Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lessons From My Father

In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I’d share some of the best lessons I have learned from mine. My sisters, brother and I are truly blessed to call him Dad.

God is Great and the Golden Rule is the Sum of All Wisdom. My Father taught me about my Heavenly Father.  We were a family absolutely rooted in faith and a constant devotion to God.  He modeled HIS greatest commandment after Jesus' - honor God and treat others how you would like to be treated. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived this way.  The Golden Rule was the one principal my father’s mother taught him above all things and he has passed it along to his own children and we pass it to ours. Such a simple but powerful concept.

Remember Who You Are. He told me this every time I left the house as a kid. He instilled in me a great love for and pride in the Peirolo name. Being a Peirolo, he said, was a blessing but also a great responsibility. We owed it to our family members – past and present – to honor the family name. But when he told me that, he was basically saying “You are loved. Don’t settle for anything less than the dignity and respect that you deserve.” And this is my father’s greatest legacy – LOVE.  There has not been a single day in my life when I didn’t feel loved by him – even when I got suspended by Sister Laura for a rude hand gesture (I was innocent!) in the 8th grade. That day, however, I DID get what I fondly refer to now as the dragging-the-Peirolo-name-through-the-mud speech.

Gnats and Elephants. In life there are gnats and elephants. Seriously… only get upset over the elephants and, by the way, there are hardly any elephants. This was basically his version of “don’t sweat the small stuff” – long before that book ever came out.

Your Mother is Everything. I remember once or twice trying to play my mother against my father to get my way. My father sat me down and said in no uncertain terms – “In a contest between you and your mother, you lose every time. She is everything in this family and you will show her the utmost love and respect or you will deal with me.” And trust me when I say, that would NOT have been pleasant.  Abraham Lincoln once said “The greatest gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother.” That was one of my dad’s greatest gifts to us.

Stand Up for What’s Right. We live in a very grey and murky world but there are things that are black and white – right and wrong. Stand up for what you know is right. And if you see someone doing something that is wrong and you don’t tell them, you’re just as wrong as they are. Choose your battles wisely but always know that there ARE things worth fighting for.

Family Trumps All. Friends are wonderful and bring so much to your life. But family ties are the ones that bind. There is something very wonderful about common bloodlines, a shared heritage, a common faith.  It is our history. And to paraphrase Michael Corleone… Don’t take sides with anyone against the family. Ever.

Money means little. Character is King. My father could have made lots of money and gotten much glory in the private sector but instead devoted his life to serving his country in the Air Force for over 30 years; and then serving the public sector again as a high school teacher. Now he volunteers at the Air Force Museum in his retirement.  Money has never meant much to my father. You can be exceedingly wealthy with beautiful homes and the most expensive toys, but if you don’t have integrity and treat people with dignity and kindness, you’re not worth much.

And one of my personal favorites (and this was for all females):

Don’t date someone better looking than you. Sounds silly – but trust me – it’s sage advice. :)

I thank God for putting me exactly in this time and in this family and for blessing me with a father who is everything that is good and true and noble. I will carry his lessons and his love and his legacy in my heart no matter where I go - always.  Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What is in a name? Brats vs. Champs

When I define myself it goes like this:  devoted disciple of Jesus, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, Military Brat.  Those are - by far - the most important parts of who I am as a person on this planet.  So imagine my surprise when I read recently that there is a movement afoot to change one of those words and redefine the very essence of who I am.

My Dad (and Hero)
Debbie and Jen Fink (a mother and daughter) wrote a book and are now on a USO-sponsored tour to promote that book and their organization called Operation C.H.A.M.P.S.  Sounds harmless, right?  Anything that promotes and aids our military families is a good thing.  Except in this case, maybe not.

C.H.A.M.P.S. - Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel


In a USO article, Debbie Fink said this:  "We declared our independence 236 years ago and it’s about time our Little C.H.A.M.P.S did the same. There’s no need to give them a label that may add to their already challenging situation. Why not call them what they are? Little C.H.A.M.P.S!”

I'm going to give this mother/daughter duo some grace since neither has any military background of their own.  Perhaps the Finks were not aware of the incredibly strong lifelong bond we military brats share.  Maybe they were under the mistaken impression that military brats stop being brats when they reach their majority.  And they definitely seem to have been sucked into this awful political-correctness-run-amok culture that says we're all heroes.  So I must correct some things:

BRAT is NOT a negative label from which we need to be freed by some well-meaning civilian.  We LOVE this term and wear it as a badge of honor for the lives we’ve led in support of our military parent.  Our lives as military dependents taught us very valuable life skills.  We learned to be strong and resilient and adaptable and, while the vast majority of us have no hometown to speak of, we know EXACTLY who we are.  While we fall into every socioeconomic, racial, political and gender category under the sun, we are ALL patriots.  We can pack up and move at a moment’s notice.  We can improvise, adapt and overcome better than any civilian I’ve ever met.  We don’t hesitate to stop what we’re doing and stand at attention when the national anthem is played.  We appreciate and respect other cultures while at the same time believing that our own is EXCEPTIONAL.  We judge people by the content of their character (and their ability to use the military alphabet when spelling words out over the phone) and not the color of their skin.  We defined diversity before that was even a thing.

