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.

Mad for…Rachel

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. (Leo Buscaglia)

She is, by her nature, kind and gracious to those around her. I admire people like Rachel Folstrom. Ever since she was a very little girl, a grade school classmate of my oldest son, it was hard not to notice how she spreads sunshine into the lives of others. She is genuinely joyful and her smile is infectious! If it’s true that showering kindness on others has a positive effect on us, then this young woman is surely destined for a very long, healthy and happy life!

A senior at Indiana University, Rachel is an education major. This is why I chose the quote above to honor her today on her birthday. There are classrooms full of children who will be blessed for many years to come with her leading them as their teacher! She’s the real deal, the sort of person who is good to others for no reason at all. It might be how she was raised, because this young lady has AMAZING parents. Rachel is the daughter of Jim and Jill Folstrom, both awesome and thoughtful people. She has a younger (very handsome) brother named Jacob. She attended St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School and then Guerin Catholic High School with my son, Nick.

I admit to having a soft spot for all those graduating from college this school year. These are the young people who grew up alongside my oldest, so I have learned much about parenting, faithfulness, and just…well…life lessons galore from these humans on the verge of “adulting”. Rachel is a friendly, intelligent young woman who gives me hope for our collective futures. She’s kind, genuine, good-hearted, open-minded and she loves the Lord. She knows how to laugh, and she’s incredibly beautiful!

Rachel, today on your birthday I wanted to just wish you well and say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, kiddo! You are certainly a young woman who helps me to believe in the goodness of people by the way you love those around you and how you live your life. Good luck finishing up your college experience. I hope you enjoy every second! Keep shining, sweet girl!!

Mad for…Lou

You are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)

Pretty much everything I know about the great state of Texas, I learned from one Lourdes Raney! I’ve never been to the Lone Star state, but if Lou is reflective of the type of amazing humans that inhabit the place, then I definitely need to get out more…because I am for sure missing out on a whole lotta terrific!

When Lou and her husband, John and her son, John Matthew first moved to Indiana, I was drawn to this beautiful Texan with the joy-filled grin. She really is a stunning woman of God and that smile is one of her most prominent and lovliest features! Lou is full of love, and hope, and kindness. She goes out of her way for others, simply because its the good thing to do. For instance, when I moved into my new home, she brought me the most beautiful gift to bless it– honestly I had never seen anything like it before or since. From afar, it kind of looked like a random, pretty turquoise piece of decor. Nice, huh? Upon closer inspection, I discovered it was a colorful blessing, chock full of saint medals, and from the moment it arrived I felt like the place was covered in grace! She didn’t have to do that. She just did it anyway in the name of friendship. That same selflessness was displayed a few years back when I needed her help interpreting for a Spanish-speaking family I was trying to work with around Christmas, with limited success. Did I mention how useless my 6 years of French feels sometimes? Anyway, Lou’s language skills were infinitely helpful as she stepped in and she was so compassionate in service to this family. Hers was definitely the face of Jesus that holiday season!

Lou is funny, friendly and wherever she goes, whatever she does, her world is sprinkled with the flavor of faith. She’s the sort of woman who can brighten a day with her light. She deeply values her family and she is an incredibly loving mom and wife. It’s been WAY TOO LONG since I have spent any time with Lou. However, I always think of her around Halloween time, as I have some old and very sweet photos of our boys as awkward middle schoolers dressed up to go trick-or-treating that always seem to make me giggle when I spy them each fall.

Today, I felt compelled to give my shout out to an old friend! I miss you Lou!! Thanks for being sunshine to all in your path! You really are the salt of the earth!!

Mad for…Jimmy

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3: 5-6)

He’s honest, trustworthy and funny. He smiles, loves and respects his family, and doesn’t hold the mistakes of others against them. In short, Jimmy Kaiser is one of the good guys. He’s a handsome man and the father of 4 pretty terrific children– Cole, Jared, Elle and Reese– and the husband to a stunningly beautiful woman named Sara. He’s pictured above with his family.

The Kaiser family have been friends of ours since we met them at St. Louis de Montfort when our oldest children were very small. Even though our kids attended different high schools, the friendship has remained. Each Christmas, I can always count on the Kaisers to participate in whatever Christmas “adoption” idea I concoct. They are warm-hearted, generous people who care about others.

What else? Jimmy Kaiser is a faith-filled guy who can tell a story and make the whole room belly laugh with his dry, sarcastic brand of humor. He knows how to have fun and he doesn’t take life too seriously. He’s laid back and easy going. As a father, he’s involved and uber supportive. His children are blessed to have a dad like Jimmy. Also, he looks damn good in cowboy boots…just ask his bride, ha?!

Here’s something very specific I love about Jimmy. He shows up for the funeral. Anymore, that’s a bit of a rare quality. To me, it’s the sign of an exceptionally fine human being. Obviously, death is universal, something we all experience. Yet, our schedules can be crazy. However, Jimmy is a guy who seems to get it that love matters and it’s stronger than death. Walking alongside others who are hurting makes a difference. So, he shows up, sometimes driving long distances in the effort. He does this consistently. I’ve got a ton of respect for folks who go out of their way to console those who mourn. It’s beautiful, Jimmy, watching you be the face of Jesus to others as they grieve. You have a way of just being present, smiling and bringing light to the area. It calms, soothes and heals.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen him, but I can say with confidence when I do see him, this University of Kentucky fan will be quick with a friendly smile and a big hug. Today, I just wanted to give him a little shout out and thank Jimmy for making the world a sunnier, more positive place to inhabit! You are good people, Jimmy, and I love you, Sara and the whole darn gang!!

