Mad for…Sara

I have a lot of respect for genuine people. They might not be perfect, but at least they’re not pretending to be. (Anthony Gucciardi)

One of the least pretentious people that I know is a mom of four from southern Indiana named Sara Kaiser (pictured above, top left). She’s married to an easy going guy named Jimmy and together they have built a messy, imperfect, beautiful life! She was a volleyball player in college– at Mississippi State– I think? Since I have total recall up to 30 seconds these days, its possible I have the school wrong. The good news is, Sara is so grace-filled and tenderhearted that she would overlook my mistake anyway.

Ladies, my friend Sara is one of those stunningly gorgeous women who look good wearing absolutely anything. Do you know what’s even worse? It’s impossible to hold that fact (or much of anything else) against her because she’s just so damn genuine, kind, and prayerful. For instance, I was just about to tease her for being late to our Christmas party one year when she came through the door apologizing and explaining that she had a holy hour at the adoration chapel she needed to complete before she was able to join us. I thought to myself, “Jeez Louise. I was about to say WHAT?”

Funny and energetic, Sara enjoys a good concert and she’s got enough rhythm for herself and a couple extra folks too. Her laugh is completely contagious and her heart is positively a gift to all of us in her path. She knows how to have faith that everything will work out for the best. Rather than judge others, she loves them. I read this quote by St. Gianna Molla last week and it reminded me of my friend Sara, who I think lives her life as well as anyone I know by not wishing it away but just being simply present where she is. St. Gianna said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us everyday in His goodness.” What a lovely thought, am I right?

Sara makes a difference because she is authentically kind. I don’t see her as often as I’d like, but when I do, I always leave feeling like I matter. She encourages, inspires, and makes me giggle. She never fails to welcome me with a smile and a thoughtful word. Sometimes it really is the little kindnesses that make the biggest difference in our day. Thank you, Sara, for always reminding me of that very fact! I love you, friend!

Mad for…Barbara

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:17-18)

For about a decade, I worked as the regional communications director for RE/MAX of Indiana. In that role, there was a long list of responsibilities, and I discerned very quickly that the only way the organization could be successful in all those areas which fell under my jurisdiction was to outsource some of them to competent folks. There are only so many hours in the day, after all. That’s how I met the gifted, energetic public relations whiz named Barbara Coles.

Barbara is the president of Coles Marketing, which provides marketing communications, public relations, and creative expertise (among other things) to their clients. Her team always reflected it’s leader. They were hard-working, thoughtful, and professional. Not only is Barbara all those things, but she’s just got the most positive and hopeful attitude. She’s a woman of deep faith and refreshing integrity. She’s also just insanely bright and articulate.

The wife of an attorney named Jim as well as a mom and grandmother of many, Barbara Coles is an impressive woman with a beautiful heart. Even when I was incredibly cranky and demanding, she lived up to her well-earned reputation as a patient and authentically kind woman. Her husband and the rest of her family are stunningly blessed to have her in their lives.

Frequently, she would share about the accomplishments and sometimes even the trials that her family was going through. No matter the circumstances, Barbara is always friendly and welcoming, and even in adversity she tried to see the silver lining, the positivity possible…and remain hopeful. That’s why I chose this little scripture quote about hopefulness as I attempt to honor her today with my shout out.

Her birthday is the day after mine (in March) so I missed the chance to honor her on her special day with my “Mad for 2019” column. However, a lovely young woman asked me recently if there were people in my life (outside my family) from whom I learned about some of the important lessons about how to deal with others. There is a long list of folks who have counseled me there, some with words and others with their fine example. Barbara is a person who falls into the latter category.

The Lord certainly used Barbara Coles to help me adjust my sails, and hopefully the content of my character too, in a positive way by her example. Much of her most sage guidance seeped in slowly over time– some of it long after our paths parted. While we’ve all got areas where we could stand some improvement, I am especially grateful to Barbara for showing me what the graceful end product of truly respecting others ought to look like. I am long overdue to acknowledge how much she helped me to realize that how we treat others (especially difficult folks) in our path is really so important. As we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself filled with gratefulness for the examples of many folks who are often the face of Christ to those around them by the lovely way they live their lives. This includes my former work colleague. Thanks, Barbara! You are a phenomenal woman from whom I glean inspiration STILL all these years later!

Mad for…Shonna

There’s nothing better than catching up with old friends.

When I was a kid, softball was my game. I spent several summers playing for my local team, the “Wea Indians”, with largely the same group of girls. We had a solid catcher/pitcher sister act (the Royer girls) that were a big part of any success the team had, for sure. However, our best player was the short stop. She was strong and fierce in every way. Shonna had a phenomenal arm, and she would hurl the ball over to me at 1st base. My dad used to say, “She puts a little mustard on it, huh, Shell?” The girl was not messing around. Also? She could flat out hit the ball. We rarely felt like we were completely out of any game if Shonna still had an at bat or two remaining. Opposing coaches always flailed their arms at their outfielders when she got up to the plate. Those men were exactly right. The ladies needed to scoot their booties back, ha?!

