Mad for…Rhys

One can know a man from his laugh, and if you like a man’s laugh before you know anything of him, you may confidently say that he is a good man. –Dostoyevsky

We’ve been living life a little on the fly this week. The power outage seems to be coming and going, so you’ve got to bob and weave sometimes. What I find is that when plans are foiled by things out of our control, it seems like I often end up liking the day that unfolds even better. Take this evening, for instance. Tom and I ended up taking a drive on a gorgeous sunny evening…and we found ourselves at the Helt farm.

Rhys Helt has been busy building a pond on his property for the last few months. We decided NOT to wait for an invite, but to simply drive on out to the country in Tom’s convertible and take a look. I’m incredibly glad we did! He’s pictured above with his wife and boys on a day when he was a little more spiffy, but I kinda prefer him in his mud covered boots if I’m honest!

When we arrived, Rhys had no idea we were coming, and we caught him driving his skid-steer. That’s apparently the word for this vehicle, pictured below.

As we approached, Rhys sounded his horn and waived, then he pulled around his gorgeous new pond and climbed out of his cool tractor to shine his signature grin, and give us a big dusty hug before waiving us inside and declaring it “snack time” which is evidently synonymous with happy hour.

There’s nothing like a welcoming friend, who is thrilled you showed up unannounced in his backyard and then giggles like a school girl because he’s so darn pleased to see you. Rhys is cheerful, lively guy who reminds me of the Energizer Bunny. He’s a talented and bright investment guy, but in his heart, he’s a dirt under his fingernails farmer. He’s upbeat and playful, and he’s just incredibly pleasant to be around.

Rhys is the husband to my friend Chris and the father of two terrific young men named Rhett and Rhye. I find it incredibly refreshing to spend time around the Helts because their love for one another, and their entire extended family is so evident. They are welcoming and genuine. Their friendship is a blessing and their witness of a happy and holy marriage is just AWESOME!

Rhys, I think you’re the real deal! Your warmth and smile are a blessing in my life and that of Tom and the boys too! Thank you for making me laugh, because laughing is my favorite! We love you, friend…and your whole phenomenal family too!! Also, I just love your gorgeous pond. You ALMOST make me want to learn to drive a tractor…ha?!

Mad for…Jennifer

The Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. (Dt. 16:15)

Many, many years ago, before Jennifer Popovich even had a beautiful daughter named Katie, she was a kindergarten teacher at SLDM. She and Vivian Seaman were the first two teachers our family experienced as Catholic School parents. I look back and laugh a little at both of us and all that we didn’t know or understand at that time. We’ve both learned a little about life since then!

Jennifer is a wife and mom. Above is a photo of her gorgeous family around Christmas time this past year. Her beautiful daughter, Katie, is very nearly a sophomore at Noblesville High School now, and my Nick (her former student) is a SENIOR at Xavier University. Wow, how time seems to be in fast forward!! It’s easy to spot what a terrific mom Jennifer is by the quality of the character of her lovely girl.

These days, Jennifer is a 2nd grade teacher, and she works closely with a dear friend of mine, Julie Ferrucci, who is a teacher’s aide in grade 2 at SLDM. Julie helps me keep up to date on how things are going for the Popovich family and I spy Jennifer from time to time with her little ones in toe at the school. She’s amazing with the kids!

She has spent the better part of two decades now holding, lifting, and otherwise serving the needs of her young students. She’s wiped away countless tears, solved the problem of sticky messes, and untied shoes, and spent a lot of time helping to sacramentally prepare her 2nd graders for their First Holy Communion. She’s firm, but kind, and with a great dry sense of humor– and all the students in her care leave her classroom ready to tackle the big adventure that is 3rd grade.

I admire her tremendously for the way she is able to smile and patiently work with 7 and 8 year olds. That sunny, friendly disposition is quite a feat if you ask me! The world often takes for granted or just doesn’t notice the impactfulness of pros in the classroom like Jennifer, but the Lord sees the work of her hands and He knows. There are few things one can do with their life that would matter more than what Jennifer has been doing each day, year after year!

Thank you, Jennifer Popovich, for the bright light that you are and have been for scores of children, including a couple of Thieme kids! We think you SHINE and SPARKLE!! We will miss seeing your familiar face and genuine smile as we exit SLDM next week.

Mad for…Megan

“God is love, and whoever abides in love lives in God and God in him.  In this way, love is brought to perfection among us.”  (1 John 4:16)

Editor’s note: I’m posting this at nearly 11pm on May 16 because we lost our power for several hours here in Carmel. The “Mad for” streak lives for another day!!

As the month of May begins to draw to a close in the coming days, I find myself a little wistful.  Our time at St. Louis de Montfort School is drawing to a rapid end, and there are many folks who have been alongside us on that long and blessing filled journey as a family.  One such person is Megan Helmen.

