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!!

Mad for…Megan

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. (Helen Keller)

One of the great blessings of the “growing up” years of my sons was undoubtedly the friendships we made with other families around us who were in the same season of life. This most certainly includes the Mattei family, who lived around the corner and whose four remarkable children we enjoyed so very much. Steve and Julia are some of the finest parents around and their four children include three sons (Michael, Jack and Joey) along with one daughter, Megan, about whom I am writing today, on this her 20th birthday!

Megan is exactly one week older than my son, Drew, and they were classmates at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers for a decade. As a little girl, Megan was joyful, polite, sunny and genuine. She always had a way of making my uber stoic middle son giggle despite himself. In fact, one of my favorite snapshots from his childhood is this one, below. She was quite dissatisfied with how he was wearing his life vest and was determined to get him squared away. When I look at this old picture, seeing her smile and his, I can still hear their giggling.

These days, Megan is a student at Indiana University and Drew is at Purdue. When I recently received a photo of the two of them together– at a chance meeting at a casino in Canada– I had to smile again. You see, the thoughtful Miss Mattei knew that her mom and I would get a kick out of the fact that these two old friends both happened to be at the same spot at the same time for their own respective fraternity and sorority events. What were the odds? I would include that photo here too if it wasn’t a little too dark and grainy. Since it is, it simply doesn’t do her justice. I’ve chosen a better one so you can all see just how absolutely beautiful our birthday girl is! She’s pictured her on campus with her dog, Rocky.

Isn’t she gorgeous, you guys?? There is a cheerfulness and buoyancy of attitude that to me has always made Megan a favorite of mine. She has great personal charm, and she’s incredibly bright. She’s witty, courteous, articulate and best of all…she’s kind. Also, her laugh is the best, and we all know life is better when we’re laughing. The world is simply brighter and better with her in it!!

Today, on your birthday, Megan, I hope you ate something covered in icing and were loved up in a BIG way because your amazing life should absolutely be celebrated festival style! We Thiemes don’t get to see you as often as we did when you were small, but we all think you are someone pretty wonderful. So, from the bottom of my heart back home in Carmel, please know I wish you a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MEGAN!! This little shout out is my way of sending you our hugs and love on your day. Keep doing you, sweet girl…because you are a giant scoop of awesome.

Mad for…Jennifer

In everything, give thanks. (1 Thess 5:18)

As we begin the month of November, I find myself filled with gratitude for many things, mostly people around me who show me the light of Christ by the way they live their lives. Today, I want to give a shout out to one such woman.

A year ago perhaps, I found myself in the carpool line at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School, just as I had been nearly every week day for 16 years straight. I had gone inside the church to say hello to Jesus, and when I came out to try and remember where I had parked my Durango, there was the very genial, Jennifer. We began to quiz each other about our children, as moms will do. The details of the conversation elude me to be honest, but I just remember leaving her thinking how authentic and lovely she is…and how deeply she loves her two daughters. I already knew her uber friendly girl, Avery, because she and my son, Zach, were in the same class at SLDM. Her much younger daughter, Grace, I knew less well. She’s pictured with her girls, above. When I left Jennifer that day, it felt like a blessing in my week. Some folks just always seem to leave us a little more joyful than they found us– that’s this gal!

Genuine, friendly and kind are the adjectives I choose to describe Jennifer Layden. She’s also just sunny, witty, and incredibly beautiful. I think she’s a local who grew up in Carmel, maybe? Also, she’s a Xavier University grad, so we’ve bonded a little over our Muskie connection since my oldest son is a senior Finance major there! Her husband is a handsome guy named Dan who I am not sure I have ever officially met. She’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan, for reasons unknown to myself?

Here’s what else I know for sure. Jennifer has a warm, kind heart. Her social media posts attract my notice for their consistent positivity. She’s incredibly supportive as a mom, a fact I know from all the events she attends all the times she raises her hands to help others around her. I don’t know her as well as I’d like, but I’d bet she’s the sort of gal who watches the Hallmark Christmas movies, ha? Her heart is of the soft and mushy variety, the kind that reminds me of marshmallows. I mean that as a profound compliment.