America is our Hometown
We don’t need anyone telling us that we need help through a “challenging situation.”  In support of my father's service in the Air Force, my family of seven moved 11 times during my childhood. I went to FOUR different high schools - in this country and overseas.  It never once occurred to me that I lived in a challenging situation.  What it DID teach me is the invaluable lesson that it's not where you live that's important - it's who you're with.  As long as I had my family, I was good.  And I have always considered my hometown to be America.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Challenging?  Please… it was an HONOR.

Being a BRAT doesn’t end when you turn 18.  All of us are part of a large and close-knit subculture of military brats around the world.  It is a vital part of our identity.  Out of my 900 Facebook friends, the vast majority of them are military brats – many of whom I’ve never met in person!  The internet has allowed us to connect on more levels than ever before with message boards and Facebook groups and reunion sites.  As a matter of fact, military brats have more reunions than any other group I know!

We are not HEROES.  This word has become attributable to just about everyone on the planet and has lost so much of what it’s supposed to mean in the process.  When you overuse a word, it loses its power.  Many may disagree with me but I don’t think everyone in the military is a hero, let alone their children!  I value every military member and applaud their service to our great nation but if everyone was a hero, then what do we call the Marcus Luttrells and the Jimmy Doolittles of the world? 

My fellow BRATS and I do not like a person who was never a military brat coming in and trying to redefine us for her own self-aggrandizing profit.  So no, Ms. Fink (the collective) we do not accept your new term.  We are BRATS right down to our bone marrow.  We are strong, we are united, we aren’t going anywhere and you don't get to change our name.

P.S.  I wonder if the Finks know the meaning of the picture at the top.  The dandelion is the Military Brat Flower. 

Logo Designed by Mari Kay Everitt

Sunday, September 29, 2013

To Race or Not To Race?

Today is a weird day.  The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is going on in Denver and it is with many mixed emotions that we aren't there.  Shelly - the reason we started participating in the first place - just found out a few months ago that, after almost five years, the cancer is back.  She is fighting like the warrior she is - and we are all with her again on this journey - so it seems like we should absolutely be there with the hundreds of thousands of women who are racing today - to gain strength from them and to be encouraged by their success stories.  But last year we made a decision to not do the RFTC - for several different reasons - but mostly because of the shameful way they caved to the bullies of Planned Parenthood.

Remember the story?  In January 2012, Komen announced it wouldn't give money to Planned Parenthood anymore.  The outcry was immediate and vicious.  Forget that companies should be able to give money however they wish, this was THE story and supporters of abortion on demand came out in force.  The interesting thing to me, was that PP recouped the Komen money in less than 48 hours through private donations (reinforcing my belief that ALL their money should come from that source and not anything tax-payer related, but that's a whole 'nother Oprah) but the vitriol against Komen never stopped and a few days later they caved and reinstated their donation to PP.

Shelly and her wonderful mother
The whole pathetic drama left a very bad taste in our mouths and we said "never again."  So the 2011 race was our last one.  Since then, I've realized that Komen doesn't give nearly enough of their money to research and development, for example - so I felt strong in our decision to not participate last year.  I'd rather give money to a group that focuses on finding an actual CURE, or one that helps families stay together during treatment (along the lines of Ronald McDonald House).  And how can I be a part of a group that caves to political pressure and donates money to a group that contributes to the almost million abortions performed per year in this country? I was strong in my convictions last year.  But today I am wondering if what's wrong with the Komen foundation is more important than what is right about it.

Because today I realized that the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is so much bigger than the Komen organization.  What today is really about is the strength of women and how formidable we can be when faced with a disease that takes so many of our loved ones.  The fact is that there are almost a quarter million new cases of invasive breast cancer every year.  And about 40,000 deaths per year as a result of this horrible cancer (second only, in women, to lung cancer).  As I've watched my darling friend go through this hell - now TWICE - her strength and fortitude in the face of such fear and pain and anguish is amazing to behold.  The Race for the Cure is FILLED with women like this.

Our daughters - the next generation of fighters

So all I can think about today is how much Shelly needs those women right now - to shore up her resolve and tell her that she CAN get through this AGAIN.  Instead - this year - we will do our own walk, give to a different organization, enjoy a raucous brunch at some upscale restaurant and be together to celebrate Shelly and her fighting spirit.

