For longer than I can remember, I have loved the quote by Chesterton “A dead think can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”  I am not a “go with the flow” kind of girl.  I am the sort that if you take one side of an argument, I need to at least try to look at the other in order to be fair.

I’m starting to wonder if I’ve gone past being “a living thing” and have just become argumentative and difficult.   Does the expression “choose your battles” need to be adjusted to “choose WHEN you swim against the stream”?   I don’t know.

Maybe I could clear this up with another interview with myself….   That does make thinking about this a bit more fun…

Sad Realizations : I’m No Better Than They Who Infuriate Me

Courtesy of Photobucket, not Ryan. Nope. Not even the same tattoo as Ryan, just fitting...

“Oh my dear!”, I thought when I walked into the Church hall to help set  up.   “The new volunteer looks like he could break me in half like a toothpick!”  At my size,  not many men intimidate  me, but here was this man, tall and husky as a professional wrestler, with tattoos everywhere I could see except for his face, holding the door open for me.  ”Holy…….  Holy…… Holy……  What in the name of all  that is  good is  our volunteer coordinator thinking…”  (Awkward as that wording is, I honestly try very hard not to take God’s  Name in vain…)

“Here, let me give you a hand with that.  I’m Ryan….”   he says as he offers a hand to be shaken while he grabs the box I was carrying with the other arm.

“Thank you…”   I hesitate and then add, “I’m  Helen.”

“You’re Bob’s wife,  right?  I see you in Church together. Nice guy….”

Oh good.   He knows Bob.   Bob won’t  let anyone break me in half,  even on a bad day….

“Yes.  He’s a wonderful husband,”  I answer.  ”He is so good to me.  I’m the luckiest woman I know…”.  All true.  No lies, though it is also true I feel the need to point that out to imply that he won’t like anyone breaking me in half…  ”So how do you know my husband?”

“Men’s group….”

Ah…..   So he sees him  most every week.   Bob never mentioned a scary dude at men’s group, so Ryan must be okay.

I let my guard down, and over  the weeks that follow,  I get to know  a gentle giant with a child-like soul, more likely to throw me over his shoulder  and carry me out in an emergency (bad back be hanged) than break  me in half.   All  those “scary” tattoos,  upon closer inspection, are bible verses and symbols  for the Trinity.  Lord help me,  if Ryan didn’t know the passwords “I know Bob”, I would have not only judged him by sight, but without even getting a good look!

Lately I hear people giving voice to  my earliest thoughts  of Ryan, and I get angry.   “HOW DARE THEY!  How dare they judge such a gentle soul!  How dare they…”

Oh.  How dare I call people out for having the nerve to say out loud what I had the gall  to think?  How dare I be  angry at others for doing as  I have done,  and  not having the blessing of an “in” to reassure them?

I don’t dare be angry, but I still can’t help being sad.  This is Church.   We should be better than this.

Lord,  I pray,  help us to become  better than this…  Open our hearts  to become a  welcoming place  for all, and  not just those who conform to our expectations.  Help us to see all your children  as our brothers and sisters.  Help me especially to allow my heart to break rather than harden in anger.  Give me  a compassionate heart to all,  including those with the same faults as me.   I ask these things through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

I actually wrote the above post a year ago, but didn’t share it.  I needed to step back and see if I ought to share it, but since then, I haven’t posted much else.  I keep coming back to this.  So I’m sharing.  Ryan’s name has been changed.  I hope that is enough to protect the privacy of a dear friend I wouldn’t hurt for the world.  One day, at THE wedding banquet, he will be the one at a “good” table, and those of us who prejudged him will be sitting near the kitchen.  (That’s okay, I’ll just be glad to be there….).   He’s the sort of guy, though, who’d ask the steward if we could sit with him.  

