Joyful Moment #24: Respecting Our Veterans and Flag

Social media is abuzz with armchair quarterbacks on various sides of the “take a knee” issue. No matter where you stand (or kneel), I have to really wonder about the people doing all of the complaining about the issue.

If you’re a veteran or the spouse of a veteran, I’m not directing my comments toward you. You have my utmost respect for your service to our great nation.

If you are not a veteran but you have strong opinions against those who take a knee (in other words, you have been angrily blathering all over Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media), this is directed at you.

I have a question for you: Do you respect the flag and our veterans? Do you really?
You more than likely answered with a resounding, “Yes!” But let me tell you what I see.
When I go to the Corry Fest parade or the Spartansburg Fair parade–pretty much any parade–I see the majority of people sitting when the colors pass. And when I remind those within earshot that it is customary and respectful to stand when our veterans and flag pass by, I am glared at—and worse, I get flipped the bird. Rarely does anyone respond to my entreaties by standing.

Something else I see: a group of people in a living room or a bar watching a football game or the World Series and when the national anthem is sung, those ball caps stay on your heads. You stay on your bar stool or couch. Once again, there is no effort on your part to stand and respect the flag or our veterans.

Another thing I see is veterans in nursing homes or the Soldiers and Sailors Home who are pretty much forgotten. You can call the kneeling players names, but if you truly care about the veterans and our flag the way you say you do, I challenge you to get out there and try and make a real difference for them. Visit them. Listen to their stories. Thank them for their service. Veteran’s Day is November 11–send a veteran a card. Did you know they actually make Veteran’s Day cards and you can find them at almost every card retailer? Buy one. Buy ten. Mail them to all the veterans you know. Attend Veteran’s Day events and take your kids–teach them respect as well.


My dad, Col. Philip Chaffee, a veteran of the US Air Force, spoke at an event honoring World War II veterans.

One last thing. For all those who have never read “US Code §176. Respect For The Flag,” here are some highlights which might help all of us show a little more respect:

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Now you know. If you aren’t able to abide by the US Code or are unwilling to make a difference in the lives of veterans, then keep your opinions about those taking a knee to yourself.

This blog was published in the November 4 edition of The Corry Journal.

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Joyful Moment #23: Being Thankful When It Isn’t Easy

Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful. Sometimes life dashes hopes and dreams. Sometimes the prayers we pray don’t get answered in the way we want.

Sometimes we need to look a little harder at our circumstances and find the reasons to still be thankful.

For instance…

On Wednesday, my husband Bruce’s van wouldn’t start and he had an appointment he couldn’t miss.

Reasons to be thankful:

1) He tried to start it with enough time before his appointment that he could attempt to diagnose it, talk to neighbors for help, and call me at work.

2) Neighbors took the time to come over to try to jump-start it.

Nice try.

3) When the jump-start didn’t work, my boss allowed me to leave work to pick up Bruce so he could still get to his appointment on time.

4) A local mechanic was willing to stop by and diagnose the problem as well as tow (at no charge) the van to his garage where he will fix the problem.

Being down to one vehicle meant Bruce would have to take it on a two-day trip for work, leaving me with no transportation. And I needed to get to work as well.

Reasons to be thankful:
1) My parents live a mile-and-a-half from where I work.

2) They had no problem with me staying with them for the night.

3) The weather was beautiful on Thursday morning and I have two healthy legs which transported me to work.

Not an accurate representation of me in any way. Who walks to work in 5-inch heels?

4) My parents were kind enough to drive me home later that day.

Bruce received some sad news while he was away.

Reasons to be thankful:

1) We don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but we know God is in control.

2) We have friends who came along side of us and prayed right along with us, friends who encouraged us and reminded us that hope is what we live for.

3) While the prayers we prayed weren’t answered in the way we wanted, we know that there is a reason for everything. We might not know that reason this side of eternity, but that’s okay.

I sit re-reading what I just wrote and I see even much more for which I am thankful. I can read and write. I have electricity to operate my computer and the internet. I am sitting in a home provided by a loving husband and father to my kids. The home is messy, proving we spend time here and are creative people. My husband and I have jobs that meet our expenses. We have vehicles that get us to our jobs, transport our kids to schooling, and allow us to visit family.
And there are invisible—yet still tangible—things that make me thankful every day. God is in control. My husband is faithful. My children love us and each other.

Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful, but sometimes we just need to look past disappointments and see the amazing blessings all around us.


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Election: D-Day

Here we are in late afternoon on election day, November 8, 2016.

Over the past 10 months of this election I have ben dismayed to watch people argue on Facebook and block each other. This election season (which began almost two years ago) has run the gamut from passive-aggressive behavior to outright fist fights.

The candidates have both lied and told the truth. News outlets behaved more like piranha every day when all I wanted was objective reporting of the facts. The candidates spent their debates attacking and defending rather than laying out plans for the future. Much of what has occurred has been baffling at best and infuriating at worst. Overall, I am disappointed in the attitudes of the general populace.

Forty years ago it was considered rude to ask someone who they voted for in any election. Unless you were a politician yourself, it was considered crass to give your opinion or tell someone which candidate you supported. Two things that weren’t discussed in social settings: religion and politics. It just wasn’t done.

Not anymore.

I think I’ve been pretty tame on Facebook as far as political posts are concerned. However, this morning following my visit to the local polling place, I changed my Facebook profile picture to that of my candidates: Trump/Pence. This resulted in an almost immediate de-friending by someone vehemently anti-Trump. From prior posts on her page, I knew she was not a fan of The Donald. Around a third of my Facebook friends and friends in real life are not fans of him. But we agreed to disagree. We agreed to cast our vote and let election day play out. With the exception of this one person, which saddened me.

Here we are on the cusp of an historic election. So much at stake. So many hopes and dreams. Yet no matter who comes out victorious this evening, the sun will still rise on November 9. The earth will continue to rotate around the sun. The universe will continue to spin through time and space.

So, in light of that knowledge, can’t we all just get along?


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I Will Never Forget

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the sun shone brilliantly in a cloudless blue sky over Long Island.

It was a routine day for us. As dorm parents and teachers at a boarding school, our weekdays began early. Bruce shooed boys out of the dorm and then headed off to class. I loaded Caitlin onto the school bus and turned my attention to Amanda and Ailee. Amanda sat in front of the TV watching Nickelodeon’s morning programs. I needed to get her to preschool and then meet a friend at a scrapbooking store at 9am.

I loaded both girls into the car and popped in a children’s music CD. Amanda sang along and Ailee, only 3 months old, fell asleep in her car seat.

After dropping Amanda off, I headed to the store. I turned off the CD and tuned in to the local talk radio station. Curtis and Kuby were frantically discussing a terrible accident that had happened only a few minutes earlier—a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

The two men, one a democrat and the other a republican, talked of the tragedy and one (I don’t recall who) began to wonder if this might be some sort of domestic terrorism. The other denounced such a theory. As they argued my only thoughts were that I hoped the people in the North Tower were able to evacuate.

Just a few minutes after nine, both men went silent. Background noises, a throat clearing, then one made the announcement: a second plane had slammed into the South Tower. The men had received word that the plane had actually accelerated as it nosed its way along the rooftops of lower Manhattan.

I pulled into the parking lot of the scrapbook store, grabbed Ailee and ran into the store. “Do you know what’s happening?” I asked the lady at the counter. She didn’t.

Quickly I recounted what I had heard on the radio. She flipped on her TV. Every station was covering the event.

My cell phone rang. My friend would not be joining me. She was watching the TV as well. I called Caitlin’s school. They were in lockdown. I called Amanda’s preschool. Same story there.

Confident that my girls were safe, I headed home and switched on the TV.

Glued to the screen and clutching my baby close, I watched the coverage. Firefighters and police ran into the buildings. People trickled out, gazing up to see the damage.

Reports of two more planes disrupted the coverage of New York. The Pentagon was targeted. And another plane slammed into a field in Pennsylvania. Coverage returned to the towers.

Suddenly, without warning, the top of South tower groaned, leaned, and pressed itself to earth, crushing the rest of the building.

The television viewpoint shook as the ground trembled. Reporters, horrified at the scene unfolding, ran for cover as the cloud of ash and debris billowed out in all directions. As the dust began to settle, people resembling a post-apocalyptic movie set emerged from downtown. Papers drifted through the air settling blocks away from the fallen tower.