Many months after our talk in the carpool line, a chat I had long forgotten, Jennifer found me again. She reminded me that I had encouraged her to pursue a desire that was gnawing on her heart in a way she hadn’t previously considered…and that she followed my advice! She made a point to find me because she wanted to say thank you. To be candid, I feel like any contribution I made in the matter was extremely small, however her intentional act of gratitude made it’s mark on me. You see, I am hard on myself. Often, I chastise myself for the little failures, and rarely do I remember to be gentle with myself and notice the goodness– that day particularly so. God used her to help me correct course, judge myself less harshly. Her example of a simple “hey, thank you for listening and weighing in– it helped” reminded me ONCE AGAIN how truly important it is that we notice and acknowledge the goodness of those around us and that in ourselves.

When the Holy Spirit whispers, “say thank you” or “be kind” or “listen carefully”…it’s likely the Lord giving us a chance to be His hands or His face to another. Jennifer Layden is a lovely example of a wife and mother who seems to intuitively grasp that. Today, I just wanted to say I SEE YOU, JENNIFER. Well done.

The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. (Henri Nouwen)

Mad for…Joni

You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, training them up in God’s fear, minding the house, and making your household a church for God as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of Hosts. -Charles Spurgeon

Her birthday was a couple weeks ago, but I intentionally saved Joni Smith Abdalla to share with you today, on All-Saints Day. Joni is the mother of a big, joyful, messy, imperfect, beautiful group of faith-filled children. Physically, Joni is a stunner. She’s incredibly gorgeous, but what’s much more impressive to me is her spectacular heart which positively radiates the love of the Lord.

I’ve only met Joni briefly a few times, but I’ve been watching her from nearby, and I’ve got to tell you, she blows me away. Instead of excessively swooning about her, I’d like to share with you a tiny glimpse of how she lives her life every single day. She posted this the day after her birthday.

Yesterday was truly the perfect birthday. Thanks to all of you for reaching out. The boys and I went shopping on Saturday to purchase things for the homeless. We assembled 60 bags to distribute yesterday. The highlight of our shopping trip to Walmart was the two employees who helped us find the items for our bags. One of the employees walked up to me and handed me a twenty dollar bill as her personal contribution to our purchase! I was blown away by her incredible generosity. After mass and brunch we headed downtown to deliver the bags. There is truly no other way I would want to spend my birthday than loving on others with my family. My heart was so full looking around seeing my kids engaging, serving and loving others. The takeaways for my kids were: that every person is important and deserves unconditional love, that a smile and conversation can make people feel better, that when we are tempted to complain about something, to realize that we have all that we need and that so many others live without. To whom much is given much will be expected (Lk. 12:48). We ended the day with a delicious meal and lots of heartfelt, handmade gifts from my children. Truly such a lovely day.

You’re following me now, right? Here’s my point. Joni Abdalla is a woman who knows that the souls of her children are in her hands. She takes time to teach them to love the Lord and others. Her priorities are on things that truly matter. I think she’s a living saint, raising the next generation of saints….and I wanted you to see her light. It shines incredibly bright. There’s so much more I could share about her because the story of (what little) I know of her life that I haven’t shared here is unbelievably compelling.

Instead, I just offer her to you as a beautiful example of someone who gets it right, and when she doesn’t she just keeps doing her level best to glorify the Lord the next day. I wish I could remember which saint said it and the exact words they used, but it went something like this…sometimes the greatest gift we can give God isn’t something we do, but someone we raise. Thank you, Joni, for the curious, optimistic, joyful and faith-filled woman that you are. Your example inspires me and gives me SO MUCH HOPE!

HAPPY ALL SAINTS DAY, EVERYONE!! #WhoAreYourFavoriteSaints

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel…pray for us!

St. Michael the Archangel…pray for us!

St. Therese of Lisieux…pray for us!

St. Louis de Montfort…pray for us!

St. Padre Pio…pray for us!

Mad for…Will

“…and she loved a little boy very, very much, even more than she loved herself.” (Shel Silverstein)

When my three boys were very small, they didn’t have a babysitter very much. Usually, Grandma Kate and Grandpa Jim got the gig. However, they did have one kid who was their favorite, because he was cool guy, a baseball catcher, and he let them wrestle around acting stupid. Boys love that at any age, ha? One time we came home and the boys were sitting on his back pretending they were on horseback. Sheesh. Poor kid. I probably WAY underpaid him. Will Volpe lived 2 doors down from us on Garden Gate Way, so that fact was also a super easy bonus for mom and dad!