Life as an Advent Calendar Update 2

I’d be a liar if I claimed to be satisfied with progress so far.    The tree did not get put up last weekend.   Bob seemed tired, and I told him we could put it off.   He pointed out that it is getting later and later.   I pointed out that if he is tired, he won’t feel any joy in the doing of it, so what is the point?  I won’t feel any joy in putting him out.   Tomorrow we won’t be able to put up the tree because  I have CCD, we have the STARS Party (Bob is going to miss seeing Santa there, as he has an “errand” to do right before Santa arrives.   He won’t be able to return until Santa leaves.   Poor Bob, missing out on half the fun.. ;-)  ), and a party at a friend’s house in the evening.  Bob is planning to put the tree up tonight.   If he WANTS to, fine, but if he just thinks he SHOULD, I’m going to play up the wonder of putting it up closer to Christmas.  Yes, I feel like we are “behind”, too, but I think in the long run, it is good for us to figure out which aspects of Christmas preparation are most important to us, and which are “obligations”.   Really, to whom are we obliged to put up a tree for, anyway?   We don’t have children.   We aren’t having a Christmas party here, though I won’t tell friends or family who WANT to visit to get off of our doorstep ;-)  .  My uncle will stay with us for a few days, but I don’t think he will mind too much if his favorite chair isn’t displaced with lighted artificial greenery.  Don’t get me wrong.   I LIKE having a Christmas tree.   The question is, how much do I like it.

Recipe can be found on the inside of the lid! I know. I'm such a baking superstar...

An added stress this year:  our Church wants everyone to share their Christmas baking this weekend.   Normally, I would be decorating this week and weekend, and baking NEXT weekend.  I could just not do it, but the woman in charge does SO much for our parish.   She also provides a lot of things for a coffee and after Church herself, so if she is asking this ONE thing, it seems ungrateful to tell her this weekend just didn’t work out for me…  Oatmeal cookies.   I know they aren’t the most Chrismassy cookie in the world, but they are easy.  Craisins instead of raisins could be festive… Thoughts?   Peppermint extract maybe ….. then again, maybe not.

The “one Christmas thing per day” has gone as follows this week:


Saturday-  Arranged the lights on the bush outside better.

Sunday- Cheered Bob on while he put up the wreath.

Monday- Put up the Christmas sun catchers in the window

Tuesday-  Lined the “God Bless Our Home” shelves with garland.

Wednesday- Wrote out cards for CCD teachers.  Got CCD student gifts ready.   Got the ornaments ready for the ornament exchange party Saturday.

Thursday- Bought ingredients to bake cookies for Church’s cookie sharing Sunday.

Friday-  Baked cookies for Church and a cake for STARS party.

Life as an Advent Calendar Update 1

I still have a few cards leftover.....

The other day I did a post about how this year I plan on doing one Christmassy thing each day during Advent.  I can do more if I feel like it, but the idea is to not be all stressed out over WHEN the decorations are up and WHEN the cards go out.  I’ll admit, it is easier for me, as I have a small family.  Bob and I don’t have children or brothers or sisters, which means no nieces or nephews.  We are close to our cousins, but their children are of an age where they LIKE getting  cash.   I have decided that if I decide to LIKE giving cash to them, then I won’t have the stress of wrapping presents all the while wondering if they’ll like them.   They are in High School and College, so it’s not like they are little ones for whom unwrapping the package is half of the fun.  Maybe for a little added fun I’ll put in a scratch and sniff lottery ticket.  That will give them an added surprise.  I concede that if I had to shop for half a dozen brothers and sisters and their children, then wrap the gifts this “one day at a time” experiment would fall to pieces.

So this is what I’ve done in the last couple of days…

Thursday-  I bought stamps for the Christmas cards and wrote out half of the cards.

Friday-  Wrote out almost the other half of cards.  (Bob needs to look at who got crossed off… I may have to call people to get new addresses..)  Changed the doorbell chime to “Jingle Bells”.  Wrapped the gift I thought I’d get to Wednesday and didn’t.

Okay, so it does seem like I’m doing more than one Christmassy thing per day, but I’d go CRAZY if I sat and wrote out all the cards at once!  trust me!  Been there, done that!    For the first time in a long time, I’ve enjoyed writing out Christmas cards!

This weekend I’m hoping to bring up the tree and the wreath.   But first I have to do a massive cleaning of the section they are placed in.  My parents used to say “You can’t decorate a messy house” (which used to make this time of year even more hectic), but I’m amending that this year to “the area I decorate has to be dusted, washed, vacuumed and decluttered before I do so).   That’s right.  One section of cleaning and decorating at a time.   Then maybe Monday I can put up some ornaments.

We’ll see…

I hope you are enjoying your Christmas preparations, whether you celebrate Advent or not!


