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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Work together and keep hope alive*

Amidst the crises and insecurities in our lives, sometimes we find a surprising ability to rise up and stand tall. After a fall, after disaster, sometimes we bounce back and find normalcy.

Yes, it's true that wars, natural disasters, fires, diseases, poverty and injustice can knock us down, but we can recover and become well again.

Resilience is one of our best characteristics as human beings. It is a constructive and positive attitude toward that which makes life difficult and unpleasant. With faith, hope and resilience, we can overcome crises and other challenges that come our way.

Out of our eventful, imperfect life, we have the ability and the capacity to rebound and recover. We must never give up.

Indeed, we are a resilient people, equipped with optimism that we can overcome today's challenges and make our world better than before.

With patience and perseverance, we continue working towards the realization of our dreams.

As part of the human race, we should care about our fellow men and women, and we should be determined to make a difference for others, not just for ourselves.

Despite the hard things happening around us, we can adapt and contribute to the overall improvement and development of the human race.

With our hope, with a deep and abiding faith in God, and with resilience, we can continue to work together, to move forward to restore our damaged lives and aspire toward a common objective: a peaceful, safer world for all.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, September 24, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Remember what's important in the storms*

Life is full of events and encounters, surprises and scenarios, changes and challenges, phases and processes.

Hard things happen, and they can be unexpected and overwhelming, disastrous and devastating.

These events can divide us and make us indifferent or intolerant of others, or they can unite us in love and respect.

August was an eventful month, historic and unforgettable. Did we expect those happenings to occur? Probably not, with the exception of that great American eclipse on August 21 bringing us awe and excitement, and possibly an interest in science or astronomy in particular.

A rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 turned violent and deadly. A car plowed into a group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring about 19 others, and a police helicopter crash took the lives of two state troopers who were monitoring the event.

Who would have thought that a quaint, charming city like Charlottesville would become the news of the day worldwide? It seemed unthinkable. Peaceful and progressive Charlottesville was in the spotlight for a white-supremacist protest that was ostensibly a response to a proposal to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.

For six years, my wife and I visited Charlottesville while our two children were at The University of Virginia from 2006 to 2012.

Charlottesville has become a special place for us because of those worthwhile weekend getaways, educational and informative experiences we've had, people we've come to know, wine-tasting events at different vineyards and wineries, and the tourist areas like Monticello that we've visited and revisited.

I never imagined such a violent attack would happen in Charlottesville, where The University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Then on Aug. 28, Hurricane Harvey flooded portions of Texas and Louisiana, reminding us of Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago.

Harvey's flood was overwhelming.Many lives were lost, including a police officer who was on his way to work and drowned in the deluge. Houses are underwater and property damage is in the billions. Many, many thousands have been displaced. Recovery will go on for months or even years.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all victims and their families and those involved in the recovery process.

Events such as those of this historic august are costly and life-changing. Precious lives lost are irreplaceable, while material possessions can be replaced.

Charitable people, organizations, and communities pour out their support and come together to help those victims of calamities.

But disastrous events like these can bring out the best in us, and they can help us change our perspective on life, what is dear and what is truly important to us.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, September 7, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spend some time reading this summer*

Now that summer is in full swing, what are you doing, boys and girls? Are you spending your summer break wisely and enjoyably? Are you, right now, enrolled or engaged in worthwhile, educational activities that are enriching your mind and body?

Education doesn't end when the school year ends. There's always something new to know and to learn, no matter how young or old we are, as long as we're able and capable of reading, writing and thinking.

Education should be a lifelong commitment.

Engaging in physical and mental exercises---doing simple hand-leg stretching, walking, yoga or chores, and reading or doing puzzles is always beneficial to our health and well being.

Our bodies are as important as our minds. If we have sound, healthy bodies and minds, we are well off, whatever summer adventure we participate in.

We feel blessed and fortunate to be able to perform our daily tasks or routine efficiently and effectively. We feel we are on top of every game or goal we play or set. In the end, we become productive and, thus, successful, because we are in great shape.

