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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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why Lent is important to Christians?*

Lenten season has already begun for Christian communities around the world. It started on Ash Wednesday, a day in which we go to church to receive ashes on the forehead to signify "we are dust and to dust we return."

The practice of receiving ashes dates back to the fifth century and became a universal Christian practice by the 11th century.

As an important religious observance in the Christian world, Lent is the season to observe and commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.

It is an opportune time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ. Likewise, it's an opportunity to repent for our misdeeds and misgivings and to increase the intensity of our prayer, fasting, almsgiving, practice of our faith and welcoming others as our brothers and sisters in our faith community.

Moreover, Lent is a time to grow in and strengthen our faith, which binds us together and makes all things possible because of our love and devotion to Jesus.

If we follow his teachings, we become responsible, law-abiding citizens and peace-loving people. We become selfless, mindful of others, who benefit from our good deeds, kindness, charity and generosity. We become more aware of and concerned about others, especially the underrepresented, underserved, marginalized, disabled, elderly, helpless and hopeless in our midst.

Practicing our faith, we are able to Christ in them. We try our best to love and care for them the way we want to be loved and cared for.

And let's not underestimate the power of prayer in our lives. Prayer is the greatest thing we've got to save us from a lot of troubles.

As our personal conversation with our God, who knows what's inside of us, prayer is a powerful tool to create a miracle, to make things right or better in our lives. In the end, prayer leads us to a life of holiness towards God.

I believe in the power of prayer, because I have witnessed its fruits. There have been instances where I saw the results of my praying for others---like when they get better after a surgery or disease or a tragedy---that no rocket science or scientist can explain.

Call it a miracle, if you will, but I believe that, when we pray together, when we pray for others who need our prayers, things and people change for the better. We become interconnected, and we get closer to God.

Followers of Christ also practice almsgiving and fasting. We give of ourselves and our time, talents and treasures. We love to share what we have, because we believe that giving is caring.

We give up something or deprive ourselves of something so that others can have it. That's a sacrifice for others, for God. We just let others have it, instead of ourselves. That's giving; that's fasting, caring and loving. That's an act of love for others and for God because we see Christ in them.

We believe in giving, because it is in giving that we receive more blessings and graces from our Almighty God. To share is to give, and to give is to love, and to let others experience our faith

Doing these things can help us grow in faith, especially this Lenten season.

-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-wining Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, March 23, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Everyone needs a friend at some point*

"Friends come and go/ like waves in the ocean.../ And as they go, they leave us/ memories and experiences to remind us/ all the bondings they've made.../ all the contributions they've done/ with all the walk, the rush, the run/, the snow, the rain, the sun.../ Leaving everything that they have done..." (excerpt from my poem Like Waves," included in the anthology Amidst the Splendor, published in The National Library of Poetry, Maryland, in 1996).

Like families, friends come in many forms and colors. They can be a support group when there's no one else to turn to.

Your mom or dad, brother or sister, your spouse, partner, your neighbor next door, classmates and Facebook friends---they all can be your friends.

Like my 20-month-old "chorkie" Simba, your pet dog or cat can also be your (loyal) friend.

If they're your friends, you're fortunate to have them in your life; they're fortunate because they have you, too.

Friends can be a source of joy and hope, love and inspiration. Your spouse can be your friend, because he or she is your nearest neighbor, next of kin and the love of your life.

Jesus can be your friend, who inspires you to live a decent, dignified life. If your friend is Jesus, you can't go/do wrong, because you do your best to follow His teachings and God's Good News.

We need friends to make us see who we are and what we're capable of; to affirm that we're good, loved and lovable; that we're beautiful, inside and out; that we're gifted and talented children of God.

We need friends to show us we are social beings capable of loving. In short, we live for one another. They need us; we need them. Much as we need a family, we need friends to complement and complete us.

"A friend in need is a friend in deed." There's that symbiotic relationship in this quote.

Being a friend is not easy. It's even harder to be a real, true, dependable and responsible friend.

If we don't have friends, we miss out the opportunity to experience human relationships, which are crucial to our social life.

We have varied definitions of what a friend is. To know its meaning, we have to know ourselves. Who are we? Are we able and capable to be called a friend?

We seem to drift away, with no one to cling to and share with our past, present and future, if we have no friends or family. If stranded somewhere, whom do we call, if or when our family is not around? If there's something bothering us, especially in matters of love, marriage, faith, economic or financial woes, that we cannot confide with our spouse or any member of our family, whom do we contact or call for advice or enlightenment?

Even in the middle of the night or wee hours and we're miles and miles away, who or what comes to mind to ring or text? Who's going to cheer us up or share a laugh when you feel alone, lonely, mad or sad?

A dear and true friend.

Our life is more awesome, enriching, enchanting, fascinating and lovely with friends. Losing them is hard to take, but we can always have and make friends.

-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, Friday, January 20, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewshearld.com.