My Life as an Advent Calendar

I know.  Strange title.  Maybe it’s an even stranger idea…

You see, I have trouble balancing my belief that the season of Advent is to be reflected on and savored, and the fact that EVERYONE seems to be celebrating between Thanksgiving and December 25.   If your lights aren’t up Saturday after Thanksgiving, you are behind!  Over the years I’ve gone from being the Christmas Curmudgeon who won’t listen to Christmas music on purpose or decorate before December 24, and going with the flow at breakneck speed.

This year, though, I’m thinking to just take it all a day at a time.   I’m going to do one “Christmas” thing every day.  If I get really into it and do two or three, I’m not exactly hastening the Apocalypse.  

So far…

Sunday: Nothing.  It was SUNDAY!

Monday:  I brought out the Christmas cards, went through the Christmas Card list to remove dead people and people who moved without telling me,   and brought up a Christmas ceramic centerpiece for the table (which I put a Christmas table cloth on the day after Thanksgiving.  Really, what would have been appropriate for the week between Thanksgiving and Advent this year… So much easier when Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving…)

Tuesday:  Bought solar Christmas lights for the outside and placed them on bush, and a solar torch in front of baby Jesus (Yes.   I shouldn’t have put out the creche last week, but how long can this nice weather last…).   If the solar lights work, I’ll definitely be buying more!  While at Target, I bought a game for the child whose name I drew at Church.

Wednesday:  Placed in living room decorative Christmas throws made by mom.   I may wrap gift I bought yesterday.

So that’s it for now.

What about you?  All out frenzy preparation, or a bit at a time?

Call Me His

This Helen does NOT love snow, but she thanks Photobucket for whatever image of her name she can get!

Today’s post is linked with Peter Pollock’s One Word blog carnival.

From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1600:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.


Would I be the same if my name was Rebekah instead of Helen?   I somehow doubt it.   Helen was my mother’s name.  The bestowing of that name upon me said I belonged to her.   Helen is also a name Hungarians are quite fond of giving their children.  When my father told my mother he wanted her name for my name, he was honoring her, yet he was also claiming me for generations of Hungarians who came before.

And what if I had grown up an Armstrong, or Jameson instead of a Schaffer?  I don’t know what it means to be an Armstrong or Jameson.  I do know what it is to be a Schaffer.  When I’d be discouraged, and ready to give up, my daddy would say “Your name is “Helen Schaffer!  You can do anything!”   My mother would say “The only thing a Schaffer is incapable of doing is giving up.”  On a bad day she’d add  ”Stubborn just like your father…”

It wasn’t true, though, that being a Schaffer made me incapable of giving up.`  Many times the mantra “My name is Helen Schaffer” did not help me find what I needed deep inside of me to do what needed to be done.  It was then that I’d add my favorite prayer.  ”HEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!”     Not very wordy, but affective.   Whether he sent help in form of husband, relatives, friends, or an added layer of strength inside me that wasn’t there before,  I was not left unaided.

Why not?  Just as my earthly parents bestowed me with my name, and all the strength they knew how to give, my heavenly Father claims me, and bestows on me the strength I am willing to receive.

Isaiah 43:1

English Standard Version (©2001)
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. “ 




 This week’s word for Peter Pollock’s  blog carnival is “Arsenal“.  I was thinking about the weapons we use when once close friends hurt us.     These are  the words swimming in my head.



Hiss for hiss

Snap for snap

Lie for lie

Bite for bite

A turned cold shoulder and a nose pointing skyward

We clank these against one another like sharpened swords

Wounding one another with stabs both frontal and to the back

Neither will win

No prize is at the end

Only the price of our once close friendship

I disengage and appear the one defeated

But am  I?



So how ought one cope with these hurts?

Romans 12:19-21

New International Version (NIV)

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[b]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Voice in My Head

Mother’s Day has come and gone, and I still find myself missing my mother.

I had good  news  a few weeks ago.  My Parish nominated me for a Catechetical (Sunday School teacher) award.  Truly, it was just a good feeling to find out that people I like and admire like me, too.  But in my head, I could hear my Momma proudly proclaim “It’s about time!”  (She was my “cheerleader” my whole life…)  I didn’t tell many people because I could hear my mother’s admonishment in my head “It’s not nice to brag!” while at the same time, I knew if she were alive she would call  everyone she knew (just to say “hi”, of course ;-)  ), then casually mention the news when they asked how I am.  I could  hear the lilt in her voice as I imagined the conversation.

Yes, I’m missing her.  But I’m thankful to have had her so fully that I still have her voice in my head.