Megan is an incredible wife and mother who is filled with the light of Christ.  She’s the mom to 5 really terrific young people who each strike me as sunny, productive and faithful souls just like their mama!  Her husband, Matt, is an equally terrific human. I first met Megan because of her oldest son, Jake, who by now would be a junior at Ball State.  He’s pictured above with his Mom, celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Jake went through SLDM with my son, Nick, and since both of us have been milling about the same parish campus the better part of the last two decades, it was hard to miss her bright smile and warm temperament.  She’s positive, forthright and full of integrity.

My memory is fuzzy about when Megan started working as a nurse at SLDM.  I do know that in her role she is BEYOND patient and compassionate.  She communicates well with parents in the case where her expertise is needed, but more than that she loves each of the students as if they were one of her own children.

School nurses are often overlooked or taken for granted.  Though their role is vital to the entire community, we can often simply forget to share our gratitude.  Megan is a woman who would waive off my concern about not properly thanking her for her efforts over the years, but the truth is that I have definitely blown it on this one.  This is a miss I truly regret because Megan is a woman with a heart like Our Blessed Mother.  She’s virtuous, faithful and kind…and she loves Jesus!  She’s a wonderful model of motherhood and an utter blessing to all in the St. Louis de Montfort school and parish community!

Megan, you are the REAL DEAL!  Your time, expertise, kindness and sunny smile have been such a delight over the past 16 years.  We are beyond grateful for the simple emails about bee stings, headaches, and playground bumps and bruises over the years. We see you following out that child with the stomach flu at mass. We know your work isn’t easy, nor is it glamorous.  More than that, though, I want you to know that your light-filled presence has been a Jesus sighting many times for me.  I so admire the positive energy and enthusiasm you have for life and it inspires desire for the same response in me…and many others!! THANK YOU, MEGAN FOR ALL YOU DO EACH DAY!!

Mad for…Malcolm

Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor; it refines the senses, give intellectual penetration, and steals the will to endurance. It is not merely a physical development then. Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator. (Pope Pius XII)

Tonight, of my favorite kids around, Malcolm Houze, had one of those glorious nights all athletes hope for when playing sports! Malcolm, who is a 6th grader at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers, won the 100m event at the CYO City Championships! Not only that, but then, as part of the 4×100 event, he and his teammates were crowned CYO City Champs in that event as well! Here’s a photo of the sweet teammates below (including Dylan James, Cameron Parker, Malcolm Houze and Alex Myers).

Malcolm is the son of Tim and Lisa Houze, my dear friends, and the younger brother of Christian Daniels (also a very fine human)! He is pretty solid at every sport he tries, and I am fairly sure he’s tried almost ALL OF THEM! He’s fierce and competitive like his mother and incredibly handsome like his dad.

When I was diagnosed with cancer this winter, I got a nice note from Malc. He’s a faith-filled and all around solid young man. Today, I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate today’s sports success with a kid whose smile definitely lights up the room, and whose sense of humor and silliness spreads the smiles to others!

CONGRATULATIONS, MALC! You’re speedy AND you can hit dingers out of the ballpark? You’re having a good month of May, kiddo! The entire Thieme family is happy for you and we’ll be cheering you on now and in the future…whatever sport or academic successes are sure to come!

Mad for…Alex

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come. (Henri Nouwen)

I’d like to introduce you to my godson, Alex Fritton. He’s pictured above with my husband, Tom (hereafter known as “the godfather”, ha?) in a photo from last summer in South Haven, Michigan. Alex is a Cathedral 2018 graduate and he’ll be a sophomore at Purdue next fall. He’s the middle son of Mike and Ann Fritton, and the sunny and handsome brother of Jack and Matthew.

Alex is one of the most genuine and outgoing young men around. He’s always wearing that winsome grin! He has a truly glorious smile that he shares with everyone in his path. He’s engaging, charming and very charismatic!

A former St. Luke Ram from the north side of Indianapolis, Alex was what I call an “All-Star Altar Server” during his years there. He’s a conscientious and faith-filled young man. As I recall, he made a trip to Italy with a group from the parish a couple years back, and I remember his thoughtful gift of lovely wooden rosaries from the adventure, which he gleefully shared with our entire family. His stories of engaging with the much older folks with whom he shared the trip were delightful and they only made him more lovable in my eyes. He told us he toted more than a few bags, but that Monseigneur warned the young guys on the trip “to not let themselves be bullied by those old people.” Alex just laughed as he shared the story.

He’s gifted with the little ones because he’s just a big kid himself and his nature is warm and thoughtful when interacting with others of all ages. He’s just plain fun to have around, a fact which has been the case since he was a tiny little guy hanging out with my boys. I haven’t had the chance to ask him how his first year of school went in Boilermaker country, but this kid bleeds black and gold, so I suspect it was a success.