Handsome, intelligent and responsible are three quick adjectives that come to mind when I think of William. He’s the son of Mark and Karen Volpe, and the oldest of the Volpe children. He’s pictured, above right, with his brother Mitchell and sister, Sam. He’s a Boilermaker, a Purdue engineer to be specific. I’m not sure who he works for now, but I do know they’ve got a gem in him. Will has always had such a beautiful, warm heart and a bright smile. I can’t escape thinking about him today, as it’s the first birthday he’s celebrating without his mama, my dear friend who thought sun rose and the moon set on this young man and his two siblings. His mom and I used to talk about him behind his back a lot. It’s what moms do. Sometimes she worried about him, but mostly, just the thought of him made her smile and count her blessings. She was overwhelmed to tears in my presence, with pride about being his mother…many times.

Life has hard times and it has good times. I’ve noticed over the years that Will simply seems stronger, more kind, and more independent no matter the circumstance. There’s an endearing tenderness about this young man. Karen used to say “Will was a blessing from the start.” She adored his smile, and she cherished his hugs. I know she’s watching down on him today, showering him with abundant grace from her perch on high. I’m also certain he’s missing the hell out of her today. Me too, Will. I’m learning, ever so slowly, that grief is really just love, deep abiding love.

William Volpe is capable, hard-working and integrity-filled. He’s respectful and he’s got a great laugh. He is loved by MANY, most certainly including the Thieme family. We are SO PROUD of you, Will and we hope you celebrate in a big way, because yours is a life certainly worth celebrating!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILL VOLPE!

Mad for…Will

Believe in yourselves, dream, try, do good. (Mr. Feeny)

This morning, I noticed that there is a handsome young man who is celebrating a birthday today. He’s a kid I have enjoyed since that day I met him because he’s got this impish grin I cannot resist. The boy has a definite mischievous quality about him, but also Will Fremion is just incredibly likeable!

Will is the youngest of the four Fremion kids. He has older brothers, Grant and Joey, and one sister, a beautiful young woman named Maddie who is the oldest of the bunch as well as a fellow Boilermaker. The Fremion family are parishioners at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. The pretty terrific parents of this brood are Mike and Pam Fremion. We first got to know this family just a little several years back when Grant was playing a little high school baseball with our son, Nick. The friendship has grown since that time, largely because of the sports loving youngest sons in our families. Will Fremion and our Zach are both freshmen at Guerin Catholic High School this fall and proud members of the class of 2023! I’m not going to lie, that number makes me feel OLD. I remember being in high school, and it doesn’t feel like it was 30 years ago…oh, but it was!

“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” That’s a quote by the late, great Fred Astaire. If you don’t know who he is, then I am only proving my point about age again, ha? The reason I share it here is because to me, though he may sometimes be a stinker like all smelly 15-year olds, Will Fremion does one thing better than almost all of his peers. He’s polite. I NEVER and I mean NEVER run into Will without getting at least a cursory “Hey, Mrs. Thieme!” His peers could stand a lesson from him, truth be told. Awkward is the buzz word that most frequently applies to kids of this age, but Pam and MIke Fremion…I want you to know that your youngest son is doing the right thing here even when no one else is paying any attention. I flat out ADORE a young person who takes the time to notice the folks around them and takes a moment to say hello. I guess what I’m saying is that I SEE YOU, WILL FREMION!! Nicely done.

I have no idea what kind of student Will is in school, but I know one thing for sure. He’s going to be a successful human because friendliness and good manners always open doors that even the most smarty pants of humans cannot gain access to in this life.

Will has a genuine smile and a twinkle in his eye. He’s competitive, a good teammate, and not just a little fiery. He’s enthusiastic, and I love me some high volume, fire in the belly boys!! His volume control issues are not a quality he inherited from his mother, by the way, ha? The volume came from Mike. I joke, but the truth is that Mike and Pam are caring, supportive parents who have done a lot of things right. They’ve loved those four kids unconditionally, and it shows in the characters of each of them, most certainly including today’s birthday boy!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILL! I can’t wait to cheer you on during basketball season. I’ll be the one yelling for you louder than is appropriate or necessary. Count on it. It’s what I do with all the kids I adore. You’re so lucky, haha?!! I hope your day is half as special as you are, because you deserve to be celebrated!