Mad for…John

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now. (St. Teresa of Avila)

My handsome husband, Tom, has this large extended family. In fact, he’s the youngest of 19 grandchildren born to Fred and Josephine Thieme. There are so many terrific human beings in that group of folks, and today is the birthday of another sharp looking, lake-loving Thieme guy– John Thieme. He’s the son of the late John and Carol Thieme of Lafayette and also like my husband, Tom’s cousin, John, is an accountant by trade.

Welcoming, amiable and kind, John is quick to offer a smile and a friendly word to all. After his beautiful wife Kathy passed away, leaving him a single dad to four young children, John met and married a lovely woman named Debbie. Together, the two of them raised 6 children in a big, faith-filled blended family where they made it their job to see to the needs of those young people. My respect for them both is immense. They are both supportive as parents and incredibly loving. Also, they are now grandparents! I’m not sure how quickly those numbers are expanding, but I suspect John will have MANY grandchildren in fairly short order. He’s pictured above with his granddaughter, Kathryn Ghazarian, who lives in California. Isn’t that just the sweetest shot of the two of them together?

There’s something about me that draws me to people who are genuine- they have a magnetic quality. To me, men like John are warriors in this world, because folks who do good because it’s the right thing to do, who are brave enough to take responsibility…those are the real badasses in my book. John is a salt of the earth sort of man. He works hard, and also knows how to laugh over a few beers. He’s authentic in every way possible and seems honestly interested when you speak to him. He’s a helper. John Thieme is a man who does and says the things he actually believes. There’s nothing showy or arrogant about John. He’s a likable man of integrity. Period. End of sentence.

Today is John’s birthday, so I just wanted to give him a little shout out. His positivity and sunny smile make the world a brighter place. I hope your day has been a great one, John, because you deserve the special treatment! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN THIEME!

Mad for…Kathy

How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it. (George Elliston)

This morning as we travel to my hometown to celebrate Christmas with my side of the family, it’s impossible to miss the glorious, unseasonably warm winter day. It’s not often that it’s 61 degrees on December 26th! Nostalgia sometimes overtakes me, and I suppose that’s why I have the winters of my youth on my mind as we make the drive an hour north to Lafayette. The winter I frequently remember for it’s remarkable blizzard when I was a little girl happened in the winter of 1978. It always makes me think of my old friend, Kathy (Hunckler) Cahoon.

Goodness, that winter looked a whole lot different than today does!! That fateful day when the incredible snow storm took us all by surprise, my kind and beautiful friend Kathy had come to stay for a sleepover. She ended up staying quite a bit longer than she expected— there was no one going anywhere that week! I can’t recall exactly how we filled our time, but I remember Kathy and her famous pigtails, joyfulness and that we had a ball! She always had a wide grin and a positive attitude. In grade school at St. Lawrence, my memories of Kathy include her goodness, and also I recall her being incredibly bright!

We ended up attending Lafayette Central Catholic together, and then we kind of headed separate ways and I lost track of her a bit. In more recent years, I caught back up with her through a few conversations with her brother Paul as well as happen chance sightings at Guerin Catholic vs. LCC sporting events. For instance, we ran into Kathy tailgating at GCHS when our son was playing football for GC and her daughter was on the LCC team, and I was instantly reminded of her natural warmth and welcoming spirit! She spotted me and I was wrapped up in her big hug and greeted by her authentic, joyful smile!

I have no doubt that Kathy’s children and her husband, Chad, have a supportive, loving and truly thoughtful woman in their midst every day. It’s simply who she has always been!

Today, I find myself wanting Kathy to know that she was a special friend to me because of the way she always made me feel like I mattered. Her authenticity and generosity of spirit made a difference. I would bet it still does for everyone with whom she interacts. Kathy is just a salt of the earth sort of human who laughs easily and smiles big. Our world needs as many folks like her as we can get. Merry Christmas to you, Kathy…and to your entire family!

Mad for…Roger

May we be in this world a ray of that light which shone forth from Bethlehem, bringing joy and peace to all men and women. (Pope Francis)

In my volunteer role on the Gospel of Life council at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, I perform all sorts of non-glamorous tasks. Most of them seem to involve logistics work— like organizing data, writing copy, or making phone calls. It was in this capacity that I first heard the name Roger Helmkamp. You see, OLMC was teaming up with nearby St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish to bring in a speaker for a couple of days to talk to folks about mindfulness. It was a joint attempt to help folks work on their mental health and anxiety issues in a meaningful way, with their faith at the center of the effort. My initial interactions revealed quickly that Roger is a friendly, good-hearted man with an excellent sense of humor. Also, he’s totally on the ball.