Tomorrow, Alex turns 19 and this is the first time that I am actually A DAY AHEAD on birthday greetings! Let the festival begin! HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX! I think you are a truly fantastic human who makes the world a sunnier place every single day, and I am so proud of the character filled young man I know you to be. You are my godson, and I want you to know that your name is permanently on my prayer list. Thank you for always making me smile! Boiler Up, kid!

Mad for…Carolyn

“But the saints are never the kind of killjoy spinster aunts who go in for faultfinding and lack all sense of humor. For humor is a mysterious but unmistakable charism inseparable from Catholic faith…” (Hans Urs Von Balthasar)

Cold and gray while spitting rain was our reality today. That’s what mother nature provided us on this Monday after Mother’s Day. Still, it’s the month of Mary, and it’s springtime here in Indiana, and I’m just not quite done honoring moms. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Carolyn Loub.

Like me, Carolyn is a mom of boys. Unless my memory is failing, I think she has four sons. I’ve known her for several years, but we’re not close friends. While she is a Guerin Catholic mom, that’s not how I met her. We met playing tennis. I’ve not had a racquet in my hand for many years, and it’s a little known fact…but I was in fact a tennis player at one time. I played in high school and then after I had the boys, I played for a few years in a women’s league. I feel like Carolyn once told me she hailed from the east coast, perhaps New Jersey? I could definitely be wrong because I might not be all the way there yet, but I definitely have “half-zeimers”.

I swiped this old photo of Carolyn (she’s on the right) with her mother and grandmother, from her Facebook page. She’s an incredibly beautiful woman, huh? My recollections of Carolyn from our tennis time together is that she was always incredibly kind and she was rarely seen without a smile. I’ve run into her a few times at GCHS and she always goes out of her way to be friendly, often filling me in on what is happening with the kids. She’s personable, sunny and bright!

Today, Carolyn added a little flavor to my gray day with her sense of humor. She posted this on social media.

“I just want everyone to know that although my husband and kids didn’t declare it on Facebook yesterday, I am the best mother in the world.”

I could not stop laughing. As the mom of boys and the wife of a really awesome man of few words myself, she touched my funny bone. She went on to explain, in jest, that she just thought she should set everyone straight because there were so many people saying that their wife or mother was the best!

When the sun seems to be hiding, and it’s soggy outside, and I’m digging for my warmest sweatshirt again, a gal just really appreciates a good giggle! It was a superb reminder to me that a sense of humor, a little smile, a tiny note…all those things can be a glimpse of Jesus for others on a gray day. Wherever we go, whatever we do, I propose we follow Carolyn’s lead. I think the Lord loves when we season the world with a dash of silly.

So, my kind, funny, character-filled friend….I thank you for the day brightener!! You are clearly an amazing mother, and a terrific, stunningly gorgeous human being. Thank you for the positivity you sprinkle around wherever you go! The world could use a lot more people like you!

Mad for…Mom

The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the love of a mother. St. Therese of Lisieux

She’s selfless, generous, creative, witty– and wicked smart. Also, she was always the “young” mom. It was a pretty cool feature of her during my childhood and once I had my own children it was even more fantastic. In her role as “Grandma Kate”, she’s beyond phenomenal and supportive. My boys ADORE her.

Mom is energetic, up for adventure, she makes me laugh, and she’s always there for me. Always. If I say, “please help” she’s going to be at my side post haste.

This year, we took a trip to Italy together. It was #1 on my bucket list and she made it happen. I’m still without words to express how meaningful that trip was for me.

Kathy Dykhuizen a blessing to so many people, but to me she’s MOM, and a hero in my life. She was younger than my oldest son is now when I was born! That fact is mind blowing to me. She managed to finish college and get her master’s degree while NEVER missing any significant event in my life. And while I am among the most stubborn and impatient humans alive, as far as I know she never left me in a shopping cart and ran for the exit at Payless. It had to be tempting, because I only got worse as I aged. I remember yelling at her as a teenager, “You’re driving me crazy!!” She would always smile and reply, “You don’t have far to be driven.” Geez…I was a pain in the rear. Sorry about that, Mom. You were right, it was a short ride.

She’s an expert on Motown music, key lime pie, and hand dancing. She’s mischievous and laugh out loud funny. She insists on celebrating all the birthdays in a BIG way, and simply MUST BE ON THE WATER on her own special day (August 10th) each year. I adore that she values herself enough to ask for what she wants on the day that her life should be celebrated by us all. She also loves books, movies, bike rides and sitting on the beach during that magic hour before sunset. What’s more important though is that she understands that when you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, that really is what it’s all about, ha?

I have never wondered if I am loved by this woman. She’s not a big sloppy hugger like I am, but I knew she treasured me then, and I know it now. I admire many things about her too numerous to work through in this little blog entry but I’ll share this one because it’s a game changer. Mom returns evil with kindness. Not sometimes. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. She’s got a beautiful, forgiving heart. She’s selflessness personified. The Lord blessed me and my sister Robin beyond measure to give us such a stunning mom. She’s beautiful in every way.