I hope next year though, that we can put our differences with Komen aside and experience the solidarity and power of so many women united for a cause.  It's a heady experience and one we enjoyed for years.  I don't know what the future holds.  Right now all I can focus on is getting Shelly healthy again - for her family that she adores - and for us, the girlfriends who love her so much.  That, after all, is the most important thing.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Coming Face to Face with Race

Since the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder case in Florida last weekend, the nation has spoken of little else but race. Every media outlet, every blogger, every person tweeting or posting on Facebook has expressed an opinion about the case, the current state of racial unrest in society, justice vs. injustice, and – an American favorite pastime – who is to blame for it all.

I am no different. I took to Facebook with my opinions on all of the above and more. I spent the entire week saying that race didn’t seem to play a part in what happened to Trayvon Martin. That George Zimmerman would’ve done the same thing to any kid who looked suspicious on that dark and rainy night in Florida. I was willing to admit that racial injustice is a regrettable part of society but I always answered with the common (and simplistic) refrain “Well, the U.S. justice system might not be perfect but it’s still the best thing out there.”

Then I got a voicemail email from Alex, an African-American man I like and respect very much who attends the same church I do.  He said simply this: “You and I need to set aside some time to have a very serious talk. When can we?” My first thought was, uh-oh – I’m in trouble. This is a man with a very deep baritone voice and I figured I was in for a Matthew 18 moment with someone who sounds much like James Earl Jones. But I agreed and we set up a time to meet in the food court at the mall.

I was a little nervous. But I genuinely like the man and respect his life – his marriage, his kids, the kids of single parents that he so naturally takes under his wing, the fact that he counsels people on different professional matters, etc. So I sat down with him and sheepishly asked, “Are you mad at me?” He looked at me in surprise and said “Not at all. I just wanted to tell you a few stories about my life.” And so he did.

The first story was about renting a car for a family vacation. About 50 miles outside of Denver on the highway he saw a police car in his rearview mirror. He knew he was going to be pulled over. The police car moved up next to him in the left lane, took a look at him – a black man in sweats in a beautiful new car –and immediately slowed down, moved in behind him and turned on the lights signifying that he should pull over. The policewoman asked for his license and registration. He asked her what the problem was and she only repeated her demand for the required documents. At this point I interjected - “But wait! They had to have probable cause to pull you over –they can’t just do it for nothing!” He looked at me patiently and said that I might be able to argue that point in a situation like that but that he had to remain calm and respectful or risk being taken in for resisting an officer or some such charge. The officer returned his documents and when asked again for a reason, said that a similar car had been reported stolen. (Yeah, right.)

He told me another story about his wife driving the car one day and accidentally taking a wide left turn. She moved back into her lane and as the truck coming from the other direction passed them, he yelled into her open window “stupid N____!” I gasped; in shock that somebody would do that. He just gave me a sad smile and told me another story.

For an hour and a half I learned about this man and some of the things he’s gone through because of his skin color. Even before coming to meet me, he had walked into a Super Target and was immediately followed by the store security officer– and not just on the main aisle. He purposely turned into several different departments just to make sure he was being followed. He was.

None of the things he described has ever happened to me. They would never happen to me. I tried to imagine living my life under the constant suspicion that I was doing something illegal or simply in the wrong place.  And the most shocking thing about listening to Alex was seeing that he expects these things to happen to him – because they always have.  He said “Christine, you think the Trayvon Martin case had nothing to do with race – but for some of us it has EVERYTHING to do with it.”

In any case, I want change. I am a very conservative Christian woman who works hard, tries to raise great kids and live a life that’s pleasing to God. I look at my beloved country through rose-colored glasses and see it as a fair and just nation because that’s how I want to see it. But it is time for me to love my country enough to look at it clearly – the good, the bad and the ugly - because otherwise real change will never come. And real change doesn’t come from the elected officials – they are merely a reflection of the people they represent. It has to come first from we the people - in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our communities.

I’m so thankful to this man – that he took a couple hours out of his busy Saturday to share his life with someone who thought she knew it all. There wasn’t a moment where he was condescending or angry with me. He didn’t blame me for anything or expect an apology. He exhibited nothing but kindness and grace and a desire to be seen (to borrow that famous line from Avatar). Maybe that’s the best way to bridge this racial divide: two people from different backgrounds, different races, different ethnicities, taking the time to sit down together and share their stories. My friend calls it a “moccasin talk.”

On Friday, President Obama said “And when you think about why in the African-American community at least there is a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.” There’s not much I agree with the President on – but I hear that quote so much more clearly today than I did last week.

So you have to ask yourself. “Do I want to be part of the solution that unites people rather than constantly divides?” Are you willing to try it? Go to someone you respect or someone you feel comfortable approaching and ask that person to tell you stories from their life that relate to race. Share your own. And see what happens.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Open Letter to the Republican Party

How we can change the world and save our grand ol’ party.