We are up for the challenge when our body and mind are healthy and strong. We're ever ready to face our battles every day, because we take health and fitness seriously.

Just as we nourish our body daily, so should we our minds. Joseph Addison (1672-1719), an English essayist, poet, playwright and politician, said, "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."

Simply put, we need to feed our mind with useful information that increases our knowledge and skills needed in a competitive world, the same way that we need physical exercise to flex our muscles and bones so they become strong and healthy.

I'd like to mention and applaud the efforts of Suffolk native, Lloyd Askew, a veteran teacher and reading specialist who has been teaching summer reading classes for our city's school children since 2013, via his Drop Everything and Read program. A story in the July 4th edition of the Suffolk News-Herald profiled Askew's literacy advocacy for the community.

I commend and thank you, Mr. Askew, for your devotion and dedication to education. For more information about this summer reading program, call 919-332-5828.

Reading stimulates our imagination and expands our understanding of the world. It helps us develop our language and listening skills and prepares us to understand the written word.

Even when children can read by themselves, it is important for us to read aloud with them until they are ready to tackle advanced reading materials.

Reading gives us a foundation for success. Without good reading and comprehension skills, we are limited in what we can accomplish in life.

Young children and old, have you been to the library lately? No? Why not? Busy spending your summer with your family or friends? Well, if you haven't, tell your Mom and Dad you want to go to the library, because you want to check out a book or two.

Keep up the great work, kids. Read always, for as long as you can. You won't regret that you did.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, July 8, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Have fun, but be safe this summer*

What comes to mind when you hear the word "summer?" Water? Watermelons? Flip flops? Shorts and shirts? Sunscreen? Camping? Mountaineering? Summer camps? Vacation Bible schools? Outdoor concerts? Outdoor barbecues? Weekend getaways? Road trips? Summer vacation? Summer safety? Thunderstorms? Hurricane season?

Yes, summertime is here in the Northern Hemisphere. With hot, humid weather, it's time to turn our air conditioners on! Electric fans are in demand, and so are bags of ice.

With longer days than nights, we tend to sleep late because we try to enjoy being outdoors, basking in the sun, engaging in physical activities. Everyone gets active and energized while enjoying daylight. Who wouldn't want to be outside, enjoying Mother Nature?

The verdant mountains and hills are inviting! And so are the beaches, lakes, rivers and shores---ready for everyone, young and old. Children love to wade in the water and to build sand castles.
 ike school administrators, have to report for work. It's time to review and update school curriculum and school plant conditions to meet the needs of the changing, digital world.

Summer offers the opportunity for those in authority to inspect and fix structural damages and repair or replace school buildings, equipment and school supplies.

For some teachers, like my wife Freny, summer is the time to participate in professional development training programs to earn continuing education units needed for professional teaching license recertification.

Meanwhile, while we're enjoying summer and its offerings, let's not forget summer safety. It's east to be carried away by the sights and sounds of summer. But, as they say, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Take for example, swimming in the open water. Don't underestimate the power of water. Young and old can be a drowning victim if they don't take precautions when in the water.

Sunburn and prolonged heat exposure to the sun can be dangerous. Use suntan lotion or sunscreen, shades and a light hat or umbrella when necessary.

Drink plenty of water, too, to rehydrate or maintain balance of body fluids. Likewise, wear light, cotton clothes, not dark ones, when in the beach or oceanfront.

Our pets and the elderly are also vulnerable to extreme heat during summertime. Our felines and canines matter, when they're out there in our backyard or in dog parks. When walking your dogs, make sure they're leased and that a bottled water is ever ready.

On the other hand, our elderly need not be deprived of summer sunlight. But they, especially those with disabilities, need supervision, monitoring and ready assistance when they're outdoors, enjoying the sights and sounds (and smell) of summer. After all, they, too, deserve to enjoy summer.

Outdoor barbecues and cookouts in backyards are also a popular sight of summer. We have to be careful when using our grills, whether with charcoal or propane gas. As the saying goes, when there's smoke, there's fire. Before firing up that grill, have that hose or a pail of water ready. Check with your city regarding outdoor fires.