Half an hour later, the same fate came upon the North Tower.

I made a phone call to my parents.  “We’re 50 miles from downtown Manhattan,” I told them. “We’re okay.” We were all concerned about my cousins who lived in Brooklyn and in lower Manhattan.

Hours became days and the television was rarely off. Students at our school began to deal with the news. Making a phone call became impossible as it seemed everyone was attempting to call in search of someone. The campus was oddly quiet.

The usually busy air space above Long Island was silent. When the flight ban was lifted a week later, students and teachers on campus watched planes overhead with strange apprehension.

In the days and weeks following, I cried with friends and students who had lost someone in the towers.
We reminisced about the towers and the area around them. In the 1990s, Bruce had taken a group of students to the observation deck. Bruce and I had stayed at the Marriott Hotel (which stood between the towers) when one of my cousins had gotten married only a few years earlier. We had shopped in the shopping center below the towers and had made use of that subway stop on many of our adventures in the city.

We finally heard from my cousins. They were all physically fine. Fred and Erica watched the planes hit the towers from their apartment window in Brooklyn. Their office, not far from the towers, had sustained some minor damage. Steve and Kim on Hudson Street were okay. Nora and Wayne were also safe.





Fifteen years later I have difficulty watching video of 9/11. As my pastor said this morning, 9/11 is my generation’s Pearl Harbor. My generation’s Kennedy assassination. It is a moment frozen in time and I will never ever forget where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news.

Fifteen years later and I have visited the new memorial. I dug deep to control my emotions when I saw the names, the roses, the notes, the waterfalls…the people lovingly tracing with fingertips the engraved names of friends and family.

One World Trade Center, or “Freedom Tower,” exemplifies the spirit of the city that never sleeps. It is the phoenix from the ashes; a giant defying the sky while thumbing its nose at terrorism. Rebuilding Ground Zero was necessary for the healing of New York. The new tower sharing the landscape with a sprawling memorial is a fitting life lesson: Never forget but always move forward.

I still feel a twinge at the sight of the Twin Towers in movies and old television shows. I suppose that is expected. And while I will never forget, I will always move forward.

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Joyful Moment #22: Moving Forward–I am, and you can, too!

Someone recently joked with me that they should start a blog but they’re afraid they’ll forget to write anything.

If they end up anything like me, they’ll have great ideas while driving, or in the middle of church, or anywhere else where actual writing can’t take place.

I haven’t posted to my blog in eleven months. But, just because I haven’t posted doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. My freelancing for a local newspaper really took off last summer. Since May of 2014 I have written more than 100 feature articles for The Corry Journal. I also took part in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, completing my first novel with nearly 58,000 words. It’s a rough draft (extremely rough) and I hope to go back and edit it for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

The last eleven months have been absolutely amazing in the sense that I have found my voice and moved forward with my life. I’ve not moved on to a new chapter in life, rather, I’ve begun an entirely new book.  While some people endure a midlife crisis, I’ve experienced a midlife awakening.

Having been stuck in a rut for at least a decade, moving forward was—and continues to be—both exhilarating and terrifying.

For my friends out there who could use a boost in the right direction, please allow me to briefly share my journey, without going into all the gory details. While the steps I took worked for me, they may not work for everyone. Still, there are more steps to take as I journey forward.

1. Let go of the chains. For me, this epiphany came while watching the musical version of the timeless tale of Scrooge. In the 1970 musical adaptation of the Dickens classic, Scrooge finds himself in hell, weighed down by enormous chains of his own making. He cries out, unable to move under the oppressive weight of hundreds of links. Thankfully, he awakens from the nightmare and changes his ways.
I thought, “Good grief, that’s how I feel right now!” The largest links in my chain: unforgiveness. I sat down and wrote a list of names of people whom I needed to forgive. Over the next few weeks I prayed for those people. I also prayed for myself that I could, with God’s help, forgive them.

2. Find wise counsel. Whether it’s a friend whose advice is sound or a professional counselor, talking out your troubles and applying wise advice to your life will cause you to be an active participant in your own recovery. Personally, I suggest a professional counselor as they are bound by the ethics of their profession to keep your conversation only between the two of you. One of my issues of unforgiveness was the friend who shared personal conversations with others. Still, that served to be an instructive situation for me, and I have not only learned a valuable lesson, but have also forgiven.