We are all reeling from the losses on Tuesday, and that is understandable. Many of us are wondering how our republican party could have lost the presidency as well as several house and senate seats when the economy is where it is today, not to mention the violence being perpetrated against our citizens abroad. I think I have an idea, and it’s time for us to roll back our sleeves and get to work to save our party. Otherwise, we are destined to go the way of the Whigs.

Did you know that the 2012 Republican Platform is 62 pages long? Do you think many common voters – in particular the independent looking for something to believe in – have actually read the entire thing? I had a hard time getting past the Preamble (a word and concept better left to the U.S. Constitution), let alone the subsequent scores of pages. If you read it, you will see that it is bogged down in the special interests that we claim to loathe instead of being what it should be: a short and sweet treatise succinctly and precisely outlining our basic tenets as a party. We are for small government and less bureaucracy but we have a 62 page long platform?!

The Republican Platform of 1860 had, wait for it… ONE PAGE. One page with 17 points. That’s it. I highly recommend you read this platform as it is beautifully written and many of the points are still as applicable today as they were then. Case in point – the very first declaration of that document:

That the history of the nation during the last four years has fully established the propriety and necessity of the organization and perpetuation of the republican party, and that the causes which called it into existence are permanent in their nature, and now more than ever before demand its peaceful and constitutional triumph.

It’s just as true now as it was 152 years ago! So let us prepare to make some tough decisions and get to work, shall we?

I propose that our basic tenets should be the following:

I.     Personal Freedom
II.    A Streamlined and Efficient Federal Government
III.   Living Within Our Means – Federally and Locally.
IV.   A Strong Defense of America’s Territories
V.    Peace Through Strength

Do we need more than that? I say we do not. And now we are faced with tough decisions as we go forward. In the platform of 1860 not one social issue is mentioned. We can debate the reasons for that but what I submit is that the framers of this platform believed – and so the basic belief of the party – was that a national platform should include things that affect every citizen of the United States. Things such as equality and basic rights of the states and their citizens.

It was in 1976, three years after Roe v. Wade, that abortion language entered the republican platform. We can endlessly argue about the constitutionality of that landmark Supreme Court overreach decision, but the fact remains that it is law. And it is a one that has withstood countless attempts to repeal it. So let us now keep our deeply held beliefs in the sanctity of life and let us do everything we can to end the more than one million abortions per year – but let us do that through working in our churches and other houses of faith – or just in our own houses and communities – not through our political party. A respected evangelist in my church once said “Justice is not blocking the doors to an abortion clinic. Justice is not marching for civil rights. Justice is that every man and woman would know God.” Exactly. And we change people’s hearts and minds with the messages of our faith and by our own example, NOT by making it a plank in our political party’s platform!  (That said, we should absolutely stand by our belief that federal moneys should never go to fund abortions and that late term (partial-birth) abortion is inhumane and barbaric. Let those be the political hills upon which we are willing to die.)

Along the same lines is the concept of gay marriage. If your faith or your conscience does not allow you to embrace gay marriage – then make sure you go to a church that agrees with you and will not marry gay people. Just do not try to make EVERY church or organization agree with you because I promise you, that will never happen.

If we are a party that believes in personal freedom, our platform must absolutely reflect that. There will be many things that, as people of faith and/or conservative values, we will disagree with — that does not mean, however, that we should try to legislate it. My state of Colorado just legalized recreational marijuana. Personally, I find the drug to be abhorrent and it will not be allowed on my property. But the people of Colorado have voted and that is now the law. So I will respect the law of Colorado while enforcing the law in my household. Indeed, this same concept can relate to every social issue.

The 2000 Republican Platform said this: “We are the party of the open door, determined to strengthen the social, cultural, and political ties that bind us together and make our country the greatest force for good in the world. Steadfast in our commitment to our ideals, we recognize that members of our party can have deeply held and sometimes differing views. This diversity is a source of strength, not a sign of weakness, and so we welcome into our ranks all who may hold different positions. We commit to resolve our differences with civility, trust, and mutual respect.”

Have we done this or is it just a laudable sentiment that would be nice, but not really realistic? I submit that we absolutely CAN do this. We absolutely MUST do this, for the good of our party, but much more importantly, the good of our country.

So let us stop wondering how we lost and instead begin the hard work to become a party that can include and represent many more Americans. The number of hard-working Americans who want personal freedom, small government, a balanced budget, a strong border and a strong, yet peaceful nation is legion. And it is THESE concepts that will unite us. It is time for the common, everyday Republican to stand up and shout to the powers-that-be – we will NOT go gently into that good night. We will fight to keep the best of who we are and we will NOT let you or any special interest group hijack our party. We are conservative Americans who love our country beyond measure and will fight to keep it great. Now get out of our way and let us get it done.

A Concerned and Newly Motivated Conservative