My summer memories as a kid are full of smiles as Coach Tom Mellady was a good human and my teammates were pretty darn welcoming to the lone Catholic school girl on the squad. As I recall, we even won the Tippecanoe County tournament one year when we were about twelve years old. There was a boat load full of laughter, and I even remember Coach Mellady’s wife, Karen, dressing up in some sort of “mascot” get up as we made our tourney run. We were the Wea Indians, so I am not entirely sure why my memory is of her in like a giant frog costume, but, that’s what is stuck in my head. We had a good time. I do know that!

It’s nice when you meet up with old friends and see an old smile you’ve missed! That’s what happened to me this morning. Tom and I had been out delivering Thanksgiving baskets this morning for our parish, then we headed to Fishers to eat at one of the best breakfast spots in the area– The Roost. It was already a lovely morning. As we were getting ready to leave, there was a trio of folks standing behind us clamoring for our barstools in the overflowing restaurant. That’s when my old teammate, Shonna, approached and called out my name! She’s as authentic as she ever was. She looked better than ever and was accompanied by her super friendly husband and sweet son.

Seeing Shonna and getting a big hug and warm smile was an incredible blessing in my day. Her sunny disposition and friendliness really did fill the room, and my morning, with warmth. Although I’ve not seen her in many years, and both of us have grown and changed a lot, the fact is that our roots will always be a little tangled, and I’m pretty great with that! She’s a solid human and her handsome son is a pretty lucky kid to have such a caring, fun person as a mom!

Thanks, Shonna for the friendly greeting and beautiful smile this morning! I wish I had thought to take a little selfie with you so I could have sent it to my parents. They would have gotten a big kick out of that. However, I stole a picture of you off your Facebook page so they can see your bright face and get a glimpse of your guys too! I hope you don’t mind. Seeing you really did make my day, and I wanted to give you a shout out and express gratefulness for the genuine way you interact in the world. Real, genuine, kind people like you are treasures!! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your beautiful family.

Mad for…Sarah

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

Maybe it’s because she is the youngest child and only daughter in the family, but ever since Sarah Kiffmeyer was a little girl, she’s been fierce. Don’t misunderstand me, she’s not cutthroat or raging in any way, but she’s a relentless and strong young woman. She’s fierce in the very best sense of the word. If I’m assembling a team, I want her on my side. Sarah is athletically gifted and mentally tough. It’s been a joy to watch this wonderful, faith-filled girl grow into a beautiful young woman of integrity.

The daughter of Joe and Julie Kiffmeyer, Sarah is the sister to Andrew, Jimmy and Matt. I’ll admit, I am utterly partial to this entire family. She shares with them all a certain straightforwardness and refreshing goodness. She’s patient, principled and kind. Her loving nature and natural compassion is often on display, never more for me than when she interacts with her brother, Matt. Since she was quite young, she has displayed the kind of humanity and selflessness dealing with others that can only be explained by grace.

Sarah is not only athletic, but she is beautiful and full of sunshine. Her bright smile can light up the whole area. She’s courteous, and incredibly bright– academically gifted for sure. Sarah Kiffmeyer is a young lady of character, morals, and depth. I admire her, and I know her future is incredibly promising. The sky is the limit for Sarah! She’s a freshman at Guerin Catholic High School where she just finished playing her first high school soccer season. She’s a stand out for her attitude and her work ethic in all she takes on in life.

Sarah is pictured below with my son, Zach. They were classmates all through St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School and now at GCHS. Probably, neither of them will be thrilled I’ve posted this 8th grade picture. I’m not sure what was going on here, but even though the shot is a little old, I think they are both completely adorable…so…since it’s my column, I win, ha?

Today, Sarah and her classmates had a day off school after just having finished up finals. I wanted to give her a little shout out today and let her know I SEE YOU, SARAH KIFF! In case no one else has mentioned it yet today, you are a phenomenal human who makes this world a much better place by your presence! I mean that sincerely, despite the fact that you are an IU fan. You know that’s a little hard for me, right? Keep on keeping on, sis…and don’t let those big brothers give you a hard time for a minute!! You are AMAZING. Now, go crush it in the 2nd trimester at GC and GO GOLDEN EAGLES!

Mad for…Matthew

Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you, no one would believe it.

The first trimester grades are now starting to populate in the online “Canvas” account that is provided to me by Guerin Catholic High School for my son, Zach. It’s a little mind blowing to me that the baby of the house is well-entrenched as a high schooler. It seems like five minutes ago that he was playing grade school CYO basketball at SLDM and meeting a new kid named Matthew Kordesh!

The youngest of the three Kordesh kids, Matthew is the son of Steve and Barb Kordesh. He’s a freshman at Fishers High School. I’m not exactly sure what activities Matthew is involved in over there, but I know he’s on the tennis team, because we ran into him during Zach’s first tennis match of the season, when they faced the Tigers! He has the most genuine and bright smile, and the old CYO basketball teammates didn’t hesitate at all when I asked them to pose for a picture. Here they are above. Zach is on the left in GC’s signature purple, and Matthew is wearing his Fishers Tigers gear. There’s just a lot of goodness in this photo, and it makes me smile!

