Mad about…Andy

Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not. –C.S. Lewis

Day 113 of 365: Andy Durnell

My friend, Andy, is a charismatic dreamer. Madly in love with his two daughters and with his hand in ten different things all at the same time, this is a former Wabash College “Little Giant” who is gifted at encouraging others. He is pictured below with his talented daughter, Sam, who is a high school senior.

I came to know Andy Durnell through a mutual friend. I had been hobbling around for some time with a bum knee, and that had me grumpy and discouraged. Andy trains all sorts of folks, and I hear he has a special gift with Parkinson’s patients. I have no doubt that he makes a big difference for them all, just as he has for me. Despite my physical limitations, Andy was able to help me build up enough of the muscles around the offending knee that I was able to get moving and live my life much more normally. He’s a great story teller and he distracted me at just the right moments to get me through some of the more challenging sessions. He did such a good job on that bad knee that I actually think it’s now the good knee! HA!

Articulate, funny and a lover of our good and gracious God, Andy does a lot of smiling, even when his own life has moments of struggle. He chooses affirming words, little golden nuggets of encouragements, words of life. If even on our worst days, those moments when we fail or feel blue, we can use our giftedness to breathe life into the day of another, I believe that is what the face of Jesus looks like. I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of that generously offered sunshine, and I am truly grateful to the Lord for giving me such a friend.

I’m not sure exactly what Andy’s plan for his own life might look like today, but I do know that whatever his dream is, God’s got an even bigger one. That’s the way the Lord works, after all. He shapes our tiny plans and makes them something much more, and when we keep talking things out with Him, the Lord makes our dreams one with His own for us.

Andy, God loves your tender, encouraging heart and the beautiful smile you share with those around you!

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person a beautiful thing.” — St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Mad for…Jen

We must drink from the very Source the deep calm and peace of interior quietude and refreshment of God, allowing the pure water of divine grace to flow plentifully and unceasingly from the Source itself. — St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Once, many years ago, I visited the nearby home of a lovely woman named Jen Konesco. She was clearly a faith-filled woman and a loving mother. I can’t remember if she had 2 children or three at the time, but her oldest, Joellen, was a classmate of my youngest son, Zach. We were paired up as kindergarten “room moms” I think? I enjoyed getting to know her that year, but she quickly vanished from my circle. She’s pictured above with her husband, Marc. I am not sure I ever encountered Jen after that one year together. I think she moved her daughter to a new school. My memory gets shakier all the time.

In all these years, though, I’ve not lost track of Jen, and it’s because she’s such a uniquely joyful and life-loving woman. I’ve watched her venture off to a beautiful life, and I’ve prayed at times for her family and their happiness and safety too. What makes Jen and the Konesco clan so interesting to me is a big leap they took a few years back. Today, as Jen celebrates her birthday, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate her and let her know that I am among the MANY inspired by the way she lives her life.

Jen and Marc sold their belongings (like almost all of them), and they decided to take their three kids and hit the open water. They bought a boat, and they spent a considerable amount of time (was it a year?) at sea. She’d occasionally post blog entries from herself and her children too, who she homeschooled throughout the adventure. Her photos were always quite stunning.

Following them on their extraordinary adventure became habit-forming. Sometimes, they found themselves in harrowing situations with boat breakdowns, storms, and the like, but always, Jen’s entries told the tale of a family in love with life and one another. They made new friends and found ways to serve others around them too. It was heartwarming and lovely to peek in from afar. They took the road less traveled, and they all seem better for it.

What Jen taught me with her daring choice and courage is that loving fearlessly and trusting the Lord no matter where He decides to take us will always be the right choice. I read once a quote by Hermann Hesse that said, “People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.” In Jen’s case, I’m not at all sure the word I would choose there is sinister, but I’ll admit I might have considered using “kooky” or “bonkers” when I learned of Jen’s boating adventure.

However, we all know what insanity really is, don’t we? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. By that measure, I’ve been insane many times. Change is hard for me, and stepping outside the box often terrifies. I’d be the one who is bonkers, though, if I didn’t take heed of the lesson the Holy Spirit tossed my way by the witness of the beautiful Konesco family. Initially, I thought you folks had bats in the belfry, Jen. However, I later learned that the joke was on me! The Lord used my fascination about your unique adventure to teach me a little something about stepping outside our comfort zone and living the life He destined for us all to live! I am terribly grateful to you all for that, and I felt I was long overdue to say so!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JEN! I wish you and Marc, and your three gorgeous kiddos many more amazing adventures in this life! God Bless the Konescos!

Mad for…Vivian

We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song! –St. (Pope) John Paul II

Day 111 of 365: Vivian Seaman

Brave and courageous in so many ways, my faithful friend, Vivian, is a woman who knows we must wait patiently for the Lord! So, today as we rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it seems fitting that we are also celebrating the birthday of Vivian Seaman!! A HUGE Happy Birthday shout out to you, Viv!! She’s pictured above right, with me. We took this selfie for our mutual friend, a great young man named Mitch Volpe, just a few weeks ago!