Summer is a respite from school, even if only a short one. It's an opportunity to be more intimate with Mother Nature, enjoying God's creation in its natural beauty. Enjoy it while you can. But spend it wisely and safely.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, June 22, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Congratulations to the Class of 2017*

Nelson Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world."

Yes, it's graduation season. This is a tradition that will never be obsolete for as long as schools exist as fountains of knowledge and education, catalysts of changes and reforms for a society, such as ours, that is constantly evolving and transforming.

The time has finally come for you, graduates, to don that cap and gown and receive your diploma with congratulatory handshakes from school officials and commencement speakers while the solemn, classical tune of 'pomp and Circumstance" is being played.

At long last, dear graduates, you finally made it! You made it to the Class of 2017! It's worth all the efforts, struggles and the sacrifices.

You deserve all the recognition, because you have overcome the rigors of school life. You have succeeded in overcoming challenges and pressures and stresses in all aspects of school life---academics, athletics and other extracurricular activities.

And, despite all that's going on around your country and the world, you remained steadfast and focused on your foal---to finish school and graduate.

Dear graduates, you have all the reasons to relax now, take it easy, and celebrate your achievements with your family, friends, teachers and those who have inspired and helped you through the years while in school.

Seize the moment, for it will become a happy memory to cherish. Take souvenir pictures. Capture those moments spent with your classmates, dear teachers, guests and visitors.

Cherish their hugs and kisses, and acknowledge their mere presence. Enjoy the rest of the day partying responsibly and lawfully. Indeed, you deserve to celebrate your scholarly achievement.

To all the parents and teachers of graduating Class of 2017, I thank you for being there with your students---loving and caring for them and guiding them, no matter what their circumstances. Likewise, my sincere gratitude to our school administrators, staff and volunteers who shared their time, talents and treasures with our students.

Graduation Day is a milestone in a student's life. However, it is just a start, the beginning of a more complex, challenging life, whether you graduated from elementary, secondary, collegiate or post graduate education.

For both students and teachers, it may mean the culmination of your school activities for the school year and the start of a month or two of summer vacation.

But what now? What's next for you? Gainful employment? A military service commitment? Looking forward to the next ladder of continuing or higher education? A sabbatical from schoolwork? a paid apprenticeship or internship in a private or public establishment?

Whatever plans you have for your future, dear graduates, continue to work for it. remember that no one can stop you now from pursuing your dreams. Be optimistic and hopeful at all times. Cheers and smile! You can always make your life and others' better.

Your future is in your hands, dear graduates, because life is what you make it.

Again, congratulations and best wishes, Class of 2017!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, June 13, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A great little friend turns 2*

As I was writing this article, Simba, my 2-year-old Chihuahua-Yorkie, was comfy in my lap.

Simba has tripled in size and weight since I took ownership of him when he just a three-pound puppy. Call him the most pampered and spoiled of dogs, Simba's the first in my household, my first canine in more than 33 years in the United States.

My friends say, "Simba's so lucky," aware that there are canines and felines out there needing a home or a decent shelter. We have treated Simba as a member of the family, and he's fortunate to have good health care, unlike many human beings.

Simba's a member of our family. Since Day One, he has been our responsibility. We are serious about our responsibility to properly take care of him, as if he is a child of our own.

We have to make sure he's updated with his mandated yearly city registration and required vaccinations. And just like us, he needs tender, loving care, along with a periodic health check, to make sure he's clean and eating right, maintaining weight and avoiding worms in his digestive system.

We also make sure he's physically, mentally and socially active.

Simba is such a blessing to me, especially. day and night, he keeps me company. he seems to know when I'm angry or happy. Like a child, he craves attention.

He likes to go with me wherever I go. When left alone, he patiently waits for me and is excited to see me back home when I return in an hour or two. believe it or not, he has been with us to church and restaurants several times (not in Hampton Roads but out of town where my daughter Tintin lives and works as a school counselor).

He stays in his carrier bag and, unless he senses something that makes him feel uncomfortable or in danger, he keeps quiet with his treat or a noiseless toy.