A few weeks later, I met Roger in person for the first time. He was present, attending to the needs of family and friends for the showing and funeral mass of my very dear friend, Karen Volpe. During a difficult and emotional couple of days, there was Roger making sure everything went off thoughtfully and without a hitch.

When I ran into this amiable, handsome guy at my nearby Kroger a few weeks ago, he went out of his way to say hello and re-introduce himself. He was out of context and it took me a moment to register his face, but it came to me quickly as he began to speak.

As I began to think this morning about who I wanted to write about today, I decided it would be fitting to write about a man who spends his days working for the rest of us, helping us on our journey to know and love the Lord a little better. I am not sure how many folks realize the hours and effort it takes to pull off Advent and Christmas in a Catholic parish. When you take the normal workload, and add to it the preparations and expectation of the season— it can be a bit overwhelming. These parish employees are the ones largely responsible to keep the boat floating. They are not getting rich doing this work either. Often, their service is overlooked or simply taken for granted. Today, I wanted to give a little shout out to one of these folks- a competent, articulate, positive thinker named Roger.

Here’s what I wanted to say to him this Christmas Eve day. Roger, you are a good man who is spending your days being the face of Jesus to others, and I’m thankful to have met you this year! What you do matters. You are that ray of light Pope Francis is encouraging us all to be, by the way you live your life. I suspect your family already knows how blessed they are to have you in their days, because you are clearly a man of integrity! Merry Christmas!!

Mad for…Tricia

Then give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you. (M. Bridges)

Many moons ago, for a very brief time, I worked in the marketing department at a local home improvement company called Bee Window. It was in that role that I met a talented, articulate media sales pro named Tricia Theisen. If memory serves, we were buying Purdue sports from Learfield Communications through her.

In any case, I shared with Tricia over lunch that I was keeping my eyes out for a professional opportunity that would be a better fit for my skill set and she said, “Oh gosh! I actually have another customer that is looking for someone and I think you would be perfect! Let me make a call.”

That kindness (and providential timing) is how I ended up spending the next 10 years as the communications director for RE/MAX of Indiana. In that role, I bought media, handled public relations and a variety of others tasks. Most importantly, learned a lot and met some terrific folks— including a dear friend named Donna to whom I remain quite close all these years later. This was all the result of a simple act of selflessness by a joyful, bright woman I didn’t really even know that well yet!

I got to know Tricia better as time progressed, because she continued to call on me in my new role. I learned about her deep love and affection for her Xavier University loving husband, Greg, as well as her two young children, Kathleen and Patrick. We did a lot of talking about our kids, including their successes as well as our concerns for them. I admired and respected Tricia for the honest and authentic way she shared about her life and family. Her strong faith was clear and apparent, and she was active and involved in her parish. She was then and is now a woman of character and integrity.

If memory serves, Tricia is originally from New York (although my memory is unreliable so if I have that wrong, Tricia, I apologize)! She lives in Noblesville now and her children are grown. As her son, Patrick, struggled with his health in more recent years, I learned about his fight through mutual friends and I began praying for him. He’s a very blessed young man to have such a caring, prayerful and supportive mom. She’s sunny, positive and full of the love of the Lord— and that is EVERYTHING! I hear Pat is doing well now! Thank you, God.

My oldest son is now a senior at Xavier University. He’s loved his experience as a Muskie, and actually plans to stay in Cincy to live and work after graduation in May. It seems like a hot second ago that we were the family of an incoming freshman, gathering together at a local restaurant in Indy— being welcomed at the event by none other than my old friend Tricia and her handsome hubby, Greg. She went above and beyond the call of duty to be helpful and welcoming, because that is just who she is!

Last night as the 5 of us were watching the Muskies beat up on TCU, I marveled at how quickly time passes. This kid who wasn’t even born yet when I met Tricia is now graduating from X in a few months. What the heck!? It made me think of Tricia, and I felt gratefulness. She has been the face of Jesus to me numerous times over the years. I mean it when I say she is just a giant scoop of awesome sauce!

So today, as Christmas approaches, I wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to my old friend, Tricia Theisen. She’s someone who fills the world with sunshine. Her smile makes her eyes twinkle. She’s got a great sense of humor, and her enormous heart is absolutely impossible to miss. This crazy world is so much better because she’s here in it with us! Thank you for your witness of what it means to be a woman of compassion and character by the way you live your life each day.

Merry Christmas, Tricia…and Let’s Go X!!

Mad for…Mary

The Lord looked into the depth of my being with great kindness; I thought I would die for joy under that gaze. (St. Faustina)

A bright smile, playful spirit and kind heart were always the defining qualities to me about Mary Zimmerman. She’s one of six amazing children born to my friends John and Tina Zimmerman.