Your smile is one of your most beautiful features, my friend. That smile of yours is not really about anything except genuine joy of the Lord, hope, truth and kindness. Life isn’t always easy, but yours is a happy heart filled with love. You have taught me so much over time but most especially I’ve learned to concentrate on my blessings from you, through your own stunning witness of the same. I treasure our morning masses and “coffee talks”. You keep me in check, always inquiring about the most important things like my spiritual life and participation in the sacraments. Having a Christ-centered friend like you is truly a gift from the Lord.

The most dreadful darkness becomes a glorious beginning on your birthday in 2019. Plus, it’s a bright blue sky with sunshine lighting up everything this Easter. How cool is that, my Jesus-loving friend?

You are gifted with little ones, and you’ve spent a lifetime always pointing them to the Lord. You are compassionate and generous to a fault, and you are a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and friend to SO MANY! All of our lives are better for having you in them. Other than your unfortunate affection for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, (ha?) I don’t find many flaws worth mentioning in you, my dear, dear friend!

I know that you are in the midst of rehab from your recent surgery, and I hope you know that my prayers for your complete recovery continue. Work hard in physical therapy and get well quick, okay?! You are a wonderful blessing in my life and I love you! HAPPY EASTER AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VIV!!

Mad for…Bill

Happiness springs from doing good and helping others. -Plato

Day 110 of 365: Bill Beck

Sitting atop the broad shoulders of her grandfather in this photo is my youngest niece, Ellie. Just below her stands her big sister, Maddie and her “Nana”, Irene. Admittedly, this photo is a few years old, but it is my absolute favorite picture of Bill Beck. The joy on his face as he holds little Ellie is palpable.

Bill is a terrific father and grandfather. He celebrated his birthday this week, and so I am a couple days late to honor him with a little love in my “Mad for 2019” series, but as we all should know by now, I believe in festival-style celebrating of birthdays, so I’ve decided to extend the celebration! After all, there are SO MANY reasons to cheer the life of Bill Beck!

My sister married into the Beck family a number of years ago. Her in-laws, Bill and Irene, are phenomenal humans in copious ways. For instance, they run a charitable trust that is committed to helping those in need. Depaul University, multiple community food pantries, schools serving low-income youth, and many other worthy charities have been recipients of their generosity. I could write a myriad of articles about the way they contribute positively and make a difference for others.

Today, however, as I look to honor Bill a touch with my words, I find myself grateful mostly for the witness of love and affection he has shown to the people I love. Bill’s son, Chris, married my sister, Robin a number of years ago. Like his Dad, Chris is an integrity-filled person and I am so pleased to call him family. Their two girls, Maddie (15) and Ellie (12) are treasures. Here’s the thing. Not every grandparent takes the time to engage in the lives of their grandchildren as Bill has these two lovely ladies. He’s been beyond supportive and kind. He is sunny and present for them ALWAYS. It’s been a great comfort to me all these years to know with certainty that my sis and her family have phenomenal people nearby who truly love and care about them.

It’s not been all about dance recitals, CYO games, or school plays either. When Robin needed to move out of her house in the suburbs due to health problems, there were “Bill and I”, graciously taking them into their home until the storm passed. Their physical nearness and compassionate natures have always been a huge aid to me when it comes to accepting the fact that my only sis, along with Chris and the girls, are a skosh too far away for my liking. When we know that those we love are happy and cared for where they live, it provides both solace and peace of heart.

So, this week, Bill, as your birthday is celebrated, I wanted you to know that I am ever so grateful for you! Your goodness has always been apparent in my every interaction with you. You even went out of your way to give some great professional advice to my own kiddo a few months back, and that was beyond the call of duty. The way you live your life makes me think of the words of Anne Frank who said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” How true!

What I am trying to say is that you, Bill, make such a positive difference to all in your path I am WAY OVERDUE to say THANK YOU! You are an authentic and character-filled human being. Here’s hoping your BIRTHDAY FESTIVAL continues on through the end of the month…because your life is certainly worth celebrating! You change the world with your joy and your smile. Happy Birthday!

Mad for…Rosie

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes I him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16)

On this Good Friday 2019, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Rosie Zatkulak. She’s the beautiful brunette on the right in this photo. She’s pictured here with her handsome husband and her five terrific children.

Rosie’s defining quality is her incredible faith. If I know any woman who understands what it means to love and serve the Lord, this is her. In all she does, she exudes warmth and gratitude. It’s clearly born of the understanding that Jesus laid down His life for her. The beauty of her authentic faith is STUNNING. I simply cannot do it justice here. I have never once had a chat with Rosie which did not start or end with a prayer. Her relationship with the Lord is one that inspires me to continue to work on my own. She is a fierce woman of God and a prayer warrior that I am incredibly blessed to call friend!