One time, while we were dining out, together with my daughter Tintin and her fiance Robbie, I was startled to see Simba has escaped! I had been sharing bits of my steak with him, but suddenly he was running around the place, while fellow diners were staring at us as we tried to catch him. I apologized to the manager, who had become familiar with us from other visits.

Dogs, especially when they're properly trained, are intelligent. They listen to commands and understand simple instructions. But they're also annoying and stubborn at times. Like us, they crave attention.

When they wag their tails, they're excited, happy and want to play. When they don't, there may be something wrong or bothering them.

I'm thankful to have Simba in my family. Hopefully, he's going to be with us for a long time. Happy second birthday, Simba!

If you're looking for a companion like this, don't forget to visit the Mutt Strut, the Suffolk Humane Society's annual fundraising and fun-for-the-family dog walk, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Bennett's Creek Park. For more information, visit www.suffolkhumanesociety.com.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy  veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, May 4, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Love always wins*

She's brown and Catholic; he's white and Baptist. They're both young adults, full of hopes and dreams. They met unexpectedly. The law of attraction worked. They fell in love. They got engaged. Finally, after a year, they tied the knot.

This is what Love can do---the union of two young adults who have pledged to love each other forever.

Earlier this month, my only daughter and her fiance were united through the sacrament of matrimony. The wedding ceremony took place at a Christian church and the reception at a vineyard.

Love made it possible for the bride's and the groom's families, friends and relatives to witness and celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime, special event in the life of Christine and Robbie.

God is love made manifest in these two lovely children of God who promised to love, care for and respect each other, in sickness or in health, in sadness or joy, "'til death do us part.'

Like their parents---the two sets have been married for a total of 80 years---they believe in the sanctity of marriage. They sought God's blessing of their marriage through Father Rolo Castillo, pastor at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

Months before their wedding, Christine and Robbie participated in afternoon and evening meetings and sessions about Christian marriage, facilitated by the pastor and Deacon Ed and his wife. They also attended a one-day session at another church where they met other couples preparing for marriage.

A year ago, Robbie and Christine had their blessings from me and Father Ongen, parochial vicar of four clustered parishes in Portsmouth and Chesapeake. (These four parishes are St. Paul's Catholic Church, Church of the Resurrection, and Holy Angels- all in Portsmouth, and St. Mary's Catholic Church in Chesapeake.)

I told them about author and host of FamilyLife Today, Dennis Rainey, who suggested four commitments to fulfill your marriage vows for a lifetime: 1) Do not get married unless you plan to keep your vows; 2) fulfill your vows by staying married; 3) fulfill your vows by maintaining emotional and moral fidelity; and 4) fulfill your vows by praying faithfully with your spouse.

One night I told them that marriage is a sacred covenant and a lifelong, serious commitment between two loving persons and their God. "It is not like food, once you've tasted or chewed it, if you don't like it, you can spit it out," I said.

The "lovebirds" kept still and looked at me, puzzled.

Weeks before their wedding, while we were having lunch with Robbie's parents, I shared this thought, based on my experience and observation: In marriage, love is the bottom line. God is love.

When there is love, there is commitment, communication, compromise, cooperation and companionship.

When there is commitment, there is open communication. When there is communication, there is compromise. When there is compromise, there is cooperation. When there is cooperation, there is commitment. And when there is commitment, there is companionship. And when these things are, there is love.

It was such a beautiful wedding, well-attended and happily celebrated.

It was a beautiful wedding because love reigned in the hearts and minds of those who were present.

[Thank you, God. And, on behalf of both families of our newly-wed couple, my daughter Christine and son-in-law Robbie, I sincerely thank you all loving people who were involved in their wedding (before, during, and after). Thank you, dear friends and family members (especially those who came from California, Washington State, and Canada, and from out of town) who've shared your precious time, talents and treasures in making their wedding special, beautiful and memorable. May God bless us and our families always! May God bless Robbie and Christine always and forever, as they embark on a new chapter in their life as husband and wife! Wishing you all the best, and all the happiness and love in the world.]

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, May 25, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.