Mary grew up near St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church, in Fishers, Indiana and the parish school was part of her life too as a youngster. When she left grade school and then graduated from Bishop Chatard High School, she headed off to Dayton, Ohio where she spent a few years as a Dayton Flyer. It was no surprise to me when her mom shared with me that she decided to cheer for the Flyers at UD, because this young lady was always joyful and filled with spirit!

I’ve read it said that “a good teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others”, and if there’s as much truth in that sentiment as I believe, then it’s unsurprising that Mary would decide to become a teacher. I suspect that she’s an incredibly positive force in her daily work with students in her classroom. She’s one of those people for whom it comes naturally to be the face of Jesus to those around her.

I’ve watched from afar over the years as Mary lovingly supports her siblings and parents, I’ve noticed her loving up the nieces and nephews, and I even watched her crush the “summer nanny” gig back in the day. She’s a character and integrity filled woman of God with a great sense of humor and a welcoming heart. All those folks now in her daily orbit two hours away in Ohio…? I hope you know what a gem you’ve got in Mary!!

Today is Mary’s birthday and I just wanted to take a moment before Christmas excitement overtakes us all to give her a little birthday shout out! I see you over there, Mary Z! Wishing you a wonderful day and a very blessed Christmas surrounded by the many people who love you like crazy!!

Thank you for always leaving whatever place you’re in just a little better for having been there. You are a phenomenal woman with a glorious soul! Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!! Today, I’ll be praying in a special way for you, Mary Zimmerman!

Mad for…Steph

Never do the envy, jealousy and insecure stuff. Be the hustler, the well wisher, the go-getter.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a sunny, beautiful woman named Steph Smith. She’s the wife of an ornery guy who also makes me smile. His name is Ed. I’ve spent a little time with Steph and Ed over the years because they are close friends of my parents, Jim and Kathy Dykhuizen.

Steph is a mover and shaker. No dust settles on this friendly, go-getter! She’s active on the YMCA board and helped get the new Y up and running in my hometown of Lafayette. She’s very involved in her Pickleball group and helped team with the city to get several courts constructed at McCaw Park on the east side of town. She’s a former coach at Lafayette Jeff High School, and also a counselor there. She and Ed are part of Ivy Tech in Lafayette— helping students get their education. Along with Ed’s brothers and spouses their foundation sponsors 25 graduates of Ivy Tech per year with scholarships to Purdue so they can finish their education. How cool is that?

Here’s what else I know about Steph! She’s a loving and supportive mom and grandma, as well as a tailgating rock star! A big Boiler fan, this gal knows her Purdue football and basketball too! As a friend to my mom, Steph is kind, thoughtful and caring. We all want the people we love to have lives surrounded by kind-hearted people of integrity, and Steph is certainly that.

Before she and Ed head back to Bonita Springs after Christmas, I just wanted to give her a little shout out and let her know that I see her awesomeness and think she’s a rock star! Merry Christmas to you and your whole amazing gang, Steph! Thank you for making the world a better place by the way you live your life. You’re flat out impressive.

Mad for…Adam

Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure. (Pope John Paul II)

The Smith family amazes me. They are a large, eclectic, talented and incredibly faith-filled group of humans. Adam is the husband of a compassionate, beautiful woman named Mollie and together they built a stunning family. The whole clan is pictured together, below!

Near the center of the photo, in the plaid shirt is the father of eight, a sunny guy named Adam. This is a man of many talents! I don’t know actually what he’s principally involved in these days, but he’s done work in research and development, and he’s an incredibly gifted artist. Also, I’m fairly certain he’s a shooting instructor, which strikes me as a unique skill set.

Adam is a friendly person. He’s congenial, amiable, funny and kind. He never fails to say hello if I spot him out and about at church or perhaps at Guerin Catholic. He’s very present and supportive as a father. His outgoing, adventurous nature as well as his creative skills have definitely been inherited by many of his children. More importantly than that is the fact that his focus seems to me to be about leading his family in faith. This is ultimately what leads me to write about Adam today.

The Smith clan is impressive. Despite their wide and varying interests, abilities and gifts, the thing that draws others to them is their joyfulness. Hopeful, faithful people are magnets for sure. When we spot the face of Jesus in someone, it draws us in. That’s a fact. No one gets it right all the time, but Adam and his family are high integrity, quality humans who love the Lord. It shows. It attracts. It impresses.

Thanks, Adam, for your broad smile and welcoming ways. I think you are an inspiring and impressive man who makes the world a happier, spicier, more adventurous place to inhabit. Thanks for shining your bright light in my direction! I’m grateful!!