She’s fun-loving, humorous, and madly in love with her gorgeous family. She’ll be just the most terrific grandmother! She’s as generous and thoughtful as she is completely silly. We got to know each other better several years ago when I noticed her hobbling around. I can’t recall if she was on crutches or in a wheelchair, but her movement was seriously impaired. I approached her after daily mass and asked her if I could help her get groceries or run errands. She looked at me like I was her guardian angel and immediately said, “Yes!” We promptly went to Kroger together. If you know me, you realize this was truly a work of mercy on my part…because I really, truly LOATHE the Kroger experience.

God knows what He’s doing though, because I needed the wisdom of a faithful woman, and she apparently needed someone to reach the high shelf at Kroger and to help her dye her hair! HA!!

Over the years we have shared our joys and our sorrows over many cups of coffee. We’ve laughed and we’ve cried together, but this woman is my sister in Christ, a friend handed to me by the Lord. So, today, on Good Friday when I am overflowing with gratefulness for so much, I just wanted to take a moment and say THANK YOU, ROSIE for being a faith-filled treasure in my life! I love you!

“Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything, tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (Phililppians 4:6)

Mad for…Marilyn

A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn. -Helen Keller

Allow me to introduce you to the uber sparkly and faith-filled Marilyn Crisci. She’s a wife (of over 65 years), along with a mother of a huge brood (I think 10?) and I have no idea how many grandchildren. Above, she’s pictured with granddaughter, Kylie and grandson, Sam. She’s just flat out an inspirational woman, so today, on her 88th birthday, I want to take a moment to acknowledge her in all her colorful, indefatigable awesomeness!

As long as I’ve known her she’s been tenacious and untiring. She is and has always been a bundle of energy– often attending her grandchildren’s events and ever present for family and fun! For years, I would see her out and about taking her very brisk walk near my kid’s grade school, St. Louis de Montfort. I knew she was in her mid-80s when one day (October 6, 2016) I heard from her son, Stan, that his mom was in dire need of prayers. Marilyn had been hit by a car while walking along Hague Rd. in Fishers. Not only had she been hit, but she had sustained very serious and life threatening injuries.

Days and weeks came and went, and the prayer warriors were in overdrive for Marilyn. The doctors at St. Vincent at first were simply not sure if her life could be saved. Then, they decided she’s clearly a fighter so to try and spare her life, they indicated they simply must amputate one of her legs. I will be honest, this news took my breath away. I wondered could a woman of her advanced years recover from such a blow.

Apparently, I didn’t understand the stubborn, tenacious doggedness that is Marilyn Crisci. Now, at the young age of 88, Marilyn is doing just fine, thank you, and back to the business of family weddings and grandkids! I find her perseverance BEYOND INSPIRING. I know many other folks feel the same way, and one of those wonderful humans, my dear friend, Chris Helt, encouraged me to write today about Marilyn in honor of her birthday! I couldn’t be happier to comply with the special request! Thank you, Marilyn, for being a reminder to me that the Lord doesn’t promise easy, but He does promise to be with us ALWAYS.


Mad for…Lauren

Joy is the serious business of heaven. –C.S. Lewis

On the right, above, is Lauren Crisci, pictured here with her mom, Michelle (on left).

My Mom usually marks the 18th birthday of those around her by saying inspiring things like, “Well, now you can officially go to the electric chair! Congrats!” HA!!? I think I’ll try going another way today for you if it’s okay, Lauren Crisci?

Lauren is a SENIOR at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, Indiana and she is the middle child of Stan and Michelle Crisci. Her older brother, Sam, is a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati and her younger sister, Kylie, is also a Golden Eagle. As she was growing up, this absolutely beautiful young woman with the joyful heart has been such a pleasure to watch and be around. Since the Criscis were my backdoor neighbors and carpool partners for many years, I have known this outgoing, sassy young lady Lauren since she was very small. I have a few things I’m long overdue to say to this terrific young woman.

You, sweet girl, make the day better for everyone in your wake, and you always have! You are enthusiastic, inspired, friendly, responsible and creative. You are incredibly bright and you project positivity and fun. When you are around, the sun just seems to shine a little brighter. Character-filled, faithful people are always going to notice your sunshine and be drawn to you. I hope you will always be exactly who you are, because it will attract other happy, upbeat people and they will use that same tactic to help you chase away the shadows that may show up in your own life. You are one special and fantastic human.

Lauren, you are a young woman who goes out of her way to smile at and love others. Your genuine happiness for the successes of others is glorious and holy. You never fail to acknowledge people (even dorky former carpool moms) who cross your path. It’s impressive when a young woman is confident and warm enough to realize that saying hello and offering a smile to others is a beautiful gift worth giving! You may not know it, but that warmth and cheerfulness really is a special grace from the Lord.

I truly believe that joy and the ability to share it with others is a great gift from God reserved for special souls. Lauren, the world SO NEEDS people like you. Your smile and warmth always find me feeling grateful to know you and hopeful for the future. THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU! HAPPY 18TH BIRTHDAY, LAUREN!!