Friendly, hard-working, and funny. Those are the three adjectives that came to mind quickly as I decided to write about Matthew today. He’s a young man of integrity– both bright and kind. This is why when he joined the CYO basketball program at SLDM with a big group of close friends who mostly attended the parish school together, this young man was immediately respected and accepted by his peers on the team. He’s a positive kid who works hard, and therefore it was impossible to not find him likable! By his words and actions, Matthew Kordesh is easy to spot as a shining star.

I don’t know who Heraclitus even is, but I read his quote this week and I thought it was important.

The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become. -Heraclitus

As Matthew and all the young men I have grown to love are beginning their high school adventure, I thought it might be worthwhile today to point him out. He’s a young man of character who is getting it right. For instance, when they both finished their respective tennis matches on that day earlier this fall, Matthew came to find Zach and the two of them found a court and starting hitting together. Other boys began to join in, and mostly just laughter and friendly competition ensued between the rivals who hadn’t seen each other in several months. Matthew’s solid character reflects itself in his consistent, hard-working nature and sunny disposition. If anyone told me they thought otherwise, I simply wouldn’t believe them. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of person we should all strive to be!

Good luck these next four years, Matthew! The Thieme family will be keeping our eyes on you and cheering for your success. You are a wonderful human who makes the world better by your positivity and integrity!

Mad for…Ethan

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. (Albert Schweitzer)

He’s got a contagious grin and a warm, generous heart. Those are the defining qualities as I see them for my friend, Ethan Wagner. I should probably not leave out his amusing and playful sense of humor, as it certainly comes in handy as he parents his three very active children– Jack, Sam and Lily. His wife is a stunningly beautiful woman named Susan. I suspect he needs his quick wit to keep up with her! They live nearby, and we’ve known them for several years through our St. Louis de Montfort ties.

The Wagners are just entering the high school years with their oldest son. We are slightly ahead of them on that particular journey, which as you correctly guessed, makes us a little older than Ethan and Susan. I’m not at all sure that we are wiser, though, ha? Their son, Jack, is a freshman at Guerin Catholic with our Zach. They are both 2019 graduates of SLDM.

Ethan is an emergency room physician. His line of work means that he’s often shown up at his kids events on minimal sleep after working a crazy overnight shift in the ER. Sometimes his eyes look like little slits, but there he is anyway, determined to be present for his kiddos. He cheers with volume and enthusiasm, just like yours truly. I love passion, so I say bring it on! Those three children of his are incredibly blessed to have a dad who is incredibly supportive and ever present for them. It’s inspiring to me, especially on those days when I can see he’s utterly exhausted. He never fails to smile, even on the days when his eyelids are extra heavy. I have mad respect for you, Ethan!

Many times, friends have called on this generous man to give them some medical assistance when there’s been an injury or accident of some kind. He’s even called the Thieme house to offer his guidance (and a house call if necessary) when our family was the one in need. He’s compassionate and kind like that. His is a life lived in service of others, often in times of dire need.

Today, on National Kindness Day, I wanted to offer a little shout out to a kind man named Dr. Ethan Wagner. He’s pictured above with his beautiful family. You, sir, are the real deal! Thank you for making the world a better, more compassionate place to inhabit!

Mad for…Kathy

So the call each day is to look at everything, no matter what the circumstance, through the proper lenses; for only then will we have the perspective to see things and people and events as they truly are. And only then will we be able to defeat the darkness that tries to overwhelm and overcome us and live in the light and the love– and truth– of Christ. (Jim Branch)

A few months back, as Kathy Sheek and I prepared for the heart-wrenching loss of a mutual friend, she did something quietly spectacular. She reached out to a priest who she knew had been particularly close to our dear friend to let him know about the gravity of her health and to ask him whether he might be able to make the trip back to Hamilton County to anoint her. Fr. Dave did just that, checking in with the family at just the right time with his offer, and he was able to be the face and hands of Jesus to our dear Karen and her whole gang. He was exactly the person she wanted in her home for this last holy sacrament before she met the Lord, and my heart was glad. What a beautiful gift!

This situation really tells you all you need to know about the compassionate and faithful heart of Kathy, who is pictured above at the far right. I have watched from afar for years as she has served her parish community in a variety of pivotal ways with her gentle and loving servant’s heart. She’s a supportive mom and the wife to a fine man named Mike. She’s an Indianapolis native who now lives in Carmel and a long time parishioner at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers.

What I love about Kathy is the authenticity of her smile and her faithfulness in small things. She’s clearly a devoted daughter of God who lives her life in a selfless way with joy on her face– more devoted to being a woman of integrity than she is about her own notoriety. I don’t know her as well as I’d like, but I felt called to celebrate her with a little shout out today on her birthday! Color me impressed by your glorious character, Kathy!! I hope your people are loving you up on your special day, because your life is one that should be loudly celebrated!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KATHY SHEEK!!

O Lord, give me good eyes today, that my soul may be filled with light rather than darkness, love rather than need. Do not let my vision get clouded and distorted by the darkness that is around me or within me, but help my eyes to stay pure and clear, seeing as you see, that I might love as you love. Amen.