and legwork of a local PR firm, Coles PR, where Colleen was employed at the time. I’ll be candid. As clients go, I was a first class, high maintenance PIA. I look back on that time and roll my eyes at my ridiculousness. Colleen, then as now, was the definition of class, impressive work ethic, and kindness. She was and is now– bright, talented, professional and flat out impressive. Guerin Catholic High School made an incredibly far-sighted and positive move when they snagged her for her communications role several years ago. I know very few people whose integrity matches that of Colleen. She’s a positive, sunny, character-filled gift from the Lord.

Sometimes, folks need a meaningful expression of how they are valued. An expression of authentic gratitude to a world filled with folks who need to know that they matter is no small thing. I’ve seen Colleen express just these kinds of meaningful sentiments to and about lots of folks. The most impactful for me in terms of learning from her witness, though, are the public expressions of appreciation she continues to share about her family members.

EVERY SINGLE TIME, it reminds me of the St. (Mother) Teresa quote, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

Colleen is sunny, funny and self-deprecating. She lives her life in service to others, but spends herself quietly. Her lack of volume, however, should not be construed as a lack of strength. She is a fierce, capable woman of God. I notice and admire her most for loving her family lavishly, unconditionally, and maybe sometimes even foolishly– which is just the way God loves us. The way she praises the Lord with her life is inspiring. Today, on your special day, I want to turn the tables and thank you, Colleen, for being a powerful witness to me and many. If we all loved our families and those around us as you do, WOW would the world be transformed!