Look for Christ, and you will find Him. And with Him, everything else. (C.S. Lewis)

Mad for…Debbie

Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things. It consists in accepting, with a smile, whatever Jesus sends us. It consists in accepting and following the will of God. St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

This week, as I frequently do, I missed a birthday! So, today’s birthday shoutout for Debbie Thieme is I think 2 days late in arriving. Debbie might not know this about me, but I am BIG on birthdays and therefore a fan of the month-long festival approach to celebration anyway, so I am choosing not to let my tardiness deter me here, ha!!

Kind-hearted, friendly, and affirming, Debbie is a woman with a big heart. After his (amazing) wife Kathy passed away, my husband’s cousin, John Thieme, met and married Debbie. Together, the two of them raised 6 children in a big, beautiful blended family where they made a priority of seeing to the needs of those young people before their own. My respect for her is profound, and I am not just a little ashamed that I have failed to say so until this moment. I chose the quote above to honor Debbie because the quality of her character shines so brightly for me in the intensity of her love– not unlike one of my favorite saints, Mother Teresa. In her, therefore, I believe the Lord has done great things. John and Debbie Thieme are pictured above!

My husband has this very large extended family. He’s the youngest of I think 19 grandchildren. Therefore, it’s not unusual to miss the opportunity to speak to someone. There are just a lot of folks around! Whenever I run into Debbie at family events, though, my experience is very similar to the one I had last weekend when we all gathered to celebrate the 80th birthday of my father-in-law, Tom, and his twin sister, Josephine. Debbie always makes a point to say hello and engage me in conversation. She leaves me feeling like she is genuinely interested in whatever I have to say, and she often shares with me the love and affection she has for her children when I ask her for the latest and greatest updates. She’s not the kind of woman who has made a god of power, or wealth, or many of the other small “g” gods that seem to trip so many of us up. I find her authentically charming, refreshingly honest, and the owner of a beautiful soul.

Debbie, I hope your birthday was half as terrific as you are! I wish you a spectacular year ahead filled with laughter and love! You are the real deal.

Mad for…Bill

A man of prayer is capable of everything. (St. Vincent De Paul)

Bill Godfrey is a good man. It’s that simple really.

A couple years back, my husband Tom and I found ourselves killing time again in Vincennes, Indiana. Once you have seen the George Rogers Clark National Monument, visited the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, and eaten at Bobe’s Pizza…well…I’d argue that you’ve done all you can do to kill time between basketball tournament games in this neck of the woods. Therefore, we decided to just call it an afternoon and we headed to grab a beer at the restaurant nearest to our hotel. If memory serves, I think it was a pub called Gilberts?

When we wandered in, we could hear the laughter of Jen Osborn, who was seated in the bar with Caroline and Bill Godfrey. They were waiting on the same high school basketball tournament games to resume as we were. We all had kids playing for the Guerin Catholic Golden Eagles who were in a holiday tournament down in Knox County that weekend. They immediately waived us over and we began regaling each other with the misdeeds of our (nearly) grown children. I find myself smiling even as I type the memory here on today’s post, because those three joy-filled people really had me giggling. Raising teenagers can be entertaining, to say the least! Though I had met him several times before, that was the day that the picture of Bill Godfrey became much clearer in my mind. I already knew that he was an incredibly bright and successful man, but the quality of his character and his deep faithfulness were impossible to miss that day. Not only that, but his self-deprecating sense of humor and quick wit drew me in.

Authentic, funny, faith-filled men like Bill Godfrey are rare gems. When you add to that his likeability and integrity, well…it’s just the most estimable combination I can imagine to be candid.

I’ve been reluctant to write about Bill here because the truth is, I don’t know him that well. However, we have many friends in common and this week I spoke to a couple of those folks about him to make sure my little shout out today is a proper reflection of the man they know him to be. To a person, each of them said essentially the same thing as the first person I quizzed who said, “He’s one of the finest, most generous men I have ever known.” Wow. High praise, indeed.

Bill is an incredibly successful businessman. You can google him and find out much more than this stay-at-home mom ever wanted to know about the tech industry. I’ll be honest, I don’t really care so much about that. The fact that Bill is a very involved and supportive father of four and the husband of an incredibly holy woman I have great affection for is much more meaningful for my purposes here. I’ve been watching from nearby as he journeys alongside his wife through her health struggles. I notice his attentiveness, tenderness and faithfulness to the Lord, and I find it, and him quite inspiring. In my own life this year I have taken a cue from his example and tried to remember these words from 1 Corinthians, which I think speak to what Bill is about. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”

Thanks, Bill, for being a great and inspiring reminder to me that positivity, a broad smile, and trust in the Lord is always the right road to travel– no matter the circumstances! My prayers continue for all the Godfreys!!