3. Find a method of release. This is common practice in many forms of therapy. Some people pour themselves into exercise. Some go back to school. Others take up a new hobby. It’s all about releasing the pain and allowing healing to begin. For me, I flooded everything I had into writing a novel. When that was exhausted, I began to produce artwork. While the novel sits quietly inside my laptop awaiting the editing process, my artwork is already selling and finding appreciation in the homes of others. My life is once again flowing freely.

4. Give priority to what you value most. For too many years I put other things before my family. I ran myself ragged trying to balance everyone and everything. Trying to please the friends in my life became a soul-sucking experience. It wasn’t fair to my family or to me. Now, rather than running from here to there, worrying that I might be letting someone down, I’ve stopped juggling balls and held on to only two: faith and family.

5. Move on. Those two words can sound easier than they really are. Seriously though, once you’ve let go of the chains, applied wise counsel, found a method of release, and prioritized your values…move forward. Don’t stay stuck in that rut where the stagnant water gathers. Get up, shake the dust from yourself and get moving. Whether you’re twenty-something or sixty-something, you should make the most of the time ahead of you.

So, I’ll ask you, what chains are weighing you down? What are you going to do to get out from under them? Have you sought wise counsel? What can you do to release the angst and allow life to flow through you once again? What are your priorities? Lastly, are you ready to move forward and not look back?

Sing it with me..."Let it goooooooo!"

Sing it with me…”Let it goooooooo!”

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Nothing is ever as easy as I hope

I can honestly say I am glad that this morning’s adventures are not a daily occurrence for me.

My oldest daughter, Caitlin, is heading for Japan in January with the Digital Media Animation department from Huntington University. So, we need to procure a passport.

Step one: Call Clymer, NY, post office for the low-down on what documents are needed to get said passport. The Clymer office does everything including take the photo.

The woman there, Jennifer, was extremely helpful in giving me the list of things necessary for Caitlin to prove she indeed is who she says she is.

Documents needed: Birth Certificate and valid driver’s license or state-issued photo ID.

We have the birth certificate, but because of Caitlin’s lack of desire to learn to drive, she has no driver’s license. Until now, there was no need for a state-issued photo ID, so we never tried to get one. Her college photo ID is, unfortunately, not acceptable.

Step two: Go online and find out how to get a photo ID.

Documents needed: Birth Certificate (check), current W-2 (check), and social security card (check, or so I thought).

After an exhaustive search of our safe and filing cabinet, Caitlin’s social security card is nowhere to be found.

Step three: Go online and find out how to get a replacement social security card. Sounds easy, right? The online form itself was easy. Fill out the form, click to pay the $48 service fees, and I’m done, right?


The website then asked me to print the form and either mail certified copies of the required identification documents along with the form, or visit my local social security office, which happens to be in Meadville, PA.

What are the required documents, you ask? A valid driver’s license or state-issued photo ID.

At this point I was ready to bang my head on my laptop.


Step four: Call Meadville social security office and explain my predicament. Megan, from the Meadville office, was aghast that I paid $48 online for a service that they offer absolutely free.

Head-banging was now imminent.

She did, however, offer a solution to the problem. I could go to Caitlin’s doctor and get a letter from him stating her name, date of birth, and that she is a current patient. The letter had to be hand-signed in ink by the doctor. Caitlin could then bring this document with her and apply in person for a replacement card.

Step five: Drive to doctor’s office and ask for said letter. Office personnel chuckled and shook their heads, but said they’d get the letter to me within the week.

Step six: Return home and pour an enormous cup of coffee, take a few deep breaths, and laugh at the whole situation.

I am happy to report that each government employee I spoke with was kind and courteous, as well as very helpful. Of course, I was polite first (albeit exasperated), and I doubt everyone with whom they have daily dealings is quite as affable.

So, for anyone out there contemplating getting a passport or replacement documents of any kind, take a lesson from my experience. Don’t pay online until you’ve spoken to the local office to find out if you can get the service for free, and don’t expect any quick or easy solutions. And, of course, have a sense of humor before you even start.

Does this red tape make my butt look big?

Does this red tape make my butt look big?

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