This post is being linked to Peter Pollock’s One Word Blog Carnival.

BunBun Shares

My friend BunBun is looking SO forward to Easter wanted me to share the latest news as to the welfare   of her cousin, Easter Bunny (Energizer’s sister…..) ….

A man was blissfully driving along the highway, when he saw the Easter Bunny hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the Bunny, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of his car and was hit. The basket of eggs went flying all over the place.

The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the Bunny carrying the basket. Much to his dismay, the colorful Bunny was dead. The driver felt guilty and began to cry.

A blonde driving down the same highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong.

“I feel terrible,” he explained, “I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny and killed it. What should I do?”

The blonde told the man not to worry. She knew exactly what to do. She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp, dead Bunny, and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the little furry animal.

Miraculously the Easter Bunny came to back life, jumped up, picked up the spilled eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road. 50 yards away the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hopped on down the road another 50 yards, turned, waved, hopped another 50 yards and waved again!

The man was astonished. He said to the woman, “What in heaven’s name is in your spray can? What was it that you sprayed on the Easter Bunny?” The blonde turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said: “Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave.”


It DEFINITELY beats what she went through last year….



A Sweet Lesson from an Awful Cookie: Reprise

A cyber friend of mine is hosting a blog hop (which seems to me to be like a “blog carnival”, but with a different name.  If I’m wrong, I’m sure she’ll clarify in the comment section)  called “Tell Me a Story”.   Unfortunately, I have been too self absorbed to keep up with my blog lately, and do not have a new story to tell you, so I’m reprising an old story from my life which is dear to my heart.

I was about thirteen years old when I first decided I wanted to bake Christmas cookies.  My Momma, God rest her soul, wasn’t much for baking.   She was a great cook, and when I was little, we’d make boxed cakes together.  When I was ten and I wanted to learn how to make kolacky’s, she said “ask your grandmother”, who responded by giving me a recipe she found on the back of a can of Solo™.   The first time I made them, it was a family project, since I didn’t know the first thing about rolling out dough.  After that, though, I was on my own with the baking most of the time, but I didn’t mind.  My work was my “gift” to my parents, who were so loving and did so much for me.  My Daddy even helped me adjust the recipe using ingredients his grandmother would have chosen.

Three years later I decided it was time to expand my repertoire to include Sugar cookies shaped for Christmas.  An elderly neighbor who was very fond of my family gave me an old cookbook to keep, and I found a recipe I was confident I could handle.  The cookies weren’t as soft as I’d hoped, but my parents, uncles, grandma, neighbors, and anyone else who had them said they were fine, especially with a nice cup of coffee.

The next year, I had every hope of having the same sort of success with the same recipe.  I may not have loved it the year before, but they were better than any I had ever tasted from a box.  So I went to work on them the day before Christmas Eve, and after finishing up the last batch, found the first batch cool to the touch.  `I filled up a plate, and brought it into the living room to serve my parents.

I took a bite of a Christmas tree, and spat it out into my hand.  My mother did the same with a candy cane.  My Daddy, God bless him, swallowed his angel, and said “I need a cup of coffee with mine…”

I insisted he didn’t have to eat it, that we had to toss them.  Even I thought they were horrible, and until that day, I never tasted a cookie I didn’t like.   My Daddy’s reaction was that I was overreacting, and that if I had mine with a cup of milk or tea, I’d find it delightful.  I didn’t.

Neither mother nor I wanted to serve them on Christmas, but Daddy insisted.  I gave fair warning to everyone.  Only my Daddy, and my (now) favorite uncle, Uncle Johnny, ate them.  All of them.  With lots of coffee.  In my heart, I believe they ate it because they truly loved me, and didn’t want me to feel like my efforts to give them something were for naught.  Every time I remember this story, my heart overflows with affection for them both!

Anyway, I put away that cookbook, and didn’t take it out for another nine years.  My Daddy had already passed on, and it was our first Christmas without him.  I opened to that recipe and found something stuck.  It was old dough.  It blocked the slash between the one and the four.  That’s right.  Instead of using 1/4 teaspoon of salt in the dough, I used fourteen (14).  I suppose I should have been moved to tears for ruining the last batch of sugar cookies I made for Daddy, especially by doing something so stupid.  But instead, I smiled, realizing how truly awful those cookies were, and how much love it took to finish them off. With the help of my now favorite uncle.



Tell Me a Story